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Wildwood considers investigation into altercation involving councilmember

By: Mary Shapiro

On Aug. 14, the Wildwood City Council is set to determine whether an investigation should be conducted into an altercation between Councilmember Jerry Porter [Ward 6] and Ward 3 resident Dan McLaughlin, which took place at a Ward 6 residents’ town hall meeting on June 1.

Councilmember Tammy Shea [Ward 3], McLaughlin’s wife, has been pushing for that action. At the July 24 council meeting, Porter offered an apology for “any negative impact” his actions may have had, though Shea said that it wasn’t sufficient.

McLaughlin regularly attends and videotapes city meetings, including those of the city council and ward town hall meetings. McLaughlin said he was invited to the Ward 6 meeting by resident Bill Kennedy. Both men have said they believed the meeting was public, which Porter and some other city officials have disputed.

During the July 24 council meeting, Porter said he wasn’t sure of McLaughlin’s purpose in videotaping the ward meeting “but it strains reason to believe that it had anything to do with furthering discussion of issues by Ward 6 residents.”

“In fact, it could be the case that the purpose was to intimidate and dampen such free discussions – that is certainly how I and others saw it,” Porter said. “Nevertheless, it is my duty to look past the ‘he said, she said’ of the matter, and, as they say, hindsight always allows for near perfect decisions. I regret any negative impact my actions may have had on our fine city, any of you as my colleagues, and the community college, and I apologize to them, and you, for that.”

But he also said he found it concerning when “Councilmember [Shea] speaks falsely to the public about anything, claiming – repeatedly – that crimes were committed by anyone, particularly a fellow councilmember – with no evidence and before any prosecutorial review had even begun,” which he called “grossly irresponsible and incompatible with the values of our city.”

“In the spirit of putting aside what we may personally want – to look toward what is best for the greater good of our city and each other – I respectfully invite Councilmember Shea to join me by doing the same thing I have done tonight and to do it soon,” Porter said. “I understand this means I must forego my right to pursue litigation against her and Mr. McLaughlin for this matter – which, as you all know, has solid merit and which has inhibited my ability to previously speak more candidly, as I am tonight. I will forego that, for the greater good of our city and the council, and to remove that as an impediment to Ms. Shea being able to act similarly.”

He said he hoped such action could “bring closure and [allow moving] forward with things that better the lives of Wildwood residents.”

But Shea insisted “a civil rights violation took place – a crime was committed” on June 1.

“You don’t kick a resident out of a meeting because you don’t like his wife, which is what Jerry Porter admitted in the police report,” she said, claiming Porter used his council post as a way to bully someone. “I accept Mr. Porter’s apology, though it’s coming late; my husband may feel differently.”

During public comment that night, former Mayor Tim Woerther, who had appointed Porter to the council, insisted Porter should resign or that current Mayor Jim Bowlin and the council should demand a resignation.

“If you don’t, shame on you,” he said.

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