Roseland councilmen quit after anti-Semetic, racist texts revealed
ROSELAND — After a text message chain that started with regular borough business turned to more offensive topics came to light, two council members have announced their resignations.
According to a report in The Progress, several members of the governing body were included in the group text, which started several months ago.
Former Councilman Thomas Tsilionis told New Jersey 101.5 he did not expect what he thought to be a friendly exchange between the council members to result in his resignation and another.
According to the Progress report, Tsilionis asked Councilman Peter Smith whether he could be "half-Jewish" to be better with money, and half "African-American" — to geain male anatomical advantages. He reportedly used derogatory terms for each group.
Jacobs reportedly told Tsilionis he would need a "Rabbi" to change in that way.
"I am legally changing my name to ShwarzNigga," the Progress quoted Tsilionis as saying in the text message exchange. Jacobs responded with a "laugh out loud" and poked fun at Tsilionis for his presumed manly shortcomings.
Tsilionis, who has served on the governing body since 2010, told New Jersey 101.5 the words he used were "inexcusable," but said he does not consider himself to be racist, and that those people close to him would agree.
"It's a specific word that should never be used, even if I used it as a joke, he said. "it's inexcusable. It's disgusting."
He said he enjoys doing stand-up comedy, and his comments were meant as a joke.
"The comment was never of a mindset that it had any racial intention. It was just the worst joke ever that I've ever said," Tsilionis said.
Tsilionis said he is "1000 percent apologetic," about the comments, and said he did not believe he could continue to serve on the governing body because of the reaction the comments have gotten.
"I'm not defending them. I don't condone them myself," he said.
In his resignation letter posted on his Facebook page, Tsilionis said, "There isn't a racist or anti-semitic (sic) bone in my body."
He alleged the messages came to light as an act of political retribution by Councilman Richard Leonard, who had shared the message chain with the Progress.
"Plain and simple, Councilman Leonard released the tests (sic) to the press out of his own personal agenda to attack Councilman Jacbos and me for not voting for him for Council President."
The all-Republican council voted for Mark Vidovich as President. Tsilionis said Leonard and Jacobs had campaigned together for their seats, and said the issue was not brought up during what he termed as seven months of campaigning.
In his resignation letter Tsilionis cited a litany of grievances he has had with Leonard as well. NJ.com quoted Leonard saying he did not release the information as a matter of political retribution, and that he only discussed the messages after finding them again last month.
Tsilionis said he was hopeful to put the situation behind him for the good of him and his family.
"I paid the price for them," he said of his comments. "It's not that I'm trying to validate them, or excuse them, or say that they're defensible. Nothing like that has been referenced, but the attack came because I was trying to prevent something else that's much worse from happening."
He continued: "I don't know if all this is warranted based on one very quick two-second response to another person's comment, should be deemed the rest of my life that I have to be painted this way. I'm going to get as far away from politics as I can possibly get."
The Progress reported Jacobs said he had no recollection of the conversation, and when reached on Monday said he could not discuss it further as he was on vacation. He could not be reached immediately by New Jersey 101.5.
Leonard told New Jersey 101.5 Monday he had comment at the time.
Email messages were also sent to other members of the council including Mayor John Duthie, Councilwoman Tolli, and Council President Vidovich, but New Jersey 101.5 has not yet received a response.
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