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Siddons Has No Regrets About Her Time On Township Council

Ward Four Councilwoman does not leave quietly

Courtesy of Frances R. Siddons
Courtesy of Frances R. Siddons

by Patricia A. Miller

Township Councilwoman Fran Siddons received only token thanks from her council counterparts during her last meeting as the Ward 4 representative. No plaque, no proclamation for her four years of service..

But before she stepped down from the dais for the last time, several Ward 4 supporters made sure she was recognized during the public portion of the Dec. 30 meeting.

They presented her with a plaque for her "outstanding service and keeping her campaign promises from a grateful constituency."

Marguerite Penn, Bernadette Whitmeyer and another resident also presented Siddons with several bouquets of flowers, as the audience applauded.

"We would like to thank you for your dedication," Whitmeyer said. "We thank you for always staying true to your campaign promises."

The Ward 4 representative did not leave quietly. She read a lengthy statement into the record during the council comments section of the meeting.

Siddons wanted to run for another term on the Township Council. But she was stymied by the local Republican Club's nominating committee, which did not endorse her for the seat. The endorsement went to Sophia Gingrich, who was a Berkeley Board of Education member.

Siddons challenged Gingrich in the June primary. She lost, unable to compete against the money provided to Gingrich by the county GOP organization. Since no Democrats filed to run for the four ward seats, Gingrich and the other Republican candidates ran unopposed in November.

Siddons has always contended she was ousted because she voted her conscience and kept her campaign promises. At times, she cast the only no vote on issues, unlike her other Republican counterparts.

"During the last four years, I supported all positive initiatives of both the Varano and Amato administrations that were beneficial to the people," she said in her statement.

"As a member of the Carmen Amato Republican team, I have kept all of my campaign promises, including my promise never to vote for a tax increase," she said. "I am proud that I kept that promise, despite pressure put on me to vote for tax increases."

Siddons said she also had difficulty getting municipal finance information from Township Administrator Christopher Reid and Chief Financial Officer Frederick Ebenau.

"Is this any way to run a township?" she said. "All my questions concerned public information that should have been given to a council member."

The meeting was the last for Siddons and former Township Councilman Kevin Askew. Siddons was elected to a four-year term in 2009. Askew was appointed to fill the vacancy left by.. He won a one-year unexpired term in 2012. He elected not to run for another term.

Siddons also said the newly-resurrected position of deputy police chief should be eliminated.

"Our police chief, Karin DiMichele, did any absolutely fine job without a deputy," she said. "She does not need a deputy to do her job."

Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. and Township Council members in November approved the deputy chief position. Amato and other officials said it was done to honor longtime Capt. Richard Casagrande, who was retiring in early December.

The title came with no monetary or pension benefits, Amato said at the Dec. 30 meeting.

Ashbritt contract

Siddons also suggested the township go out proactively for competitive emergency debris removal bids for future storms. Berkeley signed on with Ashbritt several weeks after Superstorm Sandy and now has a $275,000 bill to pay.

"Other municipalities choose less expensive ways of picking up the Superstorm Sandy debris," Siddons said. "We should make sure that we save money in the future, too."

Berkeley Township officials entered into a shared services agreement between the county and many other towns in mid-November 2012, to move the cleanup along more quickly than the public works department could manage on its own.

Public works employees had been working nearly around the clock, seven days a week, before the agreement.

Amato and other council members defended the use of Ashbritt at the Dec. 30 meeting.

"We opted to go with the County of Ocean," Amato said. "We had a great opportunity to get those areas cleaned up. The job that was done was second to none. "

Ocean County put up the initial funds for the debris removal. Berkeley's share of the bill is $275,000, which officials are hoping will be forgiven or reimbursed, Ebenau said.

"At the end of the day, it may not cost us anything," he said.

bill January 07, 2014 at 01:32 AM
Now Amato and Byrnes can continue to run Berkeley into the ground spending the good peoples money. You can not get answers from this group of good old boys, Reid refuses to give out financial information when asked. I guess Amato has him on a string and he should at $100,000 a year what a waste, he will speak when the strings are pulled. Jim Byrnes should be ashamed of himself how he sits as the head of the council and makes you think he really cares. He now has Judy Noonan to deal with since she wants his spot . This is like a soap opera. Noonan who is a flipper from one party to the next when her position is in question. Can you realize she wants to be Mayor , what a said day it would be for Berkeley if that ever happens.
bill January 07, 2014 at 02:07 AM
MR Mayor now that you have every one lined up as yes men, what are you going to do with the Gingrichs. The things Brian Gingrich said during the so call election was harassment to say the least how he wrote on the patch about Fran Siddons. He is a sick man and if you say you did not see it I will be glad to repost his comments . You must not let this man influence his wife. I hope you do not appoint him to any of your committees. As far as Askew leaving , he got what he wanted his wife working on the sewer commission I guess that is why he voted for everything you put up , never voted against anything . This is how government works. He was another Yes man. The only one left on the council who does not seem to be a yes man is the cop , but who knows what he will do if he is offered something. It seems today all political people have a price.
Chief Wahoo January 07, 2014 at 03:10 PM
Amato. Varano. Just a bunch of vowels. But no difference. Both spend spend spend your dwindling money. Because that's what public takers do. SSP is almost free of this dump of a town !!!!
bill January 07, 2014 at 04:21 PM
Chief you are right. I wonder if the voters know Amato was a democrat and change to Republican in order to move up in his political life. So you see it did not matter that he is going around talking bad about Dems he is in for himself. He is spending the tax payers money like there is no tomorrow. Now that Byrnes is the council President Judy must be beside herself. Its funny to know that Noonan doesn't like Amato and she should because they both are from both parties although this year they call themselves Republicans. Amato has no use for her but will except her ways because he needs her to get him elected in Nov. with the vote from the Holiday city folks . She holds this over his head. What a screwed up government. This would be a great reality show.


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