NEWTON — The Sussex Board of County Commissioners tabled an anti-hate resolution after three hours of heated debate on Wednesday.
The resolution may come up again at the group's March 10 meeting.
This was the third time a version of an "anti-hate" resolution, calling out groups espousing certain political leanings, has come before the board.
The first was presented by citizens at the board's Jan. 27 meeting. That version was similar to one approved by the Vernon Township council and brought to the all-Republican county commissioners by members of the Sussex County Democratic Committee.
That resolution stated "white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and any other hate groups and individuals whose ideologies are based on hate, violence, discord and intolerance are rejected and condemned."
At the commissioners' next meeting two weeks later, Commissioner Director Dawn Fantasia presented a second anti-hate resolution which stated: "those acting on 'hate' generally do so from a perceived superiority (ethnic, racial, or other) or certainty about a particular ideological or religious point-of-view." Then listed examples as "exterminations in Cambodia, the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, the Soviet Holodomor in the Ukraine and the Ottoman genocide in Armenia."
Fantasia's resolution also listed "troubles" in Northern Ireland and other ethnic conflicts as well as the attack on the Twin Towers, although the resolution notes that Sept. 11, 2001 incident is "not counted as 'hate crimes' by the FBI."
Wednesday's meeting agenda included Fantasia's resolution. She set aside time to discuss the dueling resolutions.
Twenty-six people addressed the resolutions during the public speaking session. Speakers related personal stories of prejudice and all but one supported the initial resolution presented by the Sussex County Democratic Committee. The lone objector identified himself as David Morovich of Vernon, and accused those supporting the initial resolution as being "from outside," and blamed "Democrats" for supporting "cancel culture."
"They hate religion," he said. According to the roster of speakers, just one of the speakers was from outside Sussex County.
"It's sad how (this) has become a partisan issue," said Josh Hertzberg, who resigned from the county board in December after he won a seat on the Sparta Township Council.
Carl Lazzaro, who was defeated in the Republican primary for freeholder by Hertzberg in 2018, said the first version was "a flowery resolution," which could have simply been stated as: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
When the floor was finally closed to the public, Commissioner Chris Carney, who was appointed to fill Hertzberg's unexpired term, moved to table the Fantasia resolution. His motion did not specify a date for it to be brought back before the board, but, under Roberts Rules of Orders, it can be returned for action by any member of the board and a majority vote.
Fantasia, at the end of the meeting, apologized for comments she made at the board's Feb. 10 meeting during a discussion of the "anti-hate" resolutions.
"I apologize" she said. "I completely got wrong."
Fantasia referred to her comment that three arrests had been made in connection to a shooting incident outside the home of Sussex County Sheriff Michael Strada early last June.
Police said they have yet to classify the incident as a "shots fire" incident since there has been no evidence found that points to firearms being used. No arrests have been made.
A man was arrested that night in what police said was an unrelated incident. The man turned himself in to police and was charged with defacing a street sign with the letters "BLM."
More than a week later, a second man was issued a summons for using a piece of chalk to write or draw something on the road near the sheriff's home.
Both cases remain pending in municipal courts.