John Schmidt, center, with a tie, pleaded guilty to a harassment complaint in municiipal court this week. The complaint was filed by Marianne Coyle, a Gloucester Township BOE member who claimed he harassed her after a board meeting.
John Schmidt, a self-described open-government advocate, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a disorderly persons complaint.
Schmidt agreed to pay a $100 fine, $33 court cost and to "refrain from complaining outside of a public meeting to an official acting in official capacity," according to a municipal court judge. Schmidt, however, later said that he never agreed to refrain from complaining to an official.
Both Coyle and Schmidt declined to comment immediately afterward. Schmidt's attorney, Ted Rosenberg, said Schmidt agreed to a plea bargain which dismissed a related "assault" complaint.
A harassment complaint was initially filed by Gloucester Township school board member Marianne Coyle. in February after a school board meeting. Schmidt and several others had aggressively questioned her about her relationship with a political action committee while running for the school board.
That is a violation of state law. Schmidt ultimately pleaded guilty to the disorderly persons complaint.
The dispute continued in a hallway after the meeting and Coyle filed a complaint against Schmidt, 24, a Gloucester City resident. Last year, he went on a crusade to stop parents from parking in the
yellow zone outside two schools in Runnemede, even though he doesn't
live in the town or have children in the school district, Fox 29 News
Philadelphia reported. Schmidt also doesn't live in Gloucester Township or have children in the district.
The ELEC reprimand was triggered by a complaint filed by Joshua Berry, a
self-described "local good government watchdog." Berry alleged that
Coyle was treasurer of a political action committee that raised
thousands of dollars while she was a candidate for the township school board
in 2011 and that she continued in that position until April.
Berry was at the hearing on Wednesday but declined to comment afterward.
Municipal Court Judge Michael Diamond told Schmidt that he does have First Amendment rights to for redress of public grievances but should refrain from confronting officials outside of public meetings.
Schmidt said in court that he accepted "some responsibility" for the incident.
The hearing was held in Winslow Municipal Court to avoid any possible conflict from Coyle being a public official in Gloucester Township. It had been delayed and rescheduled several times over five months.