Councilman Michael Nochimson has filed a police report after receiving a threatening phone call from Township Manager Joseph Martin and Verona’s town attorney tried to block the release of the report to the press.
According to a story just published by Paula Brown of the Verona Observer, Martin made the threatening call on Tuesday, May 21. Nochimson did not file a report with the Verona Police Department until June 28.
“I waited more than a month to see if I could get resolution to this matter, and keep it private,” Nochimson told the Observer. “When I saw no resolution in sight, I filed the report. Verona does not deserve a township manager that behaves this way.”
The incident apparently stemmed from Nochimson’s months-long efforts to obtain a copy of Martin’s contract for the Town Council to review. Martin has been the manager since 2004 and the Council was slated to give him a performance review before voting on whether to extend his current contract, which expires in August.
According to the Observer, Martin called Nochimson after the councilman got a copy of the contract and distributed it to the other council members. The paper says that Martin threatened Nochimson saying, “Good luck, and watch yourself buddy boy.”
It is usually easy to obtain incident reports from the Verona Police. But Brown was initially unable to get the report on Martin’s call and had to resort to filing an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request. Township Attorney Michael Gannaio denied the request, telling Brown that the report pertained to a personnel matter so it could not be released. The Observer got a copy of the report from Pat Toscano, an attorney hired by Nochimson:
“Our client purposely has made all of this public, because as a councilman representing the people of Verona, they definitely have the right to know what is going on in their form of government. Transparency in government is of the utmost importance,” Toscano said.
Toscano, who characterized Martin’s actions as “deplorable” told the Observer that he plans to charge Martin with criminal harassment, and said Nochimson may file a civil suit as well.
Martin did not immediately return a call for comment. Martin declined to comment on the Observer‘s report. “It’s unprofessional behavior,” Nochimson told this reporter, “and Verona deserves better.”