It was a dispiriting display of bad judgment and cronyism at the Secaucus Council meeting when newly installed Mayor Michael Gonnelli and all councilmen except for one voted to promote a city employee to Director of Public Works – the same employee implicated in harassing and issuing death threats to a local gay couple. That employee, his son and another individual – all firemen at the time – were at the heart of a civil judgment that resulted in a $4.8 million fine against the City of Secaucus. All of the firemen had pleaded the fifth amendment at the trial rather than discuss what actually happened during the multiple gay-bashing incidents.
As the lone dissenting councilman John Shinnick pointed out there was only about three weeks allowed for posting the availability of the new position and not enough time to reach other outside qualified candidates. The result was that only three current Secaucus employees were interviewed and former fireman Charles Snyder Sr. got the job.
Why would Secaucus officials promote an individual to a $117,000 job whose actions appeared so egregious as to cost local taxpayers $4.8 million? The mayor disingenuously pointed out that Mr. Snyder’s record while in the Department of Public Works was exemplary. The mayor disregarded the fact that the employee while a fireman caused grievous harm to the reputation and finances of Secaucus and engaged in actions that threatened the life of two gay residents. The mayor also did not deny that he was a buddy of Mr. Snyder and that they vacationed together in Hawaii.
Is Secaucus a place where gays and lesbians would want to live? Is it a safe place to shop in? With prompting from Steven Goldstein the mayor admitted there has been only a token effort at sensitivity training of employees. Garden State Equality members who sat through the council meeting heard jeers from other attendees and little assurance from councilmen that the lives and safety of the LGBT community mattered.