Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Attorney John Inglesino violated a resident’s constitutional rights when he cut off Pat Petaccia’s attempts to ask the Mayor James Barberio questions about political bribery allegations at the April 6 council meeting, the ACLU said in a letter.
In an August 29 letter, ACLU New Jersey legal director Edward Barocas said Pat Petaccia should have been allowed to question Mayor James Barberio regarding Parsippany-Troy Hills Retired Police Captain Lou Valori’s allegation that Barberio offered to create and give him a $50,000-a-year township job if he wouldn’t run for office. Click here to read the ACLU letter.
Valori ran for Township Council in the June primary and won against Barberio’s two running mates, Councilman Vincent Ferrara and Democrat-Turned Republican Milin Shah.
In his letter, Barocas also asked that the township council not cut off members of the public “regardless of whether the council agrees with the content of a particular comment.”
In addition, he asked the council to confirm that Petaccia should have been allowed to speak about the topic at the meeting and she not be cut off again at future meetings.
Petaccia said she hasn’t decided whether she’ll pursue legal action and that all she really wanted from Inglesino was an apology.
“I don’t trust this man anymore,” Petaccia said.
Frustrated by Inglesino’s repeated attempts to stop her line of questioning, Petaccia eventually ended her own public comment session that night. It wasn’t the first time Petaccia had asked Barberio about the allegations. At Parsippany’s public meeting, Barberio dodged her questions, telling her to read his statement to the media the next day. The statement never appeared in this media or any media.
But before she sat down, Petaccia engaged in a heated argument back and forth with Ingelsino. You can view the council meeting of April 6 below.
At one point, Inglesino told Petaccia that “the purpose here is to ask questions. The purpose of this segment is not to harass or just take continuous gratuitous shots at the integrity of” officials.
After Petaccia told him she was exercising her freedom of speech, Inglesino said: “Ms. Petaccia, you can exercise that speech, but not at this meeting.”
At the time, Councilman Jonathan Nelson said in a press release he didn’t think Inglesino should have stopped Petaccia’s line of questioning.
When questioning a local a resident, who asked to remain anonymous, he stated “It seems to me that the role of the municipal attorney, at a public meeting, is to provide advice to the council on questions of a legal nature when asked. In this case, he was speaking out of order, and was acting as the Mayor’s personal counsel. If this woman sues, she is going to win big time.”