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In Your Opinion: Moral Obligation To Remove Prasad

By Mark Grieco

The events surrounding Catalpa Park, especially the behavior of Democratic Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad, have taken their toll on the township. The haggard looks of some of the council members at the last council meeting, and what I take to be their sincere calls for healing, tell the story. This has been one of the ugliest episodes of the township in recent memory. While squabbles and bruised egos are part of the political game, the McCarthyism that Prasad has introduced and the lives he may have wrecked in the process, has brought the township to a frightening new place; one of fear and distrust. Realistic or not, many residents are now afraid to speak their minds regarding township issues for fear of a knock on the door from federal investigators. Trust in the township government, especially the council, is abysmal. Worse than that, it appears Prasad has gotten away with his actions. This is no longer simply about cricket pitches. Rather, this is about what we are to do with Councilman Prasad.

To be fair, Prasad has begun to make amends for his transgressions by publicly apologizing. That’s a good start, however his journey to redemption is only beginning. It will be a long time before the public ever trusts him again. In the meantime, the public deserves a council member that is fully engaged in the township business, and not one hobbled by his past. It is clear Prasad can no longer be a councilman.

There have been many public demands from residents for his resignation, demands from the local news media, and demands from writers on social media. I imagine many Democrats are angry with him, both because they have recoiled from his deplorable behavior and because he will be a drag on the Democratic ticket when he runs for re-election in November. Republicans, albeit pre-programmed to oppose him, have rightly called for his resignation. But when push comes to shove, you can’t make someone resign and it’s too late in his term to recall him. Considering the number of Democratic voters in the township, Prasad may just be able to ride the coat tails of other local and state Democrats to victory in November. Options for his removal from office are few: defeat at the polls to a Republican challenger in November, a recall (should he be re-elected) or the long-shot scenario of his resignation. All of them have their hurdles.

To defeat Prasad at the polls in November means enough Democratic voters would have to either split their votes between local Democrats and a local GOP council candidate, or Democrats would have to vote for Prasad’s three local running mates and decline to vote at all for him or his challenger, leaving a mathematical gap for the GOP challenger.

A recall, successfully accomplished in the township in 2007, takes a lot of organizational capacity. It is unclear whether that capacity exists in the anti-Catalpa Park/Prasad camp. However, unlike a general election, in a recall scenario Prasad would not have the support of running mates, and in fact may have challengers vying for his seat if recalled. Prasad’s political baggage would be the focus of the recall election, and possibly drag him down to defeat.

As for Prasad resigning, that would require him to be the center of a protracted political war of attrition. Constant political pressure might eventually wear him down. Democrats, fed up with being caught up in the turmoil, might help create a face-saving path for him to step down.

Then again, we could just let it all slide. Before you know it, October will bring Halloween and the holiday season on its heels. People prefer to turn their backs on confrontation, and long for a time without conflict. Calls for unity, healing, and forgiveness from council members and speakers at the public podium are fine sentiments. But what about justice? Is justice to be forgotten in favor of peace? History shows us that without justice, there can be no peace. As long as he sits on the council, every issue that he weighs in on, worthy or not, will remind the public of his past deeds, opening old wounds, and poisoning the public dialogue.

Prasad has committed a gross violation, and has yet to be held accountable for his actions. Not only is this morally wrong, it sends a message to others, even Prasad himself, that you can destroy the reputations of innocent people, obfuscate and dodge, and nothing of great consequence will happen to you. Is this what we want from our government, actions without consequences, a climate of fear and distrust? Regardless of the difficulties, we have a moral obligation to remove Prasad from office one way or another. No justice, no peace.

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