On Thursday evening, Mahwah introduced Ordinance 1820, which rolls back the restrictions on non-NJ residents entering their parks, created by Ordinance 1806 this summer.
Mahwah’s attorney, Brian Chewcaskie called the move a “strategic recommendation by council” and it seems calculated to do whatever is necessary to appease the outgoing attorney general, who filed a 9 count complaint against both the Township and it’s Council individually, for passing animus infused ordinances against Hasidic Jews in neighboring New York communities, that were enjoying the local public parks.
At the meeting, there was no sign or acknowledgment by the Council that these restrictions, which prompted warnings and alarms from every level of government earlier this year, were wrong on their face. There was no contrition. There was no acknowledgment of the harm these decisions have wrought – to the reputation of the Township, it’s residents and relations with neighbors beyond their borders
Despite warnings from their local police chief, the County Prosecutor (and incoming attorney general nominee) and even the State Attorney General, the council continued on the same destructive path.
And even now, as they roll back the ordinances that their Council President “promised” will prevail, they refuse to admit it was wrong. In fact, when the Mayor, William Laforet attempted to make a statement to that effect, he was told by their Council President, Robert Hermansen that he was not permitted to do so, citing advice from the Township attorney, that no one should make any statements. This is the same attorney, that advised the Council to pass ordinances 1806 and 1812 in the first place, prompting a Federal Civil Rights action, and a 9 count complaint from the State, alleging discrimination. This is the same attorney, that advised the council they could deny residents the ability to even speak on topics the council felt they didn’t want to hear.
Yes, Mayor Laforet decided not to heed the advice of their Township attorney. The same attorney whose advice was to violate the State and Federal rights of citizens. The same attorney, who advised the council to act in a way the State Attorney General described as “an unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious exercise of municipal power“.
Had the Council ignored his advice earlier, this entire episode could have been avoided. But as Thursday’s episode between the Mayor and Hermansen made clear, Chewcaskie has been taking direction from the council, not the other way around.
Mayor Laforet stated via Facebook:
Every single member of this governing body chose to ignore those warnings.
• I told you.
• Residents told you.
• Civil rights advocates told you.
• Religious leaders told you.
• Our congressman told you.
• One of our U.S. senators told you.
• The Governor-elect told you.
• The Police Chief told you.
• The Bergen County Prosecutor told you.
• The highest law enforcement authority in New Jersey told you—the Attorney General in Trenton.
• I would even argue that your consciences should have told you too.
But why listen to your consciences when you wouldn’t listen to anyone else? The Taxpayers of Mahwah will pay the price of this reckless decision [sic], at the end of the day, we are on the hook!
It’s unclear that Robert Hermansen has learned anything beyond the monetary cost of legislating hatred when law enforcement refuses to look the other way. He has the misfortune of being in NJ in 2017 instead of Alabama in 1950 where he may have gotten away with this.
He has shown himself to be incapable of responsible leadership. He has invited discord and chaos.
He should resign and the council should start on the long road to healing the divisions they have created. It won’t be easy.
The Federal Court action against the Eruv ban still continues apace. The Township’s response is due on January 12th. The AG’s action also still continues apace.
Eruv Litigation will continue to monitor and provide information as new developments happen.