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Mayor's Seat Vacated

Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson dismisses Keith Hartman's complaint against the township with prejudice.

The Galloway Township mayor's seat is now vacant following a hearing before Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 26.

Johnson stated that because Hartman missed eight weeks of township business, including four council meetings beginning Aug. 23, the Municipal Vacancy Law came into effect.

The law states that any member of a governing body missing eight consecutive weeks of township business will lose his or her seat by rule of state law, unless that member has a legitimate excuse due to illness as viewed by the other members of the governing body.

Hartman had stated that he missed time because of threats to himself and his family. The township disputed that those threats were reason enough for his absences.

Hartman vacated his seat as of Oct. 18, the township discovered following an investigation requested by Councilman and Democratic candidate in this year's municipal election Jim Gorman.

A hearing for Hartman was scheduled for the council meeting on Oct. 25, but Hartman subsequently filed for an injunction to keep his seat when it became clear the council wouldn't rule in his favor said attorney Brian Tipton, who represented Hartman at Wednesday's Superior Court hearing.

On Tuesday night, Hartman withdrew his request for a hearing before the council.

"Mr. Hartman was required to ask for the consent of council and that was never done," Johnson said. "He could've put the whole thing to rest, but he didn't do that."

The seat is now vacant. The duties of the mayor fall to Deputy Mayor Don Purdy in the interim while the council determines how to fill that seat, Township Solicitor Michael Blee said.

The Atlantic County Republican Committee can now submit three names to council within 15 days. The seat will not be filled until after the election, which Hartman is still a part of.

Hartman was elected as a Republican, but is running an independent campaign in this year's municipal elections, to take place Nov. 8.

"I'm pleased with the decision," Blee said. "The judge confirmed my position on the issue that the seat was vacant."

Tipton had no comment following the hearing.

"Obviously, we are disappointed with the court's decision," Hartman said via text message. "It rewards a group of bullies who never had Galloway's, but only their own selfish political interests at heart. I recognized that today's events were set in motion by many of own choices, but I was compelled to stand up to the threats and intimidation tactics that were being thrown at and used against me, not only out of respect for the voters who elected me, but so that these same people would not be allowed to believe that their hateful and malicious acts would not go unchallenged.

"I hope to have the chance to earn the public trust and someday still serve this community, which has been my home these last 16 years."

Hartman said he hopes to get that opportunity on Nov. 8 when Galloway residents go to the polls to fill three council seats, including the one vacated by Hartman, who was up for re-election.

"Hopefully, the voters voice their opinion that dirty politics has no place in our town," Hartman said.

Other members of council, including those running for re-election as well as the other candidates in this year's election are looking forward to moving beyond this issue.

"The township will move on," Councilman Tom Bassford said. " ... The law is the law and he should've followed it. Hopefully we'll have a better 2012 than 2011 and put this situation behind us. I'm tired of it all. It's very aggravating."

"Having Judge Johnson rule on the case allowed it to be considered in the most objective forum," Councilman and Republican candidate in this year's municipal elections Tony Coppola said via text message. "My focus is on the township business and bringing stability back to Galloway. The last few months have been difficult and there is more work to be done. PBA contracts pending, shared services arrangements and 2012 budget considerations have got everyone's plates full.

"I wish Mayor Hartman the best."

Coppola and Brian Tyrrell are running on the Republican ticket this year.

"It frustrates me that he can still be in the race and not honor his obligations," Tyrrell said. "I can't verify if threats were made or what impact they had, but I sat in the municipal complex on Tuesday night and saw several professionals working for the township that I'm confident would rather be doing serious township business and were instead dealing with this nonsense. It's a waste of taxpayer resources.

"I believe elected officials should represent the people to the government, and what we've seen here are individuals acting as if they are the government and not representing the people."

Gorman, the lone Democrat on council, is running for re-election. His running mates in the Nov. 8 election are Kevin Krumaker and Jim McElwee.

"I don't want to put any salt in the wound, but it was the law, he voted for the law, and I don't understand why he would run for re-election if he didn't want the job in the first place," Gorman said. "The guy's having issues. There's no sense pouring salt in the wound. ... I want to see the township get back to business and back to normal."

"It's taking up a lot of the election time," Krumaker said. "I live here and I work here, and I get asked about it, and I'm growing weary of being asked about it. Hopefully, we can get past this."

McElwee attended Wednesday's hearing, along with Democratic Chair Michael Suleiman.

"The judge was fair and made his decision based on the law," McElwee said. "He could've ended it earlier, and he didn't. I hope this is a step toward getting past all this.

"He'll still be on the ballot (in November's election) and if people want to vote for him, they still can. I don't see how he can be effective given all that's happened. We need to get past this and concentrate on the issues. There's a lot of problems facing Galloway Township."

It will be up to the Atlantic County Republican Committee to now submit three names for  council to choose from as replacements for Hartman. Galloway Republican League Spokeswoman Terry Lucarelli wasn't sure who would be considered for nomination.

"This whole situation is sad and tragic," Lucarelli said. "But it happened and as soon as we get that letter from the township, we're going to convene a county committee and select someone to replace him."

"His seat will depend on council," Township Manager Steve Bonanni said. "I expect they will appoint a mayor through the end of the year, and they'll do that at the next meeting."

Blee began the hearing by asking for a dismissal due to the events of the council meeting on Tuesday night, Oct. 25, referencing Hartman withdrawing his request.

"We put two items on our agenda about this situation, and Mr. Hartman was aware of those items," Blee said. "He withdrew his request and no action was taken.

"I struggled with if I should force a vote. ... If a member is going to be out, he has to request to have it excused ahead of time. I feel the case is over because he sought an excuse and he withdrew his request."

Tipton stated the request was withdrawn because it became obvious to Hartman there would be a denial of his request. He also stated council wasn't aware of all the evidence, including details of the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office's investigation into Councilman Dennis Kleiner and local union head Roy Foster, whom Hartman named as potentially responsible for the threats.

Tipton also felt that the events at Tuesday night's council meeting impacted Wednesday's hearing, but he was referencing Kleiner's comments about what Kleiner called Hartman's "political games" and alleged extra marital affairs.

"Mr. Kleiner went on his diatribe and he's now bringing other issues to light," Tipton said. "He has highlighted that he does have animosity toward Mr. Hartman, and I think that brings to light the need for a two-week discovery schedule.

Blee countered by stating that the election is Nov. 8, within that two week period, but that it also wasn't a matter for the court to decide, stating the violation of the Municipal Vacancy Law was the only matter in question.

Ultimately, Johnson ruled in favor of the township, dismissing the complaint with prejudice and declaring the seat vacant.

Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 01:19 AM
Nobody has taken his constitutional rights. He had his day in court. Yes, my comments were snide, but it's because when you take a step back and look at the substance of what happened, not the arguments, not the personalities, not the credibility of threats (which by the way, while I may have my doubts about the authenticity of the threats, it seems to me the authenticity was not relevant to the judge or the issue of whether his absences were excused...even if I accept they were legitimate, he still missed too many meetings under the law) you're left with the same exact result as if Hartman hadn't filed an injunction. That was the point of my snide remarks. Not the authenticity of the threats. Not the credibility of Kleiner. You obviously believe that Hartman's seat on council is more important than laws or council itself. When you look at the big picture of what happened, he wasted everyone's time and made himself look very small.
Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 01:46 AM
That's fine. You're free to disagree. But I think a more honorable and defensible course of action (this is me disagreeing without, I hope, being disagreeable or snide) would have been to make a statement that, while he didn't agree with the position that Blee took, he was going to save the Township the time, money, and bad press associated with filing and injunction and would let the voters decide whether he deserved to remain on Council. That's all I'm saying here. Instead he took the path of a self-indulgent egoist who couldn't accept not getting his way. And on the other issues, I don't think you or I know the whole story about what happened with the Tilton situation (unless you're closer to her than you're letting on). I've heard the rumors and tried not to fill in too many blanks without the facts, so maybe you're right. But unless you're willing to believe that Hartman is the last righteous man in town hall, some things don't seem to be adding up quite right. Again, time will tell. I promise not to make you eat too much crow if it turns out Kleiner has the proof and some of my unfortunate suspicions turn out to be correct.
Roberta Thompson October 27, 2011 at 02:18 AM
Harry I have to agree with you. This is just the latest events into the bigger picture and thats the 6 million dollar lawsuit not only the Township and County are facing but now the State of New Jersey. If I am correct, Lisa Tilton has also filed against the State of New Jersey Attorney General. Maybe someone can verify that. This picture is now bigger than just little old Galloway. Every resident in the State will pay for the actions of what appears to be allegedly instigated by Councilman Kleiner. With his latest actions, she probably never will have to work again and everyone will be paying for. I question how one sits on council stating integrity and then turn around and humiliate several human beings. I'm sorry Councilman Kleiner, if there is a recall than sign me up. Your liable actions have no place here in Galloway or the State of New Jersey for that matter.
Galloway fed up tax payer October 27, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Since when is stating the truth slander ...it was a sworn affidavit that Mr Kliener was reading from and obvious a superior court judge agreed.... Here's a question for you why did Keith try have the records (evidence) sealed prior to the meeting. Also why is n't the County board of election investigating the fact that Hartman Admits he doesn't reside full time in Galloway. As a taxpayer I want my Councilman to live in Galloway ..... I believe that it's a requirement by law.....An that he is not eligable to run in Galloway....I own and pay taxes in another Municipality as well but I don't live their I live in Gallow
Keep Galloway Green October 27, 2011 at 03:05 AM
If Hartman doesn't live in Galloway...He should be kicked off the ballot!...Hartman tries to break every rule there is. Board of elections should just black out his name with a magic marker...& charge Hartman for the magic marker...lol. Hartman should not be on the ballot....He admits he doesn't live where he said he did. An article said.."affairs"...more than 1....Is he a Tiger Woods?....Tiger Hartman?....lololololol
Keep Galloway Green October 27, 2011 at 06:40 PM
My pals?...Who are my pals?....You posted some letter from Blee to some guy in Fla. I don't see Tilton's name in that letter. Confusing at best. You must have me confused with another Giant....I was picking Green Beans all day sir!...lololololololol
say_you October 27, 2011 at 07:15 PM
Hey Green. That letter really clears things up now. I bet the entire council resigns at the next meeting because of it.
mark boucher October 27, 2011 at 07:22 PM
atlantic county board of elections need to look at tom bassfords residence too, he does not even reside in nj, he resides in PA. merely receives his mail in galloway. sometimes doesnt come back to the state of nj for 2 weeks or more. he works and lives in grantville pa............TOM BASSFORD, 9828 jonestown rd.grantville,PA.17028. the taxpayers of galloway deserve representatives that are from their community not people who show up every 2 or 3 weeks for a meeting then leave again!
Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 07:40 PM
I've tried to stay away today...but Harry, this is silly. You offer up the letter as "black and white" proof...but then when it's pointed out that the "black and white" image does no such thing you go on to fill in the blanks with more unsubstantiated 'facts'. You may be 100% correct with what you wrote, but you can't claim to have the "proof". It is only your word that connects that letter to anything related to this issue. You could offer the same letter as "proof" that Galloway unwittingly released documents exposing the true identity of the Jersey Devil. Nice try though. You're working really hard to play defense for Tilton and Hartman. And I think Mr. O'Boyle would get a chuckle out of learning he "works for Harry Hurley".
Joe B October 27, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Mr. Scheeler, do you even live in Galloway? I don't think I understand your sudden interest in all of this. I, on the other hand, do live in Galloway and like most of the residents, i am concerned that we are footing the bill for the shenanigans of the kids who didn't play nice in the sandbox.
Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 08:01 PM
Which leads me to the next question...why are you using that Tort Claim to comment on an article about the former mayor? Are you implying there is some kind of linkage between the former mayor and the former clerk at the heart of the issues relating to his absences? Strange web you're weaving.
Keep Galloway Green October 27, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Did anybody read the article in the Current?....Kleiner says he filed charges against Tilton for events after the Tuesday nite meeting. This is....Galloway Gone Wild!....Even if Blee sent out a letter with Tilton's name on it....Is that worth 3 mil $$$ from the Taxpayers?....I'm thinking Blee should pay if it was his mistake. Sounds like this whole mess is spinning out of control. Now Kleiner & Tilton in criminal court.
Linda Titon October 27, 2011 at 08:30 PM
Calling someone out for "changing the subject?" Excuse me Scheeler have you forgotten the topic under which you are commenting? This isn't about you, I mean Ms. Tilton, this is about the Mayors (ex) seat being vacated!
Joe B October 27, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Agreed! It is out of control. There was nothing mentioned on the Patch about any events after the meeting. This is getting out of hand! Time to put an end to the nonsense. November 8th is our chance to reaffirm what the judge Ruled yesterday.
say_you October 27, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Correction. If you go back to the beginning it was the actions of the Former Mayor and Ms Tilton that got us to this point. So lets put the blame where it belongs. I tried to sit back and enjoy the reading but your facts are just not facts. The Deputy Mayor (who still remains a good friend of Keith) has said he needed to go. He supports him as a friend but not to be on council. If he is also a friend of yours, then by all means support your friend, just not in his running our town.
say_you October 27, 2011 at 08:47 PM
lol What a sight. Someone had a volcanic eruption. Not good for her case that SHE was being harassed. I can't wait to see the comments when that hits the paper.
Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 08:48 PM
If you were genuinely concerned and not the mouthpiece for for a former elected official and a former Township employee you would recognize that all I'm trying to do is deal with what is known, not what is alleged by either side. I already agreed that Tuesday night was, at the very least, a display of unprofessional behaviour by Kleiner and that if he can't back up his statements he will likely pay a large civil penalty. Will you also agree that your pals also have some work to do to prove their statements? Such as the origin of the threatening letters? Such as everything included in the tort claims? And despite your attempt to blame the subject change on me...scroll up and see what article it is you're supposed to be commenting on. I realize we've all strayed from that issue, but come on... And unless you know more than the rest of us, seems as though it is still undetermined who is actually the root of all of this craziness. I've seen nothing conclusive, only claims and counter claims. A tort claim or lawsuit isn't proof of anything other than someone believing they have a claim. Even frivolous lawsuits have their day in court.
Linda Titon October 27, 2011 at 08:50 PM
.Again this is about Hartman! There may be many related subjects involved, but the Headline reads>>>Mayors Seat Vacated! You and oh yeah Roberta are the only ones that keep throwing the ex clerks name in..but we won't go there! Posters may be replying to you but they are not purposely discussing that situation.
Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Yeah...and when you get to "Harry Scheeler 9:30pm on Wednesday, October 26, 2011" you'll see where we veered off the tracks and brought other issues into the discussion. Harry, you're the one who turned an article and comments about the former mayor into a discussion about the former clerk. I'm still not sure why you have the two of them so inextricably linked. I'm angry about a no-show mayor making the Township go to court to enforce an ordinance and state law HE VOTED TO PASS! I started this whole conversation by asking if he could be made to pay for the Township's legal costs to enforce HIS ORDINANCE. A comment directly related to the subject of the article.
Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 08:56 PM
According to other media reports, the former mayor apologized for pursuing this in court.
Henry Wood October 27, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Okay...I'm done. This comment proves you're not an honest broker in discussing this. Nobody on council has cost the tax payers MILLIONS. I thought you had proof that it was Blee's screw up that resulted in the tort claim? And even if Blee eventually costs the taxpayers millions, it's a long road between filing a tort claim and winning a million dollar judgment. Between here and there a lawsuit (if it's even filed) can be thrown out. There could be a settlement for far less than a million. There could be a judgement for less than a million. Or it is possible that you and your pals could celebrate on some tropical island on the former clerk's dime after she wins millions. But I wouldn't buy that mankini yet because that's a ways off in even the rosiest scenario. Good bye and good night!
say_you October 27, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Explain I will. But you may not like it. And it may get deleted. The former mayor missed the meetings (he says because of threats). He didn't mention them until he was facing removal. So he starts accusing others. He knew he missed meetings. He knew he was wrong. Next. As far as going quietly. He didn't need to have his name dragged through the water that he muddied. His family didn't need it. I feel bad for his family to have to go through hearing this. I really do. Actually for way to long, council members didn't say anything about it. They went out of their way to keep his name clean. But when people in the township hall know what is going on and it continues, and becomes public, how far do they go to keep it quiet. No one on council brought it out. The public had enough and wanted answers. If he was not the mayor two or three months ago no nne would have cared what he did in his personal life. I sure wouldn't.
Jessie Rush October 27, 2011 at 09:33 PM
The mayor did the right thing by contesting his absence. Harry is right he was walking into the lions den. It will get very interesting if he is re-elected then what will all of you have to say.
Keep Galloway Green October 28, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Interview with Hartman & Kleiner on Ch 40 @ 6 pm. Kleiner was there in person...there was a picture of Hartman & telephone interview. Let's review....Hartman missed 4 council meetings in a row...he missed court....he missed his TV interview. The Poster Boy of Bad Attendance strikes again!....lol
smithvillian October 30, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Jessie....What benefit would anyone get out of Hartman being re-elected..?..You throw it in everyone's face like it would be a win for Galloway. All this BS aside...Hartman supporter or not...it would be a dysfunctional working relationship. He made a mess of his political relationships. I couldn't care less about his personal situation because the the guy just isn't that interesting and the other's involved are even less interesting. Let them slink away into oblivion and Keith should focus on piecing his integrity back together, brushing up on his Politics 101 to figure out where he went wrong and whatever else he feels is important to him. Let the rest of us move on without the antics getting in the way of doing their jobs because there is way more important stuff to deal with in this community than focusing on their boring middle aged soap operish lives that they put on display for all to gawk at for a moment. Keep moving folks....there's nothing to see here.
Roberta Thompson October 30, 2011 at 08:59 PM
smithvillian, I don't read Jessie's comment as having thrown re-electing Keith Hartman in anyones face. She stated he was walking into a lions den, or maybe more appropriately stated he was walking into a kangaroo court. If he is re-elected, it would not be a dysfunctional relationship. Keith is a born Professional Leader with Integrity, unlike others. I have to laugh at your assumption he needs to brush up on his Politics 101. Because in Politics 101 handbook, I believe the first item listed, is "what can we do unto others", instead of "how can we help others." And if you want the issue to move on, why are you posting on an article that hasn't had any activity for 2 days? I don't think you can let the issue go and slink into oblivion where no one cares! Did you forget Keith Hartman is running on removing the Politics in Galloway and replacing it with the correct Principles and Policies for the Residents. Not on what the elected officials can benefit from. Shall we list the faults of all elected officials that have entered into Galloway Township, including the ones you support, I am sure you would be surprised.
smithvillian October 30, 2011 at 09:43 PM
That canned response was locked and loaded eh.....your unconditional support is odd to me. Despite what may be best for the community you forge on with your tune. So be it.
Michael Guenther October 30, 2011 at 11:21 PM
As a former resident of the municipality who doesn't personally know any of the people running the township I've been very reluctant to say anything here about the personal and political issues fracturing the township. However, I cannot see how whatever reason that caused Mayor Hartman's counsel seat to be vacated can be resolved at this time to warrent his re-election. Either he missed two months of counsel meetings because of threats made against him and his family or he's lost his passion for governance. If he's burned out that's not to fix itself in two months. His ability to serve effectively will be hampered for a long time to come. If he stopped performing his duties because of threats and intimidation, nothing's changed there either. He still has a family and his personal safety to be concerned about even if there are arrests made.
Roberta Thompson October 31, 2011 at 08:20 PM
That certainly wasn't a canned response. If it appeared to be one, than you should ask yourself, why is everyone out to make digs at the alleged faults of one Councilmember when there are six others up there with faults? Why is Keith Hartman so special to receive all this negative press? Those who inflict negativity on one usually do it to feel better with ones self. However, the constant alleged attacks on one individual is more concerning than anything. Why would unconditional support as you would perceive it to be, be odd? I truly believe Keith Hartman has the truth of the story and the others in my opinion, do not want it out. Its discussing the true issues and realization of the facts, than the fantasy of alleged attacks your group wishes to engage in. Lets stick to the real issue and truth instead of the continuation of this political nonsense. Let the truth be heard and consequences fall where they may,
smithvillian October 31, 2011 at 09:50 PM
For the record...I'm not part of any group. Don't lump me in with the rest of the nudnicks around here. I'm not inflicting any negativity what-so-ever. The fact that Hartman has lost the ability to be an effective communicator within this community stands. You can have the last long winded word Roberta....that's my gift to you. Toodles.

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