Category Archives: Kevin Settembrino

Library Board Treasurer Sherry Miloscia Resigns

According to tonights article posted online at the Asbury Park Press, Middletown mayor wants library chief to resign for selling his own books to library, board treasurer Sherry Miloscia has resigned her position as Treasurer of the Middletown Library.

According to the APP, Miloscia resigned shortly after Tony Fiore sent his letter of wrong doing to the library board accusing Board President Randall Gabrielan of unethically and inappropriately selling books to the library and asking for his resignation as President of the Library Board of Trustees.
The APP’s article has a little bit more information pertaining to the book sales in question that have been going on for the past several years and were apparently OK with the Township Committee because nothing was ever said or acted upon until know even with Committeeman Kevin Settembrino sitting on the the Library Board as the Mayor’s Designee last year .
The article states:

Of each of the $20 to $30 books that the library purchased, Gabrielan said he ultimately received 40 percent. Of the $778.45, 40 percent would total $311.38.

With Sherry Miloscia’s resignation, it seems that Tony Fiore and the Middletown GOP have gotten what they wanted even if Randall Gabrielan doesn’t resign his position. Once they appoint their hand picked replacement of Miloscia, they will have wrestled control away from the protectors of the library so that they will have free access to any and all surplus or reserved funds that the library may be able to accumulate for a rainy day and redirect it for their own purposes.

UPDATE :

The APP has edited it’s story for the todays morning printed edition.

As it turns out Sherry Miloscia DID NOT resign after Fiore sent his letter to the Library Board but resigned on on January 20th, which was before the letter was sent.
Below is the edited version appearing in print today:

On Jan. 20, a couple of days before Fiore sent his letter, board treasurer Sherry Miloscia resigned from her unpaid position, she said.

Miloscia, whose signature also appears on several of the invoices, did not comment beyond specifying when she resigned. Her term was due to expire at

the end of the year.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, Randall Gabrielan, resignation, Sherry Miloscia, unethical behavior

A Few Words About Middletown’s Reorganization

Just a quick word about Sunday’s Middletown Reorganization meeting being held at Town Hall @ noon.

Seeing how the Middletown Republicans have already “leaked” their intentions to reappoint Tony Fiore as Mayor and Steve Massell as Deputy Mayor, I have to wonder why?

Steve Massell is up for reelection this year and historically (thought not always the case recently) , the person on the Township Committee seeking reelection is appointed mayor, but I guess, seeing how Massell hasn’t made more than a handful of public comments during his 2+ years of tenure on the Township Committee and often seems as if he doesn’t want to be up there on the dais, and if you take into consideration the rumor that has been circulating for the past few months about how Massell doesn’t intend to seek reelection anyway after his current term expires at the end of 2012, the Republicans couldn’t appoint him mayor.

Why reappoint Tony Fiore as mayor than?

I suppose it must have more to due with Fiore’s abrasive, arrogant and cocksure personality than the actual job he did representing the Township as the committee’s mouthpiece.
Beside, who else could it be?
Gerry Scharfenberger? No, I don’t think so. He is too much of a polarizing figure and is a lighting rod that has attracted too much controversy over the years. Governor Christie wouldn’t want his favorite employee in the spotlight taking away any of the attention from himself while making a run to be either Mitt Romney’s Vice -Presidential or possible his candidate for U.S. Attorney General.
Kevin Settembrino? After his snake-in-the-grass performance doing the Township Committee’s dirty work of threatening the Middletown Library Board of Trustees to turn over nearly $500K of surplus and reserved funds or else the Middletown Library system would be over to the County and all the while pitting the Library Board against the Middletown Police, saying that if the funds weren’t turned over the Middletown Library would be solely responsible for Police layoffs. Settembrino didn’t make many friends in his first year on the Committee to say the least, but next year will be his year to shine as mayor.
And of course there is just no way Stephanie Murray could have been placed in either position in her very first year.
So Tony gets to be mayor again by default.
Also, I would like to thank all of those who will be appointed and reappointed to the various board and commission sponsored by the Township, most are volunteers and give of themselves freely to help out others and regardless of how partisan the process of their appointments are they deserve to be thanked.

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Filed under Gerry Scharfenberger, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, reorganization, Stephanie Murray, Steve Massell, surplus funds, Tony Fiore

Purpose Of Proposed Ordinance To Expand Middletown’s Library Board Is Questioned

Dear Mike,

As an advocate of our excellent Middletown Township library system, I am very concerned about the ordinance being presented at Monday’s (12/19/11) Township Committee Meeting regarding the addition of two Library Board members. This ordinance allows for the current seven member Board to be expanded to nine members as appointed by the mayor and his governing body. One Board member is the school Superintendant’s alternate pick (and therefore not chosen by the Township Committee).
Some may see this ordinance as a well intended gesture to “increase public participation” in the Library Board decision making process. However, based on the events of this past February, I am skeptical that the addition of two members is anything but a political move to put people in place to advance the agenda of the Township Committee.
Can we trust that the intention of this ordinance is not to divert money to the MTC budget when Committeeman Settembrino, in his role as Library Board member, pushed to have $500,000 transferred from the Library budget to the MTC budget, thereby depleting the library reserves? Mr. Settembrino acted in accordance with his role as a Committeeman to advocate for the taxpayer and provide property tax relief to our residents by plugging a budget hole with this money transfer. However, his action neglects his Library Board Trustee duty to be an advocate for a robust library system.
How can this new, larger Board remain independent when its members may be beholden to the desires of their appointees? The interests of the Township Committee may permeate this independent Board and take precedence over the best interests of the library and the public whom the Board is meant to serve.
The Library Board members must first and foremost be advocates of the library, and their fiduciary responsibility would require them to protect the library budget so that it meets the needs of the library and its patrons. Can we trust that Mr. Fiore will require his appointees to serve our needs, and not his own?
Thank you for all that you do to keep residents informed of the actions of their local government.
Warm Regards,

Melanie Elmiger

Note:
For more on this topic read “The $500,000 Raid On The Middletown Library Won’t Be The Last” and the comments that accompany the post along with APP: Middletown requests library hand over surplus of over $542G and Meeting Minutes From Library Board’s January 19th Meeting Contradicts What Was Said By Township Committee Members At Last Wednesday Night’s Meeting. You can also access the archives of this blog for various updates and opinions on this topic.

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Filed under Kevin Settembrino, letter to the editor, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, public hearing, resolutions and ordinances, surplus funds, Tony Fiore

It’s Your Town – Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 23-12/05/11

The Holiday season is upon us and in full swing which means that I have been a little busy over the past few days getting the house in order and my shopping taken care and wrapping, so I’ve been a little behind in my blogging.

Here is the latest issue of It’s Your Town Newsletter which covers the December 5 th Middletown Township Committee Workshop meeting. For those in attendance, it was a very short meeting lasting less than 30 minutes and seemed as a nuisances for those that represent the people of the township to be sitting there. Committeeman Settembrino never once pulled his nose away from his iPad, I witnessed him constantly tapping and scrolling between screens.

Committeeman Scharfenberger and CFO Nick Transente seemed equally engaged in their iPad and smart phone respectively speaking.
One of the few pieces of business that was discussed was an ordinance that was introduced to set a new salary structure for non-contractual employees, no discussion took place and it was moved by the Committee to be voted on at the December19 meeting.

Also a special meeting of the Township Committee was scheduled for Monday, December 12 to adopt a resolution to accept the vendor for the MCIA bid proposal that was to be awarded for the Township’s solar project. This meeting however was canceled later in the week without explanation.

Read the Newsletter …. Here

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Filed under Gerry Scharfenberger, Its Your Town, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, Nick Transente, workshop meeting

>The Middletown Library "Unfinished Business": The latest on the $500K transfer, the lot construction, the Lincroft Branch, and other issues.

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

Mike mentioned in a 5/17/11 post that a number of ongoing issues were slated to be discussed at this Wednesday’s 5/18/11 meeting of the Middletown Library Board, which I attended.

One issue concerned the parking lot expansion project. As Mike said, the Board had been told by the town that T&M Engineering would be the engineer for this work. The Board was given no other option or opportunity to compare costs, but will be responsible for paying the bill for these services.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the trustees voiced concern about the use of T&M, pointing out that the Board had not been satisfied with T&M’s services on a prior project. They were told that T&M is the town’s engineer for capital projects for 2011, so to the extent that the lot construction is designated as one of the town’s capital projects this year, T&M will be the engineer. So says the town.

Maser Consulting had been hired by the Library to do initial design work for the lot prior to the town’s taking of funds. That work is complete except for coordination with the engineer of choice.

It wasn’t clear if a decision had been made about who would pay for the actual construction, the Town or the Library. While the lot expansion was “included” in the $500K transfer agreement between the Library and the Township, the question of who would pay was left unanswered. Committman Settembrino’s comment at Wednesday’s meeting that the library would be responsible for “soft costs” (such as the engineering costs) seemed to imply that the library would not be responsible for the “hard costs” for actual construction.

The Library Board is making no assumptions – they are more likely to be on the hook than not. In fact, they haven’t decided to go ahead with any of the work. The Board feels they may not have sufficient funds.

There are still a number of steps and hurdles before the $500K transfer can be made. First, focus groups must be completed and a strategic plan finalized, and a package of materials including those pieces submitted to the State Librarian for approval. Committeman Settembrino said that Town personnel were under the impression that the package would be submitted to the state by the end of May, but Ms. O’Neal pointed out that the Board couldn’t submit the package to the state until the Board passes a resolution that it has filled all the requirements, where 4 out of 5 pieces require the Board’s approval. A decision was made to finalize review of the strategic plan at the Board’s June 15th meeting, in line with Committeeman Settembrino’s request that discussion take place before the Town’s regular meeting on June 20th.

An important point is that there is no guarantee the State Library will give its approval. Ms. O’Neal commented that the State could take issue with the reserve figure in the Library’s audit, where the reserve includes funds from municipal and other sources.

Some other topics discussed at the meeting:

The Lincroft branch is believed to have lead-based paint and asbestos in the walls given the age of the structure. The paint isn’t peeling, and therefore poses no danger. A concern about the asbestos is that it may be in the walls of the front entryway, which has termite damage. So there are costs involved for the inspection and abatement plan in addition to the repair work. An architect will be presenting on this topic at the Board’s June 15th meeting.

There was discussion about the need for either curbs or reflectors or boulders to prevent people from parking on the grass in certain sections of the library’s lot. (I bet you didn’t know that the fancy boulders in the lot aren’t just there for looks. Nope, they’re there to assist you in stopping.) The Board concluded that posts with reflectors would get the job done at a reasonable cost.

Kudos to Eagle Scout Andrew Bloy, who will be allowed to place a collection jar at the Library’s front desk because he has demonstrated considerable community benefit. Allowing the collection effort represents an exception by the Board to Library policy. The Board was impressed with Mr. Bloy’s request letter and community involvement. In fact, they mentioned that after Mr. Bloy learned that planting a medicinal herb garden at a local medical office would not earn him scouting credit, he did it anyway.

The Board discussed a software donation offer by a local company called Comprise Technologies. The software, offered free for six months, is designed to process payments made by credit card. The Board noted that credit cards are being used with increasing frequency for the payment of library fines. Comprise Technologies will be presenting at the Library Board meeting on July 20th. There are ongoing expenditures to be considered, including fees for the software and service, and costs for integration with other library systems. There was also discussion of implementing a charge for credit card payments, but the Board instead opted to request a donation when credit cards are used. The thinking is that folks probably wouldn’t mind rounding up their payment to the next dollar, at least.

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Filed under audit, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Eagle Scout, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, NJ State Library, Susan O'Neal, transfer of funds, unfinished business

>Middletown Library’s $500,000 Forfeiture Is Not a Done Deal

>

by guest blogger Linda Baum

By now you’ve probably heard that, under heavy pressure from the Town Committee, the Library Board agreed to give nearly $500,000 of Library funds to the Township. I attended the Board meeting on 4/13/11 and learned that there are still issues to be resolved before the money can be transferred. My meeting notes were included in Mike’s 4/15/11 post. Those notes tell you the “what and when”, but there was much more to what transpired.

As Mike mentioned, the $500K transfer cannot be finalized until the State Library approves the deal, and there are a number of specific requirements that must first be met. Among these is the formation of a strategic plan that includes focus group feedback. My understanding is that ordinarily a strategic plan doesn’t have to involve focus groups. However, they are required in this case.

The Library Board last did a strategic plan in 2004 for the 3-5 year period going forward. That plan is now outdated. Per Library Director Susan O’Neal, work toward a new strategic plan began in 2009 but was not completed for lack of time and resources to devote to it. She feels strongly that a meaningful strategic plan is necessary and she expressed that opinion to the Board.

Committeeman Settembrino, who was clearly planted on the Board to see to the Town’s interests and not the Library’s, pressed for a quick finish. He insisted on a hurried approach that uses outdated data and places the burden of running focus groups on Library staff. With a quick switch of hats, he outright rejected a suggestion that the Town pay for an outside consultant to run the focus groups. (And why shouldn’t the Town pay? After all, the Town benefits because the work is for the sole purpose of finalizing the transfer.) I was stunned that Settembrino was allowed to unilaterally dismiss such a reasonable idea. I feel the Board should have required that the suggestion be presented to the Town Committee before any decision was made.

Ms. O’Neal stated that it would be inappropriate for Library staff to be involved in the focus group surveys because the standards established by the State Library specifically direct Library staff to offer guidance, but not to formulate the plan. Staffers’ involvement would also affect the quality of results, compromising the Board’s own standards. Add to the list that Susan’s time and that of other Library staff is stretched too thin already. She made a strong point that the failure to complete work started in 2009 is evidence that the help of an outside professional is needed.

Just as soon as Susan finished speaking, Settembrino made a motion for her to oversee all work.

Unfortunately, he got his way. A resolution was passed to handle the work internally, and a completion date of May 30th was set.

As part of that whole discussion, there was heated back and forth about the timing of the transfer. Kevin grilled Susan about what she was told by CFO Nick Trasente and Administrator Tony Mercantante about when they wanted the money. She told him that it was out of her hands, that the Board was required to meet the terms of the State Librarian, not the time table of the Town Committee. (The Town Committee should be well aware of that because the transfer requirements are clearly spelled out in official documents.)

In a comment to Mike’s 4/15/11 post, it was mentioned that the money doesn‘t have to be transferred right away to be included in the Town’s 2011 budget(Anon 4/16/11@8:51 pm). That makes sense. So if the delay won’t affect budget finalization, why the push to get the cash now versus at the end of the summer? That’s a question we should be asking.

Mr. Settembrino again appeared to be acting on the Town’s behalf when he pushed for early preparation of the Library’s 2012 draft budget, which already is done many months ahead of the Town’s. (In fact, if history is any indicator, the Town’s 2012 draft budget won’t be done ‘till well into 2012.) Ms. O’Neal and the other Board members pointed out that the usual October preparation of the Library’s budget has never presented a problem before – there has always been plenty of time for review. But Settembrino wanted it done sooner. He appeared to be setting the stage for the next raid. As I listened, my mouth fell open.

In the days following the meeting, I came by some additional information. Did you know that Town Committee members Pam Brightbill and Gerry Scharfenberger attended Library Board meetings in 2010 to lay the groundwork for the current grab? On the sideline, the Town’s attorney, Brian Nelson, lobbied for the law change that would allow them to move forward with their attack.

In response to those early overtures, last year the Library Board formally requested information from the Township. They received no reply.

You may have heard recently that the State Department of Community Affairs has required the Township to complete a corrective action plan for disparities found in its 2009 audit. I feel this is something we should be looking at much more closely.

There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, Kevin Settembrino, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, State Librarian, strategic plan, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal

>Many Questions Remain; Middletown’s Library Surplus Issue Far From Settled And Could Be Derailed

>There was another Middletown Library Board meeting this past Wednesday night and if you weren’t there to witness the goings on you missed a lot. Evidently many questions arose over the the time table for which the Township Committee expects to be paid the $500,000 that it practically extorted form the library in order to fill a budget gap in it’s own 2011 budget, and what was required by the State Librarian before those dollars could be legally transferred.

If it weren’t for the lone member of the public who attended this meeting( that’s correct, no one else other that then Board members were in attendance), Linda Baum, no one would know that there is a problem brewing over these funds once again.

According to the NJ State Librarian, before surplus funds can be transferred from the Middletown Library to the Township Committee, a strategic plan must be prepared. The plan would need to include a number of focus group opinions, which would take time to complete. Only after this was all completed, could the plan to transfer funds from the library to the township be completed. Library Director Susan O’Neal estimated that it would take until August to complete.

Of course this did not sit very well with Township Commiteeman Kevin Settembrino, who was appointed to the Library Board by the mayor. Settembrino wanted the transfer of funds to take place with in four weeks so that the the Township’s budget could be finalized.

Ms. Baum took minutes of the meeting for herself and passed them along to me to share:

The library mtg ran three hours. Got heated in parts. The number of people in the audience including me: One. Here are the main points:

There are certain requirements the library must meet before the state librarian will approve the giveback. Formation of a strategic plan is required, and focus groups are a required part. Ms. O’Neal estimated an August 2011 completion date for both. Mr. Settembrino didn’t like that at all — he felt it would delay finalization of the town’s budget. They discussed hiring a professional to conduct the groups at a cost of $3K max. A resolution to that effect was voted down 3-2. Some felt it could be done by library staff, while others felt staff lacked the time and that focus group participants would not be comfortable with library staff leading the groups. A few didn’t want to spend money to give away money. Ms. Breen asked Kevin if the town would pay for it since they gain from it. He declined of course. Issues were cost, whether they could get community participation, and whether or not there was a need for new focus groups or if existing data could be used — a survey was done in 2004. Mr. Settembrino proposed using the 2004 survey results to produce the focus group report for inclusion in the new strategic plan. A resolution to do it internally was passed 3-2. Mr. Settembrino revisited the timeline and asked for completion in 4 weeks. Ms. O’Neal said the end of May would be more achievable. Mr. Milne questioned if, by doing the focus groups themselves and/or by utilizing data already in hand, the library would be at risk of not getting the approval from the state librarian. (Let’s hope so.) They don’t know how much leeway they have.

(I thought of a few good ideas to simplify and speed the process, but I realized whose side I was on and kept quiet.)

It got heated when Mr. Settembrino scoffed about library employees resistance to doing the extra work in light of their recent raises (you know, the one dollar per week). Wendy Latona let him have it. She brought up the $15,000 stipend.

The next issue was about the 2009 audit results. Discussion was specifically about around $88K in library money that was left on the table but not known about in February. Kevin asked if this would affect the decision on the giveback. The board felt the issue was handled and would not affect the giveback. Ms. O’Neal said she had not yet talked with Nick Trasente, and wanted to address 2009 as well as 2010 issues. I got a little confused here. I asked if the board’s concern about the audit related to just the $88k issue. Yes, they said. I said that I had reviewed the corrective action plan and felt much was not addressed. I asked them to consider revisiting the giveback decision as new information comes to light.

Mr. Settembrino asked when the preliminary 2012 budget comes out. Ms. O’Neal said the draft budget (in the range of $3.5M) is done in October when the official rateables comes out. Settembrino pushed to get it earlier, saying the rateables is out now. Susan said she is required to use the official figure released in October. Kevin said he felt leaving the initial release till October didn’t leave enough time to review or make changes as needed, or whatever. Ms. O’Neal replied, “Duly noted.” I don’t know if there was any offer to meet an earlier target. Ms. Breen complimented Susan on being a great director and told Kevin it seemed like he was scolding.

There were other topics discussed relating to library spending for travel and repairs. The Lincroft branch has termite damage in the entryway.

Coverage or lack thereof for underground storage tanks was touched upon. Property coverage for the library is included under the town’s policy, which is an excess policy. Kevin will check into coverage.

There was a resolution to allot more money to the library’s attorney, whose fees ran over due to the recent funding battle. It passed.

Minutes from the 2/16 and 3/16 mtgs were adopted. I have a printed copy of minutes from 2/16 – 19 pages. I didn’t get a copy of the 3/16 minutes, but will ask Wendy for it.

Feel free to distribute.

Linda

I’ll be posting more about this over the next couple of days.

Things here just don’t seem right to me and if Settmebrino or the rest of those on the Township Committee wanted their money right away, then I think they should have done their homework properly to find out if there would be potential problems. But like so much that those that run Middletown do, this attempt to wrestle funds from the Library was done haphazardly and with authoritarian zeal without knowing the consequences of their actions.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, NJ State Library, reserved funds, State Librarian, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal

>Integrity and Independence Of Middletown Library Is Now And Forevermore Compromised

>By now most everyone who is interested, knows about the outcome of Wednesday night’s Middletown Library Board meeting. After much bantering, chest beating and ideal threats by members of the Township Committee toward those who sit on the Middletown Library Board of Trustees, the members of the board decided that it was better to cave into Township demands than risk their positions as board members. By a 5 to 2 vote members of the Library Board of Trustees decided to handover nearly $500,000 worth of surplus and reserved funds to the Township, even though it may compromise the Library at a later date.

I’ve been asked by a number of people what my thought’s and feelings are about what transpired Wednesday night but I wasn’t in attendance, I worked late and couldn’t make it home in time, but after speaking with a few people that were there and reading the accounts of the meeting online at the Asbury Park Press, Redbankgreen.com and Middletown patch.com, I’ve read and heard enough to form an opinion.

I think that the integrity and independence of the Middletown Library and it’s current Board of Trustees has now and forevermore been compromised due to their majority decision of support, to handover reserved funds to the Township for little more than a veiled promise of not turning the operations of the Library over to Monmouth County and not seeking anymore funds from the Library for the rest of 2011.
Remember this controversy came to light because Library Treasurer and Trustee Sherry Miloscia, sent out an impassioned email back on February 11th to library supporters that went viral, stating that the Township had made threats against the library and it’s Board of Trustees if they refused to hand over $1.2 million from the coffers, even though most of the money in question was restricted and not really surplus.
After that a war of words exploded between Mayor Fiore and Library Director Susan O’Neal, each releasing statements before the February 16th Library Board meeting in which the Township wanted an answer as to how much funds they could extort, I mean expect, from the Library.
That meeting was heavily attended and many of those in attendance made impassioned pleas of their own in support of the library, it seemed that the Board of Trustees were energized and encouraged by the show of support, to stand firm against handing over anymore funds to the Township than was legally required. Unfortunately however, the firmness of the Trustees seemed to wain over the weeks as fewer supporters turned out to voice concerns at subsequent Township Committee and Library Board meetings, ultimately ending with the outcome as reported.
In succumbing to the pressure of the Township Committee, those members of the Board of Trustees that voted to hand over reserved funds over and above the verified surplus, giving all but $66,000 to the Township, broke their vow to individuals that had donated private funds in support of the library, that wished to see their endowments used for the enrichment of the library, not the Township Committee.
I suppose though that’s OK seeing how the Township has promised to fund, through bonding, projects that the Library already had the funds to pay for upfront and will now be required to reimburse the Township for afterwards, like the parking lot expansion and solar panel projects that the Library already started planning for and spent money on.
What incentive does the Library Board of Trustees now have to save and run the library prudently or build surplus funds for capital projects and rainy day items like new computers or furnishing for the comfort and enjoyment of their customers, the Middletown residents? None I would say, because anytime that perceived funds exist that seem to be over and above the legal amount set by the state in which the library can hold in surplus, the Middletown Committee will be looking to confiscate it. And with this being the case, why would any private individual donate funds to the Middletown library every again? A fundraiser for the library you say, well good luck with that. No one in their right mind could ever support such a thing again.
The only two Board Trustees that I can honestly say came out off this situation with their integrity intact are Board President and Vice President Randal Gabrielan and Gregory Milne. They opposed this transfer of funds on the grounds that it was excessive and would compromise the Library down the road.
They didn’t roll over out of fear of losing their board positions, like a few of the people I talked to suggested the other board members had.
Gabrielan and Milne were not impressed and didn’t feel threatened by fellow Board Trustee, Township Committeeman Kevin Settembrino, with his silver and slippery tongue. They understand the consequence that this action represents, which is that forevermore, the library will no longer be seen as an independent entity, free from political preying hands and political whims of those that run the Township.
I wouldn’t be surprised by the fact that when Randal Gabrielan and Gregory Milne’s terms expire as Library Trustees, they will not be re-appointed. Current Township Committee members made that abundantly clear when they expressed displeasure with Trustees on the night of February 16th, when those members made statements to the effect that they had appointed the trustees to the the library board and they were shocked by the trustees behavior.
Time will tell whether or not the Library Board of Trustees made the right decision in selling out to the Township. Everyone knows that the Township Committee is short sighted in many of thing that they do, this money grab is no different, next year and the year after that, and the year after that, Middletown will still be looking at structural problems within its operating budget with nowhere else left to turn.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Kevin Settembrino, Library Reserves, Middletown Library, Middletown Patch, RedBankGreen.com, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal, Tony Fiore

>It’s Your Town – Newsletter Volume 3, Issues 3 & 4- 2/07/11 & 2/22/11; Issue 4 Contains Latest News On Fight For Library Surplus Funds

>The latest editions of the It’s Your Town Newsletter are now available for reading.

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, so I never got around to posting Issue #3 of the newsletter a couple of weeks ago.
Issue #3 contains information about the proceedings of the February 7th Middletown Township Committee Workshop meeting, while Issue #4 deals with what happened during last Tuesday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Middletown Township Committee.
It should be noted for those that have not been able to attend meetings of the Township Committee yet this year, there is a stark contrast as to how these meetings are now being conducted with a 5-0 Republican super majority controlling the Township Committee this year and how meeting had been conducted during the past 4 years when a Democrat sat on the Committee.
Very little to no discussions take place between Committee members about proposed ordinances or resolutions, massive consent agendas that contain several or more items are passed without public discussion and meetings have been over very quickly.
It seems that local government transparency has taken a step backward this year.
Issue #4 of the newsletter should be of particular interest to readers who have followed the news of how the Township Committee has been attempting to extort surplus funds from it’s public library, which is in clear violation of state statute.
During public comments Library Director Susan O’Neal, spoke about the virtues of the library and attempted to talk about the perceived surplus funds that the Township insists are available for it’s taking, but when she was badgered and talked down to rather arrogantly by appointed mayor Tony Fiore, she ended the discussion and sat down.
Resident Melanie Elmiger also spoke on the Library and asked why was Committeeman Settembrino appointed to the Library Board, what qualifications did he have to serve on the Board and whether or his presence on the Board was in conflict with his position as a Township Committee person.
Read Issue #3 >>>> Here Read Issue #4 >>>> Here

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Filed under budget surplus, Its Your Town, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, Newsletter, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal, Tony Fiore

>Meeting Minutes From Library Board’s January 19th Meeting Contradicts What Was Said By Township Committee Members At Last Wednesday Night’s Meeting

>Over the weekend I took the time to read through the January 19th minutes of the Middletown Library Board of Trustees meeting which are posted on the Middletown Library’s website.

Having sat through most of last Wednesday night’s Trustees meeting and now subsequently reading through the minutes of the January 19th meeting, it is extremely hard for me to believe that Middletown’s acting mayor, Tony Fiore and the rest of the Township Committee members that were in attendance, including Kevin Settembrino who is now sitting on the Library’s Board of Trustees as the Mayor’s representative, weren’t being honest or sincere about Middletown’s budget situation, the amount of money that the Township expected the Library to hand over, the threat to make the library pay market value rent to the Township for the 3 township owned builds that house the Library system or the future of the library.
In his comments to the Board of Trustees, Tony Fiore stated the Township wasn’t asking for specific amounts of cash from the Library’s perceived surplus and that their were no plans to make the library pay rent or turn over it’s operations of the library to the County. However, based on the minutes from January 19th, Kevin Settembrino made it very clear to other members of the Library’s Board of Trustees that this wasn’t the case.
At one point during the meeting Board President Randall Gabrielan, felt it necessary to “reminded Mr. Settembrino that the Library is a separate board and that it has been so designated for 130+ years to specifically keep libraries out of politics. He also mentioned that the first and utmost role of a Library Trustee is to be advocate of the library.“, when arrogantly told that Library Trustees were appointed by the Township Committee and that the Library should be working toward township goals.

Below are the excerpts from the January 19th meeting minutes that pertain to what Committeeman Settembrino stated to the Board of Trustees that night. I highlighted the passages that I see as contradicting from what we heard at the February 16th (last Wednesday night) meeting:

…Ms. O’Neal handed out the 2011 organizational chart as well as a cost analysis for Sunday operation at the library that had been requested by Ms. Miloscia.

Ms. O’Neal mentioned the newly revised “Budget Reduction Worksheet” had now about $160,000 in potential savings to be applied to the 2011 budget and beyond.

Ms. O’Neal reported that her 2001 Budget meeting with the Township Administrator, Asst. Administrator and CFO went well. She said that she and Mr. Trasente had a productive meeting and that she was confident that they could reconcile some of the budget issues.

Mr. Settembrino spoke candidly to the Board and told the Trustees that it is the Township Committee elected officials that have appointed them and that the Library Trustees should be working together with the Township to achieve the Township’s goals. Mr. Gabrielan reminded Mr. Settembrino that the Library is a separate board and that it has been so designated for 130+ years to specifically keep libraries out of politics. He also mentioned that the first and utmost role of a Library Trustee is to be advocate of the library.

Mr. Settembrino told the Board that the Township sent a letter of appeal to DCA in regards to the rate-ables for Middletown. Settembrino said that the Township Committee wants the Library Board agree to take a $333,000 cut in its budget before the reassessments are completed. He said that the impact is inevitable in 2012 and that they would like to see the Library buy into this reduction to help contribute to reducing the budget deficit. He will come to February 16th meeting and reopen this issue for a vote from the Board of Trustees so that the Township can introduce its budget for the March 15, 2011 Township Committee meeting. Mr. Settembrino detailed the situation.

  • • Tax appeals in 2010 cost the Township 1 million dollars

  • • The revals were done near market peak so tax appeals were expected to continue to be high in number

  • • Reassessment will more accurately reflect market values

  • • The 2011 Township Budget will not exceed 2% cap


Ms. O’Neal replied that since DCA hadn’t yet agreed to the lower evaluation amount it stands currently that the library will receive approximately 3.7 million dollars for its budget. Mr. Gabrielan said that the library will operate under the State’s formula. Mr. Settembrino replied that even if the formula doesn’t change for 2011, the Township would like the library to send those funds back to the municipality and that there is no restriction on the amount of money the board votes to provide to the municipality. Ms. Cavalier said that if the 1/3 of a mil goes down considerably the library board is going to have to study what its options are and the procedures. Mr. Milne said that the board needs to know the outcome of the appeal on the published October equalized valuation or the new numbers before any decision can be made. Mr. Milne added that he needed to review all the material before making comments on a budget reduction or giveback of that magnitude.

Ms. O’Neal said that $333,000 is a large sum of money to add to the already known 4.5% reduction for 2011 and that the lower rateables in 2012 will make it very difficult for the library.

Ms. Breen asked if this completed Mr. Settembrino’s agenda with the Library Board and he said “No”.


Mr. Settembrino brought up the debt service payments of Main. He said that the library was bonded for 7.243 million dollars and that 3.1 million dollars is the balance that has to be paid by 2022. Mr. Settembrino said he speaks for the entire Township Committee that the Township expects the library to start paying for the debt and expects a payment of $543,000 per year from the library. Ms. Miloscia asked if any other Township buildings are paying their own debt for Township buildings specifically the Arts Center. Mr. Settembrino responded “No” and that the Arts Center is generating revenue to offset its operational cost. Mr. Gabrielan said that this is a significant impact to the library.

Mr. Settembrino also informed the Board that the library should be paying market value rent for the three town-owned buildings in which it occupies. Mr. Gabrielan and Ms. O’Neal said that NJ Administrative Code specifically prohibits libraries from paying rent. Mr. Settembrino said that he would forward the payment schedule and all information that he was discussing with the Board for them to further review and help them make a voting decision during the February meeting when he expects to re-introduce these issues. [See document attached]

Ms. Cavalier said that the library board would have to explain to the community why library services have been cut. Mr. Settembrino said however you decide to communicate that to the community is up to the Board. Ms. Cavalier asked if the Township Committee will accept the responsibility for these cuts. Mr. Settembrino didn’t answer her question. He restated that it is the Board’s decision on how they chose to inform the community of such cuts should they take place. Ms. Miloscia asked Mr. Settembrino if he used the library; does he had a library card? His response was no.

Mr. Settembrino informed the Board that he will be meeting with County Freeholder Lillian Burry to gather information about the County Library system. He said that his intention was to have the library stay as a municipal library. Ms. Breen said that she was glad to hear him state that. Ms. O’Neal asked if it would be appropriate for her to attend the meeting as well and Mr. Settembrino said “No”. Ms. Miloscia then asked if it would be appropriate for her to attend and he responded “No”. Ms. O’Neal informed that board that she had a meeting scheduled with Ken Sheinbaum, Director of the Monmouth County Library system.
Ms. Breen said she would like to see this done in the spirit of cooperation for what is good for everyone, what is good for the library and for the Township. Mr. Gabrielan reiterated that the duties of the Board are to be accountable and informed and that the number one job of a library board member is to be a library advocate.

Before Maser Consulting came to do their presentation, Mr. Settembrino criticized the library for undertaking studies that the Township didn’t know about, and for which it was planning similar action, citing the solar project for which the library contracted for a structural assessment of the roof and also the parking study. He said that such expenses/studies should be approved and communicated with the Township before any action is taken by the library. Ms. O’Neal responded saying that the library was moving faster than the Township following the energy audit and didn’t proceed with hiring a solar engineering firm once it was known that the Township was soliciting similar proposals, and that the parking study was well known to the Township Administrator and two members of the committee more than a year ago….


Based on this minutes, I think the Township Committee’s agenda is clear. They want money and they don’t care how they get from the library, even if it is illegal to ask for and would have potential crippling effect on the functioning of the daily activities that the Library provides. It is also very clear that if the Township does get what it wants, it will hand over the Library to the County to run, even though the County Library system is considered by many to be wasteful and the personal, political patronage, dumping ground for Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian Burry.

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Filed under budget deficit, budget surplus, Kevin Settembrino, Meeting Minutes, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, save our library, Tony Fiore