Community Foundation Votes To Refund Remainder Of ‘Peace And Non-Violence’ Donations; Project Effectively Dead

The Franklin Township Community Foundation on Oct. 24 voted to refund the remainder of the money donated to the proposed Peace and Non-Violence monument park.

The Franklin Township Community Foundation on Oct. 24 voted to return to donors the remaining contributions to a proposed “Peace and Non-Violence” monument park.

The vote effectively kills the project that has sparked controversy in the township over how Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large) handled its approval process and his characterization of the park’s opponents.

In voting to return the contributions to their original donors, foundation trustees rebuffed Prasad’s request that the money be give to the Gandhian Society of Woodbridge.

The motion to refund the money came from trustee and Township Councilwoman Kimberly Francois.

“I’ve expressed that I think we should give the money back to each individual donor,” she said. “Whatever they donated, we should give that refund back to them.”

Trustee and Mayor Phil Kramer seconded Francois’ motion.

“Two of the main donors I think specified here, and a couple others that were the larger donors, didn’t want to deal with the paperwork tax aspect,” said board president and Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) in speaking of donors who asked that their donations be transferred to the Gandhian Society. The donors were concerned that they had already taken the donation as a tax deduction – the community foundation is a 501 (c) (3) organization – and that they would have to report the returned money as income.

“I think the feeling may be that it may be too complicated or we would need to get more definitive instructions etc., that it may be easier, simple, cleaner, I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth, that if we just take one approach and do a return and whatever they choose to do, donate it to a charitable contribution, they can do so and the individuals that choose to hold on to their money hold on to their money,” he said.

The “best way to go,” Francois said, is to give the donors back their money, after which they could do what they want with it.

“Also, we are following through on Councilman Prasad’s recommendation to dissolve the money,” Kramer said.

Prasad, at the foundation’s Oct. 2 special meeting to discuss the donations, said that the account should be dissolved because the project for which it was raised “is not happening.”

Prasad also said the remaining money should be donated to the Gandhian Society, an idea that was not embraced by the other trustees.

Read the original donor list here.

Most of the $14,518 – $9,150, to be exact – was donated during a Feb. 23, 2009 fundraiser dinner run by Gulshan Chhabra. Of that initial money, $150 came from three township residents.

More donations were received in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, capped off by a $65,000 donation made in August by Dr. Naresh Sharma, bringing the total donated to $79,518.

Dr. Sharma at the Sept. 26 Township Council meeting asked that his $65,000 be refunded because, he said, he did not think any new project would be true to the spirit of the one to which he donated.

That request led to the foundation’s special Oct. 2 meeting. Sharma’s money has been returned to him.

Prasad emailed the original donor list to Township Clerk and foundation secretary Ann Marie McCarthy on Oct. 24; in a note attached to the list, he said that Chhabra requested “for simplicity’s sake,” that the money be forwarded to the Gandhian Society.

Bhupen Patel, president of Shaili Management, also asked that his $500 donation be forwarded to the society.


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