Eatontown attorney admonishes council members for disregarding advice

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EATONTOWN – Gene Anthony, who serves as Eatontown’s municipal attorney, has publicly admonished members of the Borough Council for disregarding and challenging his professional advice.

As a result of the council members’ actions, Anthony said he will not seek reappointment in January when the governing body reorganizes for 2020. He will remain in his position until Dec. 31 when his contract expires.

During a council meeting on Oct. 23, Anthony publicly reprimanded council members for what he described as a blatant disregard for the legal advice he provides to them.

“The challenge which occurs constantly affects my reputation,” he said.

One seat on the council is vacant. The five seated members are Al Baginsky, Jasmine Story, Tonya Rivera, Gregory Loxton and Christine Caruso. Loxton was absent from the meeting.

Anthony mentioned several problems that have occurred in relation to his service.

First, Anthony said the council members do not always follow his legal advice or they challenge the advice he offers. He said disregarding his legal advice puts Eatontown at risk of liability or a loss of insurance coverage.

“If the insurance carrier finds out after you get sued that you did not follow an attorney’s advice, (the insurance carrier) will not cover you,” Anthony told council members. “That is something you want to avoid at all costs.”

The second issue occurs when council members circumvent the municipal attorney’s legal advice, which Anthony said could open the governing body to liability.

Anthony said a third problem arises when members of the council seek advice from another attorney, rather than relying on advice that is provided by their appointed municipal attorney.

“Besides opening up the council to liability, that is unethical,” he told the council members, adding that they need to avoid those issues.

“I bring this up because quite frankly, I have been challenged by this council for the last year, more so on those three issues in Eatontown than anywhere else I have represented. It has been a challenge constantly,” Anthony said. “I hope you take this advice so the next attorney does not have to put you in a position where you might get in trouble.”

He suggested that the members of the governing body treat borough employees “with the respect they deserve.”

In the Nov. 5 municipal election, five seats on the Borough Council were on the ballot, which means as many as five new elected officials could be seated on the dais in January. The council will appoint a new municipal attorney at that time.

Mayor Anthony Talerico thanked Anthony for his comments. No one on the council commented on Anthony’s remarks.

Anthony’s announced departure follows three recent resignations. In October, Business Administrator Cherron Rountree, Zoning Officer Erik Brachman and Spencer Carpenter, the director of Public Works, resigned. Rountree accepted a position as the township administrator in Holmdel.

Since December 2018, four members of the Borough Council have resigned.