Prasad Censured; Council Staves Off Last-Minute Attempt To Weaken Admonishment

Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad takes notes during the Dec. 11 Council meeting.

Despite a last-minute attempt to water it down, a resolution censuring Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad was unanimously passed at the Dec. 11 Council meeting.

The resolution expresses the Council’s sense that Prasad (D-At Large) has “engaged in multiple actions in his official capacity as an elected official that are improper for a person in his position,” and that the actions are of  “a manner and to the degree that he has lost the trust of many residents and the governing body of Franklin Township.”

The Mayor and Council find the actions “unacceptable,” and that they “dishonor the important position in which he has been entrusted.”

The Mayor and Council “do hereby admonish him in the strongest of terms by censuring Mr. Rajiv Prasad Councilman, At-Large for the multiple improper actions he has taken,” the resolution states.

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

It was the section saying Prasad’s actions “dishonor” his position that drew the ire of Township Councilman Will Galtieri (D-Ward 2).

After successfully moving the censure resolution from its position as last on the agenda to the first piece of business considered by the council, Galtieri moved that paragraph containing the “dishonor” statement be removed.

“As strongly as I disagree with Mr. Prasad’s actions, there’s one section in there that I would ask that we remove, that would be section four,” he said. “I feel that the wording is strong enough in the other sections to cover the discontent and to emphasize the feelings of council, but still, out of respect, I would ask that we remove that line.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois quickly seconded Galtieri’s motion.

Mayor Phil Kramer objected to the removal.

“I’m opposed to removing that,” he said. “I think this is what we can do in order to tell the township that we are disappointed with Mr. Prasad and I do not think that we should weaken what we are saying. I think it is important that this be worded as strongly as possible.”

“I disagree with that because … did you add that line personally?” Councilman Carl Wright (D-Ward 4) asked.

“That was presented to me by the chairman of the Democratic Party,” Kramer said.

After being pressed for specifics by Wright, Kramer said it was Ron Jordan, chairman of the municipal Democrats, who presented him with the resolution.

There was no further discussion on the amendment’s motion, which then failed by a 5-4 vote. In addition to Galtieri and Francois, voting to remove the section were Wright and, in an effort to help his own case, Prasad.

Once that motion was disposed of, Kramer read a statement on his feelings on the original censure motion.

“Mr. Prasad, I recognize you have done good in this community, you have been helpful in the fight against the compressor station, and have made council more aware of our diversity,” he said. “But citing the days you did good things is not a defense for the days you did bad. Mr. Prasad, I cannot express how sad and angry your actions have made me.”

Kramer then ran down a list of Prasad’s actions he found objectionable, including taking certain actions that “threaten the harmony” of Franklin’s diverse population.

“I am exhausted and in mental anguish for having to sit here meeting after meeting and having to listen to the acrimony of residents,” he said. “It is not them I blame, they are righteous in their anger. The question is, how long are you going to continue to commit these violations of the public trust and force all of the council to endure this treatment meeting after meeting?”

“It is selfish of you to allow fellow council members to endure this, it is selfish to allow the citizens of Franklin to endure this,” he said.

Council members all voted “yes” for the resolution, save for Prasad, who voted “present.”

A number of residents showed up to the Council meeting to comment on the censure resolution. The majority of those comments supported it, although Prasad did have his defenders.

The tone was set by former Councilwoman Roz Sherman, who said that Prasad was tarnishing the Council’s reputation.

“He has disgraced himself and is dragging the council with him in the onward spiral of information” that has been released about him, she said.

“The council has to regain its integrity and standing with Franklin Township residents, which has been severely damaged as a result of Mr. Prasad’s attempt to bypass the legal and normal processes of handling the situations already mentioned,” she said.

“Mr. Prasad, you have harmed yourself, and you have harmed the reputation of this council,” she said. “If you had the best interests of this township and of this council and of the residents of Franklin, you would resign immediately. I see nothing to indicate that that will actually happen.”

“Assuming it does not, I will do what I can to strongly advocate that the Democratic party withdraw its support of your candidacy in the upcoming elections,” she said. “At the rate things are going, it may not take much effort on my part.”

Robert Peterson asked that should all council members ask for Prasad’s resignation, “would he be so shameless to then remain as part of this?”

A censure, Peterson said, “has no repercussions.”

“The man continues shamelessly,” he said.

Arnold Schmidt said that it was time for the Council to “take the high road” and “stop protecting or ignoring what appears to be an ever-mounting array of unethical behavior by one of our own elected officials.”

Schmidt said that while he recognizes the Council has no authority to remove Prasad, “I believe you do have the moral obligation in this case to ask him to do so, or strongly reprimand him.”

The censure resolution “is like the punch line of a very bad joke,” Caren White said. “You better believe the voters will remember this as each of you comes up for re-election. And if they don’t remember, your opponents will remind them.”

Karen Trautmann said that Prasad has “done a disservice to our community. You have shown no respect to the processes laid out by our governing bodies. You are not an honorable man. You’ve lost my trust, the public’s trust and as will be read later this evening, your colleague’s trust.”

Prasad did have his supporters.

Chandrakant Desai asked the Council to withdraw the censure resolution, calling Prasad the “caretaker of the minorities.”

“He deserves our congratulations and support for working hard for the community,” he said.

John Tibbs, a vociferous Prasad supporter, called the group campaigning for a special election to recall Prasad a “hate group.”

“I have never heard so much hate in my life,” he said. “Mayor, I am surprised that you allow a hate group to set up a table and chairs in the municipal building … isn’t that against the law?”

Addressing himself to Council member Charles Onyejiaka (D-Ward 3), Francois and Wright, Tibbs said, “You got 20 people out here, twenty hate mongers. That’s all you got! You’re worried about them talking nasty about Rajiv?”

“By the way, he’s your comrade,” Tibbs said. “Every one of you should get up and cuss every one of them out every time they say something bad about him.”

Gary Rosenthal, chairman of the township’s Human Relations Commission, said his commission is successful because of Prasad, who is the Council’s liaison to the commission.

“A lot of our success is attributable to Councilman Prasad,” he said. “I hear all this nonsense that’ going on, I read the newspaper every morning, but I have to say that the Human Relations Commission today is where it is because of our liaison on the council.”

The Franklin Reporter & Advocate live streamed the relevant parts of the meeting:







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