Committeeman Jeff Grayzel will no longer have a vote in the redevelopment planning process, which has lasted more than two years, after he recused himself Wednesday night at the of the township attorney.
Grayzel, the only Democrat on the committee, was asked by Attorney John Mills to voluntarily recuse himself because his wife is a former employee of Honeywell and still holds a pension fund and retiree savings plan with the company, which Mills said could pose a conflict of interest.
After the meeting, Mills said the information was brought to his attention in mid-July when he received a call from someone related to Honeywell. Mills did not disclose any other details as to how he received the information.
"I am quite disappointed that the hint of conflict has to compete with the legislative obligations I have to the voters of Morris Township who elected me to this position just nine months ago," Grayzel read from a prepared statement while announcing he was recusing himself.
"Although many of these residents surely voted for me to be their vote in these hearings specifically, it should be understood that I always try to speak out for what is best for Morris Township as one community and for all its residents no matter where they live," he continued.
Grayzel will still be able to participate in the upcoming hearings as a member of the public.
At the special meeting on Wednesday night, originally scheduled to be the first public hearing of the zoning ordinance, the township committee reintroduced the ordinance without Grayzel's vote. The public can comment on the ordinance at the next township committee meeting on Aug. 15.
The ordinance, which comes after more than two years of public hearings and discussion, would allow Honeywell to move along with its redevelopment master plan to add in 235 townhomes and office and lab space on its property.
Because Grayzel voted on the ordinance when it was , the township committee had to start the process over without his vote.
Mayor Peter Mancuso responded to Grayzel, saying he has appreciated his commitment to the Honeywell process and is upset that he is unable to continue given the circumstances.
"We have a monumental task ahead of us, one that will resonate in the township for years to come," Mancuso said. "But partisan politics has no place in this process. And Mr. Grayzel, having been elected to serve the public would have done his best to represent the greater interest of all of our 23,000 residents. This is the oath that we all take when we are sworn in, that we try to do the best of our abilities to adhere to."
Committeeman Bruce Sisler had a different response to Grayzel, saying that he was displeased with Grayzel's lack of disclosure, especially after he argued at the last meeting to have a "fair and open process," to change the public hearing dates to September when residents return from vacation.
"I am disappointed that we are here tonight, saddened by the lack of integrity, offended by the absence of honesty and most importantly, embarrassed for all the residents of Morris Township that have to endure this deceitful gamesmanship in the name of balance on the township committee," Sisler read from his prepared statement.
While Sisler and other committee members spoke about their disappointment in the matter, other residents thanked Grayzel during the public portion, including township committee Democratic candidate Ron Goldberg.
"I'd like to publicly thank Mr. Grayzel for doing something very difficult," Goldberg said. "I know that nothing's more important to him than giving voice to the people of Morris Township and serving them. Stepping aside for such an important process is I'm sure very painful for him."
After yet another setback on the Honeywell rezoning process, the next step will be at the next committee meeting on Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at the where the public will have the first chance to comment on the ordinance.
The delay might be what residents hoped for after all, since several community members agreed with Grayzel that too many people would be on vacation during the condensed hearing dates in August.
Mancuso said the Aug. 15 meeting will begin with a presentation from the township financial expert, who will interpret Honeywell's financial analysis, which is posted on the Morris Township website. A traffic expert will also give a presentation at the meeting before the public commentary.
The township committee will decide at the next meeting if more public hearings are deemed necessary. Mancuso said he expects more dates to be scheduled.