Leaving the Morristown council: One gets a proclamation, the other, an apology

Morristown Council President Toshiba Foster reads apology for a remark she made to Councilwoman Alison Deeb. Dec. 3, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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One got a proclamation. The other, an apology.

Hiliari Davis and Alison Deeb are leaving the Morristown council this month, after  defeats at the polls.

On Tuesday, Davis received a proclamation from Mayor Tim Dougherty, thanking her for fours years of service.  Deeb, the council’s lone Republican and a veteran of three terms, got a public apology from Council President Toshiba Foster.

Foster had told Deeb to “take your meds” as the councilwoman stormed from a council meeting last month. Deeb was protesting what she considered a personal attack by a citizen.

“I could have done a better job at the last meeting,” Foster said to start Tuesday’s session.

Two years ago, Foster supported the council’s Stigma-Free resolution, promoting a culture where people with mental health issues “feel supported by their community and neighbors.”

Foster appeared to suggest that her remark at the Nov. 12, 2019, meeting referred to a physical malady of Deeb’s. The council president said she had heard Deeb would be staying home with an ailment, indicating she was surprised when Deeb showed up a few minutes late.

“Councilwoman Deeb has been on our council for 12 years and has been an active council person and has been active in her community. I was advised before the (Nov. 12) meeting that Councilwoman Deeb was sick and she was not going to attend the meeting,” said Foster, reading from notes.

“The comment I made was in no way meant for any type of offense to her or anyone else. I did call Councilwoman Deeb the next day and I spoke to her and apologized to her if she was offended. But I did want to make a statement for the record and apologize to anyone who may have taken offense or felt that it was deemed as offensive. Thank you.”

Deeb participated in Tuesday’s meeting via telephone and did not respond publicly to Foster’s statement.

“I texted Toshiba and thanked her for apologizing,” Deeb told MorristownGreen.com afterwards. “I thought it was very nice.”

The Fourth Ward councilwoman lost her re-election bid in November to Democratic newcomer Sandi Mayer.  Deeb then asked Morris County GOP committee members to appoint her to Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco’s unexpired term, but the seat went to Aura Dunn, a former staffer for Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.).

TEARS AND HUGS

Davis responded with tears when the mayor presented her with a plaque proclaiming Tuesday as her special day in Morristown.

“It’s clearly a better place than when you found it, and nobody can take that away from you. Nobody. And I will miss you dearly,” Dougherty told the Second Ward councilwoman, who lost to Tawanna Cotten in the June Democratic primary. Cotten ran unopposed in last month’s election.

Second Ward Councilwoman Hiliari Davis, who was defeated in the June primary, delivers tearful farewell to council, Dec. 3, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Although the council has one more meeting this year before Davis’ term expires, Tuesday was her finale. She will be on her honeymoon during the Dec. 17 meeting.

Davis’ tenure has been tempestuous at times. A parking lot altercation last year was resolved with a courtroom apology. In October, she took heat from critics who challenged her residency and knocked her for phoning into meetings–a council practice that Deeb then started to question.

Dougherty defended Davis again on Tuesday.

“You may not see it on the street everyday, but this councilwoman was engaged and focused on her ward and got a lot of things accomplished,” said the mayor, citing Davis’ advocacy for improvements to the Cauldwell playground, Martin Luther King Avenue and the Marion Sally community center.

He noted that Foster and Davis were the first African Americans to serve in tandem as council president and vice president.

ONE LAST TIME: Morristown Council Vice President Hiliari Davis, left, and Council President Toshiba Foster, Dec. 3, 2019. They are the first African Americans to hold those titles simultaneously. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Davis expressed pride in seeing Morristown appoint its first black police chief and town administrator.

“To me it’s just super impressive that this is such a diverse community, and a fair community, and I’m so grateful to have had this experience,” she said, as her 12-year-old daughter McKenzie beamed from the audience.

Departing Councilwoman Hiliari Davis listens to proclamation by Mayor Tim Dougherty, Dec. 3, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Davis had hugs for her council colleagues in attendance.

“We don’t always agree, but we always consider what’s important for the town and for the people, and we get past our differences to make what I believe are the right decisions,” she said.

The Morristown High grad (’94) got big laughs when she addressed Foster, inside council chambers that double as municipal court.

“I grew up with Toshiba,” Davis said. “I never imagined in a million years that she and I
 would be allowed in here, and not be in front of Judge Noonan.”

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