ROSELLE PARK, NJ – At the Dec. 3 meeting of the borough council, Roselle Park Councilwoman-at-large Charlene Storey was reportedly not too happy following a 4-2 vote to change the name of the annual tree-lighting ceremony to include the word Christmas. The following morning, she handed in her letter of resignation.
But before any action could be taken, the councilwoman had a change of heart and decided to reverse that decision, sending in a new letter rescinding her resignation.
According to Mayor Carl Hokanson, he got a phone call just before 9 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, from the assistant borough clerk saying she had received a letter of resignation from Storey, and it was placed on the desk of the borough clerk.
“That letter sat on her desk until Monday morning,” said Hokanson. “By Saturday afternoon around 5 o’clock, she rescinded her letter, and she sent a letter to the borough clerk on Monday that she rescinded the letter on Monday morning.”
Hokanson says that according to the borough attorney Storey has the right to rescind her resignation.
“Since there was no action taken on the letter and it was never forwarded to the council,” said Hokanson, “according to the borough attorney, it is legal for her to rescind it. There was no official action taken by mayor and council because it was never brought to mayor and council.”
Regarding the changing of the name of the ceremony from “Tree Lighting” to “Christmas Tree Lighting,” Hokanson wanted to make it clear that he was not trying to take a religious stand, but more of a factual statement.
LocalSource was given an advance copy of a statement Hokanson planned to read at a Thursday night council meeting, the day before the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
“Our ceremony on Friday at 6 p.m. will be referred to as the Christmas Tree Lighting. This is not a constitutional issue or an attempt to mix religion with government,” the statement reads. “Rather this is a factual reference – we are lighting a Christmas tree.
“What we have experienced in the last week after the hubbub died down was the fact that many of us were able to exercise our First Amendment rights,” the statement continued. “Along with religious rights, we also have free speech rights. Moving forward, I support all activities to enhance diversity. That’s another right we celebrate in this country. So I invite all to our celebration of Friday night at 6 p.m. at Michael Mauri Park. At the end of the lighting celebration, we can leave together as the Roselle Park family – with something we can all agree upon: the need to work to improve the borough.”
The “hubbub” Hokanson refers to is the national media attention the issue received. NJ.com posted at least three stories on the issue, and it was picked up by nightly news programs and even Fox News covered the story on their website.
Storey could not be reached before press time, but according to NJ.com, the councilwoman-at-large will head a new committee on diversity and describes herself as raised Catholic but is a non-believer.