Category Archives: Board of Trustees

"Political Retaliation" In Play Against Middletown Library Board President

Middletown’s acting Mayor Tony Fiore has asked the President of the Middletown Library Board to resign his position as Board President according to an article posted on Middletown-Patch this morning.

According to Middletown-Patch, a letter was sent to Library Board President Randal Gabrielan last Wednesday requesting his resignation for questionable inappropriate and unethical behavior pertaining to books purchased by the Middletown Library that were penned by Gabrielan.

Randal Gabrielan is the Monmouth County historian and writes books about the history of Monmouth County and its towns. The books are available at many book sellers throughout NJ.

Where the supposed ethical violations come into play in this case is that as Library Board President, Randal Gabrielan signs all the purchase vouchers for the library, including the vouchers that pertain to the books that he has written.

To Fiore and Co., this is a major issue that requires Gabrielan to step down from his position, even though this has been going on for years with the knowledge and approval of the Township and the fact that the library would have purchased the books for its collection anyway.
Randal Gabrielan states in the article that this is “political retribution” for his vocal stance opposing the Township’s money grab of nearly $500,000 last year and for the failure of one of the Township Committee’s hand picked, newly appointed Library Board of Trustees members not being able to dethrone him as Board President at the Library’s January 18th Board meeting, which was the first board meeting after the Middletown Township Committee expanded the membership of the board from 7 members to 9 members to gain greater control over the library’s finances.
“This request for resignation is an act of political retaliation prompted by my opposition in 2011 to the Township Committee’s demand that the library turn over surplus funds (which did not come from municipal appropriations) to the township and the failure of the mayor’s new expanded library board of trustees to elect one of their number, none of whom has any library board experience, to the presidency of the board at the January 18th library board meeting,” According to Gabrielan’s statement posted on Middletown-Patch.
I think that before looking at Mr. Gabrielan, Tony Fiore should be looking closer to home for ethical lapses and request a certain Planning Board member to step down…..

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Filed under Board of Trustees, ethical violations, Middletown Library, Middletown Patch, Middletown Township Committee, Randall Gabrielan, resignation request, Tony Fiore

Presidency of Middletown Library Board sought by new Board member; Proof of Politicalization

By guest blogger Linda Baum

Last Wednesday’s Library Board meeting (1/18/12) started at 7:00 p.m. and ran over four and a half hours. This was the first meeting of the new 9-member Board, five of whom are new appointees.

Sixteen members of the public attended the meeting, in whole or in part, and it was a veritable “who’s who” of the Republican Party. Among others, there were Committeeman and former Library Board member Kevin Settembrino, Committeeman and Deputy Mayor Steve Massell, Emil Wrede (TOMSA Board), James Hinkley (TOMSA Board), Tristen Nelsen (former Township Committee candidate), and some others sitting with them. I caught what I can only describe as “knowing” glances that told me many there were not strangers to each other. I leave to you to decide whether their purpose in attending was to support, to intimidate, or simply to be informed.

There were some regular folks at the meeting, too – we were discernable by our much more casual clothing.

Things began on a cordial note, with introductions and brief backgrounds. That was followed by a discussion of expenses and service contracts, which I’ll address in a separate post. Overall, the new Board members were very critical of Library operations, even accusatory.

When it was time for the election of 2012 officers, Ms. Sherry Miloscia presented the Nominating Committee’s recommendation of Mr. Randall Gabrielan as president, Ms. Vivian Breen as vice president, and Ms. Marjorie Cavalier as treasurer. There was no recommendation for the office of secretary because the original nominee, Ms. Rachel Raymond, the School Superintendent’s alternate for the prior year, was not reappointed to the Board for 2012. Ms. Miloscia found that out just five days before this meeting and had then contacted new Board member Lawrence Nelsen to offer him the role of secretary, but he turned it down, saying he didn’t feel qualified.

Committeewoman Stephanie Murray took issue with the use of a Nominating Committee – commonly used by many boards – and was fast to make her own nomination when informed that taking additional nominations from the floor was routine procedure. She started right at the top, recommending newcomer Lawrence Nelsen for president. She turned to him and said, “Would you do it? Would you do this?,” as if it had never been discussed. He agreed, of course, and didn’t seem surprised, but many of the public attendees were amazed at the audacity.

Ms. Miloscia asked Mr. Nelsen why he felt qualified to be president when he said he didn’t feel qualified enough to be secretary. Mr. Nelsen denied saying that. “Yes you did,” she replied.

Ms. Murray felt that a person with a financial background should be president — Mr. Nelsen is an accountant. Others pointed out that the treasurer’s position would be a good place for an accountant concerned with finances to start. The treasurer’s position was available, but Mr. Nelsen wasn’t interested in it.

The reasoning that the Board needs a president with financial experience is not supported if you consider that the Library Board drafted and approved a budget that, despite a reduction in the Township appropriation, still managed to maintain services, employment and most materials.

Something I think was being overlooked is that Board membership provides each trustee the opportunity to oversee operations, whether that person is an officer or not. That participation is precisely the reason given by the Township for expanding the Board.

New Board member Michael Convery asked, “Why do you think Larry can’t be president?” The experienced Board members explained that the position of president requires a lot of knowledge and a lot of time, and that the need to provide guidance to an inexperienced person would put an unfair burden on the Library Director. The many answers and lengthy explanations Ms. O’Neal was required to provide to the new members at this Board meeting is evidence of that.

In short, having an inexperienced person as Board president could hamper Library operations. Therefore, the new trustees did not appear to be acting in the best interest of the Library.

It was suggested that the new members could consult with any respected source, including the New Jersey Library Association, and would be told of the importance of experienced leadership.

I wondered what the president’s rights and responsibilities are that made the position so sought after. I have been provided this explanation:

The president is the first among equals as the Board’s link to the Director on situations where library operations meet library policy, which is set by the Board. The president is the primary Board source for the Director on matters of economic, political, social, employment and legal concerns that impact the library. It is important that the president recognize and honor the distinction between the Trustee’s role of oversight and the Director’s role of management and that the president not attempt to interfere in library operations. In order to fulfill this role, it is essential that the president be knowledgeable and experienced in these matters, qualities that have become even more important in today’s challenging environment.

Also, I am told that the president’s role at meetings is similar to the mayor’s — he sets the tone and guides discussion but has an equal vote.

Ms. Breen pointed out to Ms. Murray that she would not expect to be mayor her first year as a committeewoman. She replied, “No, and I wouldn’t want to,” but seemed to miss the point that Mr. Nelsen was too inexperienced to be president.

The new Board members expressed concern about Mr. Gabrielan’s length of service as president, made reference to the size of the budget, and fell just shy of accusing him of wrong doing. The criticism was unfounded, in my opinion. It was an unfair attack on the character of a man who is well-regarded as a dedicated servant. But that accusatory tone underscored the meeting. Later on, Mr. Nelsen twice referenced Bernie Madoff. That comment offended many of us.

The new members also expressed some frustration with the materials they were provided and felt some information was missing. That drew a sharp response from the others, who asked what they were referring to. The Library Director did her best to explain the information provided and some differences between business in January and the other months of the year.

A woman sitting near me who was a former library employee felt strongly that the problem was that the new Board members were unfamiliar with library operations.

It seemed to me there was a lot of posturing going on by the new members. Last year the Library was villanized, and it seems the stage is being set for that again. I am reminded of that saying that the truth of an accusation doesn’t matter because the damage is done when the accusation is made.

Perhaps in an attempt to quell the accusation and argument, Ms. Breen suggested making Mr. Nelsen vice president. I thought that was a generous concession considering his lack of experience with library matters.

Mr. Convery asked if the election of officers needed to take place right then and was told that there was a need to have officers in place for financial matters and for continuity of operations. The Library’s by-laws call for elections at the January reorganization meeting because terms expire then. (Note that the Township Committee elects its officers in January as well.)

In the end, Mr. Gabrielan was elected president by a vote of 5 to 4. The four new Board members voted as a block for Mr. Nelsen. The deciding vote for Mr. Gabrielan was cast by new Board member Cynthia Wilson, the School Superintendent’s appointee.

While Mr. Convery said that his reason for wanting to delay the vote was to get to know people before voting, I wonder if that was his motive. Had the vote been delayed until the end of the meeting, for example, the outcome would have been different because two of the Board members who voted for Mr. Gabrielan didn’t stay for the whole meeting. Those early departures, at this meeting or any future meeting, change the make-up of the Board. Late arrivals or absences would have the same effect.

After the debate over the presidency, the other officers were selected quickly. Mr. Nelsen was elected vice president; Ms. Cavalier was elected treasurer, and Ms. Breen secretary – each held the same post last year.

As vice president, Mr. Nelsen will run meetings in the absence of Mr. Gabrielan, who has had a near perfect attendance record. Also, the VP title puts Mr. Nelsen in line for the presidency in 2013, when he is certain to get it because the new Board members will have the five votes they need next year with the Township’s replacement of Ms. Miloscia, whose term expires at the end of this year.

With one more voice, the Township’s new appointees will be able to elect to any office any candidate they choose, award contracts as they choose, make employment decisions, and unrestrict any amount of Library reserves for Township use.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, Lawrence Nelsen, Library Reserves, Middletown Library, Randall Gabrielan, Republican Party, surplus funds, TOMSA, Tristan Nelsen

FOUR LITTLE WORDS THAT SAY A LOT ABOUT HOW THE TOWNSHIP DOLES OUT APPOINTMENTS: “When they asked me.”

by guest blogger Linda Baum

Quote of the day goes to Brock Siebert, who, when asked when he knew he’d been appointed as a Library trustee by the Township Committee, replied, “When they asked me.” I think that confirms that the Township does not require the submission of a board membership application as a pre-requisite for appointment. In fact, I checked. There is no application for Mr. Siebert on file with the Township.

In Kevin Penton’s 1/2/12 APP article “Advocate is not reappointed” about the dwindling membership on the Middletown Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Mayor Tony Fiore is quoted as saying he is unaware of any other Township resident who had expressed an interest in serving on the Commission, besides Dr. Schwebel, whose term expired at the end of 2011. Fiore is implying that a lack of willing candidates is the reason no appointments were made. However, as Brock Siebert’s appointment to the Library Board demonstrates, the Township will seek out candidates who haven’t necessarily expressed an interest in appointment. So Mr. Fiore’s excuse about the MHRC vacancies doesn’t fly. In fact, Dr. Schwebel knows at least one other person who applied but never received a response.

If you would like to see the MHRC survive and are interested in serving, you can find the board membership application….. Here

You may not hear back from the Township, but at least Mayor Fiore can’t say he didn’t know you were interested.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Carolyn Schwebel, Linda Baum, Middletown Human Rights Commission, Middletown Library, Tony Fiore

Letter: No Trustee Appointments

The following letter was received from Mr. Bob Latsch

A recent article in the Asbury Park Press stated that two appointees will be added to the Middletown Township Public Library’s Board of Trustees. Once before the Township Committee absconded with library funds to fill a hole in the township’s budget deficit. The voters as usual had nothing to say about this! Why?

Now with two trustee appointments along with the first current appointment, lets the mayor have voting control, control enough to take taxpayer funds as needed. These two appointees will not for the betterment of the Library, no they are there to control for Committee and Mayor not the Library or cardholders.
Trustees such as the last appointee are there at the behest of the mayor to do his bidding, appointments should not be. The right way is to have the library select the trustees then the public vote to accept or not.
The Middletown Public Library is just that, public for all. It is not a bank or cookie jar for the mayor to take from for holes in his budget. The appointed cronies have to go, let the voting public decide on trusteeship.
Bob Latsch
Belford, NJ

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Filed under Belford NJ, Board of Trustees, letter to the editor, Middletown Library, trustee appointments

Middletown Library Will Adhere To State Guidlines For The Selection Of Board Attorney

I think your readers should be aware that the Library follows the purchasing laws of the State for selecting all of its vendors and service providers. No one’s expressed “interest” in doing business with the library can supersede this process, or weigh the outcome.

The library puts out an annual Request for Proposal [RFP] for legal services, and the award is made to a firm/or individual within firm, based upon meeting the published criteria. The RFPs are available to the public via the library’s web page. http://www.mtpl.org This is the approved process, following the purchasing laws of the State of NJ.

It is unusual for the name of a prospective respondent to an RFP to be made public, as it was in the case of Linda Baum’s blog, but she had asked our Administrative Secretary a direct question about the identity of Mr. Leahy, and she received an accurate answer. Ms. Latona is not the “Library Administrator” as those responsibilities are mine alone.

The full body of the Board of Trustees will evaluate the responses to each RFP and make the decisions on the awards. It is not incorrect to use the words “appointed” for the legal counsel position, but the context should be that such appointment is made following the required legal process. It is possible that, due to timing issues, the selection of legal counsel for 2012 may be deferred to the February meeting, but I won’t know that for sure until I see how many responses we have, and how detailed they are, and, of course, what the will of the Board is in this regard.

Susan O’Neal, M.S.L.S.

Director
Middletown Township Public Library
55 New Monmouth Road
Middletown, NJ 07748

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Filed under Board of Trustees, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, Request for Proposal (RFP), Richard Leahey, Susan O'Neal

Attorney representing TOMSA and the Township also seeks appointment as Library Attorney at the January 18th Meeting of the Library Board

by guest blogger Linda Baum

In my 12/19/11 post, “Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) Board Member Soon To Join The Library Board??”, I mentioned there was an attendee at the 12/14/11 Library Board meeting whom I recognized from the TOMSA Board meetings. I didn’t know his name and he wouldn’t provide it. I speculated that he was one of the new Library Board appointees.

That man was also in attendance at the January 1st Township Reorganization Meeting, and I heard someone call him “Rich”. I’ve learned he is Richard Leahey, TOMSA attorney. Mr. Leahey — spelled also as “Leahy” on some Township resolutions — received several Township appointments for 2012, including Workers Compensation Counsel and Tax Appeals Counsel. In addition, Mr. Leahey works for Bernard Reilly’s law firm, which was awarded a Township contract to provide legal services as Conflicts Counsel. Bernard Reilly’s name should be familiar. Mr. Reilly, a prominent member of the republican party, is former Township attorney and is currently representing the owners of the Avaya site.

As it turns out, Richard Leahey is not one of the four people appointed by the Township to the Library Board. The School Superintendent’s appointee is still unknown but I’m told that historically the person selected is an educator. The Township appointees are Committeewoman Stephanie Murray (the mayor’s alternate replacing Committeeman Kevin Settembrino), Brock Siebert, Larry Nelsen, and Michael Convery, all registered republicans.

In my December 19th post, I mentioned that Mr. Leahey, then un-named, had visited the Library the day before the 12/14 Library Board meeting to obtain a copy of a resolution. He didn’t provide his name, or his motive, to Library staff at that time. I telephoned the Library last week to find out which resolution he requested and to provide them his name. I spoke to Wendy Latona, Library Administrator, who said she already knew his name because Mr. Leahey had come in to the Library a second time after the 12/14 Board meeting to introduce himself and express his interest in being appointed Library attorney. The resolution he requested provided some specifications for that role.

That I didn’t see coming. The conflicts of interest are numerous, and I am amazed that Mr. Leahey is so ethically challenged as to overlook them or to expect that the Library trustees would. It is not a secret that the Township Committee and the Library Board have been placed in an adversarial position as a result of what transpired last year. If Mr. Leahey has an eye on retaining his coveted Township appointments, how can he be counted on to fairly represent the Library’s interests? And is it proper that Mr. Leahey should represent both the Library and TOMSA, whose funds are also of interest to the Township, when more monies transferred to the Township by one client may mean less required by the other?

Maybe Richard Leahey knows something that we don’t know about his chances for appointment. I think he must or he would not have applied for the job in the first place. My concern is that the newly re-configured Library Board will appoint Mr. Leahey, regardless. If they do, it adds a whole new dimension to the game plan by Township officials where Library money is concerned. The first move was appointing a sitting Township Committee member as a Library trustee – that person cannot act in the best interests of both the Township and the Library. The second was politicizing the Board by appointing close party ties and increasing the Board’s size in a bid to gain control. Now, if Mr. Leahey is appointed as Library attorney, we can add pocket-lining to the list of offenses.

I’m told that the resolution Mr. Leahey requested specifies that legal experience with library matters is a criteria for appointment. If he doesn’t have that experience, it is enough to prevent his appointment, the conflicts aside. But Mr. Leahey must feel he is qualified, or else he would not have visited the Library a second time to formally present himself.

The Library Board holds its annual reorganization at its regular meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 7:00 p.m. If you can attend, please do. There should be a strong public presence there to watch how this all plays out.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Richard Leahey, TOMSA

Recommended Reading; APP: Exiting freeholder Amy Mallet pledges to stay involved, seeks seat on Brookdale board

If you haven’t read today’s edition of the Asbury Park Press jut yet, allow me to recommend the feature on the outgoing Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet. After reading I think you’ll agree, Monmouth County is about to lose a wonderful public servant.

It’s a well written piece that highlights not only Amy Mallet’s accomplishments as a Freeholder, but shows also how respected she was by others on the board, there are a couple of very nice comments attributed to John Curly and Thomas Arnone towards her.
Freeholder Mallet stated in the article that she doesn’t have any plans to seek office again this November but expressed her desire to be appointed to the Brookdale Community College Board of Trustees, where there are 3 open seats waiting to be filled.
I think she would be terrific in that capacity and I hope that politics doesn’t come into play with 3 seats on the board needing to be filled, remeber how she was out in front last year calling for the resignations of those responsible for the scandal that rocked Brookdale and forced College President Peter Burnham to resign and other to step down from the board of trustees.
Whatever the future holds for Freeholder Mallet, I wish her nothing but the best of luck pursuing her endeavors. I feel privileged to have gotten to know her over the past 4 years and know that she will be successful in which ever path she chooses to stroll down.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Brookdale Community College, Freeholder Amy Mallet, reorganization