By John Burton and Jay Cook |
FREEHOLD — “Brash.” “Brusque.” “Independent.” “Bully.” These were some of the terms members of the public used last week to both show support for and to disparage embattled Monmouth County Freeholder John Curley as the remaining four members of the board voted to formally admonish the combative Curley for his alleged comments.
The freeholders, all Republican, voted unanimously on Friday, Dec. 8 to officially censure fellow Republican Curley. In the authorized resolution, they accused him of taking actions that were “…reprehensible, offensive, unbecoming of an elected official, and compromise the integrity of Freeholder Curley’s office and the Board as a whole…”
Curley did not appear at the hearing.
The freeholders’ action, however, is far from the final word on this matter, as Curley’s lawyer vowed to continue the legal struggle. Last week Angelo Genova, the attorney representing Curley, had gone to federal court to file a civil rights violation suit.
In addition, Genova successfully convinced the judge to block some of the freeholders’ actions, especially the release of findings from a five-month investigation conducted by an unnamed retired Superior Court judge and a restriction on Curley being able to return to work. The judge overturned some other prohibitions put in place in light of the report, such as preventing Curley from using county property or speaking with county employees which essentially kept him from his office and assistant.
Genova told the freeholders last Friday he would look to expand his lawsuit on behalf of Curley, alleging the freeholders violated the judge’s order by incorporating portions of the report that is presumably under seal into their censure resolution.
“It is my opinion,” Genova told the county officials, “you have violated public ethics law.”
Genova went on to allege of the county officials’ action, “This is not due process. This is a charade.”
While not present, a defiant Curley offered a statement, distributed through his attorney, saying essentially that, serving as the only full-time freeholder in Monmouth County among the five, “I am proud to support all people regardless of race, creed, religion, political party affiliation, and to help all with just receiving a phone call or email.”
Curley went on to criticize his Republican colleagues and county Republican chair (and county sheriff) Shaun Golden for their alleged lack of concern for their constituents, calling the action “a slap in the face to all of our residents.”
“This is about basic respect and human dignity,” Freeholder Director Lillian Burry said of the Board of Chosen Freeholders’ steps of invoking censure, as well as ordering a review and updating of existing county guidelines for sexual harassment.
“This type of behavior is just wrong and must not be tolerated,” Freeholder Thomas Arnone concluded.
According to the resolution of censure read by the county’s special legal counsel Jonathan Testa, there are documented complaints about Curley’s alleged behavior that expose the freeholders to legal action as he “likely engaged in angry, vulgar outbursts causing female employees to flee their offices…”
The resolution goes on to say Curley “made many other salacious and vulgar statements” to county employees. He’s accused of using sexually charged expletives; of saying, “I’ll show you a snake show, sit on my lap and I’ll show you a show”; telling one female, “Oh, that’s you I wanted to bend over and take”; to publicly calling male employees derogatory homosexual slurs, among other alleged examples. “If proven to be true,” the resolution stated, these complaints, “are disgusting, reprehensible, shocking, and should never be made by anyone, let alone a County Freeholder…”
Since the investigation commenced, “more and more stories have emerged” regarding Curley’s alleged behavior, Burry acknowledged.
The audience was full of members of the public, many of them wearing “I Stand With John” stickers, offering their support and willing to overlook these and other alleged transgressions, seeing Curley as a sort-of champion of the electorate and taxpayer.
Spring Lake Heights resident James Martin showed solidarity with Curley. “What you said to me did not sound like worthy of censure, but maybe of mild criticism,” Martin said to the freeholders. “Over the years, I’ve seen good ones and I’ve seen bad ones,” Martin continued, “and I’d say John Curley is at the top of the list,” of the good ones. “He may be a little brusque, that’s true, but sometimes brusque is appropriate,” he said. “He’s done some very good things.”
William Meyer is a Tinton Falls resident with a law practice in Red Bank and was a volunteer for Curley’s unsuccessful 2006 Red Bank mayoral campaign. He compared Curley to a plumber who uses salty, colorful language, but in the end, gets the job done. “I have seen him be brusque where he takes a passionate approach to something where at first glance you think he’s over the top,” Meyer said, “then only to research things and find out he was way ahead of the curve, absolutely correct and he had something we wish every politician had done back in the day.”
Vincent LePore, a long-standing Long Branch political gadfly, said, “I urge Freeholder Curley to dump the corrupt party political system and run as an independent in 2018…and he will win.”
On the other hand, Pamela Murphy, Freehold Borough, is a county employee, who had worked at one of the two nursing homes the county had formerly owned. “This is not a good person,” she said of Curley, calling him a “bully.”
“I witnessed it,” she said. “He may have done good things but that doesn’t make him a good person.”
“What is this? Alabama?” asked Mike Beson, Ocean, referencing the Roy Moore controversy. “Wake up, guys, wake up to the new world we live in.
“You have to take care of every single employee,” he told the freeholders.
Genova raised a number of legal points, arguing against the validity of the investigation and report and the freeholders’ actions. Genova said Curley does not intend to resign. “Mr. Curley plans to continue to serve the people of Monmouth County,” the lawyer said. And he plans on continuing his federal lawsuit, Genova added.
This article was first published in the Dec. 14-21, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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