Musical chairs in Millstone

Although most political appointments last a year, in Millstone Township the time span can be much shorter.

Try six days.

That’s how long Township Committeeman John Pfefferkorn occupied the deputy mayor’s seat.

Most residents probably thought the matter was settled on New Year’s Day, when newly appointed Mayor Nancy Grbelja, a Republican, nominated Pfefferkorn (also a Republican) for the slot.

No vote was taken on the appointment. The committee agenda for that day lists a vote for the mayoral selection. For the deputy mayor position, the agenda states "Mayor names committeeman as deputy mayor for 2004."

Not a peep was heard from any of the other committee members or the borough attorney. The meeting continued. Case closed. Pfefferkorn was deputy mayor for 2004.

But not for long.

Republican Committeeman Elias Abilheira, who is also an attorney, suddenly remembered at the Jan. 7 committee meeting that a township ordinance requires the committee to vote on the deputy mayor appointment for the year.

That legality didn’t seem to matter much in past years, when the mayor merely appointed the deputy mayor for the year, without a committee vote.

So, Grbelja renominated Pfefferkorn and waited for someone to second the motion. No one did. She turned to Township Attorney Duane Davison to ask what to do next. Davison said the committee could nominate someone else if there was no second for Pfefferkorn.

Democratic Committeeman William Nurko then nominated Abilheira. He got the second and the votes. Thus, Millstone had a new deputy mayor.

Pfefferkorn didn’t have a chance to object. He was out of town all week in New England on business. Committeeman Chet Halka was also absent.

Abilheira said he brought up the vote issue on Jan. 7 because he didn’t want any "back room deals" when it came to appointing the deputy mayor and wanted it done in public.

He should have brought the matter up at the reorganization meeting.

Abilheira said this week he couldn’t support Pfefferkorn on the second vote because of comments Pfefferkorn made in the Examiner the week before.

The change came shortly after Pfefferkorn said in the Examiner that there was a "major" rift in the municipal Republican organization. San Andreas fault is more like it.

"Dirty politics, back room deals, they don’t exist with me," Pfefferkorn said in last week’s paper.

It’s obvious someone in Millstone is making back room deals. Just who that is remains to be seen.

The deputy mayor position is largely a ceremonial title. The only time a deputy mayor is needed is to take over when the mayor is ill or out of town.

But the way this year’s appointment was handled makes it obvious the Millstone Township Committee is in disarray.

And when that happens, as Davison told the Examiner Monday, the residents suffer.

The deputy mayor switch was the second surprise of the year. The first was the selection of Grbelja as mayor.

Pfefferkorn also let it be known that the decision as to who would be mayor in 2004 was settled weeks before, but was reversed just hours prior to the Jan. 1 meeting.

Millstone residents deserve a committee that can put aside internecine political differences and concentrate on what really matters.

What many politicians don’t realize is that most residents don’t care who their elected officials are. Some don’t even know their names. They just want stable taxes, their garbage picked up on time and the police available if they need them.

All five committee members pledged to "work together" at the Jan. 1 reorganization meeting. That will take some doing, given the tumultuous first two weeks of the new year.