POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Councilman Bob Santanello was censured in a split vote during Tuesday’s council meeting over claims that he violated closed-session confidentiality, ignored demands from officials and compromised the borough’s legal position.
The censure was introduced by Mayor Paul Kanitra, whose vote swung the decision after division between councilmembers Doug Vitale, Arlene Testa and Caryn Byrnes, who voted for the censure, and Andy Cortes, Mr. Santanello and Tom Migut, who voted against.
Mr. Kanitra also called for Mr. Santanello to resign from his position. Mr. Santanello refused to resign and said he would be “dragged out kicking and screaming.”
Borough officials claim that Mr. Santanello violated laws relating to closed session confidentiality when he exposed closed session information about the Amethyst Beach Motel during a meeting in March.
In an investigation authorized by the borough, Special Counsel Sean Gertner said he found Mr. Santanello’s actions discussing closed-session material to be a breach of his obligations as a councilman.
“It will be the first time in our town’s long history that any member of the council will be censured,” said Mayor Kanitra. “It is a disgrace that it has come to this.”
Mayor Kanitra also said the councilman has compromised the borough’s legal standing in multiple cases in discussions with a former employee and ignoring demands from the borough administrator and multiple legal counsels regarding a harassment suit he is named in.
Mayor Kanitra said he will be filing ethics violations against the councilman.
“Bob has spent the last two years working to undermine this administration in a selfish and political manner after his group was unceremoniously dumped out of office,” said Mayor Kanitra. “His actions have compromised the legal standing of the borough and cost taxpayers untold dollars in legal fees and potential settlements.”
Councilman Santanello called the move a scam.
“I didn’t violate anything,” said Mr. Santanello. “I didn’t share anything in public. That’s a lie.”
Mr. Santanello claims several lawyers told him he’s done nothing wrong. He recently submitted a review to New Jersey’s Local Finance Board and is awaiting guidance to move forward.
“Once I have that I’ll be free to speak about the stunts you’re pulling,” Mr. Santanello told Mr. Kanitra. “I’m not scared of you. You can’t bully and threaten me and I will be speaking about these issues.”
The council also voted to expel Mr. Santanello from receiving any information regarding the Amethyst Beach Motel, Jenkinson’s and employee-relations matters, addressing the mayor’s concerns that he is a liability to the borough in upcoming disputes.
In response, Mr. Santanello said, “What are you so terrified about? What are you so scared of, little boy? Are you really that terrified that I’m going to find out more dirt on you, you coward?”
Mr. Santanello was also stripped of his street and water-sewer utility committee chairmanship.
The mayor said he has tried to make peace with Mr. Santanello on many occasions over the past two years.
“I personally texted and called him multiple times and asked him to go ahead and disagree with us, vote however he wants, but please stop making up untruths, spewing personal insults and undermining the governing body,” said Mr. Kanitra. “Time and time again, he has broken these requests with unsolicited attacks and more factless drivel.”
“Councilman Santanello is the epitome of the word mess,” said the mayor. “He’s a bitter individual who lets his emotions control him and believes a few buzzwords can manipulate the masses. He’s a danger to the public and a liability to our residents. He is fully unfit for public office.”
In response to the mayor’s comments later in the meeting, Mr. Santanello said, “Let me tell you something, young man, I’ll stack my 30 years, 30-plus years of volunteering my time, my talent and my money against this town against your four years of lies, division, tax evasion and chaos any day of the week.”
“If you don’t think tonight’s attack on me is just a scam for him to look good and pretty in his next Instagram post, you’re an idiot,” said Mr. Santanello. “I’m not going to be anybody’s punching bag.”
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