Brick Township council members approved a a four year contract with the union that represents hundreds of its employees, but one member of the governing body abstained and called for an investigation into an anonymous letter that alleged abuses during the negotiating process.
The new pact between the township and the Transport Workers Union Local 220 includes annual salary increases of 2.5 percent for four years. It also freezes employee health insurance contributions, meaning a worker’s contribution level will not increase because they receive a raise or promotion. Officials said the contract provides for a 3 percent total compensation increase per year between the salary hike and the health insurance freeze.
For the TWU’s 231 members in Brick, including the vast majority of Public Works employees, the new contract came quickly after the previous agreement expired Dec. 31. But while union leader John Menshon said the deal had wide support from the rank-and-file, there was evidently some dissent, which came in the form of a “scathing” letter sent to at least some members of the township council.
The letter led Councilman Jim Fozman to call for an investigation to be conducted before a vote on the new contract could be taken by the governing body, however he did not receive a second after making a motion to do so. Instead, the council voted 6-0 to approve the contract, with Fozman abstaining.
The nature of the allegations contained in the letter is murky. Shorebeat submitted a request under the state’s Open Public Records Act during Tuesday night’s council meeting to obtain a copy. The township has seven days to provide the document, which newly-minted Council President Andrea Zapcic said would become public since it was submitted to the township clerk. An official told Shorebeat following the meeting that the township would likely have to redact the name of a single employee who was mentioned in the letter.
The letter was “scathing,” Fozman said, though he did not divulge its contents beyond saying that it contained “horrible allegations involving abuse toward employees.”
Some residents who attended the meeting said Fozman’s request for an investigation should have been granted.
“At any company I’ve worked for, [an anonymous letter] was treated just as if it was signed in big, capital letters,” said Robert Canfield. “Even if it’s an anonymous e-mail from a fake account, it is always looked into if there are specifics involved.”
Sam Foster, another resident, said the letter may have been sent anonymously because the author was fearful of retribution.
“A lot of people are in fear of retaliation,” said Fozman.
Some township officials questioned the motives behind the letter.
“If no one is willing to put their name to something, it could be a political stunt, we just don’t know,” said Menshon.
“Apparently, maybe some disgruntled union members wrote an anonymous letter to complain,” said Township Attorney Scott W. Kenneally, though he admitted he did not “thoroughly review” the document.
“That’s a big assumption on your part,” resident Vic Fanelli told Kenneally.
At the end of the meeting, Fozman reiterated his call for an investigation, suggesting the township should “retain an independent, outside investigator.”