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In Your Opinion: Reform the Franklin Human Relations Committee

By Scott Siegel, Somerset.

Recently Franklin Township experienced a sad and tragic experience when Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad accused innocent opponents of racism, while in reality they opposed the building of Catalpa Park. There were several reasons why the Tranquility Alliance was formed: traffic congestion on a two-lane, highly traveled, South Middebush Road; noise from athletic events and keeping the land preserved as nature.

Originally Prasad denied making a claim of racism, but thanks to the Franklin Reporter, who witnessed the HRC meeting, he was shown to be a liar. To date he never apologized for that.

The HRC voted 15-0 in favor of Prasad, but in my opinion the process was flawed. Committee members are appointed by the majority Democrats. At no time the Tranquility Alliance founder Brian Ulrich was notified of this hearing. This violated his 1st Amendment right to free speech and showed a lack of due process.

Logically, the reason why Prasad would lie is if he felt the the matter was covered up. The Franklin Reporter mentions the HRC Chairman emailing Deputy Mayor Kimberly Francois and Democratic Assemblyman Joe Danielson. Ms. Francois and Mr. Danielson have not at this point explained what their role was. Since there is no mention of them attending the meeting, the most likely scenario is they were involved in the coverup. HRC Chairman Gary Rosenthal confirmed to me that there were 2 sets of minutes and the 15-0 first vote was discarded.

The article also shows that no HRC member ever looked at the Facebook page to verify Prasad’s challenge.

This affair demonstrates why the HRC must be reformed. Under Republican leadership Franklin Township had an Ethics Board bipartisanly staffed by 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats. This framework would ensure that the HRC is fair and honest. Second, all members must personally review any information or abstain from voting. Third, the aggrieved party must be given the evidence against them and have a reasonable time to prepare their defense. Fourth, no politician should be allowed to interfere with this body.

Councilman Prasad was allowed to wield the HRC and in my opinion attempted to silence political opponents with the charge of racism. In a July 28th email to our police chief, Prasad called the Tranquility Alliance “racist” and a “criminal group”. He called on the police chief to contact the FBI before violence occurred. To date not one threat was ever made.

At the Council meeting he stated that a constituent, not him “does not speak English well” and does not “understand our political system” like he does. On the next day he sent the same email to the other 7 Democrats on the Council and not one complained that there was something wrong and Prasad has not apologized for lying one more tme.

Unless these reforms are adopted the HRC can only be seen as vehicle to unfairly attack political opponents and therefore should be disbanded so Franklin Township does not have to endure another tragedy.

Siegel is a Republican candidate for an At-Large Township Council seat.

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