Roselle Park councilwoman back in the spotlight following an impromptu call for a vote

ROSELLE PARK, NJ — Councilwoman-at-large Charlene Storey of Roselle Park, who polarized some residents in December by resigning — and then un-resigning — when her peers on the council voted to include “Christmas” in the name of an annual tree-lighting, is at the heart of yet another controversy this week.

An online petition to recall Storey from the council gained rapid support after it was posted on Monday, Feb. 8, by Roselle Park resident Bryan Peterson. The document racked up 60 signatures in nine hours, and needs 100 to be filed with Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi.

The catalyst for the petition dates back to a Roselle Park council meeting on Thursday, Feb. 4, when Storey introduced a last-minute resolution to raise the salary of the borough clerk by $25,000, and also assigning the clerk the traditional duties of a chief administrative officer.

Footage of the moment is available on Youtube.

Storey’s resolution appeared to catch other members of the council, and Mayor Carl Hokanson, completely by surprise. Several of Storey’s peers said they wanted to table the decision until they could figure what exactly was being proposed, and whether it was even legal. Councilman Ryan Kelly asked for more time to conduct research on the resolution.
But the councilwoman called for a vote, regardless.

“We can vote now,” said Storey, in response to a councilman who told her that they didn’t need to vote at that particular meeting, “and the result is the result. I’d like to call for a vote.”

After some confusion, there was a vote, with Mayor Hokanson breaking a 3-3 tie and deciding against the salary increase. Kelly summed up the resolution’s opposition when he said “I can’t possibly justify the salary increase,” and that “I don’t have anything in front of me, it’s the first time it’s being discussed — no.”

But the incident is lingering because of the petition to recall Storey, who will cost Roselle Park more in taxes, lawsuits and through “diminishing the character of Roselle Park” with such “unacceptable behavior,” according to Peterson’s emphatic petition. It goes on to suggest that by submitting the resolution to raise the borough clerk’s salary, which her peers on council and in the Roselle Park community didn’t know about, Storey was enacting “irresponsible governing.”

“During Charlene’s tenure as councilperson-at-large she has made a series of missteps and legally questionable decisions and comments that have put her ability to competently represent the Roselle Park community into question. Her latest attempt to submit a resolution without proper notification to mayor and council is the most recent example of her disconnect with the people,” Peterson says in the petition. “The people must send a clear message that this behavior is unacceptable and that we cannot allow it to continue.”

Storey made national headlines in December when she abruptly resigned after the Roselle Park council voted 4-2 to change the official name of a tree-lighting ceremony from “Tree Lighting” to “Christmas Tree Lighting.” Other Roselle Park officials at the time, including Hokanson, said they were trying to make a factual statement, rather than a religious stand.