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Gabbert Answers Why He Missed OEM Meetings

Says he was in Village Hall and didn't hear about meetings but was in constant communication; Deputy Mayor Riche says according to policy, he cedes his responsibilities to OEM Director during emergency phase

A week after a heated confrontation with Councilman Paul Aronsohn as to why he didn't attend several OEM meetings during the , Village Manager Ken Gabbert provided a full report as to his whereabouts at Wednesday night's council meeting.

when he discovered Gabbert had not attended several of the storm management meetings, but was particularly peeved Gabbert refused to answer where he was, saying he "didn't remember."

In his report Wednesday, the village manager said he missed the first three of the five meetings but said he was in constant communication with staff and wasn't terribly far away.

"I was in the ," Gabbert said regarding his whereabouts at the first meeting on Saturday afternoon. "I had spoken directly to Director of Operations staff on several occasions as the storm progressed...I was simply unaware the meeting was called at 2:30 that day some 150 feet from where I was sitting."

He said he spoke to OEM Director Brad Mason about 15 minutes after the meeting had ended but still was not made aware of the next meeting, conducted later that night. The third meeting, Sunday morning, Gabbert reported only receiving the notice a half hour before it was scheduled and when he had arrived, the meeting was over.

Gabbert characterized the communication troubles as "glitches" when pressed by Aronsohn if it was normal procedure for the top village official not to be notified of meetings.

According to the village manager, more pressing issues were at hand during the height of the storm.

"Frankly the number of OEM meetings and attendance were not on my mind nor the OEM director's mind last Wednesday. We were dealing with a rather intense storm event," Gabbert remarked, citing the , truckloads of debris that had piled up and other storm-related issues.

Mayor Keith Killion, who like the other members of the council defended Gabbert last week saying he fulfilled his duties, wanted to put one thing to rest.

Killion asked if Gabbert left Ridgewood without by instead tending to his own hometown of Upper Saddle River, where he is mayor. Gabbert said he was not at the neighboring boro's OEM meetings.

Deputy Mayor Tom Riche, who last week said Aronsohn's shots at Gabbert were unduly critical, remarked that once the Emergency Operations Center is opened, the village manager cedes responsibility to the Director of OEM, Brad Mason.

"We've learned over many years going all the way back to Floyd that you don't want the police chief out doing one thing and the fire chief doing [another]," Riche said. "A lot of people don't understand how it works."

Come Monday the village's response transformed from an emergency services scramble to an operations-oriented plan, Gabbert said, more his domain. He attended the meeting Sunday night and the following meeting Monday morning.

According to his report, 10 or fewer OEM members attended the first three meetings while 17 of 20 were at the fourth and roughly 14 at the final meeting. Staff are not required to attend, Gabbert said.

The village manager told the council the village will discuss how to improve response and communication at its after-storm debriefing on Thursday.

"I think this council would like to see those electronic glitches fixed," Killion concluded. "I'd like to give that top priority knowing we're going into snow season and the spring."

sean mccooe November 10, 2011 at 10:34 PM
glitch - lack of glitches - GOOD COMMS NEEDED
RdgwdGRock November 11, 2011 at 01:40 AM
$20k raise buys the people of Ridgewood a lame excuse. Is this the best he can come up with. Sheeesh! Even if Gabbert cedes responsibility to the OEM Director or others, he should be in the meetings in order to have direct input. Geeez...if he said he was across the street at King's buying groceries, perhaps I would buy this excuse (or not).
Dan Johnson November 11, 2011 at 02:18 AM
It took Ken a week to come up with this lame but oh so specific excuse. Scary
Dominick Nizza November 11, 2011 at 05:30 AM
Suggestion for those that did not view the VM report on TV, the Ridgewood Views Blog has once again posted an excellent Video of the VM. Check it out for yourself to evaluate his response.
JV November 11, 2011 at 02:46 PM
To suggest that he was 150 feet away but unaware of what was going on is difficult to fathom. He claims he was in the building. How hard would it have been to ask that he be found, and then to find him? Even if he cedes responsbility to the OEM Director, he still has a duty as Village Manager to be fully aware of what is happening in the community, particularly during such a situation as the storm presented. That's what it means to be a manager. He has no legitimate excuse for failing to be professional. More frightening is the response of some council members. As seems typical, they would rather the problem disappear than address their ongoing lack of leadership and oversight. They just don't seem to understand...
Ron Knox November 11, 2011 at 04:47 PM
the ship be sinkin', folks ..............
RdgwdGRock November 11, 2011 at 06:21 PM
If Gabbert were the Capt of the Titantic, he'd be saying "iceberg, what iceberg?"
Ridgewood Mom November 12, 2011 at 04:15 AM
Boooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hiss.
barbara November 14, 2011 at 04:31 AM
Mr. Gabbert, you are the Mayor of Upper Saddle River so why in the world did the Village Council hire you to manage the Village of Ridgewood? When is the next local election so that we can vote the entire council OUT with the EXCEPTION OF PAUL ARONSOHN. Mr. Aronsohn is the ONLY MEMBER of the council who genuinely cares about the citizens of this village. Let's elect Mr. Aronsohn Mayor, and Village Manager. He could probably do both jobs a million times better than the current job holders and he would be looking out for the people not his own wallet.

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