Toward the end of a brief Town Council meeting last night, Councilman David Haas issued a request to both the residents of Westfield and his fellow council members. He asked that, in the future, the public discussion portion of meetings focus on the issues facing the town instead of any personal vendettas that individuals may have.
“No one is well served by the personal attacks that have come from both sides of the microphone,” Haas said.
But for at least one more night, personal attacks took place and took up most of the 40-minute meeting Tuesday evening.
Much of the discussion was a fall-out of last week’s meeting, which saw Town Administrator Jim Gildea refer to retired law officer Greg Kasko as “a disgraced former police officer” after Kasko asked the council about a letter the town received from the state regarding potential pension abuse in January 2011. Kasko spent his 10 minutes on the microphone last night by reading a prepared statement to the council summarizing his career as a police officer and the reasons for his issues with Gildea.
After Kasko had been reading his statement to the council for a few minutes, Mayor Andy Skibitsky interrupted him and questioned his veracity.
“Half the things you say aren’t true,” Skibitsky told Kasko. “Don’t you have any conscience?”
Kasko continued reading from his prepared statement for the remainder of his 10 minutes. After he had finished, Skibitsky said the town is fortunate to have Gildea as its administrator while it is also fortunate to no longer employee Kasko as a police officer.
Kasko had been preceded at the microphone by resident John Blake, who expressed disappointment with the council’s behavior last week. Blake said the council had mislead and insulted taxpayers and was now allowing vicious attacks to be made against residents of the town.
“You do not have the right to insult,” Blake told the council. “You have the duty to answer us, but you are not to insult us.
“I don’t want anyone up there [on the council] insulting me personally or anyone out there [in the public],” Blake continued.
“We have the duty to respond,” Skibitsky countered.
“You have no duty to insult!” Blake responded to the mayor. “You’re supposed to be leaders.”
Councilwoman Vicki Kimmins addressed the public after Blake spoke, saying that she had no interest in discrediting any speakers before the council and that she had wished the council did not have to continue the Gildea-Kasko conversation that had dominated last week’s meeting.
“All of us do value anyone who has served this town,” Kimmins said, adding that the topic of personnel service is not best suited for the public forum.
Familiar issues were also tackled at the meeting, including a brief discussion on the Central Avenue traffic signal. Maria Carluccio, a resident of Central Avenue, said that Tuesday marked the two-year anniversary of her addressing the controversial mid-block stoplight at council meetings.
“It’s not something I enjoy doing,” Carluccio said. “The reason I keep coming is because I keep seeing the same thing.
“If [the light] works, I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
Carluccio said nothing had changed in the past two years, while also claiming that the stoplight had caused nine accidents during the same time period. She pledged to attend meetings until the issue is resolved and until the council takes action for what she said is a problem the elected officials caused.
“You are responsible for this disaster,” Carluccio told the council.
“That’s not true,” Skibitsky told her. “We did not put it there.” The mayor instead suggested it was Union County that moved the light to its current location, which he said he agreed is the better location.
“I’m not going to rest, because it’s not right,” Carluccio told Skibitsky.
A resident also briefly addressed the council to thank the officials for their role is resolving the parking issues at the high school.