William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (January 26, 2022)--This past Tuesday, we received a phone call from Charles Billingham, who was upset with our Opinion column published the day before. More specifically, he took offense to the following paragraph.
The local Democratic Club is a ghost from the past. It was disbanded. Now one group is being lead by King George Norcross and his Camden County Democrat Power Brokers. George was asked to rescue the local Party by former Sheriff Chuck Billingham. Forget about the City Democrats who are led by Mike Billingham, Chuck's son. They (the Democrats) are fighting among themselves and many of them have already abandoned ship eager to kiss George's Crown.
During our brief conversation with Billingham, he stated what we wrote in that paragraph was a lie and that he never spoke with George Norcross. He also alleged that we hinted there was a "fissure" rift between him and his son, Michael.
Later in the day, Charlie submitted a comment that stated in part,
You lied that I reached out to George Norcross for help in local politics. The only communication I’ve had with George since retiring was a text regarding a football game between (my beloved) GA Bulldogs and (his beloved ) TN Volunteers (UGA won). I certainly don’t need George to unify our local Democratic supporters. You lied that my son was the leader of the GC Democrat Club (he NEVER was). And worst of all: you despicably lied (in your “figure of speech”) that there was a fissure between my son and me.
The tape recording of that interview proves that we did not lie. Plus the article with the information we based the Editorial on was first published on August 31, 2021. We spoke with the former mayor the day that article was released to the public. He never said a word that what we had written was wrong. But, for some strange reason, 150 days later, he claims we have lied!
Last summer, on August 30, Billingham called and said he had a breaking news story to share. The following is from a tape recording of the call.
"I don't want to do anything in a vacuum or behind closed doors from now on everything will be in the open", said Billingham. The people I spoke to so far agreed to that open-door policy. I have the blessing of Jim Beach, the chairman of the Camden County Democrat organization and also the state Democratic organization to proceed with the re-organization of the Gloucester City Democrat Party.”
“In recent months, I met with the present members of the Party and I wasn't hearing anything different coming from their mouths. I just got my tax bill and I saw how high it was this year, I just had to do something. I also have been reading your Peyton and Me Meandering columns and I see the quality of life problems I just didn't like”, said the former Camden County Sheriff. Washington Township Police Chief, Gloucester City Mayor and Gloucester City Patrolman.
Charlie/Chuck is correct. The tape recording states he asked Jim Nash, the Camden County Democratic Party Chairman, not Norcross, to approve his “political coup d’état.”
He also sought the blessings of unknown state members of his Party, according to the tape recording we make of that conversation, with his knowledge.
George Norcross is a well-known “Political Boss” in South Jersey and this state. Everyone knows that nothing happens in the Democrat Party without George knowing about it or without his approval. Billingham knows that. To suggest that Norcross had no indirect involvement in this action is false.
Billingham, a longtime politician, knew he needed Nash’s okay to move forward with his “political coup.” Like a good soldier, he used the chain of command and first went to Nash, followed by a meeting with the state power brokers. Billingham didn't speak directly with George, but Norcross's shadow was present throughout his maneuvering to take over the local Party. The Free Dictionary defines a political boss as a leader in a political party who controls votes and dictates appointments.
As for the insinuation that we attacked his son, that too is false. He alluded to a “private disagreement” during our recorded interview on August 30. Asked at that time who was in charge of the present Democrat Party, Billingham said,
"My son Michael is the head of those people, and there is a bit of a private disagreement between us. I have no intention of running for office. I am just an advisor.”
After publishing the article, Billingham never complained to us that he was misquoted. He did call the day the article was published to point out a misspelled word, but he never mentioned anything else. This is the first time we heard him say that his son was not the leader of the City Democrats.
As for the local Democrat Club being in disarray, that is a well-known fact. Everyone knows that. One of the reasons the members closed the long-time clubhouse at 6 North Broadway was due to infighting. When the rumor was circulated, we contacted a former club president; he said we were correct.
On a personal note, Chuck, your “Don Corleone” comment at the end of our brief conversation on Tuesday knocked me off my feet. You alluded to something I allegedly did 40 or 45 years ago that was beyond belief. And, that remark about one of my children was below a man with a professional background in law enforcement. It was uncalled for and unnecessary. I would never expect that threat to come from you. We have been acquaintances for some time. And when your brother needed a pick me up, I reached out to help. To see this side of you saddens me; I would never believe you would stoop that low.