BELMAR — Lifeguards who met with Police Chief Andrew Huisman last Saturday said his comments about the Feb. 7 letters announcing a move to replace Belmar Beach Patrol managers appeared to contradict explanations given by Mayor Matthew Doherty.
Members of the beach patrol again confronted the borough council on Tuesday night with their displeasure over the borough’s decision to “go in a new direction” with the unit’s management and their contention that they have not been given straight answers about the move.
Though the certified letters, sent to the patrol’s four managers, carried his signature, Chief Huisman was quoted by one of the four, Tim O’Donnell, as saying on Saturday, “What letter? I didn’t send it.”
And while the mayor has said the move to replace the managers stemmed from his request to the chief to look into “unguarded” lifeguard stands observed in July, another of the four managers, Harry Harsin, quoted the chief as saying on Saturday that he “had no idea” about that.
Chief Huisman has been attending training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia and was not at the meeting on Tuesday. He has not responded to requests for comment.
However, Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly emailed The Coast Star on Wednesday, stating: “I was there at that [Saturday] meeting, and Mr. O’Donnell’s representation of what was said is not at all accurate.”
“Timmy [O’Donnell] was saying he isn’t management, so he doesn’t know why he got a management letter,” Ms. Connolly said in a follow up phone call on Wednesday, “Drew [Huisman] said he wasn’t aware as to why he got a management letter.”
Council President Brian Magovern, who was also at the Saturday meeting, explained the chief’s response to Mr. Harsin about the lifeguard stands by saying, “I think a complaint about lifeguards stand being down, months later, he may not have remembered that. But he didn’t avoid it. He said that he didn’t remember it and I can understand why he wouldn’t remember it.”
However, on Wednesday, Ms. Connolly said that Mr. Harsin’s representation, “Is not true … It wasn’t said.”
Members of the beach patrol who spoke at Tuesday’s borough council meeting complained that the borough’s explanations for seeking a management change have been inadequate and its communication of the decision has been inconsiderate and confusing.
Chris Venino, a lifeguard with the patrol, told Mayor Doherty and the borough council that they had disrespected the unit.
“I think there should be an apology, publicly, for the way this was handled,” Mr. Venino said.
Mayor Doherty said he disagreed with Mr. Venino’s criticism, adding, “I’m not going to apologize for something I disagree with.”
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