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Defiant Prasad Vows To ‘Fulfill My Term’ Amid Calls To Resign, Accuses Opponents Of Political Grandstanding

Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad responds to residents calling for his resignation at the Feb. 12, 2019 Township Council meeting.


Rejecting repeated calls for his resignation, Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad on Feb. 12 vowed to fill out his term, and accused those who oppose him with “political grandstanding.”

Prasad (D-At Large) has been enmeshed in controversy at various times over the last three years, most recently over his handling of the approval process for the now-defunct plan for a “Peace and Nonviolence” monument park, and the revelations that he advised a landlord to meet with a Municipal Court Judge over a dispute and apparently asked for the Township Manager’s help in fixing four parking tickets, a request that was refused.

Members of a residents’ group that conducted an unsuccessful recall effort – and who have now turned their focus on pressuring Prasad to resign – have for more than six months demanded Prasad step down. Township Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) has been the only councilman to echo that call, although Mayor Phil Kramer strongly condemned Prasad in that same meeting last year.

The residents picked up the calls for him to resign at the Feb. 12 meeting, with one – Sam Velu – publicly changing his voter registration from Democrat to Republican over what he said was the Democratic party’s inaction.

But as he has in the past, Prasad claimed that he must abide by the wishes of the voters who elected him in 2015 and stay on. Prasad’s term ends on Dec. 31.

“This is still a democracy, the voters have spoken, they elected me to a term, and I will fulfill that term to the best of my ability,” he said.

Prasad later charged that some of those who oppose him are doing so for political reasons.

“2019 is a campaign year, and some of you speaking here, I fully expect to be running,” he said. “But this is not the forum … if you have ideas, we welcome them, but this is not the forum for your political grandstanding, which is what … you may disagree with me, but that’s my point.”

“It is a campaign year, I’m just stating a fact, and that’s where it belongs, on the campaign trail,” he said.

Several of the residents who spoke said Prasad should have rebuffed a statement made at the Jan. 28 Human Relations Commission meeting by Commissioner John Tibbs, in which Tibbs referred to the anti-Prasad group as a “hate group.”

“Our liaison to the council has been going through … things, behind him being censured by the Township Council, and I have nothing to talk about that other than the fact that every charge against Councilman Prasad was forwarded by a hate group, and it was all wrong,” Tibbs said at that meeting. “Every charge that he went through for three months, I don’t see how a human being can be berated and abused and nastily talked to for three months.”

Tibbs went on to say that some of the charges related to statements made by Prasad, which, he said, constituted a violation of Prasad’s right to free speech. He also said some Council members said they are afraid to say anything as well.

“There’s a violation of freedom of speech, it’s like Gestapo-type tactics …” Tibbs said.

“We hear you loud and clear,” Commission chairman Gary Rosenthal told Tibbs.

Prasad at the Council meeting said it was not his job to “censor” what people say at the Commission meetings.

Mayor Kramer said that Tibbs’ comments at the HRC meeting were “disgraceful.”

“Whether I agree or disagree with the people coming here, there have been no issues of hate, no issues of racism and anyone who says that is adding division and divisiveness to this town,” he said. “This town went through a police shooting of a citizen with some protest, some people being upset, a march, but people were calm.”

“This town relishes its diversity,” Kramer said. “It is dangerous to call people racists when they are not. It is important to call out racism when it exists, and I don’t pretend that racism doesn’t exist in the town, of course it does, it exists everywhere. But those embers are fanned when someone calls someone a racist” and they are not. “And if you do it over, and over and over again, like any lie, people begin to believe it. So that needs to stop.”

“People on the Human Relation Commission have taken the “Stand for the Other” pledge, and they should speak out if someone inappropriately says comments like the ones that I saw,” Kramer said. “I’m not taking a side here, but what I’m saying is, we need to be careful. Those statements cause harm.”

Velu, who has been a vocal critic of Prasad’s, said he was “disappointed with this Council for putting up with Prasad’s transgressions. You are putting party politics over the people of Franklin.”

“I’m really disappointed in Prasad for your decision to stay on the Council and not resign, and let Franklin move forward,” Velu said. “If you are really a public servant, you should resign.”

“If you want to serve, you can do it from the sidelines” he said. “Franklin Township has a long history of diversity and inclusion. Race is not an issue here. The issue is the failure of this Council to deal with the council member who has proven he cannot and will not represent all the people of Franklin.”

“To restore our community and faith in public servants, I call on you, Prasad, to resign so Franklin can move forward,” Velu said.

“After doing great soul-searching, I’m going to be changing my party from Democratic Party to Republican,” Velu said. “This is not who we are, continuing to stand and allow one council member to get away with the things he has done is reprehensible. This council has failed to hear the people who have spoken time and time again at this podium, I cannot be part of this inaction any longer.”

Velu then called on other Democrats to change their affiliations, too.

Skip Schaeffer told the all-Democratic Council that, “it’s almost a badge of honor to ask someone in your own party to resign because of their outrageous actions. If you want to do everything you can, you will each stand up and join Dr. Chase and ask for Mr. Prasad’s resignation.”

Schaeffer asked Prasad what he meant by a comment Prasad made at the Council’s Jan. 22 meeting, in which Prasad said he knows he has a “strange name” and that he was not born in the United States.

“What exactly were you implying with that comment, sir?” Schaeffer asked. “That people who are opposed to you being on council do so because of your name and your country of birth? Has anyone who has opposed your actions here over the last three-plus years, said anything about your name or country of origin?”

“Stop trying to make race an issue with the people who oppose you when it isn’t the issue,” he said. “That’s actually racist behavior on your part, but you demonstrate time and time again that you just don’t get it.”

“What they care about is you are a person who attacks and bullies people with names like Nazi, skinhead, people who don’t want statues of colored people in town,” Schaeffer said. “What they care about is you are someone who tries to use law enforcement to investigate people who don’t agree with you. Someone who tries to use law enforcement for favors for friends. That’s what people care about, sir.”

Apparently still stuck on the idea that residents’ opposition to him is based on race rather than his actions, Prasad later in the meeting suggested a “town hall” meeting be held to “resolve” issues about diversity and race relations.

“To sweep them under the rug or to keep talking about it is not going to solve the problem,” Prasad said.

Prasad also issued an apology for anything that he has done “to offend anybody.”

“I am looking to work towards healing this town and would like to reach out to all of you and request that we have this town hall meeting at another time,” he said. “We can have that and have a resolution of the issues of race relations.”

 

 

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