At its most recent public session, members of Cherry Hill Township Council, as well as Mayor Susan Shin Angulo addressed the recent resignation of former Councilwoman Carolyn Jacobs, and ultimately confirmed Jacobs’ replacement, William A. Carter III.
During that June 22 virtual session, Council President David Fleisher gave a detailed account of the situation which followed Jacobs’ racially-insensitive remarks uttered during the closing comment section of township governance’s previous public gathering on June 8.
“Carolyn resigned on Saturday, June 13, and it was posted on the township website that Monday morning. On Wednesday evening (June 17), we shared the news of Carolyn’s resignation with the Human Relations Advisory Council, which is comprised of about 20 community, civic and religious leaders. The next morning, an additional statement, along with Carolyn’s apology, was posted on the township website,” Fleisher explained.
“Many of you have worked with Carolyn in her four years on council and 15 years on the planning board, and for many years working on behalf of the community. She has given much of herself and has devoted her energy to the people of Cherry Hill.
“But words do matter,” Fleisher continued. “Especially those spoken by elected officials, which brings us to where we are today.”
Jacobs, who is a retired programming, project-and-account management professional and consultant, has resided in Cherry Hill for more than four decades. Her service beyond elected office included a stint as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate for children who have been removed from their homes in cases of neglect or abuse, and a literacy advocate for at-risk children.
“While we understand that Ms. Jacobs has a long-standing history with Cherry Hill, we found her comments of June 8 to be offensive and inappropriate. The Cherry Hill African American Civic Association fully supports the decision of Cherry Hill council to ask Ms. Jacobs to resign. Thank you for taking a proactive stand on this matter, instead of a reactive stand,” said Tina Truitt, president of the organization, during public comment.
Later in the meeting, per state decree, council accepted three candidates for the vacancy: Carter, Lorraine Maitland, and Anna Postiloff. The trio was selected by the Cherry Hill Democratic Committee, which, according to Fleisher, conducted a meeting on June 18 to address the matter.
Council then unanimously approved Carter, late of the township’s planning board and a former school board member, to fill the vacancy.
“I am honored to take this position. I will try to listen first and try my best to serve all the residents of Cherry Hill,” Carter said, following his affirmation by Angulo inside council chambers at Town Hall.
In response to a question from a resident regarding a specific policy to guide council on handling Jacobs’ situation, Fleisher said: “There is no policy on this per se. If those words had been uttered by a municipal employee, that would have been a terminable offense. But those rules do not apply to elected officials. This is a matter of believing there needs to be certain standards.”
Carter will hold the seat until a special election is held in November, to decide who will fill the remainder of Jacobs’ term, which was set to end on Dec. 31, 2021.
“We have been reminded now, more than ever, that words matter. In our call for justice and our condemnation of horrific acts of racial injustice that still exist in our world today, we must speak words that do not denigrate others,” said Angulo.
“Tonight, council selected Bill Carter to fill our vacant seat. I want to acknowledge Carolyn’s many years of service to the township and the residents of Cherry Hill. She has been an advocate for children, for literacy and the community. I wish her well.”
In other news:
- Council presented Mya Whiles, a Cherry Hill resident and recent Camden Catholic High School graduate, with a proclamation for her performance in a college-sponsored essay competition. The contest, sponsored by Seton Hall University, asked participants to write about a personal memory which inspired them to promote peace. Her submission, “The Color of Peace,” shared her personal journey and her passion for social justice. As a result, Mayor Angulo declared June 23 Mya Whiles Day in the township. Whiles is planning to attend Spelman College in the fall as a political science major.
- All township employees are set to receive medical, dental and prescription insurance coverage from Aetna in the coming fiscal year, thanks to a resolution passed by council which codified that relationship. The decision was aided by the Marlton-based firm of Conner, Strong & Buckelew, which has helped the township assess the most cost-effective insurance carrier for its employees, and whose contract to provide those services was extended for one year at council’s June 8 public session.
- Thanks to another resolution given unanimous consent by council, Cherry Hill Police Department was authorized to make an emergency purchase of nearly $24,000 toward upgraded safety equipment for its officers. According to Chief William “Bud” Monaghan, the department was “woefully under-equipped” to handle the responsibility of dealing with the possibility of civil unrest or counter-protests during any future peaceful demonstrations.