Category Archives: Middletown Patch

2012 KaBoom Fireworks Display Cancelled

Redbankgreen.com and Middletown Patch are both reporting today that this years KaBoom fireworks display over the Navesink has been cancelled. Security costs and inadequate funding for the event is sighted as the reason for the demise of this years upcoming event. RedbankGreen is also reporting that the Rumson fireworks display may be cancelled as well.

I am sorry to hear about this, there aren’t many places in the area that people can go watch a 4th of July fireworks display anymore. Personally, I haven’t seen the KaBoom display in years because I have avoid they area because I didn’t want to get all mixed up in crowd and then have to fight all the traffic. The last time I went it took nearly two hours to get out of town.

Still I hate to see it go, I guess if I want to get my fill of some fireworks I’ll just have to head over to the Keansburg boardwalk on a Friday night during the summer and catch them.

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Filed under 4th of July, Fireworks, KaBoom, Keansburg Boardwalk, Middletown Patch, RedBankGreen.com, the Navesink River

Gabrielan’s Resignation Letter

It’s been a couple of days know since Middletown Public Library Board of Trustees President Randall Gabrielan sent his resignation letter to the Township Committee. Both Middletown Patch and the Asbury Park Press have written articles about it appearing online and in print, but neither have made available the actual letter for their readers.

So for the readers of this blog and for all those interested in such things, I have a MiddletownMike exclusive. You can read Randall Gabrielan’s resignation letter ….. Here
The letter is interesting, the tone of the letter is somewhat defiant. Gabrielan now recognizes that there was a conflict of interest in signing the library purchase orders for his own books that the library was adding to it’s collection.
He mentions his dismay over the January 18th proceedings that took place at that night’s library board meeting, where the newly expanded, Township Committee friendly, board of trustees attempted to oust him as president and replace him with one of their own who had no experience whatsoever in the issues that effect library matters. He stated that instead of trying to struggle with the new realities of the currently make up of the library board that he decided to step down.
He thanked several in the letter for their past and present positive contributions to the Middletown Library including the 2002 Township Committee that voted to assume the capital expense of the “…total reconstruction and major expansion of the library…”

Gabrielan concluded his letter by taking a polite swipe at the newcomer trustees by wishing that they will become quick learners in the many issues that have threatened all libraries throughout the state and vowed to continue to follow the progress of the Middletown Library.
It’s unfortunate that Gabrielan felt compelled to resign his position on the Middletown Library Board, his presence and experience will be missed by all.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Middletown Library, Middletown Patch, Middletown Township Committee, resignation, resignation request

Monmouth Freeholders adopt weak State pay-to-play rules, abandon stronger County rules in place since 2008

Fortunately, former Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet is still on the job as a outspoken member of the public. The Middletown Patch reported on 1/31/12 that this year’s all-GOP Freeholder Board voted unanimously last week to loosen the County’s pay-to-play rules, and Amy was there to call them on it!

In a vote on Jan. 26th, the Board chose to abandon the tougher County pay-to-play rules for the lax State ones. The reason given by the Board is that contractors were confused by the County rules. However, many other municipalities and counties have the stronger pay-to-play rules in place, so contractors doing business in other towns would already be familiar with them.

The Board’s decision opens the door to rewarding politically connected persons and businesses with County contracts. The move weakens competition and may have the direct effect of increasing property taxes in line with higher contract costs. It’s hard to imagine why any ethical publicly-minded governmental body would do such a thing, unless for personal benefit. It appears the Board members have chosen to grant themselves the latitude to direct contracts at will to ensure their pockets will be lined at election time.

State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said himself that the State pay-to-play law does nothing to prevent the practice by local governments. In September 2011, he released a 20-page report “blasting the law for being toothless” as NJ.com put it.

The effectiveness of Christie’s Tool Kit at holding down property taxes would be vastly improved if it closed the loopholes in the State’s pay-to-play law. But until that happens, it is incumbent upon local governments to do what’s right by having strong pay-to-play rules of their own.

Public advocacy group The Citizens Campaign is calling for the public to attend the Monmouth County Freeholder meeting on Feb. 9th, when the Board will be asked to reinstate the stronger pay-to-play policy. For details, check out their facebook page and if you can, make plans to attend.

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Filed under Amy Mallet, Facebook, Middletown Patch, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, NJ.com, pay-to-play, property taxes, the Citizens Campaign

"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

Audio From Tuesday Night’s Township Committee Meeting; Swim Club Members Want Answers

I wasn’t unable to attend this past Tuesday night’s Middletown Township Committee meeting. I was busy with my son at his Boy Scout pack meeting, winning this year’s Pinewood Derby, so I’m not able to give an eyewitness account of what went on when the meeting was finally opened up for public comments, but from all accounts it was rather raucous.

The courtroom was packed with soon to be ex-members of the Middletown Swim and Tennis Club, who were angry at being blindsided by the news that the swim club would not be operational this year.

Middletown Patch actually has a very good article posted online about the meeting which I recommend others to read, I’m told is a very fair representation of the meeting.

Below is audio from the meeting that contain the questions of two swim club members who addressed their concerns about the club’s demise to the Township Committee (the audio runs for roughly 19 minutes). Interestingly the first person you hear addressing the Committee is Tracy Lewis, who just so happens to be on of the residents quoted in the Patch article, so it’s good listening. The second questioner that is contained in the audio clip, no matter how hard I try, I can’t decipher his name but that doesn’t really matter, what matters was the answer to his questions, which you can listen to.

While you’re listening however, keep a sharp ear out and listen for a big pet peeve of mine. About 17 minutes into the audio, Township Attorney Brian Nelson jumps in to answer the gentleman’s questions about how surplus/debt the swim club accumulated /accrued between the time the Township Purchased the property in 1997 to 2011. Nelson speaks up and starts giving numbers from 2008 to present, instead of allowing the Township Administrator, Tony Mercantante, or someone from the Committee itself to answer! Brian Nelson is there to give legal advice tot he governing body, he is not and was not ever an elected official of Middletown.

That’s something that he seems to forget, but I can see where he might think he is seeing how is a member in good standing of the Middletown GOP and its Chairman’s righthand man.

http://www.archive.org/embed/SwimClubMembersAddressTownshipCommittee

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Filed under Brain Nelson, Middletown Patch, Middletown Swim and Tennis Club, Middletown Township Committee, Pinewood Derby

Middletown Patch: Middletown mayor explains status of the township department and Gregg Silva, its longtime director

For those interested in the “official” version of Gregg Silva’s retirement/termination (Middletown’s longtime Director of Parks and Recreation), Middletown Patch did a good job of following up my story about his departure.

It’s funny how my phone call to Tony Mercantante about Silva went unreturned but when asked about Silva by Patch editor Elaine Van Develde, Tony Fiore stated to her that no one inquired about him and therefore the Township wasn’t planning to explain his departure anytime soon.
In the article Fiore confirmed much of what I wrote about and explained how the now employeeless Department of Parks and Recreation would be split-up and divided between the Department of Public Works and Janet Adams, the Director of the Tonya Keller Center in North Middletown.
Fiore also stated that due to Silva’s decision to “retire” no personnel investigation or hearings were conducted on Silva and due to legal constraints he wouldn’t elaborate further.
You can all about read it Here if interested

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Filed under DPW, fired, Gregg Silva, Middletown Parks and Recreation, Middletown Patch, retirement, Tony Fiore, Tonya Keller Center

Quote Of The Day: "…I pledge to give 100% of me"

This quote warms my heart today:

“…I pledge to the people of Middletown, from Lincroft to Leonardo and Oak Hill to Chapel Hill, that you will get nothing less than 100 percent of me as your deputy mayor,” Steve Massell said during his post swearing-in address at the township’s annual reorganization meeting – Middletown-Patch

Does giving 100% effort mean Steve Massell, as acting Deputy Mayor of Middletown, will finally get all those “Welcome to Middletown” signs painted like he pledged to do 2 years ago when first elected? Or does it mean that he will not play on his iPad during meetings and pay attention to what’s going on? More than likely, giving 100% effort means that he will finally have more to say at Township Committee meets other than “No Comment”

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Filed under Middletown Patch, Quote of the day, Steve Massell

Brightbill Denies Interest in Silva’s Job; We’ll See

Back on Monday, December 19 th, I was the first to break the story about Middletown Director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Gregg Silva being placed on indefinite administrative leave. In that post, I commented that a rumor was also circulating that departing Township Committeewoman Pamela Brightbill was next in line to replace Silva as Director.

At that evenings Township Committee meeting, Brightbill was praised and lauded by her fellow committee members and members of the public, for her years of service to the Township.
At no time during the course of the evening did Gregg Silva’s name come up or did anyone suggest that Pam Brightbill would make a good replacement for him (although other suggestions were made about what boards or committees she would excel at if placed on).
It wasn’t until after the meeting that Township officials were approached by members of the media about Silva’s departure and the rumor about Brightbill taking over for him.
To be expected, no one would publicly comment on Silva’s situation and only state that the matter was being handle internally.
Kudos however goes to Sue Morgan of Middletown-Patch for going the extra mile by asking Pam Brightbill in a telephone conversation the following day, if she was interested in taking over for Silva to run the Department of Parks & Recreation.
According to the article that was posted, Brightbill denied having any interest in taking over for Gregg Silva and saying that she prefers to continue volunteering on one or more advisory boards.

The brief article then goes on to state inadvertently, the very reason why so many feel that Brightbill is next in line to succeed Silva by stating, “The deputy mayor’s extensive resume of community involvement includes times on the advisory board to the parks and recreation department and other volunteer activities relative to township government and the local school district.”

I for one said at the time I heard the rumor, that I thought it was unlikely for Pam Brightbill to take over for Gregg Silva and I am glad that she has now gone on the record denying having any interest, but to be frank, I wouldn’t have expected her to confirm having interest either.
We’ll just have to sit back and see what happens over the next few weeks concerning the ongoing investigation of Gregg Silva and whether or not he is terminated as a Township employees, before we can place any credence on Pam’s denials.

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Filed under administrative leave, Gregg Silva, Middletown Parks and Recreation, Middletown Patch, Middletown Township Committee, Pamela Brightbill

Dec 19th Hearing on the Ordinance Adding Two Additional Trustees to the Library Board: M’town Patch & Independent articles contain inaccuracies

By guest blogger Linda Baum

If you are a regular to Mike’s blog, by now you are well informed about the Library’s $500,000 transfer to the Township this year and the Town Committee’s plan to increase the number of Library trustees from 7 to 9 in 2012.

A public hearing on the Ordinance increasing Board membership was held at the Town Committee meeting on Monday, December 19th. Several reporters were present at the hearing. Mike Davis’s article in the Independent and Sue Morgan’s in the Middletown Patch were posted within a day or two. While they get points for timeliness, they lose some for accuracy.

Sue Morgan misstates the amount of the Library’s annual budget as $700K – it is $3.7M – but that is a minor error compared to the second to last sentence of her article. She wrote:

“Under an agreement hammered out by both the board and the committee, the township is now carrying the debt service on the library’s parking lot which recently underwent extensive repairs, the mayor added.”

The statement is inaccurate in two ways. As far as I know, there was no major work done to the lot recently, and the Library did not proceed with its lot expansion. Further, per the agreement this year between the Library and the Township, the Library has only two options for covering the cost of its capital improvements – they can pay cash or they can make the debt service payments on bonds (or notes) issued by the Township.

I don’t recall Mayor Fiore making the statement as it reads in the Patch article, and I think it can be attributed to an intentionally misleading comment he made, as quoted in the Independent, about encompassing “some of [the Library’s] capital projects into [the Township’s] capital program, including their parking lot and solar projects.” That made it sound like the Township is paying, but there is no cost to the Township for either the lot expansion or the solar project, which is a power purchase arrangement that involves no capital outlay.

Both the Independent and Patch articles included comments made by both Melanie Elmiger and myself. Melanie presented her comments very well at the hearing and I think they were captured fairly accurately in the articles. However, I think some of what I said was misrepresented in the Independent.

I would like to set the record straight, so here is a recap of my comments at the hearing along with excerpts from the Independent where I feel Mike Davis missed the mark.

Mayor Fiore has been framing the increase in Library Board membership as just an increase in public participation, with no other motive. So if more participation is a good thing for the Library Board, I questioned why that isn’t also true for the Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) Board and for the Town Committee itself, both with just 5 members each controlling budgets of $9 million and $60 million, respectively. In contrast, the Library Board currently has 7 members, soon to be 9, overseeing a budget of $3.7 million.

My point was that the Town Committee’s stance about the need for more public participation on the Library Board runs counter to their stance about the participation levels on other boards & committees. (Keep in mind the Town Committee has resisted the formation of a finance committee that would increase public participation and oversight of its own activities.)

Mayor Fiore replied that TOMSA has 7 board members, and I was quick to correct him that it is a 5-member board with 2 alternates, where only 5 vote at any time. Fiore again insisted, incorrectly, that there are 7 members.

Besides the inconsistencies in board size, there are also inconsistencies in oversight. I compared the Township’s scrutiny of the Library’s budget and operations to its hands-off approach to TOMSA and said that a consistent policy was needed. Fiore said that they do oversee TOMSA and that the money TOMSA gave to the Township – $730K over the last two years – is proof of that. Ridiculous. As I see it, that handout could just as easily be interpreted as a concession to avoid scrutiny. Regardless, it certainly can’t be construed as proof of oversight.

(An aside: If the Town Committee is really overseeing TOMSA and is so gung ho about public participation, how is it the TOMSA Board was able to avoid the public’s eye recently by ignoring a legal mandate to publish notice of their budget hearing? And shouldn’t oversight of TOMSA’s budget entail elimination of unwarranted expenses, such as medical and pension benefits for Board members? The Township has sanctioned these costs!)

Mike Davis’s article contains some partial quotes, inaccuracies, and re-ordering of comments that, combined, miss the point I was trying to make. He describes my comments as follows:

“Public participation is a good thing. You see [that] nine members are needed to oversee a $3.8 million budget,” she said, also citing the seven members who make up the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority.”

The Township Committee was not exempt, she said.

“Right now you have five people on the Township Committee controlling a $60 million budget. It seems to me you need a consistent policy here. If you’re going to watch one closely, watch them all closely,” Baum said.

I think that anyone reading that would have trouble following my logic. Also, he makes it sound like I’m arguing in favor of the two additional appointees to the Library Board, which I wasn’t. I’m against it given the current political environment, but I admit I may not have stated that outright. I didn’t organize my comments as well as Melanie did, so I can understand if there was confusion.

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Filed under Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, guest blogger, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Middletown Patch, public hearing, the Independent, TOMSA, Tony Fiore

Middletown Board of Education Gets Their Man; George Lured Away From Hazlet

In a press release issued by the Middletown Township Board of Education earlier today, it was announce that the board of education finally found their new Superintendent of Schools.

The Middletown Board of Education was successful in luring Hazlet’s current school superintendent William George away to take over the Middletown school system.

According to his terms of employment contract William George will be compensated handsomely for agreeing to come to Middletown. George will be paid the equivalent of $187,500 a year for the next 4 years, 9 months of the contract length.

In order to pay Mr. George such a large sum of cash, Middletown needed to get the approval of the Commissioner of Education in order to exceed the cap on Superintendent salaries that Governor Christies implemented earlier this year, as I stated in a previous post .

I hope all works out well for Mr. George when he finally takes over the reigns of Middletown School system sometime in December ( he must give Hazlet 60days notice before taking over in Middletown). God knows that the school system needs some stability to bring back a little credibility after such a turbulent year thus far that has seen 3 Board of Education members resign there positions and 4 Superintendent presided over the school system by the time George takes over.

Middletown Patch has posted William George’s resignation letter to the Hazlet Board of Education, it’s interesting and worth the read for anyone that wants to know a little bit about Mr. George and his accomplishments in Hazlet.

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Update: The Independent also has an article published today on the hiring of William George as Middletown New School SuperIntendent – check it out

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Filed under Hazlet NJ, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Patch, school superintendent, the Independent, William George