Will Andover taxpayers be sued for trying to silence blog?
What did Assemblyperson Gail Phoebus mean when she told her Assembly colleague that Andover Township was going to silence Bill Winkler?
Phoebus, a former Andover Township Committee member, has targeted Winkler claiming that he is the "founder" of the Sussex County Watchdog blog. Phoebus knows better, as the blog was created at the time of her first run for countywide office in 2012. In fact, Phoebus' campaign mail featured the Watchdog in it, so she should know that the blog was founded by the late Rob Eichmann and has been maintained by a group of his associates ever since. Phoebus herself has contributed numerous stories to Watchdog.
Sussex County Watchdog has a long history with Andover Township that of late has become contentious. The Watchdog has complained about Andover Township's failure to follow OPRA (Open Public Records Act) rules and has written about its failure to abide by the Open Public Meetings Act. The blog acted as a whistleblower when it uncovered the improper way in which a recent resolution was drafted and passed. Now that the blog has criticized Phoebus and her former colleagues in the Andover Township government, Phoebus is angry with the Watchdog.
What has upset Andover Township's politicians the most is Sussex County Watchdog's coverage of the former headquarters of the notorious American National Socialist Bund -- Andover Township's own Camp Nordland. According to Assemblyperson Phoebus, township officials became incensed when the Watchdog made the following recommendations:
That Andover Township place a plaque at the site of the American National Socialist Bund's Camp Nordland, to honor the victims of the ideology practiced there; and that Andover Township donate all proceeds from events held at the former Nazi Beer Hall to organizations representing the victims of the Holocaust and their families.
Phoebus told a fellow legislator that Andover Township was going to "get" the person they held responsible. And now, it appears that an attempt is being made.
On Monday, October 31st, the Sussex County Watchdog blog posted a report about how an old Quaker gentleman had been accosted by Sussex County Freeholder Director George Graham and two Andover Township Committeemen. The blog report is posted here:
The incident took place at a GOP event held at the former headquarters of the notorious American National Socialist Bund. For some strange reason, instead of demolishing the former Camp Nordland, the town leaders of Andover Township have maintained the building that hosted numerous Nazi, Fascist, and Ku Klux Klan rallies in the 1930's.
The day after the Watchdog blog posted its story, the Deputy Mayor of Andover Township filed a harassment complaint against the old Quaker who was accosted by the three Sussex County politicians. According to witnesses, one of the Andover Committeemen had threatened to "punch someone in the face," while another Andover Committeeman had threatened a bystander earlier that evening by saying "you better not be his (the old Quaker) friend."
Of course, the people who run Andover Township would have you believe that it happened the other way round. They want you to believe that a 60 year old Quaker assaulted a 40 year old Marine and his two comrades. They want you to believe that writing about their political corruption is "harassment".
As David Danzis of the New Jersey Herald reported today, the Andover Township Deputy Mayor has filed a complaint against the alleged blogger:
Really? In America? Are they really playing the old brown-shirt trick of beating up the Jew and then claiming he started it, in order to have him arrested? Shame on the elected and appointed officials of Andover Township and shame on the residents who elected them and then stood by and let it happen.
Filing a false report is a serious offense, as is the attempt to deprive American citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights -- both the right to report the news and opinion, and the right to read it. Of course, the former Hudson County Democrats who have switched their party registration and now occupy positions of power on the Sussex County Freeholder Board (Graham) and in Andover Township are following the playbook of where they came from.
A few years ago there was a similar case in Hudson County when the mayor of a city there decided that he wanted to "take down" an anonymous website that was publishing news and opinions that he didn't want published. The mayor and his son conspired to "take down the website and to identify, intimidate, and harass those who operated and were associated with the website." The United States Department of Justice takes such civil rights violations very seriously and the feds arrested both the mayor and his son. The son took the rap and was convicted in federal court.
Is there a similar conspiracy in Sussex County? Watchdog knows the names of a great many political figures in Sussex County who were aware of this matter well before the accused was and that Assemblyperson Phoebus herself was making calls about it, spreading false information, and that she has expressed her animosity towards the Watchdog website and the individuals she claims are associated with it. Yes, this stinks to high heaven!
Will this end up in federal court? If it does, it will impact you greatly if you are a taxpayer in Andover Township. Remember, you elected them. And you are responsible when they behave like fascist thugs. As they say, stay tuned...