The Vernon Township Council on Jan. 12 unanimously introduced an ordinance that seeks to abolish the township’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The council was to hold a public hearing and second reading of the ordinance this week, as this paper goes to press.
The council started seeking the resignation of the commission chair, Jessica Paladini, on Sept. 28 after her public comments at the Sept. 14 township council meeting in which she threatened “legal consequences” to any council members if they ever “publicly lie, slander, harass or defame, me and my reputation.” Paladini was also accused of harassing other township volunteers.
“They never told me what I was accused of,” Paladini said. “They never named my accusers.”
Paladini refused to resign. “The bottom line is that they could never extort me into resigning having done nothing wrong – and without even having the due process to try to prove it,” Paladini said.
Township resident John Stevens said abolishing the commission was like “killing a fly with a hammer.”
He said he’s had some conversations over email with Vernon Township Mayor Howard Burrell. The commission is important to the township, said Stevens, who expressed concern about abolishing the commission with nothing to replace it.
“Don’t do away with the commission,” he said. “I don’t know if the council or some organization under the council has considered forming a committee.”
Committee vs. commission
A committee is different than a commission in that it operates under the council, where a commission is an outside organization that reports to the council.
Township resident Peg DiStasi said every councilmember who voted to disband the commission should be ashamed of themselves.
Former Councilwoman Sandra Ooms said she was on the council when it voted to disband the Environmental Commission because of the behavior of a few on the panel.
“I feel that was the worst decision we ever made, or that I made, personally, and I regret it to this day,” Ooms said. “I feel the members on that committee would have never let the toxic waste landfill on top of Drew Mountain to continue. I believe because we disbanded that committee out of spite, that went on longer than it needed to.”
Burrell said he and the council care about the history of the town, asked residents to “look at what we do” before making judgments.
“Mr. Stevens, your emails were very thoughtful, and I benefitted from the email conversation I had,” Burrell said. “I just want to say, ‘I hear you.’”