Vernon Township Councilmen Harry Shortway and Mike Furrey returned to the dais on August 8 after Mayor Howard Burrell posted a police officer outside of the council chamber.
Prior to August 8, Shortway and Furrey had not attended a council meeting in-person since April 11. They had only attended virtually. They had called for Council President Patrick Rizzuto to station a police officer to function as a sergeant-at-arms either inside or outside the council chamber in the event the meeting becomes unruly.
Rizzuto resisted the call saying he didn’t believe an officer belonged at township meetings.
However, township ordinance allows either the council president or the mayor to request the chief of police to designate a sergeant-at-arms at the meeting.
Mayor Burrell said he was hesitant to post an officer in the court room unless requested by the council because he “did not want to interfere with the council’s authority to establish the rules for their council meetings.”
However, with the calls from Rizzuto, Council Vice President Natalie Buccieri and Councilman Brian Lynch for Shortway and Furrey to return to the meetings, Burrell said he offered a “compromise” that has a police officer in the lobby outside the courtroom where the council chambers are held.
Several members of the public questioned the cost of stationing an officer at the meeting.
Councilman Furrey said he was thankful for the officer in the lobby.
“The only statement I really have is to say there really is no cost for public safety,” Furrey said. “There shouldn’t be any cost placed on public safety.”
The council also introduced an ordinance amending procedures for council meetings. Council members are allowed to attend by telephone or on Zoom, but each council member is only allowed two meetings by phone or video conference per year and no more than two council members can attend the same meeting virtually.
Any council member attending virtually must be on speaker phone or visible on screen.
Speakers will be allowed to speak for five minutes.
Furrey and Shortway voted against it.