By JEFFREY BRICKER
Wildwood residents who believe their city council meetings have turned into a political circus couldn’t have been pleased with what they witnessed this past Monday. Once again, the Wildwood City Council meeting was dominated by accusations and personal attacks. This time in a marathon session that lasted over four hours. In the end, a divided council took action against one of its own.
But before the vote on that controversial resolution, both the public and members of the council had their voices heard.
Councilmember Tammy Shea [Ward 3] was the subject of a censure resolution brought forward by Councilmember Greg Stine [Ward 7]. This is not the first time Shea has been the target of censure by her fellow councilmembers. They drafted a similar resolution back in April 2018. That resolution ultimately was tabled in favor of mediation. In both instances, Shea is accused of conduct not becoming her office and creating a hostile work environment for city employees.
However, Shea’s supporters suspected there were other reasons for the resolution.
“I find it hypocritical of a council to even consider this issue when other members of council have not always displayed a professional and dignified manner of behavior,” Patricia Fuller, a Ward 6 resident, said. “If this resolution passes, it will give the impression that the only way the council knows how to handle strong, assertive women is to censure them.”
Kelley Woerther, wife of Councilmember Tim Woerther [Ward 7], also argued that a censure was sending the wrong message about women in leadership.
“I see there is a problem up there on council,” Woerther said. “Strong women who are smart and effective are often disliked.”
Other vocal members of the public expressed concern that the resolution for censure was part of a greater plot by Mayor Jim Bowlin targeting Shea. However, Stine contended that the resolution was the result of his actions alone.
“I gotta tell you. I didn’t talk to anybody about this. I presented it to the mayor on Wednesday to put on the agenda … I just really felt like it was time to take a stand,” Stine said. “The lack of decorum and intimidation tactics must end.”
According to Stine, he drafted the resolution partly in response to an incident that took place during a closed session of the city council earlier in the month. It was during that session, according to Stine, that Shea became belligerent and yelled several times at Bowlin to “shut up.”
Councilmember Niles Stephens [Ward 8] took exception not only with the call for censure of Shea but also the councilmember who drafted it.
“Everything listed here, that he’s accusing Councilmember Shea of, Councilmember Stine did [during the closed session],” Stephens said. He went on by providing what Stephens said was an impersonation of Stine during the session in question by repeatedly pounding his hand on the table and shouting with his microphone turned off.
Councilmember John Gragnani [Ward 1] agreed that Shea was not alone in acting out of order and issued a stern warning to his colleagues prior to the resolution vote.
“If you vote to get anybody censured on this council without good cause, I’d be very careful about what you’re doing,” Gragnani said. “Because you know what? If it can happen to somebody, it can happen to you.”
Gragnani told the council he was tired of the “monkey business” and that he’d be “watching what they do.”
Just prior to a call for the vote, Shea vowed to remain defiant to any potential censure.
“There is a corruption of authenticity and ethics in this administration by way of the mayor’s leadership,” Shea said. “And I’ll work every day to uncover that and I won’t apologize for it.”
Ultimately, a roll call vote was held and the censure resolution against Shea passed 9-7. Councilmembers Gragnani, Kevin Dillard [Ward 3], Shea, Cheryl Jordan [Ward 6], R. Jon Bopp [Ward 6], Woerther, and Stephens voted against the censure.
Councilmembers Larry McGowen [Ward 1], Ray Manton [Ward 2], Don