HOWELL – Suzanne M. Brennan, a former candidate for mayor in Howell, is expected to join the Township Council on Dec. 6 to fill a vacancy that was created when Thomas Russo resigned from the governing body on Nov. 6.
Russo was serving a four-year term that began in January 2019 and was due to end in December 2022.
Because Russo is a Republican, GOP officials in Howell provided the names of three Republicans – in order they were Brennan, Dr. Daniel Cardellichio and John Leggio – to the remaining four council members to select Russo’s successor.
Brennan ran for mayor in 2020; Cardellichio ran for mayor in 2016 and has served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment; Leggio currently serves on the Planning Board.
The remaining council members are Democrats Theresa Berger and John Bonevich, and Republicans Evelyn O’Donnell and Pamela Richmond.
The three candidates who were put forth for the appointment were considered by Berger, Bonevich, O’Donnell and Richmond on Nov. 30.
At that time, Richmond made a motion to appoint Brennan to the vacant seat and her motion was seconded by O’Donnell.
On a roll call vote, Richmond and O’Donnell voted “yes” and Berger and Bonevich voted “no.” The 2-2 tie meant the motion failed and Brennan was not appointed.
At that time, Bonevich made a motion to appoint Leggio to the vacant seat and his motion was seconded by Berger.
Prior to a roll call vote on Bonevich’s motion to appoint Leggio, Richmond said she wanted to “set the record straight.” She said Howell’s Republican leaders had decided who the appointment should go to (Brennan) and would make that decision if the council did not act.
“We (Howell Republicans) received three letters of intent … So (the township’s Republican leaders) took the time to meet with our three, I think, exceptional candidates,” Richmond said.
“I will speak on behalf of Mr. Leggio, I appointed him to the Planning Board, I think he is a great candidate. Unfortunately, right now, this is a time for him to learn, to grow, to participate in meetings and get more involved.
“This is how the process works … So we can sit here and reconsider, and we can play games, or we can get back to the business of the people and start doing the business with a full governing body up here. If not, on Dec. 6 we will have someone fill the seat,” Richmond said.
Bonevich said the seat could be filled at that time.
“You’re right, we can, with our nomination, with the (Republican leaders’) blessing,” Richmond responded. “It is a Republican seat and that is what happens … but if you want to play politics and you want to play games, this is where we are at.”
“I’m just suggesting one of the other three, I would like to see some new blood up here,” Bonevich said.
“I would love some new blood here so we could have something that would truly be bipartisan because I have seen Mr. Leggio, I have seen things he has done and that is why I believe in Mr. Leggio,” Berger said.
On a roll call vote, Berger and Bonevich voted “yes” to appoint Leggio to the open seat on council and Richmond and O’Donnell voted “no.” The 2-2 tie meant the motion failed and Leggio was not appointed.
Because the council failed to fill the vacancy, the responsibility to do so will shift to Howell’s Republican leaders, who have indicated Brennan will fill the open seat as of Dec. 6.
Brennan, who is an attorney, previously served as Howell’s public defender. She previously served on the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education and is currently serving as a Brookdale Community College trustee. Brennan ran for mayor in 2020 and lost to Berger, who won her second term in that election.