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Residents Form Committee To Recall Councilman Prasad, Campaign Underway

Group must gather nearly 11,000 signatures.

A group of residents has begin the recall effort of Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad.


The effort by a group of township residents to recall Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad has begun.

A “Notice of Intent to Recall,” the first step in the process, was filed with Township Clerk Ann Marie McCarthy on Sept. 18. McCarthy has three business days from then to validate the three signatures on the notice – Christina Ganzer, Ravikanth Kolla and Gina Walker – before the group can start to collect signatures on petitions calling for a special election to recall Prasad.

She will also calculate the cost of a recall election during those three days.

The recall committee will have 160 days to collect signatures from 25 percent of registered voters township-wide, because Prasad is an at-large councilman.

McCarthy said there were 43,481 registered voters during the last general election, so the recall committee would need to gather 10,870 signatures.

Prasad (D-At Large) came under fire recently over his handling of the approval process for a “Peace and Nonviolence” monument park, a project that he has been shepherding for about a decade. The park, targeted for a piece of township-owned open space at Route 27 and Cortelyous Road, would feature bronze statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and bronze busts of Nelson Mandela and Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

The statues and busts would be mounted on pedestals set on a large granite platform with railings and benches, and the exhibit would also feature 4-foot monitors showing video clips of the people honored. The monument area would comprise about 6,000 square feet, and there would also be a 3,000-square-foot parking lot behind it.

A series of articles in the Franklin Reporter & Advocate showed that Prasad had his main donor, Piyush Patel of Flemington, order the statues well before any official Township Council action was taken on the monument park idea, and that supporters of the idea were given advanced notice that a resolution concerning the park would be heard at the Aug. 14 council meeting, even though the item was never placed on the public agenda, as required by the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

Ganzer, who delivered the notice to the clerk, said that Prasad came on her “radar” several years ago, when he charged that opposition to Catalpa Park was race-based.

“I, living on South Middlebush Road, opposed the placement of the park, especially when we have several existing underutilized parks in the Township,” she wrote in an email. “I was also one of the residents targeted by his initial racism accusation stemming from our opposition to the park.”

“Once again, I find myself the target of a racist accusation due to my displeasure of how Mr. Prasad goes about his duties, specifically, his handling of The Peace and Non-Violence Monument Park,” she wrote. “Since when does disagreement equal racism? Since when is it acceptable to evade the legal process to get your way and expect no repercussions? And since when is it unacceptable to legitimately challenge your elected officials without being labeled and name-called?”

Kolla said he believes Prasad needs to be recalled because of his lack of transparency regarding the monument park, and his “race baiting.”

“When all business that is conducted at taxpayers’ expense is veiled under a shroud of secrecy with zero transparency and then race baiting is used as a defense, it is inexcusable,” he wrote. “I doubt anyone would call me, as Prasad put it, a ‘Trump emboldened racist Republican’. He needs to go.”

In securing licensing rights to the image of King, Prasad in an email told the estate’s representatives that he is being opposed by “Trump emboldened Republicans who don’t want colored statues in town.”

Ganzer said that she is “proud to play a main role in this movement.”

“It feels good to take positive steps towards change, instead of simply sitting on the sidelines and allowing things to happen,” she wrote. “I am passionate about fairness, equality and trying to do the right thing. Working to get the Notice of Intention to Recall completed and delivered gave me a strong sense of accomplishment, as well as pride in taking an active part in the government process.”

“Participating also helps me feel more connected to the town in which I was born and raised and love,” Ganzer wrote. “Making Franklin Township a better place to live is my main goal. Sending a clear message to our governing officials that they can not act like Mr. Prasad without being held accountable is my secondary mission. I am excited by all the community support behind this project and I have little doubt we will be successful.”

Walker said she decided to get involved because “many times I have said what can I do to help and that was an easy thing to do to help get the recall process started.”

“I feel it is important to participate because he should not be a councilman representing the people of the township,” he wrote of Prasad. “His actions and inability to follow process have been proven again and again and playing the race card is getting old. I am done taking a back seat and had the opportunity to move to the front, so I did.”

A request for comment from Prasad has not yet been answered.


Editor’s Note: The Franklin Reporter & Advocate called for Prasad to resign in 2015 and in 2018.

 

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