Bradley Beach Councilman Al Gubitosi says it appears that Council President Tim Sexsmith or someone trying to incriminate Sexsmith may be behind anonymous and burdensome requests for information under the state’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPRA).
Sexsmith did not immediately reply to the comments made when the Borough Council met earlier this week because he left the meeting early after reading a prepared statement.
The council president remained at the meeting through votes on three ordinances before saying that he had “another obligation” and read a letter which he said he wrote after the May 24 council meeting. At that meeting, Gubitosi first brought up the anonymous information requests.
“In the last six months serving as council president, I worked tirelessly to try and get the various factions on the governing body to try and work together and prioritizing or solving issues for the betterment of Bradley Beach,” Sexsmith said as he quoted the unsent letter. “Unfortunately, those efforts have failed.”
The council president, who ran for election and won on a ticket with Gubitosi and two incumbent council members in 2019, cited a “poisonous atmosphere” and “public infighting” among the items causing him concern.
In the letter, Sexsmith said he was resigning from the council, but after reading it at the meeting, he said that he was not resigning from his seat.
“That would be failing to finish what I originally set out to do, to improve the borough, the borough government, the borough processes for the benefit of all Bradley Beach residents, visitors and employees,” Sexsmith said before leaving the meeting.
Gubitosi, who served as council president until Mayor Larry Fox nominated Sexsmith for the post in January, said he was surprised at Sexsmith’s comments.
“I’m disappointed that he’s not in the room as I continue with my comments,” Gubitosi said. Though the councilman noted that anonymous requests for information are legal under state law for the protection of the public, Gubitosi said a series of requests filed using a particular e-mail address indicated that the requester may have had “questionable motives.”
“I won’t provide the full [e-mail address] here, but this name certainly suggests that the author of these requests might not be sincere or well intentioned,” Gubitosi said. “This e-mail account was generating an extraordinary amount of OPRA request activity, requiring various council members to spend hours researching documentation for one or more years of communications for a given topic, including requiring Mayor Fox himself to spend double digit hours responding over a holiday weekend.”
“This OPRA requester also threatened our borough clerk stating that they had contacted a known OPRA litigation attorney and inferred that they would sue the borough if the clerk did not accelerate OPRA responses that were due,” Gubitosi said. “Likely, this e-mailer has cost the borough thousands of dollars in legal fees, since each council person’s response to an OPRA request must be reviewed by a borough attorney for issues of possible confidentiality.”
Gubitosi said that the day after he made his initial public comments at the May 24 council meeting, two of the OPRA requests were rescinded by the requester.
“The OPRA requests from this anonymous individual have ceased, at least since my council comments from May 24, 2022,” the councilman said.
“Two weeks ago, I was asked if I knew the identity of this person,” Gubitosi said. “I did not. I honestly still do not know. However, I do have some very particular evidence that I want to share with the public and this evidence seems to point in the direction of Council President Sexsmith. I reached out to Tim over a week ago and asked if we could talk about this topic. He answered that he had no time to talk for at least a week. He has made no effort to speak to me since.”
Gubitosi said he collected 10 information requests filed by the anonymous e-mailer.
“I used computer software to review the properties for each of these 10 forms that I received from the borough clerk,” Gubitosi said. “Six of the 10 [documents] indicate that they were originated by a computer used by Council President Sexsmith. The digital fingerprint from the OPRA requester’s computer for these six [forms] match the separate [document] that Mr. Sexsmith sent to the council regarding workshop schedules. It appears to me that either Council President Sexsmith’s computer was used to create these OPRA requests, or someone has gone to great efforts to incriminate Tim, perhaps by doctoring the digital fingerprints on the OPRA [forms] submitted.”
Gubitosi said Councilman Randy Bonnell told him that “he had a conversation with Mr. Sexsmith and that Mr. Sexsmith admitted to being the author of these OPRA requests in that conversation.”
Bonnell, who was seated next to Gubitosi at the meeting, did not dispute Gubitosi’s account.
“I was not a witness to the conversation, nor do I know the context of this alleged conversation,” Gubitosi said. “At this point, all I can do is share the facts as I know them with the public. My hope is that we can resolve this expediently, especially if Mr. Sexsmith is being falsely incriminated by someone else.”
Contacted by The Coaster the following morning, Sexsmith denied telling Bonnell that he was the author of the multiple requests for documents.
Sexsmith also said that although he did not formally send a letter of resignation to the mayor, he did discuss it with Fox before deciding not to resign.
“I fully support Council President Sexsmith,” the mayor said in an e-mail to The Coaster the day after the meeting. “He has worked very hard to put the right focus on priorities for Bradley Beach. He got into this role with ‘service and progress’ as his goal. He has continued to fulfill this.”
Fox said he shared the concerns expressed by Sexsmith in the letter he read before leaving the meeting.
“There is a small faction of people in our town, directed by a few unprincipled people that care only about their agenda (power and control), that are unfortunately directing some of the other council members,” the mayor said in his e-mail.