Category Archives: Office of Planning Advocacy

>What Else Did Our Outgoing Mayor Have To Say Yesterday?

>So what else did Gerry Scharfenberger have to say yesterday at the Township’s reorganization meeting? Well, in typical Scharfenberger style he patted himself on the back for a the great job that he did as mayor as the Town faced enormous challenges brought on by the state of the economy and ongoing recession.

He also took time to kiss the ass of his benefactor, Governor Chris Christie, who appointed him to the position of Director for the Office Planning Advocacy back in August, by making sure that everyone in the room know that Christie is the greatest gift to Middletown since the appearance of sliced bread.

There is more if you want to hear it for yourself, the audio clip runs about 7 minutes and includes everything I mentioned above and then some.

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

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Filed under Chris Christie, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, Office of Planning Advocacy, reorganization

>TRT Chimes In on Monday Night’s Middletown Township Meeting

>In today’s edition of the Diane Gooch owned Two River Times, appears an article written by Ryan Fennell that does a good job at reporting what actually went on durning the Township Committee meeting in Middletown this past Monday night, November 15th.

After being duped by Scharfenberger into believing that he gave up his yearly $4000 stipen as a committee member in January and is now serving as a “volunteer” Mayor after questions arose, when it came to light that Scharfenberger had been appointed to a lucrative position in the Christie administration his last article.
Here Fennell reports, “…The initial controversy developed when a politically conservative local blog revealed shortly after the election that Scharfenberger had been appointed as the director of the Office for Planning Advocacy within the New Jersey Department of State. The office was formerly known as the Office of Smart Growth and fell within the jurisdiction of the Department of Community Affairs.

Scharfenberger was appointed to the position on August 16, and while Scharfenberger claims that his appointment was not kept secret from his constituents or campaign opponents, he also said he did not want to use the news of his appointment to the state position as an advantage for him in the campaign.

“It was made public,” Scharfenberger told The Two River Times™ last week. “It’s just that they (his campaign opponents) didn’t know about it. I’ve been out in front of various groups. It was on the (state) web site.”

No formal announcement was made, Scharfenberger said, because “I didn’t want it to appear as if I was using this position to help my re-election.”

During the Township Committee meeting Monday, Nov. 15, the committee members were asked if they knew about Scharfenberger’s appointment and all but one said that they knew about it….

This is classic Scharfenberger bullshit! If 4 out of the 5 members of theTownship Committee knew about the appointment, why the effort to keep it from the 5th member? It’s obvious that the only functions that Scharfenberger attended and made such an announcement were those that were attended by GOP party loyalists and insiders, otherwise the information of his new job would have become common knowledge around town.
After the meeting was over Fennell questioned Scharfenberger about his statement at the Lincroft Village Green Association’s Candidates Night, where Scharfenberger stated that he had given up his stipend for the year and was acting as a volunteer. It was Middletown resident Don Watson, who initially questioned Scharfenberger over this during public comments, Scharfenberger reaction was to deny he said such a thing and to immediately instruct the Clerk to note for the record that Mr. Watson’s comment was incorrect.
Unfortunately for Mr. Scharfenberger an audio recording of his statement from Candidates Night says otherwise.
When Fennel asked Scharfenberger for and explanation, Fennell reported “…Scharfenberger told The Two River Times™ that he stopped receiving his paychecks in July “more out of concern for the budget.”
More Scharfenberger Bullshit! Did he really think that $153 a week would make a that much of a difference in a budget that was already $5.5M in the hole, can he really say with a straight face that $2,000 would make a difference in a 14% municipal tax increase? I very much doubt it, he gave up his stipend because he knew that he was taking the job within the Christie administration and that the Governor had already reversed his opinion of whether elected official could hold dual offices. According to Christie it is now OK to hold dual offices with in the state as long as those who were elected served to so voluntarily. That is why Scharfenberger gave up his remaining $2000, not out of any concerns over the financial well being of the Township or worries over the budget.
The article goes on to address much of what was brought up that night, much of which is on video and posted here previously on the blog. I recommend reading the article for yourselves this way you can determine if my earlier reporting was inaccurate or biased in anyway.
Scharfenberger is the one that brought this onto himself, all he needed to do was to be honest and show a little integrity when questioned earlier by reporters when asked before the election what his current job position was. Instead he failed/refused to reveal his new position as the Director of Planning Advocacy.

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Filed under candidates night, Gerry Scharfenberger, honesty and integrity, LVGA, Office of Planning Advocacy, Ryan Fennell, Two River Times

>Slippery Scharfenberger Avoids Answering Shadow Lake Question On Technicality

>During the public comments segment of the Middletown Township Committee meeting this past Monday night, resident Marilyn Michaels asked Gerry Scharfenberger if he had attended a meeting with Cindy Randazzo of the NJDEP and others on Oct. 21, 2010 in Trenton, which she thought may have been a conflict of interest between his duties as an elected official and his new job as Director of the Office of Planning Advocacy (she also brought up a number of valid concerns that I will deal with later).

This exchange between Ms. Michaels and Gerry Scharfenberger is a classic example how slippery Scharfenberger can be when he answers questions from residents or reporters. His responses are classic examples of deception through omission, that many seasoned career politicians engage in.
I posted on Nov.9th that representatives from T&M Engineering, State Senator Joe Kyrillos, the new Director for the Office of Planning and Advocacy (Mayor) Gerry Scharfenberger and several Middletown Township representatives met with Randazzo and other reps from the DEP on October 21,2010 in Trenton to discuss dredging concerns as related to Shadow Lake. This post was based on information that was forwarded to me by a third party that wished to remain anonymous.
Most of what was posted was factual, what wasn’t as it turned out was the location of the meeting. My third party source had mentioned that Randazzo expressed concerns about coming to Middletown for this meeting and wanted it held in Trenton. My source then added that the meeting took place in State Senator Joe Kyrillos’s office. It was then assumed by myself and the informant that the meeting took place in Trenton, when in fact it took place at Kyrillos’s office here in Middletown.
Why Scharfenberger had to make an ass out of himself over this is anyone guess, I suppose by squabbling with Ms. Michaels over this small point, he thought that it would discredit her in someway. What it did do was to further discredit him in the eyes of reporters there covering the nights event.
When asked about the Shadow Lake meeting afterwards, he admitted to reports that the meeting did take place on Oct. 21st but it never happened in Trenton, He confirmed the fact that it happened in Middletown.

The other valid concern Ms. Michaels brought up during her comments in front of the Committee was, if during his re-election bid, did he know if anyone may have contributed to his campaign, knowing that he was going to be or had recently been appointed as the head of the Office of Planning Advocacy Governor Christie.

She felt (as do I) that if someone was to have contributed to his campaign this year or in future years, that they may expect some special treatment if ever they may need special consideration for the state office that he now represents.

That assumption on Michaels part is, as I said, a valid concern. It goes to the heart of the issue of whether or not Scharfenberger acted ethically or not by not divulging information about his appointed during the campaign. It should be explored now and watched for in the future.

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Filed under Cindy Randanzzo, dredging, Gerry Scharfenberger, Joe Kyrillos, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, NJDEP, Office of Planning Advocacy, Shadow Lake

>Scharfenberger Answered Questions About Conflicts of Interest with Little Elaboration

>Here is another video from Monday night’s Township Committee meeting in Middletown. In this video resident Jeff Blumengold asks humbly, with no malice or preconceived agenda, Mayor Scharfenberger if his new position with the State of NJ as the Director of Planning Advocacy, is in conflict with his duties as an elected official of Middletown.

Mr. Blumengold, who is an opponent of the states affordable housing plan known as COAH, asked Scharfenberger if he could still weigh in on COAH and other zoning or land use issues that Middletown. He wanted to know if Scharfenberger sought out the advice of his superiors or possibly the NJ State Attorney General about what type of issues he would need to refrain from speaking about or voting on as an elected official so as there would be no conflict of interests between his duties as Director of Planning Advocacy and those as a Township Committeeman.

Gerry Scharfenberger answered “There will be no conflict” with no further elaboration(I think he may be wrong about that).

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Filed under Gerry Scharfenberger, Jeff Blumengold, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, New Jersey, Office of Planning Advocacy

>Gerry Admits To Not Being a Volunteer At Last Night’s Township Committee Meeting In Middletown

>I am glad that someone took up my suggestion from my last post and asked Gerry Scharfenberger whether or not he has taken a salary this year as a member of the Middletown Township Committee.

Scharfenberger has been misleading everyone about this issue since he first spoke about it at the Lincroft Village Green Association’s Candidates Night, where he stated that gave up his stipend for the year and has been acting as a volunteer member of the Township Committee.

He even told reporters that after it was revealed after the election, that he was appointed by Governor Christie to a $95,000 a year job.

In this video clip from last nights meeting Gerry seems to be taken by surprise when Middletown resident Don Watson asked him if he had taken a paycheck from the Township this year. Scharfenberger became agitated and belligerent and he refused to answer the question, even going as far as asking the Township Clerk to note for the record that Mr. Watson’s allegations were not true, that he never said that he gave up his salary for the year. Thanks to the magic of audio we know what Scharfenberger said and it is easy to hear the intention of what he was trying to state. You can listen again for yourself after watching the video.

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

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Filed under Gerry Scharfenberger, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, Office of Planning Advocacy, video and audio, volunteer

>How Close To The Line of Fact and Fiction Does Scharfenberger Get When He Calls Himself a Volunteer?

>How close does Gerry Scharfenberger get to crossing to the line between honesty and deception when he discusses his new position as Executive Director of the Office of Planning Advocacy and how it effects his status serving as an elected official in Middletown?

Since it became common knowledge 10 days ago that Scharfenberger was appointed by Governor Christie to a $95,000 a year job, the uproar over his silence (not appointment), doesn’t seem to be going away. If anything it raises more questions after articles in both the Independent and Two River Times did little to silence his critics.

Both articles state that he is a “Volunteer” and doesn’t take a salary from the town. The Two River Times quotes him as saying, “I’m not taking a salary as Mayor. It’s a volunteer position much (like) the Landmark Commission and the Drug and Alcohol Alliance”.
Really, how is that possible? As member of the Township Committee each elected member is entitled to a $4,000 a year stipend (which Scharfenberger announced during the Lincroft Village Green Association sponsored Candidates Night, to our surprise, that he was not taking this salary). Each member of the Township Committee receives this stipend regardless if they are appointed as Mayor or not. There is no extra pay associated with the Mayor’s position and never has been, essentially every person who has served as Mayor in Middletown for the past 5 decades has done it “voluntarily” upon being chosen by others on the Committee to act as such.
To consider any elected official, whether it is as Mayor or Committee member, as a volunteer is a stretch of the word, volunteers are generally appointed and receive no compensation or they serve as a means of helping others with no expectations of reward for their humble service. Those that seek office campaign and are elected to office by voters, many go on to seek higher office or seek special favors from those in higher positions to advance their ambitions or line their pockets, much like Scharfenberger has done. To call them volunteers is a gross exaggeration of the word.
Gerry seems to be playing word games here that come very close to crossing the line between honesty and deceit. Another example of his word games is his pension status, he says he isn’t enrolled in the State pension system known as PERS but contributes to a deferred compensation 401K plan.
This I found out is true, not because he dropped out of the PERS system voluntarily, but because of the fact that as of 2008, all part time elected officials were dropped from the system and given the chance to participate in a state sponsored 401K plan to save costs.
Back in 2007, when Democrat Patrick Short proposed that elected and part-time officials in Middletown give up health and pension benefits, Scharfenberger is on record stating that he was in the township pension system and adamant that he could not get out of it as hard as he tried, he stated at the time, “Once you’re in you are in and can’t get out of it … and I tried”.
Again very close to the line between honesty and deceit, but I think I may have stumbled upon something that just may show that Scharfenberger did in fact cross that line.
In the audio clip below from the Oct. 28, 2010 LVGA Candidates Night, Scharfenberger was asked about the salaries for Township Committee people. At the time I didn’t give it much thought, I just assumed that the questioner was curious about whether or not Committee members were once again collecting stipends in 2010 after giving them up in 2009. When answering Scharfenberger went into his volunteer speech and talked about how he wasn’t taking a salary. He came across as a hero of sorts, looking out for the town with this symbolic gesture of kindness during tough economic times. He didn’t seem to care that by doing so he trashed his fellow Committee members.
In hindsight however, I’ve come to believe that this simple question was nothing more than plant from a supporter that knew Scharfenberger was appointed by Governor Christie to head up the Office of Planning Advocacy. Gerry wanted to go on record that he was in compliance with Christie’s rule that, No elected official could serve dual rolls within the State unless the position that they were elected to would be carried out voluntarily, hence the announcement that he hadn’t taken a salary all year.
In light of the two previously mentioned articles that didn’t delve into the story of Scharfenberger’s appointment like the Asbury Park Press had (the reporters chose not to question Scharfenberger over his volunteer status), I’ve spent the past few days looking over the Township Bill List and from what I’ve determined, this time Gerry just may have crossed the line into outright deception.
Here’s what I have determined:

Committee members took no salaries for most of 2009.

  1. For 2010, each Committee member earns $153.84 per week gross.
  2. The March 2010 Bills List shows $2526.66 as the salary line item. However, at that time, they were including the Mayor’s secretary in that line item. Later in the year, she is broken out separately, and her bi-weekly salary is $1,757.46.
  3. If you go back to the March payment of bills and subtract her salary ($1,757.46) from that line item ($2526.66), you get $769.20.
  4. Drum roll please . . . if you divide $769.20 by Committee members gross weekly pay ($153.84), guess what number you get . . . 5 (How many Township Committee people do we have?).
  5. Conclusion = Gerry was still taking a salary in March.
So, then we go to August. On the 10-206 payment of bills documents there is still a line item for Township Committee salaries of $2526.66, so Gerry was still taking his stipend as of Payroll for 8/6/10. However, the next bill list 10-234 for the 8/20/10 payroll, the line item goes down to $2372.82.
When broken down, remembering there is $1757.46 for the Mayor’s secretary, and you subtract her salary from the new total salary line item ($2372.82), you get $615.36 (which also happens to be the new salary line item on the November bill list where the Township Committee is now listed separately). When you divide $615.36 by that bi-weekly salary of $153.84, you get 4.
Conclusion = Gerry stopped taking his salary after the 8/6/10 payroll,which corresponds with his knowledge of his appointment by Christie to his new State job, NOT in January, as he lead those at the LVGA Candidates night and the reporters from the Independent and the Two River Times to believe and report.
Over the past few years there has been many such instances of Scharfenberger walking the tightrope between honesty and deceit, always choosing his words very carefully to maintain that balancing act. This time however, he may have gone to far by not figuring that someone other than the a reporter, who’s job it is to investigate before reporting, would take the time to do some homework and find that Gerry once again wasn’t being completely honest and crossed the line into deceitfulness.
I wonder if anyone will ask him to explain himself tonight at the Township Committee meeting?

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, bill list, candidates night, deceit, Gerry Scharfenberger, Gov. Chris Christie, honesty and integrity, LVGA, Office of Planning Advocacy, the Independent, Two River Times

>Planners question credentials of Middletown committeeman coordinating N.J. policy

>Wow, what an article in today’s Asbury Park Press written by Kevin Penton, to go along with the Press’s editorial about Middletown’s mayor, Gerry Scharfenberger.

Kevin Penton really delved into the story by asking those that deal with the Office of Planning Advocacy, if they thought that Middletown’s Scharfenberger was qualified to head the department, the consensus of those asked seems to be a resounding NO and they question his appointment.

Here are a few excerpts from the article, but make sure that you read follow-up and the article in it’s entirety to get the full impact of what was written:

“Digging up rocks doesn’t make you a planner,” remarked Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The only science being conducted in this office is political science, not real science.”

...Just like former Gov. Jim McGreevey and Gov. Jon S. Corzine before him, Gov. Chris Christie hired a politician who lacks state accreditation as a licensed planner to direct what is now the Office of Planning Advocacy, said Charles Latini, president of the New Jersey chapter of the American Planners Association…

…”The administration seems to be moving slowly and deliberatively in specific areas,”… “The planning community doesn’t have a clue where they’re going.”…

Shawn Crisafulli, a spokesman for the Department of State… did not answer how many candidates were considered for Scharfenberger’s position, whether he had to undergo an application and interview process or was simply appointed, and whether the state advertised the open position….

…That a politician, rather than a planner, was chosen to head the agency that coordinates planning for New Jersey demonstrates what anyone looking at the Office of Planning Advocacy needs to know about its future priorities, said the Sierra Club’s Tittel….

…”It’s disgraceful,” said Tittel, who is concerned the Office of Planning Advocacy may become further politicized under the Department of State. “They really want to play politics and not do planning, which is supposed to be their jobs.”…

…Carlos Rodrigues, who worked in the Office of Smart Growth from 1994 to 2004, said when the state needed a director for the agency in the past, it conducted national searches, seeking experienced professionals with planning backgrounds.

“It was taken seriously,” said Rodrigues, a senior fellow with the Regional Planning Association. “Now we have a mayor as the head of the office? That’s a really, really bad idea. It’s ridiculous.”…

…Latini said he does not understand how the state permits anyone without a planning accreditation to be able to head the Office of Planning Advocacy…

…Rodrigues said the Christie administration needs to decide whether it is taking the Office of Planning Advocacy, and its cost to taxpayers, seriously.

“If you’re not going to fix it, then get rid of it,” Rodrigues said. “It’s an embarrassment the way it is, a complete sham.”…


Amazing isn’t it, how does Christie get a way with appointing Scharfy to such an important position as this, with no experience or certification in planning, when the state of the economy is in need of experienced people to help nurture its growth while the state is trying to recover from this devastating national recession?
Instead of stepping down from Middletown’s Township Committee as some have proposed, maybe Gerry should give up his new job and go back to being an archaeologist. I’m sure that some private sector firm could use someone who’s PhD thesis was on the composition of Colonial era glass (or something to that effect) and leave the planning of the recovery of the state’s economy to someone more qualified in that field.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, editorial, Gerry Scharfenberger, Gov. Chris Christie, kevin penton, Middletown, Office of Planning Advocacy