Council finds Inman may have violated ethics laws

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Municipal Council voted 6-1 in favor of Resolution MC17-1227-58 at its Wednesday, Dec. 27 meeting, authorizing the governing body to take action against East Ward Councilman Paul Inman because of remarks he had allegedly made in taped conversations with former township employee Tamara Smith.

Smith, who had secretly recorded the conversations without Inman’s knowledge, filed a sexual harassment and sexual assault lawsuit against Mayor Tony Vauss and the township; the case was decided in favor of Vauss on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Newark Superior Court and Smith was ordered to pay $7,000 to Vauss for defamation.

Inman was the only council member who voted against the resolution, just as he was the only council member who voted against Resolution TA 17-0926-44 on Tuesday, Sept. 26, which facilitated hiring the Teaneck law firm of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole to conduct an investigation into Inman’s words and actions and to produce a report for the council.

“The resolution speaks for itself,” said council President David Lyons on Tuesday, Jan. 2, when asked to comment on the most recent resolution. “The council considers this to be a pending matter and has no further comment at this time.”

Inman did not have an official comment for the record.

“The first thing I’ve got to do is hire a lawyer,” said Inman on Thursday, Dec. 28. “I do know that, if any tapes do exist, they were made without my consent or knowledge, so that means they are inadmissible in court. It’s against the law to tape record people without their permission.”

The recent resolution refers to the investigative report and supporting documents concerning Inman and demands he recuse himself from all discussions regarding the Smith v. township of Irvington matter.

“Whereas during the litigation entitled Smith v. township of Irvington et. al., it was discovered that Councilman Paul Inman way have been involved in discussions with plaintiff Smith which were based on the discovery presented in the litigation,” reads the Dec. 27 resolution. “And whereas the township was advised by its legal counsel to conduct an independent inquiry into any acts and/or omissions by Councilman Paul Inman, which may have violated township policies, ethics laws and criminal laws. And whereas, as a result of the investigation conducted this matter, it was revealed that Councilman Inman’s conduct may have evidenced collusion with Plaintiff Smith in violation of the interests of the township; and may have violated ethical law, legal obligations and criminal laws.”

The resolution also states that the investigation conducted by DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole led to a report and final finding that “Councilman Inman had an ethical obligation under the New Jersey Ethics Act to disclose his involvement with Tamara Smith in this matter.” It also states that Inman “did not disclose his involvement when asked by the township attorney to recuse himself from any executive session and other discussions relating to this litigation” and that he “may have violated certain criminal laws, as well as ethics laws.

The Irvington Municipal Council will now refer the matter to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the state Ethics Commission and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office to review the report issued by the law firm, as well as any transcripts of recorded conversations.

Tamara Smith v. Township of Irvington and Anthony Vauss went to trial after three years of litigation in July 2017, with Smith suing Vauss and the township for unspecified damages for alleged harassment and assault she said occurred in 2014, which she said she had reported to Wayne Bradley, who was serving as the town’s de facto director of personnel at that time.

Angelo Genova represented the township in the Smith case, while Vauss was represented by attorney Christopher Kinum of the Roseland law firm of Critchley, Kinum & Denoia. Kinum and Vauss countersued Smith for slander and defamation of character and for filing a false, frivolous lawsuit for a crime that had never occurred.

One of the central pieces of evidence for both sides in the case were the recordings Smith secretly made of her supposedly private conversations with Inman, former business administrator Wayne Bradley and others, including former Mayor Wayne Smith. Kinum urged the jury to remember that, no matter how much Smith wanted to be viewed as a victim, she had the foresight to secretly record conversations, which the defense said she intended to use in a blackmail scheme.

“Once you focus on Tamara Smith’s story, it’s going to collapse,” said Kinum on Monday, July 24. “There’s 184 tapes. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re not going to hear Tony Vauss harass Tamara Smith. She said she did made tapes of Tony Vauss on her iPhone, but her iPhone fell in the toilet; 184 tapes, but the ones with Tony Vauss harassing her fall in the toilet. Watch her closely while she testifies. Where’s the tape?”

That’s the question that Inman and his attorney will have to answer soon, along with: What incriminating information did the DeCotiis law firm find on those tapes?