April 19,2018

John Hersperger

Below, I’m reposting from the It Takes a Ridgewood Village page my book and verse take down off the false conflict claims that Harwin and Willett supporters are making against the Mayor. In this post, I was commenting on the false allegations made in The Record by a certain villager (whose name I’ve deleted). The false claim was that Mayor took a vote in 2014 that aided her sons’ job prospects. The problem isn’t just that this one person said this stuff, it’s that the The Record was given prior knowledge that these allegations were false, yet felt free to print them anyway. Worse, Harwin and Willett supporters keep making these false claims and you hear nothing from Harwin and Willett. Here’s the post (slightly edited):
“First, Record staff writer Deena Yellin attributes to you the claim that the 2014 ordinance “allowed her sons (i.e., Ms. Knudsen’s sons), to be bumped up ahead of other candidates.” (to be clear, those quotations are around Ms. Yellin’s words, but she attributes that claim to you). For reasons that are obvious to anyone who cares to review the ordinance in question, that claim is entirely inaccurate. For one, the ordinance, which is Ordinance No. 3429, adopted August 13, 2014, amended the residency requirements ONLY for NON-emergency personnel (such as clerks and administrators), and left rules pertaining to Ridgewood police and fire residency untouched. That is because only NJ Statute (NJSA 40A:14-123 ) establishes the residency requirement for police and fire, and only the NJ Civil Service Commission may prepare the eligibility lists for police and fire. These laws have been in place for decades, and no Village ordinance may deviate from NJ Civil Service Commission rules, because the Civil Service Commission has pre-emptive control over the entire methodology and process for Civil Service hiring in municipalities such as Ridgewood. Thus, it was literally IMPOSSIBLE for Ordinance No. 3429 to have any impact on the eligibility or ranking of any police or fire candidate, let alone “bump” one candidate over another. Ordinance No. 3429 amended NOTHING regarding police and fire hiring. Thus, the assertion that then Council Member Knudsen aided her sons’ careers by her 2014 vote, which assertion Deena Yellin clearly attributes to you, is 100% inaccurate.
Second, regarding Ms. Knudsen and her sons, you are quoted as saying, “She never disclosed that they were on the list for jobs with the police and fire department.That’s a terrible conflict of interest.” This too is verifiably, 100% inaccurate. How so? On May 6, 2014, more than two months BEFORE Ordinance No. 3429 was first discussed at the July 9, 2014 Council work session, your good friend and then Village Manager Roberta Sonnenfeld received the May 5, 2014 email from Beth Kanellis of the Classification & Personnel Management, Certification Unit of the NJ Civil Service Commission, which email attached the certified list of eligible candidates for Ridgewood Police Officer. That list was prepared by and certified by the Civil Service Commission, and it included the names of Ms. Knudsen’s sons who were applying to be Village Police Officers. To be 100% clear, Village Clerk Mailander was the direct recipient of the May 5 email from the Civil Service Commission, but she forwarded it to Ms. Sonnenfeld on May 6. Thereafter, as the minutes of the July 9 Council session show, Ms. Sonnenfeld did NOT sit silently at that meeting, but clearly ADVOCATED FOR Ordinance No. 3429, as it appears that Ordinance No. 3429 was her brainchild. Unless you believe that Ms. Sonnenfeld conspired with Ms. Knudsen (and with Heather Mailander) to keep Ms. Knudsen’s sons’ eligibility a secret, your allegation of non-disclosure is 100% inaccurate. Just as importantly, regarding your other allegation that Council Member Knudsen had “a terrible conflict of interest”, as I have already explained, Ordinance No. 3429 did not amend the residency requirement pertaining to police and fire. Ms. Knudsen could have voted “yes” or “no” on Ordinance No. 3429, and neither vote would have any effect on her sons’ potential hiring as Village Police Officers. Thus, your conflict allegation is also 100% inaccurate.”