By: Julie Allen and Colin Stephenson
Republican councilman Art Pazan, who had ripped into Democratic mayor Bruce Packer at a Glen Rock Borough Council work session meeting Monday, calling the mayor political and “divisive,” attacked the mayor again at Wednesday’s regular council meeting, saying he was offended by a post Packer made on his personal Facebook page and demanded an apology from the mayor.
Little more than half-hour into the meeting, after Pazan had just finished reading a commendation of the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps, he continued reading from his written remarks and rolled directly into his attack on Packer.
“I wanted to share some information with the public in reference to the mayor’s post on June 4 on social media,” Pazan said. “After hearing about this from a councilman and residents at the pool, this post was very hurtful to me, and it seemed to defame me and my fellow Republican council members, as well as the Republican candidates for Borough Council. The defamatory post was taken down on June 6, after the polls closed (following the primary election), and I’m personally offended and demand an apology by Mayor Packer.”
But Pazan kept on reading, even after Packer interrupted him again saying, “This is not the place for this.”
Pazan called Packer’s post, which appeared on the “After the March” Facebook page, and asked if readers would support a candidate for local government if they knew that candidate supported Donald Trump, a “smear campaign.” He said it “definitely is not what our community needs, in terms of leadership now, and going forward.”
“It’s certainly not in the spirit of inclusiveness preached,” Pazan said. “What Glen Rock needs is leadership that’s inclusive, and leads with good behavior, not bullying.”
See Glen Rock TV’s video of the meeting here.
At one point, Councilman Mike O’Hagan, like Pazan, a Republican, interrupted and asked Pazan to show the mayor the post he was talking about. When he did, Packer said he made the post on a private Facebook page that wasn’t meant to be shared with the group.
“I don’t know how you got this post, this has nothing to do with anyone in this room, it’s a private post,” Packer said to Pazan. “And I think you and whoever copied this for you have a lot of nerve to bring this to a meeting. And what happens when you bring things like this up, is the Republican and Democratic parties come to meetings, and it becomes places for your political agenda.”
Pazan, who is in the final year of his term on the council, is not running for re-election in November.
O’Hagan asked Packer if he did write the post, and Packer responded that what he posts on a private page isn’t relevant for discussion at a council meeting.
“I’m embarrassed that we’re even having this conversation here and now,” Packer said. “I’m embarrassed that people are applauding, and creating a separation based on what happened on Monday. This is what happens when you make attacks.”
After the fireworks ended, the meeting proceeded and when the period for public comment was opened up, a resident Bryan Kule, of Boulevard, appealed to the council to behave better.
“I feel like what happened tonight was a bigger wedge into the two parties in town,” he said. “It starts pitting neighbors against neighbors. And that’s what happened here tonight. This was the worst version of it that I’ve seen so far.
“Leadership starts at the top, but also the vibe of the town starts at the top, and we’ll come, eventually, soon, into election time (in November). And based on tonight, it’s going to get ugly. Even if the people themselves who are running aren’t getting ugly, it’s going to get ugly.
“You need to figure something out, and you need to take a breath,” he continued. “Don’t do it in front of us. Fake it, if you have to, but you really need to put a better vibe in the town, because it’s starting to get ugly out there. The whole country’s ugly, but the town shouldn’t be this ugly.”
At the end of the meeting, O’Hagan made a point to tell Packer that he and the other council members weren’t upset that he had joined the Climate Mayors group, which was the issue that started all the trouble in Monday’s meeting, but just wished they had known ahead of time that he was doing so. He also went on to say: “You are doing generally a good job.”
On Thursday, on his personal Facebook page, Packer posted an apology for how out of control the meeting got.
“I will do all that I can to avoid a repeat of yesterday by doing a better job of keeping my own composure and running these meetings the way they are supposed to run, thus forcing all involved to respect the process,” he said in the post.
The meeting ended with a moment of silence in recognition of the shooting earlier in the day, where House Whip Steve Scalise was one of four people shot at a baseball field by a gunman in Arlington, Virginia.