WEST MIDDLESEX – Tuesday night’s West Middlesex council meeting ended the same way it began – with lots of shouting with accusations and finger pointing.
Fireworks started at the meeting’s outset when public comments were taken. Adam Garrett, president of West Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department, handed copies of a Herald story to council members that detailed actions by council members and the reaction from Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker.
“The way you represent us it totally, totally unacceptable,’’ Garrett said. He added the actions were “shameful and immoral.’’
A June report issued by the State Ethics Commission said council members voted on street projects through individual phone calls in 2018. The apparent violations of the state’s Sunshine Law are no longer subject to a civil lawsuit or criminal charges because they are beyond the statute of limitations.
Portions of the probe delved into Councilman Bob Lark, who was accused of using his position to award street projects to his brother’s construction company. The ethics commission found no wrongdoing.
He noted the family business over the years performed emergency for the borough at no cost.
“If it was a violation they would have taken action,’’ Lark said of the probe. He did acknowledged and apologized for not giving the proper annual reporting requirements known as Statement of Financial Interest. He was fined $500 by the state.
At points in the meeting Lark criticized parts of The Herald stories for being wrong. The Herald issued a correction in Tuesday’s online paper.
He saved his heavy salvo for the end of the meeting. He shouted with his face turning red with anger that multiple investigations into him and his family members reminded him of the Spanish Inquisition and the 17th century witch trials.
“We all know who precipitated this,’’ Lark said of the investigations, looking in the general direction where Garrett was seated in the audience. Over the years Garrett and Lark have publicly locked horns over how the borough’s fire department is operated.
He added council members were trying their best to serve the community.
“No one broke the law. This is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,’’ Lark said.
He got support from fellow Councilman Ron Preston, who called The Herald “a rag’’ and said Lark’s actions saved the community tens of thousands of dollars.
Lark criticized Acker for saying council needed to comply with the Sunshine Law.
”I hope he’s better prepared when going into the courtroom,’’ Lark said.
At times it was difficult to keep track of who was accusing who of past decisions.
Councilwoman Stacey Curry called for council to be more orderly, saying at times they were like “A bad Saturday Night Live show.’’
A couple of residents complained that their sewer bill statements were often wrong. LaRouche said she was looking into that problem.
Council found agreement on one issue: the borough will observe trick-or-treating from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31.
NOTE: This article has been edited to correctly identify Councilwoman Stacey Curry as the speaker in a comment during the meeting.