By Cheryl Conway
It was business as usual during the last Mt. Olive Twp. Council meeting, passing resolutions, issuing a proclamation, tabling an ordinance… until the public portion was bombarded by hateful, racist remarks against people of color by at least four callers.
During the Tuesday night, June 23, Mt. Olive Township Council meeting via Zoom, four different callers spewed hate messages. Several other callers’ hands were raised, but officials did not take their calls as the names were suspicious.
These so-called Zoom bombers are being investigated by the Mt. Olive Township Police Department for their hateful threats against a group of people.
“I have heard about what happened at last night’s council meeting and the Mt. Olive Police Department is investigating the matter,” Mt. Olive Police Chief Stephen Beecher tells "Mt. Olive Online."
“The township has taken security precautions to prevent a repeat of the incident,” says Beecher. “B.A Tatarenko can speak to the efforts on the township’s behalf.”
According to Mt. Olive Township Business Administrator Andrew Tatarenko, “Additional security measures are being looked into and will be in place for the next meeting.
Since COVID 19 cancelled all public meetings, the Mt. Olive Township Council has been holding its meetings via Zoom. There are currently no plans to hold in-person meetings.
“Township Council meetings will continue to be done via Zoom,” says Tatarenko. “Once we open the building to the public, I would anticipate that in-person meetings can resume. I do not have a date for that.”
Council members, who were taken by surprise by these hate remarks, were apologetic to listeners.
“You can’t help when people get on,” says Council President Joe Nicastro during the meeting. “I apologize for that; we don’t know what’s going to happen when you are on these types of calls.”
The council attempted to take more calls during the public portion but acted cautiously.
“Someone also did raise a hand but now I’m cautious to let him speak,” says Tatarenko during the meeting.
“If they don’t give their name and address when they start they are not to be permitted to speak,” says Mt. Olive Township Attorney Fred Semrau.
It is a “shame these people have to come on and make a disgrace of things,” says Nicastro. It’s really horrible, horrible.”
Councilman Greg Stewart questions Tatarenko if they could address the callers privately before taking their call but Tatarenko responds saying the chat feature is off.
Resident Shelly Morningstar chimes in suggesting that the callers email the clerk on any concerns during the public portion to end the hate remarks from being spewed.
Four callers did come through and they each threatened the lives of black people. Since the matter is being investigated, “Mt. Olive Online” did not include the names of the individuals who allegedly placed these threat calls during the meeting.
The video was also edited to omit these hateful calls before being posted on the township website.
Semrau did remind all that the meeting is being recorded and that the matter will be sent to the police to handle.
“This meeting is being recorded,” warns Semrau. “Anyone who comes on the meeting, we have the ability to investigate and track down the origins of these calls and turn it over to the police for further investigation.”
At the end of the meeting, Nicastro apologizes further.
“I would like to start…On behalf of the Administration and the Council, apologize. Not that we have any control. We’re in a new world right now experiencing all these things with online and we have people that come on, they are basically cowards and . . . make statements and hide behind things that can’t be seen or found. It’s appalling, what they said and what they do and we denounce all of that, obviously. On just behalf of everyone, I’d just like to apologize again for these interruptions that we had.”
Council Vice President Alex Roman ends the meeting by saying:
“Mt. Olive is an inclusive and tolerant community. We are so tolerant that unfortunately we do allow free speech and allow people to abuse as evidenced by the number of people who thought it was humorous to use hateful language.”
Echoing Nicastro’s sentiments, Roman apologizes “to the community that heard those comments but unfortunately those are some of the side effects of having a free society; once again demonstrates how some people find they are keyboard warriors that would rather say something anonymously then do it in person.”
Other Township News
Roman raised the issue as to whether body cameras can be worn by Mt. Olive Twp. Police officers. He says he hopes this can be included in next year’s budget. He supports the wearing of cameras since it is not only important to protect citizens but it is also important to protect police officers on false reporting.
Tatarenko responds by saying he would check with Beecher on the status of that request.
Councilwoman Colleen Labow says wearing body cameras could be an infringement on privacy issues such as domestic violence calls that police handle, especially if it involves minors.
The council also unanimously voted in favor to withdraw ordinance #13-2020 amending Chapter 169 that involves Dog and Other Animals, “because as written it would have condemned impounded animals to death simply for being older, feral, very scared, or otherwise not behaving well in the stressful pound setting,” according to the Mt. Olive Trap-Neuter-Return (MOTNR) group.
MOTNR had lobbied for 497 signatures in a petition to place a no kill ordinance on the November ballot. While they did receive enough signatures, the council has agreed to work with the MOTNR experts to come up with language that will protect these cats’ lives.
A newly revised ordinance is in the works for anticipated introduction at the next council meeting set for July 21.
Tatarenko announces that the municipal pool will tentatively open on July 3 with discounted memberships offered due to the late opening. There will also be restrictions on how many can use the pool; more details to come.
Sports groups are back on the fields with social measures being enforced in compliance with COVID 19.
He is also hoping to open the Splash Pad and Mt. Playmore once he gets further direction from the governor.
Brush On Roads
Labow brought up an issue regarding the pickup of brush during the summer months.
“This is the time of year people are piling up bushes,” says Labow.
Tatarenko responds saying the town picks up brush and clippings in spring and fall.
“It’s a staffing issue,” he says. If someone has a pile, the homeowner can call public works for pick up. Large brush, however, will not be picked up during the summer.
June Pride Month Raises Support Of All Genders In MO
By Cheryl Conway
June is coming to an end, but a proclamation passed just this week ushers in awareness, support and advocacy for all individuals regardless of sexual preference.
The Mt. Olive Twp. Mayor and Council passed a proclamation at its last board meeting, Tuesday, June 23, to proclaim the month of June 2020 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Plus (LGBTQ+) Pride Awareness Month. On Friday, June 26, a flag raising of the LGBTQ+ flag went up at the Mt. Olive Township Municipal Building.
Mt. Olive is one of the first towns in Morris County to raise awareness and the LGBTQ+ flag and show this type of support that includes all people regardless of race, religion and sexual preference.
The flag raising and proclamation “represents, I hope, a feeling of the majority or all of the residents of Mt. Olive Twp. where we respect everyone’s rights and believe in equality regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or any other factor which distinguishes an individual from any other individual,” says Mt. Olive Twp. Mayor Rob Greenbaum.
“We are very, very proud to be, I hope, one of the first communities in Morris County to actually raise the flag proudly on behalf of all the residents of our township in the state of New Jersey,” says Greenbaum.
Laurie Litt of Mt. Olive, CEO of Edge N.J. and Edge Pride Center in Morris Plains, presented Mt. Olive with the rainbow flag to hang on the municipal building. Established in January 2019, the Edge Pride Center is the only LGBTQ+ center in Morris County.
At the flag raising ceremony, Litt says, she is “extremely proud” of the town for “recognizing June as Pride Month and supporting the rights of the LGBTQ+ Community.”
Litt adds that she is “very excited” that Mt. Olive is “one of the first in Morris County to show this type of support” as shown by flying the rainbow flag and passing a proclamation.
Greenbaum says township officials agreed to signing the proclamation after several residents raised the issue.
“It is my understanding that June as Pride Month was established nationally by those who are looking to further educate the general population on issues involving LGBTQ matters and to foster equality under the law,” explains Greenbaum. “Several people brought this to our attention and we jumped at the opportunity to participate and support the cause.
“The township gladly signed on as we believe in all people being treated equally, sexual preference included.”
The municipal building has been lit up in rainbow colors since the flag went up. Drive by at night to check it out.
Read the Proclamation below designating June Pride Month:
Proclaiming the Month of June 2020 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Plus (LGBTQ+) Pride Awareness Month
WHEREAS, Mount Olive Township recognizes that the pursuit of equality, respect and inclusion for all individuals is an attainable goal; and
WHEREAS, all human beings should be equal in dignity and rights and no one should live in fear or face persecution and violence due to sexual orientation or gender identity; and
WHEREAS, Mount Olive Township celebrates and encourages diversity and inclusion within our community and supports the self-affirmation, equality and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and
WHEREAS, LGBTQ+ individuals make vital contributions to our country, including cultural, political, civic, educational and economic, among many fields; and
WHEREAS, it is essential to acknowledge that the need for education and awareness remains vital to end discrimination, biases and prejudice;
WHEREAS, Mount Olive Township calls upon residents of our community to embrace this principle and work together to foster a warm and hospitable place for all to live; and
WHEREAS, celebrating Pride Month influences awareness and provides support and advocacy for Mount Olive Township LGBTQ+ community and fosters dialogue to build understanding and acceptance and advance equal rights for all Mount Olive residents.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, I, Robert Greenbaum, Mayor of Mount Olive Township do hereby proclaim June 2020 be proclaimed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Plus (LGBTQ+) Pride Month throughout Mount Olive Township.