Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said Freeholder Morey abstained on the retaliation censure. He voted against it.
The Cape May County Board of Freeholders voted in favor of two censures against Freeholder Marie Hayes.
Three of the board’s members — Freeholders Leonard Desiderio, Jeffrey Pierson and Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton — voted in favor of a censure related to a retaliation claim made by Board clerk Beth Bozzelli.
Freeholder Will Morey voted no on that resolution but voted in favor of a censure over conflicts of interest related to Hayes’ son, who is a county employee. The latter vote passed the board 4-1.
“This board has violated important principles of our government by censuring a freeholder based upon a badly flawed investigation that did nothing more than speculate that ‘it appears’ other motivations were involved that the reasons Ms. Hayes specifically expressed prior to voting,” Morey said. “Reasons which, it is important to note, were substantially the same as the business and administrative reasons I provided for my dissenting vote.”
Morey and Hayes both raised questions about the investigation, which has not been released to the public but was sent to the State Ethics Commission Tuesday.
Morey, the other dissenting vote on a measure that merged the positions of board clerk and county administrator, claimed he was never interviewed.
Thornton said Hayes never requested the investigator talk with Thornton. Hayes said she did.
Hayes leveled her own accusations against the board director, claiming he lobbied her to vote in favor of a raise for his step-son, county counsel Jeff Lindsay
“I have also been advised there are more investigations to come. This is what happens when you vote against the director,” Hayes said. “Certainly, I was not protected by the director’s stepson, the attorney for all the board, not just his stepfather.”
The freeholder said she intends to pursue misconduct charges against Lindsay through State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office.
She said she will not resign from the freeholder board, adding that some had sought her resignation.
Thornton cited generally the findings of the non-public report in his prepared remarks.
The freeholder director attempted to hold a vote to release a redacted copy of the investigative report, which Morey said had already cost the county at least $60,000, but was stopped by Lindsay, who said doing so would break the county’s procedures for such cases.
Thornton raised the issue again later but never called for a vote on the matter.
Close to 100 attended Tuesday’s meeting. The vast majority of those who testified before the panel did so in support of Hayes, with some residents even calling for the board’s other members to be investigated.
It’s possible that the episode will leave some lasting rifts between Thornton and Hayes.
The two are seeking re-election this year against Democrats Stephen Barry and Elizabeth Casey, but they declined to say if they would endorse one another
“I’m not going to get into that. It’s not the time,” Hayes said. “Obviously, it’s a tenuous time. I’m not getting into that.”
“We’re not talking politics. That’s all it is. That’s a decision that hasn’t been addressed,” Thornton said.
Thornton said conversations about the two running together had not taken place.
Desiderio and Pierson had no such hang-ups, saying they’d back the Republican ticket.
Morey declined to say whether he’d back either of the two Republicans seeking re-election this year.