Letter writer's statements false, defamatory

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In a published letter to the editor, former Vernon Mayor Sally Rinker made false and defamatory statements about the Vernon Township Historical Society. We are shocked and dismayed by her letter and regret the Society has been subjected to this malice. We can only wonder what Ms. Rinker’s motivation was for her specious letter, but it is incumbent upon the Society to respond to each and every one of the false statements she made.

Ms. Rinker states she resigned as society secretary two years ago, citing her reason as disagreeing with my “actions” as president, alleging I was “accepting gifts directly from the mayor,” Victor Marotta. She implies I did something inappropriate or even illegal, which is wholly false and defamatory. When we moved into the Board of Education (BOE) building we lease, the Society’s furniture from the Municipal Center was moved into the BOE building. At that time, the mayor gave the society a used table and a 10-year-old computer, items that were approved for accession by the Society’s Board of Trustees and were within the mayor’s legal authority to give the society.

Society trustee Dan Kadish came to the 2012 meeting with Ms. Rinker and they both read from their prepared statements of resignation. Mr. Kadish referred to the table and computer as his reasons for resigning, yet for the next two years, his wife, Carol Gunn Kadish, used the same computer at Society headquarters. Mr. Kadish had donated to the Society $400 towards the purchase of a $1,200 archival software program, which was installed on that same computer. He asked for a copy of the software for his personal use, but because giving him a copy would have constituted software piracy, the society wrote a letter to Mr. Kadish, denying him the software and refunding his $400 donation.

Ms. Rinker’s stated reason for resignation as secretary was the allegation that the mayor attacks her verbally and she did not want to subject the historical society to that. In her resignation statement, she said nothing of any disagreement with the president. Ironically, Ms. Rinker’s attaining the position of secretary was in contradiction to the society’s bylaws and usual procedures. At a meeting, she had volunteered herself for the position, and Carol Gunn Kadish immediately initiated a motion to make her secretary. The proper procedure is for the Board of Trustees to elect the secretary at its August meeting, or the president makes the appointment if it is to fill an unexpired term.

Furthermore, when Ms. Rinker was Vernon mayor, she gave the historical society a large office in the municipal center, a desk, a telephone, computer peripherals, and a number of other items. Prior to her election as mayor, Ms. Rinker donated to the society a kiosk at the Black Creek Site that is valued at about $2,000, and she also provided the society with an office in her building, free of charge, both things the Society’s entire Board of Trustees accepted.

Ms. Rinker further states in her letter that the Township Council approved a “line item in our municipal budget for the Historical Society, a non-profit,” alleging the amounts were “$5,000, $5,000 and $3,000 respectively for the last three years.” This is incorrect. The Township Council gave the society $5,000 in 2013 and $3,000 this year. This money comes from the New Jersey Hotel Occupancy Tax, a tax collected from rooms rented in the municipality’s hotels. This hotel occupancy tax money is collected and sent to the state, and the state returns a portion of it to the municipality, and by an act of the legislature the specific purpose of these monies is earmarked for artistic, historical, cultural, or economic development uses. Historically in many years prior to 2013 and 2014, since the society was founded in 1970, Vernon’s governing bodies have included line item funds for the Society from either the municipal budget or have given the society other accommodations such as an office or furniture. Mayor Marotta has followed suit, and we are grateful for that.

Ms. Rinker implied that the society was somehow involved in wrongdoing or even in zoning violations by allowing Phyllis Pfeifer to sell her handmade jewelry at Society headquarters. Ms. Pfeifer participates in our annual Holiday Gift Fairs, as do other vendors. These vendors help the society by not only paying a fee for displaying their items but they also pay a significant commission from their sales during these fundraisers and also often deeply discount their merchandise for township residents. Ms. Pfeifer also donates quality jewelry to the Society for auction. The implication of an alleged zoning violation is specious. There is no zoning permit needed.

Lastly, Ms. Rinker implies wrongdoing by either the society or Ms. Pfeifer for going before the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority (VTMUA) to seek a recalculation of the sewer fees for the BOE building and implies we were given preferential treatment over VFW Post 8441. The BOE building was previously used as office space with about a dozen full-time employees on a daily basis. Its use today is different. The building is used as a warehouse for storing historical documents and collection. VTMUA regulations allow for the recalculating of EDUs and sewer fees whenever there is a change of use in a property. The society’s request was standard procedure for the VTMUA. The VTMUA never “sent away” the VFW, as Ms. Rinker alleges. The VTMUA, in fact, told the VFW the exact same thing it told the Society: put the request formally in writing and the VTMUA will review and reassess it.

The Vernon Township Historical Society is a wonderful organization that does many wonderful things for the Vernon community. It did not deserve the defamatory attack. It now has more members than it ever did and so many more quality programs such as our Hands-On History, archaeology field studies, school presentations, and stewardship for Wawayanda State Park and our township roadways. The society pledges to continue its mission and bring the community the same quality programs and events as always.

Jessi Paladini

President, Vernon Township Historical Society

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