PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. – Acting Phillipsburg Town Council President Robert Fulper on Tuesday night publicly called for the resignation of Mayor Todd Tersigni over what he described as a pattern of mistreatment.
Fulper says the behavior has resulted in the resignation of the town's recreation superintendent and one other municipal employee.
During the open time at the end of council's agenda, Fulper read a lengthy, sharply worded statement about the mayor's treatment of Donald "DJ" Kophazy, town recreation superintendent, who Fulper said resigned reluctantly in the face of mistreatment by the mayor.
Tersigni did not attend the council meeting, held via Zoom, or provide a report, but he spoke to 69 News Wednesday morning. His comments follow Fulper's below.
Fulper, a fellow Republican who narrowly lost his seat in the Nov. 2 election, said the mayor did not keep his promise to meet with Kophazy after the election, even though Kophazy had hoped to address the mistreatment, rescind his resignation and keep a job he loved.
Kophazy's resignation stood because the mayor refused to meet with him, Fulper said. Under Kophazy, Phillipsburg's recreation program has seen great improvement over the last two years, he added.
Fulper said Tersigni would repeatedly berate Kophazy because of his relationship with him, Councilmember Randy Piazza Jr. and former council President Frank McVey, who resigned in August after being charged for alleged misuse of Warren County's 911 system. On Nov. 5, a New Jersey grand jury indicted McVey after he was accused of trying to blackmail the mayor.
"He [Tersigni] would walk into DJ's office and demand to see his Facebook account to see who he was talking to in Messenger or so that he could spy on the citizens in town who had Todd blocked on social media," Fulper charged.
"He would yell at DJ if he spoke to Frank, myself, or Randy about a recreation issue," Fulper said, "regardless if it were at a recreation advisory or open space committee meeting."
Fulper said he has attempted to contact the mayor but hasn't been able to hold a meaningful conversation with him after "he ran out of an executive session in August after I [Fulper] had questioned him about the alleged existence of a quid pro quo between him and the chief of police."
Tersigni would make comments to Kophazy about not getting enough credit for the recreation projects in town, Fulper added, "and he would constantly make reference to DJ making more money than him."
Fulper also accused the mayor of insisting that Kophazy perform property maintenance on the mayor's rental properties, on town time, and then proceeding to tell Kophazy he was doing him a favor for allowing him to do it while working.
"One time, for instance, I witnessed Todd tell DJ he had to leave work and pick up a TV that his tenants put out for garbage," Fulper said. "DJ told Todd that he would contact his tenants, and Todd told him 'no,' made him get in the town's Durango with him, where they proceeded to pick up the television."
Tersigni said those claims are a "bold faced lie." He said he works on his properties himself and never had Kophazy work on them.
Fulper added that Kophazy provided him with a "clearer picture of how our mayor operates."
During his review with Kophazy, Fulper said he was provided with documentation regarding the mistreatment of another employee, who Fulper declined to identify became the matter is a personnel issue.
"I've witnessed him [Tersigni] yell at and berate this employee, and I've immediately stepped in and told him, verbatim, 'Don't ever let me hear you talk to her like that again,'" Fulper said.
"Naturally, a man like him will pay this no mind because to him this is normal behavior," he added. "It's normal to lie. It's normal to run around town seeking affirmation of all the good deeds he's believes he's done. And, it's also normal for him to retaliate against those who he feels has wronged him, those people he's become obsessed with.”
Fulper accused Tersigni of bringing the 911 charges against McVey, also a Republican, so he could run again in 2023 without competition in the primary.
"Todd Tersigni is not a man," Fulper said. "He's a child — an abusive little boy who takes his anger out on everyone around him for his shortcomings."
"I'm glad I'm leaving this government soon, because I don't think I could last another two years with a guy like him without getting myself in trouble," said Fulper. "The question is, when is someone else going to speak up?"
"I pray you all hold him accountable for his behavior in the future without fear of retaliation, and I pray the people of this town see the light," Fulper said. "He is simply not a good person."
"I could have gone on and provided many more examples of his horrible behavior both inside and outside of the municipal building," Fulper concluded. "But it's pointless for now. I'll provide my testimony under oath when the time comes."
Tersigni spoke to 69 News Wednesday morning and disputed the claims.
"This appears to be a simple case of sour grapes. We've all won elections and lost elections. I chose to move on for the betterment of the people of Phillipsburg regardless of party affiliation," he said. "We need to work together as a unified front to keep Phillipsburg moving in the right direction."
He said Kophazy chose to resign on his own, then tried to rescind the resignation, but Tersigni chose to honor the resignation.
"He wanted to come back and I said no, in so many words," Tersigni told 69 News.