Category Archives: Carolyn Schwebel

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

Martin Luther King and Middletown Human Rights

It is sad that at a time when we are remembering the civil rights efforts of Martin Luther King the Middletown Township Committee has taken steps to dissolving the Middletown Human Rights Commission (MHRC).

At the 2012 reorganization meeting the Middletown township committee added no members to the MHRC, which had only six members of a required eleven. Instead, the committee actually removed two, leaving only four!

Mayor Fiore commented that there are vacancies because he knows of no one interested in MHRC appointment. That is untrue; I know of at least one man, Jim, who applied a year ago and never had any response. He assumes that they checked his voter registration and threw out his application when they saw he was a Democrat. A former MHRC member commented two years ago, as a reason for not seeking reappointment, “There have been township people who have expressed interest in joining the MHRC and who many months ago have even submitted to the Township Committee a form expressing their interest. Yet the Township Committee still has not done anything to fill any of the many vacancies.”

Almost none of our members were appointed because they had specifically applied for the MHRC. They were put on as neighbors of a mayor or from a general talent bank application. Often they did not even know what the MHRC was about when they came to us as new appointees.

The mayor’s comment that many people have left MHRC is also not true. In 2011 just one member left, due to serious family illness and another in December 2009 out of frustration with the township committee, In a letter to them he noted, “The MHRC is the oldest human rights commission in the state of NJ. If done properly, it can have a significant positive impact on the quality of life in Middletown, yet because of the attitude and inaction of the Township Committee, I feel that I have been wasting my time being a member of the MHRC. The Middletown Township Committee doesn’t seem to care about the existence of the MHRC.”

Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Sincerely,
Carolyn Schwebel
Ex-chair, MHRC

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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, Martin Luther King Jr., Middletown Human Rights Commission

Quote Of The Day #2: “You can say it’s political…”

Our second quote of the day comes from newly reappointed Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore, from statements made to reporter Kevin Penton in todays Asbury Park Press concerning the appointments of members to (or lack thereof) the Middletown Human Rights Commission and its former Chairperson Carolyn Scwhebel.

“You can say it’s political, you can say it’s personal choice,” Fiore said. “She doesn’t work well with the town.”

Mrs. Scwhebel recently sent a letter to the editor, Middletown Human Rights Commission Being Abolished by Attrition, to local publication (this blog included) that expressed her concerns at not being reappointed to the commission.

And when you consider what went on during the last Township Committee meeting of 2011 back on Dec.19th, Fiore’s comments only reinforce what I wrote about in the post Political Affiliations Over Participation Matter More When It Comes To Board Appointments, when discussing an appointment to the Middletown Library Board (listen to the audio).

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, blog, Board of Trustees, Carolyn Schwebel, kevin penton, Middletown Human Rights Commission, Middletown Library, Quote of the day, Tony Fiore

Middletown Human Rights Commission Being Abolished by Attrition

In a response to my earlier post “Political Affiliations Over Participation Matter More When It Comes To Board Appointments“, Mrs. Carolyn Schwebel sent out a letter to numerous friends and supporters that concurs with much of what I posted. It seems that because Mrs. Schewebel has been an outspoken member of the Middletown Human Rights Commission, who has held the Township of Middletown accountable for its lack of attentiveness to the various issues concerning people with disabilities, the Human Rights Commission is dying a slow death and it seems that she will not be reappointed to the commission.
Here is what she wrote:

At the last Middletown Township committee meeting, a frequently outspoken resident commented that she had applied to be on the Library Board, the mayor told her that she had as much chance of being appointed as he had in getting her vote in the last election. His comment sounds like a quid pro quo to me, and reflects the political connection requirement for appointments to Middletown’s boards and commissions. A Library Board member has just been removed for presenting a minority view.

The Middletown Human Rights Commission (MHRC) had only six members of the required eleven seats. and unanimously asked the Township Committee to appoint new members in January 2012. No answer was received. Another member and I, whose terms ended in 2011, received no “thank you letter,” although the other members did, and no mention of being reappointed.

The resolutions for Middletown’s January 1, 2012 reorganization meeting show appointments to all boards and commissions except the Bayshore Village Senior Citizen Housing Corporation , which has no vacancies, and the Middletown Human Rights Commission. Neither I nor the other commissioner has been reappointed, although I have been the chair, with perfect attendance for many years.

It is of note that both MHRC members who were not reappointed have spoken out to advise the Township Committee. Both also have disabilities and use wheelchairs. Less than three years ago, Middletown settled a civil rights case of disability discrimination. An Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility suit has existed since 2004, with consent orders in 2006 and 2007 being unfulfilled by Middletown.

A Chinese aphorism recently in the New York Times stated that, “You cannot wrap a fire with paper: the truth will come out.”

It’s too bad that this type of stuff goes on, it just adds credence to what many already know which is, if you’re not one of the chosen elite in Middletown you need not apply.

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Filed under advisory boards and commissions, Carolyn Schwebel, Middletown Human Rights Commission, Middletown NJ

Letter – Grenafege & Fowler Support Open Government and the Broadcasting Public Meetings

To the Editor,

Late one weekend night I was flipping t.v. channels to view my new expanded line-up, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a lively meeting of the Howell township committee. Enthralled, I watched for over 45 minutes. Howell’s public service channel carries videotaped committee, planning and zoning meetings, repeated often and available for download.

My own township officials in Middletown adamantly refuse to offer videotaped meetings, which would be helpful for all, especially older people, workers, and people with disabilities. Are the officials fearful that they could not compete with :”Dancing with the Stars”? Committeeman Scharfenberger said that it would cost $100,000 to tape meetings, a gross exaggeration, then asserted that even at no cost he would not approve.

Candidates Jim Grenafege and Carol Fowler support open government, including videotaped meetings. It’s time for a change in township committee members.

Sincerely,

Carolyn Schwebel
Leonardo, NJ

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Filed under Carol Fowler, Carolyn Schwebel, Democratic Candidate, Jim Grenafege, letter to the editor, Middletown NJ, Public meeting, Video taping or recordings

Concerns and Advice for the Middletown Administration

by Carolyn Schwebel

Since I have been unable to attend township committee meetings, following are some of my own thoughts, concerns, and suggestions regarding Middletown matters. I am speaking for myself only.

Township committee meeting locations:

“It’s Your Town” reported about the May 3, 2010 Middletown Committee workshop meeting that “The workshop meeting was held in the Conference Room, which was filled to overflowing. People were sitting on the floor due to the lack of seating for the public and the room temperature was excessive because the day was unusually hot. The overflow crowd was remanded to the hallway for the duration of the meeting.”

A speaker at the May 3, 2010 meeting recommended moving workshop meetings from this small room to the courtroom when a prescribed number of people attend. I make the same request or else that all meetings be held in the larger room. If you want to keep the informal flavor for workshop meetings, there is no need to sit on the dais; the tables below it could be used. Otherwise, there are signs of disrespect for the citizens attending, ADA problems, including reduced hearing of the meeting, lack of proper seating, and probably violation of fire codes for maximum capacity of the small conference room.

Current revision efforts of Middletown Human Right’s Commission (MHRC) mission statement:

These revisions of the mission statements for the commissions and boards that “currently do not have clear definitions” were described by your attorney at the May 3, 2010 meeting as necessary for the Citizen Services Act. My review of that act, P.L. 2009, c.141, which provides revisions to NJSA 40A:9.12, and of the DCA advisory for it revealed that information required for a township directory should include C.40A:9-9.2 Directory of local authorities, boards, commissions…(f) the appointing authority and the enabling statute, ordinance, or resolution, if any.”

Nothing indicates that existing resolutions must be revised; Unilaterally changing the MHRC mission statement, which is part of its official bylaws, appears to be a violation of the bylaws procedures and Robert’s Rules of Order. For those boards and commissions that have no mission statements, rather than being written solely by an attorney, the mission statements should include input from members of the boards or commissions.

MHRC membership:

The MHRC membership requirement is set in resolution and bylaws at eleven members. We are deeply grateful for the four new members on 2010. Discussion by the Township Committee to reduce that number by nearly one-third is, however, unwarranted. Under P.L. 2009, c.141 when commission vacancies occur they must be filled in a timely manner:
“C.40A:9-12.1″h. Upon the removal of such officer for cause in accordance with law, or for any other reason prescribed by law. Whenever any of the above shall occur the appointing authority shall forthwith fill the office for the unexpired term in the manner prescribed by law…” (emphasis added).

To comply, please appoint members to our four remaining vacancies as soon as possible, preferably some with citizens who are racial minorities, since at present there is none in the membership.

Another committee may not be needed:

Creation of a Military Affairs committee, as suggested by the mayor, is surprising, since I had heard that the township committee was seeking to reduce the number of boards and commissions. Attention to our veterans is very important; in fact, as our minutes confirm, the MHRC has been looking at human rights issues for returning veterans for over a year. Due to a storm, we had to cancel a meeting at which an active, recent disabled veteran, head of a local VFW, would meet with us. He is scheduled for our September meeting. You are welcome to attend. The appointment of a recent veteran to the MHRC could help us with our goal of assisting veterans. We also have counseling and other helpful resource numbers for veterans.

Lack of response from Township Committee to MHRC requests for input:

Four years ago, in July 2006 (attached), MHRC sent a request to the Township Committee for suggested projects for the MHRC. No answer was ever received. Once again, a month ago, on April 12, 2010, our letter including the same request was hand-delivered to Town Hall for the Township Committee. We have not received a response, as of today, despite follow-up calls. Also, our vice chair and I made at least a dozen contacts by phone, e-mail, and in person to schedule the final part of the SPCA food drive, a publicity photo with the mayor to reemphasize for the public the continuing need for pet food and to provide positive image for the township in the media.

On each of these issues, we were not afforded the courtesy of a response. It is important that all members of the community, including volunteers, be given respect by the Township Committee and other leaders.

I will happy to discuss any of these items with you.

Cordially,
Carolyn Schwebel

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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, Middletown Human Rights Commission, Middletown Township, Middletown Township Committee

Letter: Like Cream Sean Byrnes Rises to the Top on Merit

Growing up in Vermont, we used to get milk delivered in glass bottles; always at the top was a big layer of cream that had risen. In awe of the effect, we would whip it for strawberry shortcake.

Whenever I hear the truism, “Cream rises to the top,” I think of that experience and have regularly seen that it really does happen: excellent people are recognized as such by their peers and given leadership roles.

I have seen Freeholder candidate Sean Byrnes rise to the top on his own merit. He has been recognized by very different newspapers. The triCityNews had a handsome front page picture and great review, even though they were supporting a Republican. The Asbury Park Press recently gave a glowing review and recommendation for this brilliant but humble man. The article disclosed how deeply he has already researched in detail the county finances and found ways to save our money.

In any direct interactions with him I have always found Sean to be honest, approachable, knowledgeable, fair, forthright, and helpful. I have been amazed at his bravery when I have heard him speak calmly but forcefully as he provided transparency at township committee meetings about what was really happening.

I am convinced that Sean Byrnes, the cream of the candidates, will be our next Monmouth County Freeholder, and I expect him to rise further. My only reservation is that we need him on the Middletown Committee. Nevertheless, I urge you to vote for him for Freeholder, where he can have a larger effect.

Carolyn Schwebel
Leonardo, NJ

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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, Letters, Sean F. Byrnes

Letter: That is why I shall vote for Patrick Short

I want to commend the efforts of Middletown Township Committee member Patrick Short to represent the Committee minority position and the majority of the taxpayers of Middletown. Too often the Republican committee people try to ramrod their proposals through without proper consideration of the budgetary cost. Too often the majority members try to control the information and limit the rights of the public. It is only through Patrick Short’s involvement that we now have minutes, resolutions, etc., online.

I just found a book title, “Listening is an Act of Love,” I believe that Patrick’s willingness to listen to us when we speak at meetings, instead of interrupting, whispering to a neighbor, fiddling with hair, arrogantly demanding his “proper” title, making faces, as the majority members have done, shows his great caring and respect for us citizens.

Patrick has kept his promises. I feel safe and represented when I see him on the podium. That is why I shall vote for Patrick Short in November and I recommend that you do the same to preserve his valuable voice on the Committee.

Carolyn Schwebel, Executive Director
Equalizers

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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, Election, Middletown Township Committee, Patrick Short

Update: TOMSA Complies With OPRA Request… Sort Of

I have an update to yesterdays post concerning the Township Of Middletown Sewage Authority’s stonewalling of Carolyn Schwebel’s OPRA request.
I received an email from Mrs. Schwebel stating that she received documents, via fax, of some of the documents that she had requested:
“The figures are large. I had asked for the TOMSA Commissioners’ pension, etc., but it’s not clear if they gave me that or the whole amount that includes TOMSA employees as well.

There is an arrogant resolution that at a meeting February 12, 2009, Tom Stokes made a motion that was passed unanimously that “each member of TOMSA” receive salary of $1750 except the chairperson who will get $2150 a year starting February 1, 2009! (Can they back date that way?

Lots of nerve in these times, when people are questioning TOMSA’s salary and the twp. committee has terminated its own.”


Carolyn Schwebel then sent a follow-up email that stated that she contacted TOMSA Director Patrick Parkinson for clarification:
“I have one question, as I’m not clear on terminology. I had asked for the TOMSA Commissioners’ pension ,insurance etc. Are the figures you sent for just the TOMSA commissioners, (Stokes, , Rogers, Raisch, Hinckley, Buow, Smith, Wrede) ) or do they also include payment for regular TOMSA employees as well.?”

Parkinson responded by writing,  “The pension payments are a total for all TOMSA employees.”

Come on Pat, this is totally unacceptable and a bad job on your part. 
You stonewall and provide false information to Mrs. Schwebel, in an attempt to discourage her request for information and them when you do provide the information, it is not the specific information that Mrs. Schwebel requested. 
Mrs. Schwebel sent me a copy of her OPRA request form and the documents that you supplied. She specifically stated that she was interested in just commissioners and alternate commissioners compensation. Not the two documents that you supplied her with that shows the total monthly cost of health benefits and pension for all that work for TOMSA
I am currently looking into the above statement of Mrs. Schwebel’s that mentions the raise in the yearly stipend that the TOMSA commissioner’s voted for themselves. This information was included with her OPRA request. When I track down further information on this, I’ll pass it along.    



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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, health benefits and pension, Middletown, OPRA requests, Patrick Parkinson, TOMSA

Township Of Middletown Sewage Authority (TOMSA) In Violation of OPRA Law

What is the Township Of Middletown Sewage Authority (TOMSA) hiding and why wont they comply with  OPRA requests?

Middletown resident Carolyn Schwebel has been trying for weeks to get information about compensation and benefits that are given TOMSA Commissioners. She wants to know if commissioners receive health benefits to go along with their maximum yearly stipend of $1750.
Health benefits for TOMSA commissioners has become a hot button issue among some in town since Committeeman Sean Brynes suggested that these benefits should not be awarded to Township appointed officials. 
Sean Brynes suggested during recent budget meetings, that in order to save township tax payers money during these hard economic times, the township should look into ending the practice of giving sewage authority commissioners health benefits.  According to TOMSA meeting minutes, most meeting last on average less than 1 hour per month.  Brynes therefore argued that to pay each of the 7 township committee appointed commissioners a stipend of $1750 per year and health benefits was excessive.
Committeeman Brynes’s suggestion to discontinue the practice of awarding benefits to TOMSA commissioners was dismissed entirely by the King and Queen of the Township Committee, Gerry (I want to be an Assemblyman) Scharfenberger and Pam Brightbill. Both argued that the  health benefits that the commissioners enjoy are not issued by the township but by TOMSA and therefore the township committee could not act to take away the benefits. When pressed further on the issue, the mayor and deputy-mayor simply resorted to the old standby line of  ” they do a good job so they deserve it”.
This answer lead to Mrs. Schwebel and others to seek the ordinances which established the creation of the sewage authority through an OPRA request.  For their effort they receive several ordinances and resolutions from the township clerk.       
Ordinance 1856, notes salaries to be paid to commissioners, but adds, “as shall hereafter be determined by the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority, provided, however, that in no event may any member receive any additional compensation for his services as officer, agent, or employee of such authority,” 
In no ordinance or resolution  was the issuance of health benefits stated or mandated by the Township Committee when it authorized the creation of TOMSA. In fact, it seems that the Township Committee was quite clear in ordinance 1856, that NO other compensation was to be given to commissioners. So what happened to change this?  Carolyn Schwebel was told by the township clerk that she would have to submit a separate OPRA request with TOMSA to find out. So, that is exactly what she did.
Finally on Friday of this past week, Carolyn Schwebel received word that her OPRA request was ready for pick-up and that it would cost her $1.00 per page. When she stated that she had requested that the pages be faxed or emailed to her because she has a disability and it is hard for her to get around, therefore there should be no cost.
When she insisted to the secretary that her request should be faxed or emailed to her as OPRA guide lines allow, the director of TOMSA, non other than are very own disgraced former mayor, Patrick Parkinson said “We don’t do that”‘ and that the payment is to pay them for “running around collecting the stuff.” Parkinson said, “We have always done it this way, and they do it all over the state.”.
Mrs. Schwebel said to Patrick Parkinson, that OPRA materials and Middletown clerk’s OPRA request form describes the 75 cents per page as a copying fee only, and “The fees for duplication of a government record in printed form are listed on the front of this form.”

She told him the town clerk, does not refuse to send fax or e-mail responses. Parkinson responded by saying that they have nothing to do with the township clerk, and that they have their own form. Parkinson said that he would mail her OPRA response once they had her check.

This is truly an outrage and unfortunately this type of behavior seems to be standard practice amongst Middletown GOP members. When residents ask hard questions or seek out information that may be embarrassing to the local GOP, people like Patrick Parkinson, Gerry Scharfenberger or Pam Brightbill will either refuse to answer them, stonewall  or discourge people from abtaining  the information that they are after.
As Carolyn Schwebel states in her letter sent to township officials and copied to me:
“I am concerned that in spite of their salary, medical benefits, and pension, the Middletown Sewerage Authority Commissioners are not demonstrating proper oversight of TOMSA. This violation of OPRA has apparently existed since the beginning of OPRA. The policy needs to be rectified by the TOMSA commissioners and you. Other residents have no doubt been given the wrong information already and have had to go in and pay to get printed copies that they neither needed not wanted. The policy under TOMSA can be a to burden older people, working people and those with disabilities.”

Stop the stalling TOMSA and send the documents that Mrs. Schwebel has requested.  Stop trying to cover up and be forthright with Middletown residents by answering the questions. 
Are commissioners of  TOMSA receiving other benefits other than the stipend originally outline in township ordinance 1856? If so, why? And who authorized commissioners to receive health benefits and a state pension? I and others would like to know.       


   

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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, Middletown Township, OPRA requests, Patrick Parkinson, Sean F. Byrnes, Sewage Authority, TOMSA