Harassment case has second hearing in Newark court

IRVINGTON, NJ — Elouise McDaniel made her second appearance in Newark Municipal Court on Tuesday, March 20, regarding a complaint that had been filed against her by Irvington Municipal Council Vice President and at large Councilwoman Renee Burgess.

On Tuesday, March 20, McDaniel, president of the Irvington Joint and Nesbit Terrace block associations, said, “I can’t say anything about the case, but the judge told me I could leave after we waited around for a prosecutor to come and say whether or not the videotape they said they have was ever submitted as evidence. We waited around for a long time, until finally the judge told my lawyer that I could go and they would just have to produce the evidence later.”

This was all McDaniel had to say about the matter, at the advisement of her attorney. The case involves Burgess’ accusation that McDaniel harassed her at the Municipal Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, at the first court date regarding the incident, Burgess reportedly announced that police security video footage of the December incident exists, and the presiding judge ordered her to produce it and enter it into evidence by the next hearing. Although she failed to do so on Tuesday, March 20, Burgess and McDaniel agreed this was not resolved and they had to go back to court.

“They are going to give us another court date,” said Burgess on Tuesday, March 20.

According to the Irvington Police Division, an officer was dispatched to 101 Union Ave., on a harassment report Friday, Dec. 15.

“Upon arrival, I was met by Councilwoman Renee Burgess, the victim, who stated that, on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at approximately 8 p.m., she was conducting business as usual at the Irvington Town Council meeting,” the police report said. “Victim stated, at the conclusion of the agenda, she posed the question to the audience: ‘Is there anyone who would like to express concerns at this time?’ to which no one responded. Victim stated she posed the question again and, since there were no citizen who raised questions or concerns, the meeting ended at approximately 8:20 p.m.”

The reporting Irvington police officer added that Burgess, “stated that, moments after the gavel was lowered and the meting officially adjourned, Ms. Elouise McDaniel, the suspect, jumped from her seat and shouted: ‘What are you doing, the meeting isn’t over,’ and proceeded to charge the dais where the victim was sitting.”

“As the suspect charged forward, she continued to shout: ‘I want to talk,’ and directed her eye contact toward her, stating: ‘I’m gonna get you,’ ‘you’re gonna pay,’ ‘I’m gonna get you,’” according to the police report. “Victim stated citizens in the audience attempted to calm the suspect down and, although she did exit the building, she remained outside the door for several minutes, shouting: ‘I’m going to get you. You’re going to pay, I’m pressing charges.’ Victim stated she was unable to vacate the Municipal Building for at least 20 minutes, until she was certain the suspect was gone, as she was in fear for her safety.”

According to police, a copy of the surveillance video and council meeting and the resident sign-in sheet for Friday, Dec. 12, was placed into evidence and Burgess “was advised to court for complaint purposes.” According to township clerk Harold Wiener, any video of the altercation did not come from his office.

“We don’t videotape the meetings,” said Wiener on Tuesday, Jan. 2. “There are security cameras in there but for my purposes they’re not part of the official record. They’re for security reasons only. We verbally record the meetings, we don’t videotape them.”

According to Wiener, the Friday, Dec. 12 meeting ended earlier than McDaniel and others in the audience were probably accustomed. Council President David Lyons was not present at that meeting, so Burgess served as acting president and ran the meeting.

“The meeting adjourned at 8:07 p.m. It started at 8 p.m., so it was seven minutes long. There was no public participation,” said Wiener on Tuesday, Jan. 2. “There were 35 resolutions total; 32 were on the consent agenda, two were on the non-consent agenda and one was a walk-on that got defeated because it only had four affirmative votes and, according to law, it needs five super affirmative votes to pass. There were three resolutions that weren’t on the consent agenda. They took three roll call votes. Two members were absent. Council member (Vern) Cox and Council member Lyons were absent.”

Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers confirmed that Burgess had filed a formal complaint against McDaniel with the Irvington Police Division, as a result of her alleged behavior and comments at the council’s regular meeting on Friday, Dec. 12.

“I can confirm that a criminal complaint has been lodged, which needs to be adjudicated in court,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Jan. 2. “In the meantime, a police officer will be in attendance at the caucus and council meetings, to make sure that everyone is safe. Please note that a police officer at the council meeting is customary. However, at the time of this incident, the assigned police officer had not gotten there yet.”

Weiner said the fact that the meeting only last eight minutes might explain why the police officer assigned to provide security at the meeting was not on site when the alleged incident occurred.