Published in Ramblings from the Editor, December 2, 2009
Further Reading: The Curious Case of the Mayor and the Swimming Pool
I will be honest (and I always try to be honest)… I wasn’t expecting to write much more about Poolgate, that curious affair involving Mayor Ed Mahaney, a rental home on Maryland Avenue and the Cape May Police Department.
But this week I heard from the couple who rented the home and who got into a confrontation with the mayor in August. I had been trying to get in touch with them, via their realtor, By the Sea, but had had no luck.
Then, last week, someone told me there was an interesting note written on Exit Zero’s Facebook page (if you don’t yet know what Facebook is, I heartily recommend it as a wonderful way to communicate with friends and family). It was from a woman called Susan Parrick, and this was what it said…
I just read your column, Ramblings from the Editor, regarding Mayor Mahaney’s distaste for fun in Cape May. I am the other half of the “renters” who became the source of this amusing piece of journalism. You did a fairly good job depicting our week in Cape May, not having the benefit of talking with us personally. You said you tried to reach my husband and me but had no luck. Apparently, you didn’t have the right contact information as we would have been eager to cooperate in the interest of preserving our rights under the First Amendment.
You can’t imagine the angst your story has stirred upon reading, I became forced to rehash the events of what was ultimately the happiest moment in my life; turned sour by the most blatant and disruptive acts of a small-town mayor with a big-ass attitude. As a 46-year-old professional who spent most of her career in public service, having worked as a Communications Director in the United States Senate, I have never, ever, witnessed such ignorance from any elected official. I have gotten more respect from governors, congressmen, and yes, even past presidents. I wish I could put this issue behind me but something inside is saying, take action. I don’t think you’ve heard the last word on this issue and if you’d like to chat, please feel free to reach out.
The agency who rented us the property at 1036 Maryland has my contact information. In fact, they called yesterday to ask if I’d be coming back to Cape May this August with my husband. We’ve decided to spend $25,000 outside of Cape May this year. We will probably take three or four trips to Florida where the local government will welcome us with open arms. Keep up the good work.
On a positive note, we’d like to thank Bridgette and her staff [at Peter Shields], along with Cape Winds Florist, our baker Michel of La Patisserie, Catherine at Weddings by the Sea, The Blue Fish Inn, Le Mer Hotel, and the brave local police officers who visited frequently; for providing great service to us and our 50+ guests who spent thousands of dollars in Cape May as the direct result of our wedding.
After reading this, I got in touch with Susan and asked for her full version of what happened that day. But first a little bio on Susan: she is a consultant in marketing and public relations. In 1994, she ran, on a non-partisan ticket, for public office as a State Representative in Pennsylvania, losing by just 400 votes .
From 1995 to 2002, she worked in Washington, DC for a US Senator from Pennsylvania. For the last two of those years, she was the senator’s Communications Director. After that, she moved back to Pennsylvania, to her home near Scranton, to look after her father.
Susan been coming to Cape May since she was a young kid and loves the city. Her most recent visit was in August, with her husband-to-be Guy Stesny. They arrived on Saturday, August 15 and married at the Peter Shields on the following Friday.
Regular readers will remember that I described how Mayor Mahaney turned up at the rental home one day, along with an official from the construction office, and threatened to close down the swimming pool at the house. The mayor told me he had not trespassed that day but had “been invited,” though he declined to tell me by whom.
Here is Susan’s version of events. I am going to print them without comment because I DO have other things I want to tell you in this column…
“We’d spent Saturday and Sunday prepping for the wedding and everything was going well. On Monday morning, between nine and 10, my husand and I were sitting in the screened-in porch, drinking our coffee, when out of nowhere a man appeared in the back yard. You can only open the gate to the house from inside the yard, so he must have reached over to unlatch it.
“This man went to the far side of the yard and was inspecting a wooden fence. I asked my husband to go and see what was going on. He stood up and, from the porch, said ‘Excuse me, what are you doing?’
“The man looked startled and said, ‘Oh, hello. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to disturb you. I am here on city business.’
“We asked what kind of business and I don’t remember the exact phrase but it was something like ‘I am here for tax purposes and am taking some pictures.’
“I said he had no right to be there, that we were not the owners of the property and that he should have contacted the owners if he needed to access it. He said he had a right to be there. And shortly after that he left.
“Later, around 1pm, we had friends over from Wildwood, around eight to 10 people. As we were taking burgers off the grill, one of my friends said, ‘There are two men in your yard and they won’t tell us why they are here.’
“I recognized one of the men as the guy who had been here earlier. I said ‘Excuse me’ several times and they actually ignored me, so I walked over and asked them why they were intruding on my privacy.
‘The other man, who I now realize was Mayor Mahaney, said, ‘You are the one who is intruding – we are in the middle of something here.’
“I asked him what the heck was going on and he said, ‘We have had complaints about the noise coming from here. You can either sit down and let us do our work or we can call the police and have you removed.’
“Now, remember, this was the middle of the day, and we had only just arrived on Saturday, so I don’t know what noise he was talking about. I asked the mayor if he wanted to see a copy of our lease agreement and he said, ‘I don’t care about your lease agreement. This is Cape May, and we have rules here.’
“Now, I don’t know of any town that has an ordinance preventing people from having a nice time in the middle of the day by the swimming pool. I said this to the mayor, and he told me, ‘Who do you think you’re talking to? I am the mayor of this town.’ He then said, ‘It looks like we are going to have to get the police involved.’
“Meanwhile, I kept asking him what the actual problem was and he still wouldn’t tell me.
“I was very embarrassed and flustered and this upset my husband, who said to the mayor, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ He turned and said to the other man, ‘You were here earlier and you said you were here for tax purposes.’
“My husband then asked the mayor to leave. He started walking toward the gate but he seemed very reluctant to leave.
“My husband said, ‘You have no right to be here, you need to leave right now.’ And the mayor said, ‘This isn’t over. If I hear any more complaints I will have a police car sitting here all week if I have to. I’m the mayor of Cape May and I get things done my way.’
“Before he left he said, ‘This pool is in serious violation of city code and we will be back.’
“I read in Exit Zero that the mayor said he was invited on to our property. Well, that is a bold-faced lie.
“Later, the police came to the door and were very helpful and pleasant. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to use my pool, and the pool was the one thing we told the realtor that we needed. That’s why we were willing to pay $6500 for the week.
“I was crying when the police came to the door, but they told us to get on with our holiday and to enjoy ourselves.
“We were married on Friday, and at the reception at the house later, the police came by around 8:30pm and said there had been a complaint about the noise. We had a DJ, which we had already cleared with the city, as long as he stopped before 10pm, which he did.
“Apart from our experience with the mayor, we had a wonderful time. I still think Cape May is a whimsical, magical place. There were so many people who were so good to us – the local vendors were amazing, from Cape Winds Florists to the Peter Shields, where we were married.
“The funny thing is, we nearly had the mayor marry us! When we were planning the wedding, we went to City Hall to ask about having the mayor marry us, but then we got very friendly with Bridgette Fowler from the Peter Shields, and when we found out she was licensed to perform weddings, we chose here. I’m so glad we did! I would not want such an arrogant and angry man there on such a special day.”