Medford mayor's absence complicates township business

Medford Mayor Chris Myers has been AWOL for weeks.
Medford Mayor Chris Myers has been AWOL for weeks.
Posted: December 05, 2011

Medford Mayor Chris Myers, embroiled in a sex scandal following accusations by an alleged male escort, has stopped showing up at Town Council meetings and doesn't respond to e-mails.

Over the years, Myers' frequent absences at meetings were tolerated by his colleagues on the five-member all-Republican council, who sometimes allowed him to participate via conference call.

Now they have grown weary.

"I'm embarrassed about what's happening. . . . I don't know if he'll resign. That's between him and his family and his own conscience," Councilman Bob Martin said.

"But what about what's best for Medford? I wish he'd think a little about that," Martin said.

Myers, a married father of two, has denied the online claims of an unidentified man who said he had a sexual encounter with the mayor in a California hotel a year ago. Myers paid him $500, according to the Web posting, but he reneged on promises to buy the escort a car and other gifts.

The posting, which appeared on the sexually oriented Rentboy.com website, included images of a man who resembled Myers lying on a bed wearing only underwear, and pictures of his mayor's ID and a $500 ATM receipt bearing Myers' name.

At the time, Myers was a Lockheed Martin executive who traveled extensively. He was quoted in the Burlington County Times as suggesting someone may have sneaked into his hotel room and taken his picture while he was sleeping.

The website was brought to the attention of Medford officials in an e-mail from the alleged escort and has since disappeared.

After the scandal broke six weeks ago, Town Manager Chris Schultz said he was not worried about its effect on the township because he had charge of Medford's day-to-day operations.

But now Schultz is concerned about whether he will be able to get the council's OK to to replace worn firefighters' gear, fix drainage problems, and pay for any emergencies in coming weeks.

A few weeks ago, state inspectors cited the town for deficiencies in its firefighters' helmets, boots, jackets, and bunker pants, he said.

"The gear is worn out," Schultz said.

Schultz said he needs four "yes" votes to get a roughly $2 million bond approved to cover the expenses. "I'm trying to get this done by the end of the year," he said.

With Myers - a council member - AWOL, and the recent unexpected departure of another councilman, there may not be four people to vote.

Myers, who lost a closely watched congressional race to the late John Adler in 2008, has not returned calls for comment. Nor has his attorney, Hersh Kozlov.

It is not known whether Myers will attend a council meeting scheduled for Monday night. As of Sunday, Schultz said he had not gotten a return call from Myers.

The agenda says council will consider appointing someone to fill the vacancy created when Councilman David J. Brown abruptly resigned Nov. 16. Brown, who was once Myers' running mate and who last month rejected calls from residents to give Myers a vote of no confidence, cited increased job pressures in his letter to the town clerk.

That leaves four people on council - Myers, Martin, Domenick Grosso, and newly elected Randy Pace.

Martin acknowledged that Myers had missed many meetings over the years.

"He's not there a whole lot. . . . Sometimes he would do a phone conference - maybe two of three times. It's not the best scenario," he said.

At the last council meeting, on Nov. 14, some angry residents asked whether Myers could be removed for his spotty attendance. He has missed between 30 percent and 40 percent of meetings in recent years.

Under state law, a council member has to miss eight consecutive weeks of meetings, or four consecutive meetings, before such action may be taken, according to the town solicitor. Council agreed to look into adopting a policy stricter than the state's.

Myers "has to remember why he's there" on council, Grosso said. "He's there to support the people. . . . You should be in attendance as much as you can."

Grosso said that he felt sorry for Myers and his family, but that if his personal life "affects his position as councilman, he needs to think about that."

The allegations and Myers' handling of them, he said, had been a distraction to conducting town business.

Pace, sworn in two weeks ago to serve an unexpired term, has long feuded with Myers. In recent years, he called for Myers to resign because of his absences and his support for a controversial high-density housing proposal.

But the recent sexual allegations are different, Pace said.

"Unless someone gives me something that shows me or tells me there was a crime committed, I am not going to ask the man to resign based on an allegation," he said last week.

Nonetheless, Myers should not be allowed to be a no-show, Pace said. And, he said, "it would be in the town's best interest if [Myers] gave a more complete account of what transpired."

On Nov. 2, at the last meeting he attended, Myers denied the allegations. He told a packed Town Hall the Internet was a "murky, anonymous place" where anyone can post anything about someone.

Then he said he would have no further comment.


Contact staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224, jhefler@phillynews.com, or @JanHefler on Twitter. Read her blog at www.philly.com/burlcobuzz.

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