Mayor & Councilwoman Might Be Recused From Library Donation Vote

In the latest regarding the Kneeling Solider Memorial at the Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library, upcoming related resolutions may have both Mayor Carl Hokanson and Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey recusing themselves from the resolution votes.

Resolutions 197-16 and 198-16 are scheduled to be voted on at the August 18th Mayor & Council meeting which, if passed, will retroactively accept the donation and its location in front of the library.

The reason for recusals has to do with the conflicts of interest both the mayor and councilwoman have regarding the issue.

On one hand, the donation was made by Carl Hokanson as a private resident. Even though there is no immediate financial interest with the donation, it is allowed to be included in a personal income tax return as a donation which would give a direct financial benefit to Mr. Hokanson the resident. Additionally, it would be difficult to determine Mayor Hokanson’s impartiality because, if it came to him for a vote to break a tie, he would be voting as an official on a donation he made as a citizen.

On the other hand, the letter to remove the memorial was sent from the legal center of the American Humanist Association (AHA). Records show that Charlene Storey, the resident, is not only a member of the American Humanist Association but she is also on the board of Humanists Of North Jersey – a non-profit that has Mrs. Storey’s Roselle Park address as its headquarters. Humanists Of North Jersey is listed as a direct subordinate of the AHA.

At a previous meeting, Councilwoman Storey cited the New Jersey case Grabowsky v. Montclair, a court ruling that upheld that a member of a governing body should recuse themselves from voting on a matter where that elected official held a leadership position in an organization which was being voted on because it was a conflict of interest. She used that case to have the mayor – who was a trustee of the Knights of Columbus – recuse himself from a vote related to exempting churches from permit fees. That same case can now be used in relation to the Councilwoman, who is an official in the organization who is threatening litigation against the borough.

This will leave the vote to the five (5) remaining members of the governing body. There would have to be a majority vote to either accept or reject the donation and its location at the library. If one member abstains and there are two (2) ‘yes’ votes and tow (2) ‘no’ votes, the resolutions would fail to pass and the memorial would have to be removed from the library.

The meeting where the resolutions are scheduled to be voted on is on Thursday, August 18th, at 7 p.m. at the Roselle Park Municipal Complex in council chambers.