Category Archives: Tony Fiore

Middletown Planning Board Member Who Receives Lucrative Contracts From The Township Seems Unethical To Me

When Middletown helps its own, it’s not in reference to helping needy families get through the holidays. It’s in reference to taking care of those most politically connected to the local Republican Party.

Tim Sodon, who was a candidate for Township Committee in 2007 but lost the election to Patrick Short, has for the past few of years been a member of the Middletown Planning Board. Sodon came under heavy fire in 2007 for being a contractor for the Township while also being a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. As a member of the advisory board, among other things, he would recommend what Township Parks needed electrical maintenance or upgrades performed. Tim Sodon is the owner of Sodon Electric Inc., he was the contractor that would get the work and perform the work.
During the campaign Sodon and the Republican Party couldn’t or wouldn’t explain why this wasn’t a conflict of interest and clearly unethical. Sodon never came out and said that if elected he would give up the contracts he had with the Township.
Now fast forward to more recent times, as an appointed member of the planning board, Sodon is a public official and currently has a very lucrative contract with Middletown to provide electrical repairs and maintenance needed throughout the Township’s Municipal buildings and parks that pays him $75K a year according to Township Resolution 12-061.
This to me is clearly a conflict of interest and unethical. He shouldn’t be allowed to do work for the town while he sits on the Planning Board. A contractor for the town should not be in any appointed positions.
Tim Sodon shouldn’t be doing electrical projects for the town, those projects should be bid out and basic electrical maintenance should be done in-house by someone who has a license.
As the Mayor’s Designee to the Planning Board is Tim Sodon making decisions based on the on the merits of the presentations that are brought in front of the Planning Board, or is he making decisions based on what is expected of him by the Mayor or higher ups in the Middletown GOP in order to keep his tax payer funded contracts?
Before looking at the Library Board for inappropriate and unethical behavior of one of its members, I think Tony Fiore and the Township Committee should be looking a little closer to home at one of their own before casting the first stone. Unfortunately though that will never happen, Middletown Republicans by nature are arrogant and never look into the mirror at themselves beforehand. They are only interested in protecting their own.

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Filed under conflict of interest, Middletown GOP, Middletown Planning Board, Parks and Recreation, public contracts, resolution 12-061, Sodon Electric, Tony Fiore, unethical behavior

"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

It’s Your Town – Newsletter Volume 4, Issue 2-1/17/12

Here is another edition of the It’s Your Town newsletter, it covers the January 17th, 2012 Middletown Township Committee meeting. As readers of the blog know from listening to audio clips posted last week, this meeting was very eventful.

A a late notice stating that the Township will not open the Swim & Tennis Club this year was posted to the Township’s website on Friday 13th, heading into the long Martin Luther King 3-day holiday weekend and apparently, from the sentiment of the members present at the meeting, they weren’t informed previously of the dire financial situation of the Swim Club, over two dozen people voiced their concerns to the Township Committee.

There were a few Swim Club members who questioned the expenses incurred by the Township on behalf of the Middletown Arts Center (MAC) in relation to those incurred to operate the Swim Club. They were told by Mayor Fiore and Township Attorney Brian Nelson, that the MAC was on the way towards profitability and that the utility expenses were down dramatically to only $30 to $40K per year! Attached to the newsletter are the actual figures for the past five years so you can determine for yourself what is accurate.

Regardless, when the Club closes, all Middletown residents will be responsible for repaying the original bond used to purchase the Club instead of the member fees stated in the Pool Club ordinance.

Read this edition of the newsletter ….Here


And if you would like to listen to the companion audio clips from the meeting, I have them below

Committee comments #1
http://www.archive.org/embed/SwimClubMembersAddressTownshipCommittee
Committee comments #2
http://www.archive.org/embed/SwimClubMembersAddressTownshipCommittee-2
What about the kids?
http://www.archive.org/embed/SwimClubMembersAddressTownshipCommittee4WhatAboutTheKids
Tom Wilkens comments
http://www.archive.org/embed/SwimClubMembersAddressTownshipCommittee5TomWilkensComments

As always, if you wish to subscribe to the newsletter and receive in your inbox send a request to itsourtown@yahoo.com

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Filed under Audio clips, Brian Nelson, Its Your Town, Martin Luther King Jr., Middletown Arts Center, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, Swim Club, Tony Fiore

FOUR LITTLE WORDS THAT SAY A LOT ABOUT HOW THE TOWNSHIP DOLES OUT APPOINTMENTS: “When they asked me.”

by guest blogger Linda Baum

Quote of the day goes to Brock Siebert, who, when asked when he knew he’d been appointed as a Library trustee by the Township Committee, replied, “When they asked me.” I think that confirms that the Township does not require the submission of a board membership application as a pre-requisite for appointment. In fact, I checked. There is no application for Mr. Siebert on file with the Township.

In Kevin Penton’s 1/2/12 APP article “Advocate is not reappointed” about the dwindling membership on the Middletown Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Mayor Tony Fiore is quoted as saying he is unaware of any other Township resident who had expressed an interest in serving on the Commission, besides Dr. Schwebel, whose term expired at the end of 2011. Fiore is implying that a lack of willing candidates is the reason no appointments were made. However, as Brock Siebert’s appointment to the Library Board demonstrates, the Township will seek out candidates who haven’t necessarily expressed an interest in appointment. So Mr. Fiore’s excuse about the MHRC vacancies doesn’t fly. In fact, Dr. Schwebel knows at least one other person who applied but never received a response.

If you would like to see the MHRC survive and are interested in serving, you can find the board membership application….. Here

You may not hear back from the Township, but at least Mayor Fiore can’t say he didn’t know you were interested.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Carolyn Schwebel, Linda Baum, Middletown Human Rights Commission, Middletown Library, Tony Fiore

Swim Club Won’t Be Operated By Township In 2012

Rumors have been circulating for a number of weeks now concerning the future of the Middletown Swim Club.

Some have said that the Swim Club was in the process of being sold to a developer who would be building townhouse on site and another said that the Swim Club was to be leased to a third party that would install an olympic sized swimming pool and an ice rink. No rumor that I am aware of mentioned that the facility would be closed completely for 2012.

Notice however, the small glimmer of hope offered by Township Aministrator Tony Mercantante, who stated in the press release that, “We are, however, looking at options that would allow the club to re-open with a different operator…”, which seem to confirm the one of the rumors listed above.

Below is the announcement posted on the Middletown Township website concerning the closing of the Middletown Swim Club:

The Middletown Swim and Tennis Club will not be operated by the Township in 2012 as program fees have not covered its operating budget in recent years. Accordingly, Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante is recommending that the facility remain closed for the 2012 season, unless another entity can soon be identified to operate the club.

“Unfortunately, rising costs, declining membership, declining revenues, an aging facility, and staff reductions mean that it is no longer economically viable for the Township to continue to operate the facility,” Mercantante said. “The Township has been obligated to cover revenue shortfalls from its regular operating budget,” Mercantante explained, “and it cannot afford to do so any longer.”

“It is unrealistic to expect the Township Committee to ask taxpayers to help support a membership-driven facility, hoping that it will become self-sustaining again,” Mayor Tony Fiore continued.

The Township purchased the 10-acre aquatic facility from a private owner in 1997 for $1.225 million. The facility, located at the corner of Harmony and Old Country Road, has 4 swimming pools, 55 cabanas, 330 bathhouses, five tennis courts, a playground, snack bar and basketball, shuffleboard, bocce and handball courts.

The club, which is funded through membership and program fees, is managed through a utility that allows the facility to operate outside of the municipal budget. Revenues were to cover the purchase, operating costs and improvements. In the early years, the club largely paid for itself as anticipated. Since the national recession began in 2008, membership has declined and revenues are not covering operating and debt costs.

“No decision has been reached as to what to do with the facility in the long-term,” Mercantante said.

He added that the facility’s age is another factor in its fate. The club, which is more than 50 years old, will continue to need repairs and capital upgrades in the years to come. There are not sufficient revenues to support major improvement projects, Mercantante said.

“We realize that if the club does not open it will be a sad day for many families in the Township. We also realize it will be disruptive to some people’s summer plans, but the Township cannot afford to run the club in the red for another season,” Mercantante said. “We are, however, looking at options that would allow the club to re-open with a different operator and we are also looking at options to allow the main pool to be opened so that the award-winning swim team can stay together for another season,” he said.

“During these tough economic times everything must always be on the table. The decision not operate the swim club is one that we take very seriously. However, our obligation to provide core and essential governmental services cannot be compromised,” Mayor Fiore said.

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Filed under Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, press release, Swim Club, Tony Fiore, Tony Mercantante

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 #2: “You can say it’s political…”

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

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

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

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

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