Howell Mayor Gotto calls his video taped behavior “unacceptable”

Howell Mayor William Gotto. Photo via HowellRepublican.com

Howell Mayor William Gotto. Photo via HowellRepublican.com

A heated exchanged between Howell Mayor William Gotto and a 19 year old Township resident, Chris Cohen, that ended with both parties apologizing, shaking hands and expressing their respect for one another has ignited a social media outrage now that a video of part of their encounter has been posted on facebook and YouTube, more than a month after the incident occurred.

On October 14, there was a petition drive at the Howell library to collect signatures of residents opposed to a proposed affordable housing development at West Farms on Route 9.   Grotto and Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro went to the gathering to answer questions about the proposed development.

The questions were heated and pointed when Cohen says he asked the mayor, “Whose pockets were being lined here?”

Gotto says he heard the question as an accusation of personal corruption. He lost his composure, as can be seen on the video:

“My response was unacceptable,” Gotto said in a phone interview with MMM this morning, “The accusations toward elected officials really got to me personally. It crossed a line.  The accusation was unacceptable.  My response was also unacceptable.”

Gotto said the video does not show that he and Cohen left to room together, spoke calmly and apologized to each other.

Cohen verified the mayor’s account of the conversation in a phone interview with MMM and in a facebook posting this afternoon. Cohen said that he and Gotto spoke twice; once immediately after the outburst and again at the end of the petition drive.  During the second conversation, Cohen said, he and Gotto expressed how their opinions of each other changed over the course of the evening and how they had gained a mutual respect.  “I have no animosity towards toward the mayor,” Cohen said.

Here is Cohen’s post on facebook:

Chris Cohen Hi everyone. Im the young man in the video, and I want to clear the situation up. First of all, im not 15, or even 16 as some people have commented. Im infact 19, going on 20 in a little more then a month. What happened prior to the video being taken was, as many know, a petition meeting about the proposed low income housing on rt.9. I was in attendance with my mother, and younger sister. During the meeting, the mayor was being rude to those who asked him questions about the project, and calling them ignorant, or anti semantic every time someone asked a question he didnt like. In my mind, he was defending this very hard, for what seemed like he had no reason to, and the only thing that came to mind was “Whos pockets were being lined here?”. A thought that im sure others had as well. So when the time came, I asked him just that. Not “Whos lineing HIS pockets?” but “Whos pockets were being lined?” and this video is a result of that question. Was it appropriate? Looking back it certainly wasnt. After everything calmed down abit, I apologized, and shook the Mayors hand infront of everyone. I also pulled him aside, and explained that what I said wasnt an attack at him, but a general question because its what he makes people think is going on by the way he acts, and lets be real, its politics & bribes are a very common thing in order for people to get things done.

So no, Im not a 15 year old kid running his mouth, nor was I being coached to say anything by anyone. I had my own question, and I asked it. If anyone has any questions please message me on Facebook, thank you.


A 2014 graduate of Freehold Township High School, Cohen said that he has lived in Howell most of his life and that his family has been part of the community for over 200 years. He is a distant relative of Raymond Roe, for whom the Department of Public Works building is named after.  Cohen works in retail at the Freehold Raceway Mall and is enrolling at Brookdale Community College in January.  He said he intends to have a career as a history teacher.

Gotto is in the third year of a four year term as the Township’s mayor.  A 50 year old fire protection engineer who works in the private sector, Gotto, his wife and daughter in college, have lived in Howell since 1996. He was appointed to the Council in 2009 to fill an unexpired term. He was elected to complete that term in 2009 and to his own full term in 2010 when he served as deputy mayor. He was elected mayor in 2012.

Gotto said that he was grateful to Cohen for coming forward.

The mayor has yet to announce whether or not he will stand for re-election in 2016. The part time job pays $7,500 per year.  Gotto said he spends 20-30 per week on Township business.

Caitlin Brown contributed to this story.


Posted: November 21st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Howell, Monmouth County, Monmouth County News | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

6 Comments on “Howell Mayor Gotto calls his video taped behavior “unacceptable””

  1. Ooops said at 11:51 am on November 22nd, 2015:

    Gotto was totally out of line to respond like that. Completely wrong, regardless of whether the question was “ignorant”. Nice that they shook hands after, fine, and nice that the mayor owned up to his mistake. BUt if anyone put their finger in my face like that and came up on me like that and told me BE CAREFUL! I would have knocked him out.

  2. Howel said at 12:41 pm on November 22nd, 2015:

    is living up to t’s reputation. 2016 Suzie is back!

  3. Kathy Baratta said at 2:53 pm on November 22nd, 2015:

    May I suggest a Freehold Township tutorial?

    In fact, it should be a mandatory requirement that all present and future Monmouth County (or any NJ county that wants to see the cream rise to the top) pols attend a series of meetings of the Freehold Township governing body in order to get a full understanding of the decorum and dignity befitting an elected official – both on and off the dais – as well as seeing good governance by people who really are only there to put the town and its residents first. They all leave their egos at the door. It’s quite remarkable actually and, speaking as a resident, a great source of pride.

  4. Tim H said at 8:47 pm on November 23rd, 2015:

    The man needs to resign. That is a disgrace he acted that way. He’s toast. And is this the same Kathy Beretta that was the reporter years back that covered Howell? She owned a web site that was a trash site!

  5. Kathy Baratta said at 12:14 pm on November 24th, 2015:

    Yes, this is the same Kathy Baratta that owned one of the most prolific and successful sites Howell has ever seen. In fact, the site that is featured in today’s APP tried and failed to fill the gap I left by selling the Board when I got bored.

    The power that my Board had still resonates. One of the late, departed members of the Howell Republican Club – a grand poobah, if you will – one directly responsible for the debacle that was Joe DiBella’s administration told my partner (at a PBA dinner) that my Board was the reason DiBella was not going to run for another term as mayor. An almost word-for-word quote from him was, “we’re afraid of what she’ll do to him on that Board of hers.” My Board was also the reason DiBella was unable to successfully pursue a bid for the Freeholders office because I featured the result of a police investigation instigated by allegations made against the township police by DiBella that an investigation proved were “unfounded.” For those less literate, it means he lied.


    Or maybe you would like to listen for yourself to hizzoner trying to weasel his way out of a mess of his own making.


    You can just say thank you and call it a day.

  6. Peter Warth said at 11:25 pm on November 24th, 2015:

    I just wanted to say I support you Chris Cohen 100% on this topic. Honestly Mr. Gotto has no discipline what so ever. He literally doesn’t care what this project might have a big impact on what’s already happened in Lakewood. You asked a great question, I’m sure everyone in Howell is proud of how such a great young man like you is looking out after our town. I support people like you and I hope everything works out well. Mr. Gotto needs to resign before Howell turns into a hell hole.