Andy Polhamus at the South Jersey Times reports:
A Franklin Township woman was arrested over the weekend after allegedly making threats about bringing a gun to a Gloucester County building, where she was attending a public meeting on tax revaluation. She later handed two guns over to police for safekeeping.
Clayton Police reported on Tuesday that Eileen Hart, 47, was charged with making terroristic threats, disorderly conduct and harassment.
Police said they were dispatched at about 10:22 a.m. Saturday to the Gloucester County Complex on Delsea Drive in Clayton for a report of a possible disturbance.
When they arrived, Sgt. John Dick was informed that the Gloucester County Office of Assessment, along with Appraisal Systems, Inc. were holding a meeting for Franklin Township residents to discuss the countywide property revaluation program that ASI was hired to perform in order to bring all home values up to the current market value.
County tax assessor Robyn Glocker-Hammond told police that a woman who had been at the meeting was asked to leave the complex for causing a disturbance and making threats about coming back with a gun.
Police said Hart wasn’t at the complex when they arrived. Workers there gave police information about Hart and the registration of the car she was driving.
Clayton Police and Franklin Township Police located Hart, who lives on Harding Highway in Franklin Township. She was brought back to the Clayton Police Department where she was processed and charged. She was released on her own recognizance pending court, police said.
Hart said outside of her home on Tuesday that she had come to the meeting to dispute the assessment of her home.
Franklin is one of several towns — including Clayton, Paulsboro, and Washington, Greenwich, Logan and Woolwich townships — to be reassessed this year as part of the county-wide assessment pilot program. This is the last round of reassessments, which have been ongoing for about three years.
Hart, who is Jewish, said Tuesday that her religion prevented her from letting a strange man into her house when her husband was not home. As a result, she could not let an inspector from Appraisal Systems inside. She said her house was assessed without being inspected.
As she began reading quotes from the Constitution to support her argument during the weekend meeting, Hart said she was escorted from the building by an Appraisal Systems employee. She denied making any threats.
“I didn’t scream, I didn’t yell,” she said. “I have the right to air my grievances against the government in a public setting. I’ve never threatened anyone a day in my life.”
Hart told the Examiner that the employees from Appraisal Systems, as well as the county tax assessor, took offense to her objections.
“She also wouldn’t let me speak and told me to sit down and shut up and listen as well,” Hart told the Examiner. That’s when the young man came toward me. I knew he was going to put his hands on me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I said to him ‘Don’t you dare touch me.’ Then they threw us out of the auditorium. The young man from Appraisal Systems, Inc. was the one going postal, and I believe if he had a gun, he would have shot me (and my family) on the spot. I was calm the entire time.”
Gloucester County Spokeswoman Debra Sellitto released a short statement regarding the incident.
“Ms. [Robyn] Glocker-Hammond, the county assessor, routinely meets with residents regarding their tax assessments,” Sellitto said. “She has never experienced this type of extreme behavior from a taxpayer. The police were notified by a representative from ASI, not Ms. Glocker-Hammond, because the ASI representative perceived the resident’s statements as a threat.”
Hart said she was told while she was in custody that she would have to hand over her two guns, a .357-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and a .40-caliber Glock, for safekeeping in order to keep a judge from setting bail too high for her family to pay. She owns both guns legally and shoots regularly at a local range. Now, she feels that her Second Amendment rights have been violated.
“I have permits for each of them. I applied legally, I got them legally,” she said. “Now I can’t defend myself. I never said the word ‘gun’ at the meeting. None of those people would have even known I was a gun owner.”