In Our Opinion: Township Council Must Vote ‘No’ On Prasad ‘Excused Absences’ Resolution

We’ve heard about instances of craven politics before, but this takes the cake.

The Township Council has on its agenda for the Nov. 8 meeting a resolution that must be seen to be believed. It excuses Councilman Rajiv Prasad from attending council meetings due to “family and work matters.”

Here’s the resolution:

WHEREAS, Councilman Rajiv Prasad has informed the Township Council that he has various family and work matters that would cause him unable to attend Council and other Committee Meetings; and

WHEREAS, family and work matters are excusable absences;

WHEREAS, Councilman Rajiv Prasad has requested to be excused from Council and other Committee Meetings;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council of the Township of Franklin, County of Somerset and State of New Jersey that Councilman Rajiv Prasad shall be excused from Council Meetings.

If passed by the (all-Democrat) council, this would inoculate Prasad, who has been the source of controversy over his handling of the now-defunct plan to build a monument park in town, as well as his questionable interaction with a resident and a Municipal Court Judge, from the “eight consecutive absences rule” under which his seat could be declared vacant if he misses eight council meetings in a row.

The proposed amendment whitewashes the reason Prasad stepped away from his duties (for which he is still being paid his annual salary) and makes it seem as though he’s asking for the excused absences for non-controversial reasons, even though he announced at the Oct. 9 meeting that he was “stepping away” from his council duties “for a few weeks” due to the uproar these controversies have caused.

This is what he said in his statement: “I fear recent events in the news and the distractions it has caused, have hampered the council from serving the residents of Franklin Township … Due to these distractions my family and business have also suffered and need my attention.”

Any “distractions” Prasad may be facing at home or at work were caused by him. He would not have any of those issues had he not engaged in blatant abuses of power, both in the recent incidents and in the Catalpa Park debacle three years ago.

Giving Prasad a pass because his own actions caused his problems is akin to a jury acquitting a defendant on trial for killing his parents on the grounds that he is an orphan. (No, we’re not equating the two, just using this for illustrative purposes.)

That’s not the only problem we have with this resolution.

Why was the decision made to not add this item to the agenda until the very afternoon of the Nov. 8 Council meeting? Was this a decision made by the Democrats on Nov. 8? If so, where’s the Open Public Meeting Notice advertising the special meeting?

Why was the decision made to put this resolution up after the Nov. 6 election? As noted above, Prasad decided to “step away” in October; there was plenty of time since then to introduce this resolution giving him a free pass. Our theory: It spared Deputy Mayor (and now County Freeholder-elect) Shanel Robinson from having to vote on it before what everyone thought was going to be a close election. Had she voted for it, Republicans would have used it to cudgel her, had she voted against, she would have risked the wrath of the Party.

The Township Council must either withdraw this ill-informed resolution, this monument to Blatant Political Maneuvering, or Council members must vote no. (What they should vote “yes” on is a resolution demanding that Prasad resign immediately.)

Because given the facts behind Prasad’s absences from the Council, given the documented abuses of power he has committed over the last three years, given the fact that a Somerset County Democratic party leader confirmed in writing that certain of Prasad’s actions were the subject of a “judicial review,” should the council vote to approve this resolution, it will prove nothing more than that township Democrats put party above the good of the township’s residents, and that they will do what they have to to protect one of their own, no matter what.

And what a statement that would be.

The Township Council meeting is at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Municipal Building, 495 DeMott Lane.


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