Linden council member trade harassment accusations

Linden Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey

LINDEN, N.J. — Council members Gretchen Hickey and Peter Brown have recently traded accusations of intimidation and harassment, with Hickey taking her complaints to the police.

Hickey, whose term representing the 10th Ward expires next year, took her accusations against Brown to Linden police after the Aug. 19 council meeting. In her complaint, which LocalSource obtained through an OPRA requests, she alleged that Brown, whose term representing the 3rd Ward expires at the end of the year, had repeatedly harassed her and threatened to undermine her husband’s business.

According to the complaint, Hickey alleged that her personal space had been violated and Brown had yelled at her during the Aug. 19 meeting. She said Councilman Armando Medina had intervened by standing between herself and Brown, and that Councilman John Roman had escorted Hickey out of City Hall in order to defuse the situation.

According to a police report regarding the incident, “Councilman Roman stated that in spite of this, Councilman Brown kept following Councilwoman Hickey in order to continue yelling at her. Councilman Brown eventually regained his composure when Councilman Medina interceded.”

Brown, in a written statement emailed to the LocalSource on Oct. 9, claimed Hickey engaged in cyberbullying and cyberharassment against him and his family. He did not provide evidence of this to LocalSource. He also alleged that Hickey had caused him emotional distress during the past year and a half, and that her actions caused him to lose income from his business and to lose his job with the town of Dover.

Linden Councilman Pete Brown

“During council meetings, Councilwoman Hickey has regularly made degrading and hateful comments about myself and others,” Brown said in the statement. “Last year, I chose to retire from politics due to time and energy that members, such as Councilwoman Hickey, put into attacking me and others, rather than using that time and energy for all Linden residents.”

In a written response, Hickey denied Brown’s claims of cyberbullying and disparaging comments during council meetings.

In a statement emailed to LocalSource on Oct. 17, council President Michele Yamakaitis said, “There are several elected officials that unfortunately were never taught how to behave in a business or professional setting. There is a total disrespect for any of the rules for conducting our meetings adopted by the governing body or by our civil society. The behavior of pop shots, idle threats, etc. has been the norm since several of these individuals, including the complainant, were elected to council. This council should be focused on governing for the people they were elected to serve.”

Police spokesman Lt. Christopher Guenther told LocalSource in an Oct. 24 phone interview that there has been no action on the complaint.

Linden Council President Michele Yamakaitis

Yamakaitis continued, without referring to anyone by name, “This past council meeting brought forth information about a total violation of public trust. Unfortunately, some individuals cannot get past political agendas and focus. It is unfortunate for the other council members who serve as professionals.”