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.
Category Archives: Pamela Brightbill
Early last week I received an email from someone that wanted to know if I had heard or knew anything about Middletown’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs, Gregg Silva, being investigated by the Township of Middletown for some wrong doing and as a result of the investigation has been placed on indefinite administrative leave(fired?) by his bosses at Town Hall.
This person also informed me that as a result of Silva being placed on indefinite leave, rumors were running rampant that Middletown’s former mayor/deputy mayor, the soon to be departing Township Committeewoman Pamela Brightbill, be will replacing Silva as the new Director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs.
I responded by saying I hadn’t heard anything about Silva’s current troubles or the rumor about Brightbill, but I would make a few inquiries and get to the bottom of it as best I could. So I sent out a few emails and made a couple of phone calls to some people that I know to see if they had heard anything themselves.
It didn’t take long to get a response.
From what I have gathered, it seems that Gregg Silva is most definitely on administrative leave and has been for over two weeks. The leave has been technically without pay (he is being allowed to use accumulated sick time) while he is under investigation by the Township.
What did he do wrong that has caused the Township to place him on leave? If you know anything about Gregg Silva, it could be just about anything, he has a long history of engaging in questionable practices. But what seems to have been the last straw was the building of a private memorial, on Township property, on the grounds of Croydon Hall in Leonardo.
A few months back a Township teenager, who grew up in the Leonardo section of Middletown, passed away as a result of a car accident while traveling down Chapel Hill Rd. The teenager, Daniel Piano, by all accounts was a great kid who had a lot of friends and a very loving family.
As a result of his passing, his friends built a makeshift memorial at the site of the accident but it wasn’t a place that Daniel’s mother wanted to go or thought that others should go to either because of the nature of the road, Chapel Hill Road is very busy and is dangerous for people to stand on the side of. So she had the idea to ask the “Township” for permission to build a memorial for Daniel on the grounds of Croydon Hall, seeing how it was a place that her son spent many happy hours of his life playing and hanging out there.
After receiving permission from Gregg Silva to build the memorial, Mrs. Piano went about the business of arranging for the construction of Daniel’s memorial, the building of which was covered by private donations and volunteer labor.
You can read all about it in an article that was posted online at the Two Rivers Times.
So then, why would Gregg Silva be placed on indefinite leave of absence with his job in jeopardy if he received permission from the Township, to allow the construction of the Daniel Piano Memorial on the grounds of Croydon Hall? Well, evidently he never asked his superiors if it was alright for the memorial to be built. He took it upon himself to OK it without the consultation of others and that is where the trouble now lays.
If Gregg Silva would have first spoken to Township Administrator Tony Mercantante first, I am sure that the memorial would not have been allowed to be built. But now that it has been built the Township has to deal with any potential repercussions that might be a result of the memorial being built, namely others that may want to build similar memorials to loved ones that have passed.
As unlikely as that may seem, by giving the go ahead to the Piano family to built the memorial, Gregg Silva inadvertently set a precedent within Middletown that would allow for these types of memorials to be built in other parks throughout the Township. If the Township denies other the right to privately construct such memorials it could lead to lawsuits that would be costly to Middletown taxpayers.
>It’s been nearly a week now since Middletown Deputy Mayor Pam Brightbill announced that she wouldn’t seek another term on the Middletown Township Committee.
The audio clip from the September meeting (above), runs 17 minutes long. It is fascinating to hear the desperate tone in Brightbill’s voice when she is reprimanding/pleading with Administrator Tony Mercantante for better communication while discussing many other issues haphazardly thrown in.
>The following press release was issued today announcing that Middletown’s Deputy Mayor Pam Brightbill will not be seeking re-election to the Township Committee this November. Brightbill will be replaced on the ticket with Stephanie Murray.
Murray is a current member of the Middletown Zoning Board, Housing Authority and is the founder of the conservative leaning Republican women’s group Middletown Mornings that will be hosting the 1st Middletown Board of Education Candidate Forum Tuesday morning April 12th:
MIDDLETOWN—Middletown Township Mayor Tony Fiore and Zoning Board Member/Housing Authority Commissioner Stephanie Murray today filed petitions seeking the Republican nomination for Middletown Township Committee for 2011.
“I know Stephanie Murray will serve the taxpayers of Middletown well based on her record of service on the Zoning Board and as a Commissioner on the Housing Authority,” said Mayor Fiore. “Stephanie is not only a tireless member of our community, but also a dedicated wife and mother to three children whose family has lived in Middletown for 10 years.”
“While my commitment to public service is no less now than it was six years ago, I feel that it is the right time to pass the baton to another active member of our community, which is why I am pleased to support Stephanie Murray for Township Committee,” said Deputy Mayor Pam Brightbill. “I know that Stephanie will make an excellent addition to the Committee and help preserve the quality of life we all enjoy in Middletown.”
“It is an honor to have received a tremendous amount of support to continue my public service to Middletown by seeking to serve as a member of the Township Committee,” said Stephanie Murray. “I am looking forward to the challenges ahead to help maintain the quality of life we all enjoy while keeping taxes low in one of the largest municipalities in New Jersey.”
In addition to serving as a member of the Zoning Board and a Commissioner on the Middletown Housing Authority, Mrs. Murray has also served as a member of the Township’s Parks and Recreation Advisory and Open Space Committees. Stephanie is also the founder of a community group known as “Middletown Mornings” which is an open forum for residents of Middletown to meet with their local public officials. Murray holds a B.A. from Fordham University and runs a small publishing company.
>It seems that the latest round of Robocalls that went out yesterday afternoon by the group calling themselves “Concerned Residents of Middletown” have struck a nerve with some sitting on the Township Committee who say that the calls don’t ring true.
“It appears to be just another desperate attempt by the Middletown Democrats to spread misinformation to the taxpayers,” Fiore is quoted as saying in reference to who he thinks is behind the calls. He adds “the real truth will come out. The information they’re pointing out is just not accurate,” when referencing that the Townships budget will be introduced next week.
>Yesterday, January 2nd, was the annual reorganizational meeting of the Middletown Township Committee. I couldn’t be there myself because of my work schedule, but thanks to people that were there who provided me with audio from the proceedings, a column posted at the Asbury Park Press and a couple of blog postings from other sources, I have been able to catch up on what happened.
>The Issue of Artificial Turf Fields In Middletown Was Officially Put To Rest With Resolution 10-310
>Last night’s Middletown Township Committee meeting brought the official end to the artificial turf field issue. The committee voted 3-1 to approve Resolution 10-310, which authorized that the unused bonded money that was meant for the installation of two artificial turf fields at West Front Street Park and Croydon Hall, be used instead to pay down existing bond debt.
In the audio clip below Committeewoman Pam Brightbill discusses why she reluctantly voted to approve the resolution, after which you can hear why outgoing Committeeman Sean Byrnes voted against it.
The one curious thing about Resolution 10-310 is the fact that it is the only resolution that was discussed last night that has not made it’s way onto the Township’s website, for some reason it is missing. I am wondering if it has anything to due with the potential controversy that may surround it.
The controversy being that the original bond that was issued in 2006 which allocated funding for the turf fields specifically stated that these funds could not be used for any other purpose other than recreation, and with the nature of bond issues those funds cannot be used for the purpose offsetting operational budgets.
Using these bonded funds to pay off debt may not be legal,so until the resolution is made available to the public we’ll just have to wait to see how the Township intends to do this.
There is no way to put a good face on a 13.9% increase on the $64,979,576 municipal budget.
As one citizen said to Mayor Scharfenberger and the Republican majority of Pamela Brightbill, Anthony Fiore and Steve Massell, “The Republican majority owns this budget.”
That may be only partly true. Governor Christie’s actions at the State level heavily contributed to the 13.9% increase in municipal spending. First, there was the loss of $1,564,911 state aid. The anticipated pain for 2011 is that loss is then built in for future budgets.
In the “unanticipated outcomes” category Governor Christie’s threats to future pension rules, caused 23 Middletown Township employees to choose retirement in 2010 in order to be covered by the existing, more favorable pension benefits.
Another “unanticipated outcome” is the $760,000 needed to pay retiring employees sick leave and vacation day payouts. Ouch!
Not too many people remember when the Republican majority couldn’t find the funds to pay 2009 pension contribution. The temporary CFO Roth negotiated a settlement with the local Finance Board in Trenton whereby Middletown would pay 1/12 of the pension contribution in 2009 and the remaining 11 payments to be paid over the next eleven years @ 4% interest.
The budget introduced on Monday, June 23, — halfway through the fiscal year – indicated the pension increase in this budget required $1,800,000 to fund the pension increase. Healthcare costs, and two borrowings from prior year’s salary increase. The current freeze on salaries is too little, too late to pay last year’s unpaid medical bills caused. CFO Anthony Trasente to budget another $1 million to cover this year’s health costs.
All the signs were there of an out-of-control fiscal plan in the late 2008 and in full bloom in 2009. The Republican majority should have clamped down on negotiated settlements with the several unions. In this 2010 budget the township committee is faced with an increase of $1,400,000 for the As Everett Dirkson once said, “A million here, a million there pretty soon we’re talking real money.”
The only legitimate cost was the $900,000 for this post winter’s unanticipated heavy snows and and rainstorm costs which amounted to almost a million – $900,000.
But what about the massive amounts of brush and tree limbs still littering Middletown streets? As a retiring Public Works employee, a 40 year employee said, “We used to have all the brush cleaned up by March. But they laid off one public works employee and eliminated all over time. So the public works employees come in at 6:00 AM and leave by 3:30 PM.” He said the situation is made worse as residents add their own tree and shrubbery trimming adding volumes to the existing mess of brush and tree limbs.
The reserve for uncollected taxes is at a perilous low of $500,000.
Mayor Sharfenberger prides himself on being on Governor Christie’s transition team, but it must be embarrassing to them both that Middletown with 22 square miles, and 60,000 residents has the highest municipal tax rate of 13.9%. How does that fit with Christie’s proposed 2 1/2% cap? If the cap is passed by the 2010 legislature how will Middletown face a 2011 budget?
The only “big ticket” reduction would be layoffs of personnel. To date layoffs have been limited to low-salaried secretaries and aides. No voluntary freeze of higher level salaries were made this year.
As someone once said, “One time budget solutions are just a hole in your next years’ budget.”
Currently, salaries cost $25,572,304 each year. Health benefits and insurance add another $9,292,880. A serious reduction in force would reduce both these categories.
Remember, Middletown provides lifetime health benefits to retiring employees. That means double the health benefits for each position in which a person retires. No town can afford that. Freehold Township passed a resolution in December 2009 stating there would be no lifetime health benefits for all new hires. Middletown needs to do the same.
The formula for funding the libraries is dictated by State Law and costs Middletown taxpayers $3,986,437 per year. Only legislative action can modify this formula.
To add final insult to the injury of a 13.9% increase in the municipal tax spending is the proposal of CFO Nick Trasente to accelerate tax sales against homeowners which could generate a one-time solution of $2,750,000. Again, a hole in the 2011 budget.
A one-time transfer of $365,000 from the sewerage authority may indicate they are over charging and that rate could be lowered in the future. Also health benefits for this authority needs to be examined.
Mr. Trasente said there are a number of one-time revenue sources; approximately:
- $500,000 serial bonds
- $200,000 from payment of a capital bond
- $202,000 increase from the revaluation
- $365,000 sewer authority surplus
Total – $1,267,000
However these funds will not be available for the 2011. It avoids the reality that this approximate $1,267,000 will cause the 2011 budget to increase by this amount unless spending is cut, (and there is the specter of a 2 1/2 % constitutional cap.)
Mayor Sharfenberger at this budge introduction attempted to deflect the deadening reality of a 13.9% increase in the municipal budget and the financial pain being delivered to Middletown’s homeowners, by pointing to the Board of Education budget which consumes 62% of the overall budget, a common percent in many towns. In Middletown there are 17 schools and approximately 10,000 students the percent increase of the Board of Education’s budget was a tight 2.6 per cent increase in school taxes. A quality education for all of Middletown’s children is reflected in that percent.
CFO Nick Trasente, in his report, said this budget maintains all current programs and township events.
The question becomes what programs would you, the taxpayer, eliminate to lower the 13.9% increase.
Public Information Officer Cindy Herrschaft announced the introduced budget would be on the township website the next morning. Several suggestions from the audience asked whether citizens could add their remarks and suggestions.
Committeeman Sean Byrnes acknowledged the hard work under difficult pressures, that CFO Trasente had on compiling this budget. While Byrnes was the lone “no” vote on the passage of this budget, he iterated once more the need for a finance committee composed of members of the township committee and private citizens to advise the committee early in the process. He gave a 10 pt. list of ideas and times that he introduced them to anticipate the budget process earlier.
Two of the casualties of Middletown’s budget disaster is the bonding of $3 million to dredge Shadow Lake.
The other is the diverting of the bond funds to the West Front St. Park, and a further promise to turf the Ranger field instead. It almost seemed like a done deal until Middletown budget introduction painted a black – 13.9% — picture.
A reasonable question of CFO Trasente – is what has happened to those bonds.
The public budget hearing is scheduled for July 19, 2010 at town hall.
Only 16 or 17 people attended the introduction of the budget. That is sad. Each citizen is impacted by the actions of the township committee. Each homeowner will be financially impacted in 2010. The re-val is anticipated to generate 202,000 – that’s your money. 13.9% increase in spending will come from your pocket.
Inform yourself. Ask questions. Review the budget online. Suggest other cuts to bring down $64,979,576 of municipal spending.
And be prepared for reduced services too!!
According to the article posted on the Asbury Park Press website it was announced at last night’s Hazlet Township Committee meeting that there will be an open and transparent public meeting before its next scheduled committee meeting to discuss proposed cuts to the township’s school board budget.