Gross resigns effective Dec. 31; Pennington Council to fill vacancy in January

Pennington Borough Hall contains both the police department and the municipal court.

Pennington Councilman Ken Gross is resigning from his seat on the Council with a year left on his current term.

Gross’s resignation goes into effect on Dec. 31.

He earned his first term on Council in the 2020 November general election and his current term runs until Dec. 31, 2023.

“I decided to resign because the time required to be an effective council person greatly increased over the past year,” Gross said. “My work and family commitments combined with the extra time because unsustainable.”

The Pennington Council had planned to hear from the three candidates nominated by the Pennington Democratic Committee and appoint one of them to fill Gross’ seat at its Dec. 5 meeting.

However, after Borough Attorney Walter Bliss informed Council that it would be premature to appoint a candidate at the meeting in December, the Council made a decision to hear from the candidates and make an appointment in January.

“Some of the advice I had given to Council in structuring the process for filling Gross’ vacancy was erroneous due to a [court] case he discovered that is 50 years old interpreting the statute when a vacancy occurs,” he said.

Bliss noted that Dec. 31 is the day that should trigger the 15-day nomination process of the Party Committee of the resigning member. Council has 15 days following party nominations to appoint the candidate to fill the vacancy.

The Pennington Democratic Committee had already nominated Mark Blackwell, Jen Tracy, and John Valenza to fill the Gross’ council vacancy.

“[The Pennington Democratic Committee doesn’t] have to take the 15 days, they can just simply resubmit the names in January,” Bliss said. “The Council does not have to take another 15 days to act, [they can] get it all done at the reorganization meeting if so inclined.”

Mayor James Davy said he did not want the nominated candidates to comment or the governing body ask questions at the December meeting to not taint the process.

“We will do it clean as Walter suggested in January,” Davy said. “We have already gone through the process, and we have the names, so we can do that right away in the beginning of January, so we can act on it and make the final decision and swear somebody in right at the beginning of January.”

Councilwoman Nadine Stern praised the Pennington Democratic Committee for the amount of work that they did to find candidates and talk to candidates to fill the vacancy.

“I can’t tell you how many emails there were when we realized we had 15 days and we were on top of it,” she said. “Kudos to Dan Pace, Carol Cole, Art Firestone, Reba Holley, James Creegan, and then myself, we are the Democratic Committee.”

Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to include comment from Gross to the Hopewell Valley News. 

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