Listen to audio version of this article
A Linden Councilman tonight is accusing his fellow local elected official of misconduct and demanding
that the mayor remove him from all council committees, including one formed to investigate state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22).
Councilman John Francis Roman said his colleague, Councilman Peter Brown, is – among other things – unfit to sit in judgement of whether Scutari fulfilled his professional duties as municipal prosecutor prior to Mayor Derek Armstead removing him from that position earlier this year.
Brown sits on a council investigatory committee with subpoena power examining whether Scutari received payment for work unperformed. Roman said Armstead’s city council should remove Brown, not only from that committee, but all of them, “especially the ones that deal with redevelopment.”
Called for comment, Brown and Armstead dismissed Roman’s entreaty as personal issues run amok in politics.
Roman and Brown have been rivals for years.
But Roman said this has nothing to do with politics, or the cross purposes of their past personal lives.
“The 6th Ward elected me to serve their interests and not my own,” Roman said in a statement. “Serving my parents and my neighbors is the greatest honor of my life. I cannot and will not stand by silent on this matter any longer.”
The 6th ward councilman issued hard charges against his colleague.
“As the evidence continues to mount on Councilman Brown, I no longer have faith in his ability to serve as a neutral advocate for the taxpayers of this city,” said Roman, who claims to have reason to believe that law enforcement officials are investigating Brown’s alleged involvement in local development.
Because Brown knows Roman is onto him, he subsequently adopted an alias to attempt to smear Roman in communications with the freeholder board and get him fired from his county day job, Roman said.
“It is my opinion that Councilman Brown has used his position on these various Council Committees to exert pressure on city employees to do his bidding,” Roman explained. “It is my opinion that Councilman Brown has used his position on these committees to assist certain developers in return for favors. It’s my opinion that Brown used an alias named ‘Anthony Kent’ to try and obstruct an ongoing corruption investigation into his actions. Finally, I am absolutely convinced that he has tampered with witnesses and whistle-blowers that are involved in this ongoing corruption case into his actions, under both his real name, and the alias ‘Anthony Kent’.
“Every American citizen is innocent until proven guilty,” added Roman. “He is no exception. However, it is imperative that Brown be removed from these committees, especially all of those that deal with redevelopment, in order to avoid a litigious nightmare that will ultimately be a burden on the taxpayers. If and when he is cleared of any wrong doing, he should be allowed to resume his posts. Until then, I am calling on the Mayor Armstead, Council President Yamakaitis, and the rest of their majority on council to take this action immediately, or be prepared to answer to the citizens of Linden as to why you were negligent in your duty to protect them.”
Brown currently chairs Construction Code, Finance, (SIDS), Airport Lease and Public Properties. He is also a member of the Law, I.T., Engineering/Affordable Housing, and Revenue Enhancement Committees. If the council – controlled by the mayor – does not take action and yank him, they are all complicit, said the councilman.
Brown issued a statement in response.
“Unfortunately, John Francis Roman chooses to play politics with a serious issue that he was made fully aware of during last three council meetings,” said the councilman. “Instead of properly addressing any concerns at our council meeting, John Francis Roman choose to draw and seek attention on himself for a personal matter that I have never talked about publicly until today.
“Furthermore, John Francis Roman has clearly demonstrated how much of a personal issue this is for him, instead of reviewing the facts,” Brown added. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Roman is more concerned about the state senator, than the [more than] 120 day missed in the last two years. I hope that one day Mr. Roman starts focusing and attacking on issues rather than individuals that he personally hates.”
For his part, Armstead dismissed the gesture as desperation water-carrying by a Scutari subordinate.
“John works for the county,” said the mayor, referring to the county purchasing agent/councilman. “He works for [Union County Manager] Ed Oatman.”
Oatman was Scutari’s chief of staff.
The statement against Brown amounts to little more than Roman grandstanding to deepen the senator’s affection, the mayor argued. Roman can’t summon a leg to stand on in when it comes to the issues, so he resorts to gladiatorial games, Armstead suggested. “John is immature,” said the mayor. He said he opposed the garbage collection tax. “He called it an election year gimmick,” said the mayor. “He said we would have to raise taxes this year and we’re lowering them.”
The mayor is in the middle of a countywide party committee battle to weaken Scutari’s control. The senator, chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, also chairs the Union County Democratic Committee. Armstead wants to flex his political muscle outward onto that turf.
Roman stands with the senator/sitting chairman, just as Brown stands on the other side of the divide, with the mayor.
Brown agreed with Armstead that his rival allows himself to get derailed by politics.
“John is looking for attention,” he said. “Council members as well as City Hall employees say the same thing. It is unfortunate that he spends so much time and energy on the wrong issues. While Mr. Roman is focused on protecting Senator Scutari, most of us of council and in the City are focused on moving the City to forward. We are focused on new and improved services for residents, specially seniors and our youth.”
Roman denied that his interest in seeing Brown removed is anything other than good government.
He stood by his assessment of the poor character of his fellow councilman and his devious use of an alias to destroy Roman professionally, and demanded the council move on dumping Brown from the committees or run morally afoul of Linden.
“They can try to make this about Nick Scutari all they want,” said Roman. “This isn’t about Nick Scutari. The Senator does not need my help defending himself. This about right and wrong. This is about facts. Indisputable facts. The fact is Peter A. Brown Jr. is under a criminal political corruption probe by the State of New Jersey. Also fact, Mayor Armstead is aware of this corruption probe because of the subpoenas that were served to the City of Linden. Fact, it is extremely inappropriate that one of the principal subjects of this corruption investigation has business before the City as well as business before committees that Peter A. Brown Jr. sits on. My final fact, the statements by Mayor Armstead and Peter A. Brown Jr. are simply diversionary tactics to distract people from reality, and the reality is that facts don’t cease to exist because you want them too.”