In Your Opinion: Elect Township Republicans In November

By Skip Schaeffer, Somerset.

For too many years the Franklin Township Council has been overwhelmingly in the hands of the Democratic Party by an 8-1 count. The result has been an overall decreasing level of ethics, integrity, and honesty from the Council. Council Democrats have clearly demonstrated that Party comes first in Franklin – ahead of residents and common decency. (For the record I am a registered Independent.) I offer the following three situations as evidence.

Several years ago current Deputy Mayor Kimberly Francois was returning home from vacation during a snowstorm and found herself at the New Brunswick train station without a pre-arranged ride home. Did she call a family member, a friend, or a taxi for a ride home? No. She called the Franklin Township Police Department and asked for a patrol car to bring her home. The same police department that was under Township Council review for contract raises, future layoffs, and decreased financial health benefit coverage. Not only did Ms. Francois casually abuse the power of her position, the police were put in an awkward and intimidating situation with a town official who was making various decisions on their employment. Plus, police resources were already stretched thin responding to legitimate emergency calls at that time. What was the response afterwards from the other Democrats on Council? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Sweep it under the rug. The public will forget about it.

Again, several years ago another former Democratic Council member, Ellen Ritchie, made verbal threats to a township committee member and also unethically met privately with a land developer who wanted to build a Home Depot in town. The Council Democrats’ response? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Not one word of rebuke. Sweep it under the rug. The public will forget about it. Except the public didn’t. A successful recall campaign and vote was held and Ms. Ritchie was removed from office.

More recently, a couple of months ago another Democratic Council member, Rajiv Prasad, abused the power of his position by trying to intimidate a town grassroots group that was against the Council approved location of a new park. Mr. Prasad asked the Chief of Police to investigate the group. He asked the Police Chief to contact the FBI as well in order to scare the town group that “eyes were watching.” Mr. Prasad asked the town’s Human Relations Commission to draft a resolution denouncing the town group’s activities and website. With no evidence at all that the group posed a threat of danger or violence to township residents, Mr. Prasad implied that the group had members who were “neo-Nazis and skinheads.” He also contacted the town attorney to inquire about any legal action that could be taken against the group simply because they vocally opposed the location of the new park.

Then, incredibly, when confronted with these facts by the public at the August 11, 2015 Council meeting, facts that were supported by emails that Mr. Prasad himself had sent, Mr. Prasad actually denied everything and said there was no issue to address and no apology to make. The timeline of the emails showed that the Democrats on Council were also aware of all these facts before the August 11 meeting. (Curiously, Mr. Prasad’s emails were sent to all Council Democrats but not to Republican Mayor and Council member Chris Kelly.) So at the August 11 meeting Mr. Prasad lied to the public about his actions. When the rest of the Democrats on Council were asked to comment on the matter, once again the attitude was see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Sweep it under the rug. The public will forget about it. There’s an election coming up.

In addition, Democratic Town Chair and State Assemblyman Joe Danielsen got into the act of damage control. The Human Relations Commission’s resolution was to be read publicly at the August 11 meeting. Mr. Danielsen squashed that plan so as to not further sensationalize the issue. Let it die down. The public will forget. There’s an election coming up. Oh, by the way. Mr. Danielsen had received a campaign donation from the engineering firm that was awarded the new park’s design and implementation. Pay to play?

It’s not that I trust Republicans any more than Democrats. However, the Franklin Township Council has had an 8-1 Democratic majority for the last 8-10 years. They have clearly demonstrated time and again that Party comes first in Franklin. Not the residents. Not integrity, honesty, and ethics. I almost forgot. A few years ago the Democratic Council even voted to eliminate the town’s Ethics Committee. What does that tell you?

A better balance is desperately needed on Franklin’s Council. More watchful eyes. I shudder to think of how many similar instances like the above there have been that have not come to light. Republican Mayor Chris Kelly has earned the honor of being re-elected. The Democrats in the three at-large Council positions need to be replaced with Republicans as well. If those four positions end up Republican, the Democrats will still have a 5-4 voting advantage, so relax Franklin. All you’re doing is sending a much-needed message to both parties. What can’t be tolerated and allowed to continue is this long-standing pattern of abuse of power and lack of integrity by town Democrats. They don’t hold themselves accountable for anything. Franklin deserves better.

I urge town voters to elect Republican Mayor Chris Kelly in November. I urge town voters to elect Republicans Raleigh Steinhauer, Scott Siegel, and Catherine Barrier to the three at-large Council positions in November. Let’s strive for improved ethics, integrity, and honesty from everyone on this Council going forward.

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