Tuesday, March 31, 2015

3-30-13 Middletown Township Committee Meeting - FY 2015 Budget Intro

Middletown Township introduced its FY-2015 budget Monday afternoon with a brief presentation by CFO Colleen Lapp. The Committee also adopted a resolution to amend the lease agreement with Trinity Hall at the Croydon Hall property.

I haven't had time to watch all of the video as of yet, I intend to do so shorty. I also intend to post the documents from the meeting as an update as soon as they are available.

Here is a link to Middletown's press release announcing the budget introduction

 UPDATE  ************

Here are the links to the proposed FY 2015 Municipal Budget, Solid Waste Budget and the revised Trinity Hall lease agreement documents present at last night's township meeting:




Friday, March 27, 2015

Was PBA Local 124 Facebook Post In Violation Of Middletown's Social Media Policy?

After learning about the post and a subsequent comment left on the Middletown PBA Local 124 Facebook page concerning the PBA's frustration with the township administration, community activist Linda Baum sent me the following:

I read your post "Middletown PBA Local 124 Facebook Post: "...township committee shows little to no thanks at all...", and Assistant Township Administrator Jim VanNest’s follow-up email to township employees that was mentioned in the comments didn't sit well with me. So I OPRA’d the  township’s social media policy,  to see what it says.

I think that the comments made by the township employee may be viewed as political activity. I’m told by a lawyer that public employees have the same rights as everyone else to engage in political activity, and that, if they were retaliated against for political activity, that would be illegal.

The memo from VanNest refereed to by commenter John Wite, implies consequences/retaliation. That by itself seems very wrong, if not unlawful, even if the township doesn’t retaliate because it creates an environment of fear and intimidation for employees.

Now, if the township has a social media policy that disallows specific employee activity, where that specific activity is allowed by law, then it seems the township’s social media policy would be invalid, at least in part.  It seems to attempt to restrict pretty much all work-related discussion or criticism of the administration, but on close reading may not. Thus, it’s not clear that the employee who posted on Facebook violated the township’s policy.

It appears truthful criticism of the administration is allowed.

Per an attorney consulted on this matter. Paraphrased:

"If the Township retaliates against an employee because that employee commented on matters of public concern, that is a violation of the First Amendment and could give rise to a civil rights case at the very least. The Township is inviting litigation when they start firing or demoting people, because the victims will say it was because of their protected speech activities."

You can read Middletown's Social Media policy ... HERE

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pallone to Christie: New Jersey Knows Immigration Reforms Can’t Wait

WASHINGTON, DC — Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) released the following statement today in response to Governor Chris Christie’s (R-NJ) decision to sign onto an amicus brief opposing President Obama's executive action on immigration. The brief, filed on Monday by the governors of New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana and South Dakota, urges an appeals court to uphold a preliminary injunction blocking the President’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from risk of immediate deportation.

According to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll, a majority of New Jersey residents support President Obama’s executive order to extend these protections to immigrant families:

“This is just another example of Governor Christie putting his own political agenda ahead of the interests of the New Jerseyans he claims to represent. A majority of New Jersey residents, 53 percent, in fact, support President Obama’s actions that will help to secure our border, hold bad actors accountable, and ensure that families are not being ripped apart. Yet, despite the public support in our state for these common sense reforms, Governor Christie has, instead, prioritized his political aspirations.

“Last November, President Obama took an important first step to help fix our country’s broken immigration system. President Obama acted decisively and within his legal authority to help keep families together and ensure that everyone living in this country is playing by the same rules. This includes hard-working New Jerseyans who would finally be able to come out of the shadows, submit to a background check, and start paying taxes, which is good for both public safety and our state’s economy. I urge Governor Christie to consider the opinions of New Jersey residents and stop obstructing these reforms that keep families together and begin dealing with our broken immigration system.”


For Immediate Release:

(Trenton) — Today, the Vice Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, Lizette Delgado-Polanco, issued the following statement slamming Governor Chris Christie's decision to join his Republican colleagues in an effort to block President Barack Obama's immigration reforms in court:

"Chris Christie's decision to join with other Republican governors in undermining President Obama’s much-needed immigration reforms is a deeply irresponsible, partisan act. New Jersey has a rich cultural heritage and relies on the work of immigrants to bolster our state and local economy. That Christie -- who has thus far refused to stake a coherent position on immigration -- would now seek to condemn hundreds of thousands of undocumented New Jersey residents to society's shadows is just the latest example of him trying to score political points with right-wing ideologues at the expense of New Jersey families and our common values. It's shameful to think that last year his second inaugural celebration was scheduled to be on Ellis Island."

According to Pew Research Center, New Jersey has the third highest percentage of immigrants relative to the state's population.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Middletown To Introduce Budget On March 30th

This coming Monday, March 30th, 2015 the  Middletown Township Committee will hold a special meeting  to introduce the 2015 Municipal Budget.

At this meeting both the 2015 Municipal Budget and the 2015 Solid Waste Budget will be introduced to the public.

 The meeting will start at 5PM and will be held in the Town Hall Conference room.

March 16, 2015 Middletown Township Committee Meeting

At last weeks Township Committee Meeting, the township recognized the first responders that rescued two young girls from the waters of the bay.

The township also recognized Autism Awareness Month, Volunteer Week, Alcohol Awareness Month and the HS North Ice Hockey team for winning the division state title.

Public hearings were held on ordinances to increase the summer recreation program fees, to protect the dunes along Middletown's bay front, increase the fees paid to special duty police officers, regulating electronic signs and banning commercial vehicles on town roads.

As always, you can download a copy of the Meeting Agenda that contains the discussion items and the proposed resolutions and ordinances that were voted on or presented during the meeting. A box around an item is a link, bringing you further into the document to that resolution or ordinance. At the end of the resolution there will be a link bringing you back to the agenda. Attached to this agenda is also the monthly bill list, so that everyone can see how the Township is spending our tax dollars.

Bayshore Watershed Council: Help Needed to Install Osprey Platforms Sunday, March 29

Greetings all,

The Bayshore Watershed Council is seeking volunteers to help repair and install new osprey platforms in the Borough of Union Beach on Sunday, March 29, 2015. We will meet at 9am in the gravel parking lot at the western end of Front Street.

Date: Sunday, March 29, 2015
Time: 9:00am
Meeting Location: Gravel parking at the western end of Front Street in Union Beach, NJ

We need at least 10 to 15 volunteers to help carry nesting platforms, carry tools, dig holes, or take pictures and video. Please bring knee boots, hip or chest waders to wear and a pair of work gloves. Please bring a post-hole digger, shovels, and rope.

Heavy rain or snow will cancel.

If you would like to help, please RSVP at the bayshorewatershed@comcast.net or just show up.

Ospreys are returning and in need of nesting platforms. Nesting platforms are critical for attracting Ospreys into new areas to spread out the distribution so they're not all concentrated in one part of the state.

These majestic raptors with their distinctive stick-built nests on nesting platforms depend on a healthy and abundant food supply. Since their diet consists primarily of fish, Osprey activities in the Bayshore region provide a good indication of water quality and the general health of Raritan Bay & Sandy Hook Bay.

So far, the Bayshore Watershed Council has had great luck with installing Osprey platforms. Nearly all platforms have been active and have produced young. New sites will hopefully provide Ospreys the best chance for successfully raising young downstream from NY City.

Letter: State Should Implement Gambling Customer Identification Program

The expressed opinions or views of this letter does not necessarily represent the opinion of the MiddletownMike blog:

Dear Editor,

The Internal Revenue Service proposal to reduce the threshold of casinos and other lawful gambling businesses being forced to gather identifying information of gamblers, including social security numbers from $1,200 to $600 means that casinos would have to stop games at that threshold in order to gather that information.

If New Jersey required, under state law, all gambling businesses to gather this information before taking any bets or allowing any person to begin playing any game and keep accurate records of all bets placed and results subject to real-time web based audits by the State of New Jersey and IRS, gambling at any lawful amount could take place uninterrupted as it would already be fully compliant with the IRS requirements.

The legislature should implement automatic compliance with federal requirements through mandating a state gambling Customer Identification Program and real-time audits to ensure that our gambling industry can become more competitive and secure.

Eric Hafner
Toms River

Pallone Celebrates 5 Years of the Affordable Care Act

March 23, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the principal authors of the Affordable Care Act, released the following statement to mark the five year anniversary of the historic health care reform law:

“Five years ago, we ushered in a new era, one in which health care coverage was no longer a privilege, but a right for all Americans. Five years ago today, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law, and millions of Americans who had gone without health insurance—seniors who had struggled due to inadequate coverage, and women, children and young adults that had been denied coverage due to preexisting conditions—gained the security that comes from being covered.

“After five years of the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage, including 602,000 New Jerseyans. Additionally, 3,847,727 non-elderly New Jerseyans, including 485,006 children throughout the state, can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, 383,964 New Jerseyans have gained Medicaid or CHIP coverage, and the cost of care has risen at a slower rate than we've seen in nearly 50 years.

“Despite the consumer protections and real savings for Americans, Republicans are still determined to dismantle the Affordable Care Act at every turn. House Republicans have voted 56 times to repeal or undermine the ACA and take these critical benefits away from millions of Americans, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. And, while it factors in savings accrued through the law, the latest Republican budget attempts to repeal the ACA, while also ending the Medicare guarantee, passing on costs to seniors. Enough is enough.

“I will continue to fight for the Affordable Care Act to ensure that every American has access to affordable, quality health insurance, and I look forward to the ACA continuing to benefit millions of Americans in the years ahead.”

NJ Watchdog: After 16 years as double-dipper, cop retires for 2nd pension

As New Jersey looks to fix a state pension system that's billions in debt, Patrick J. Higgins and other double-dippers find new ways to squeeze it for every dollar they can.

Higgins retired this month – for a second time. So the longtime law officer will begin collecting two state pensions, totaling nearly $100,000 a year, instead of one.

A New Jersey Watchdog examination of the underlying circumstances illustrates how public officials can legally exploit the state’s troubled retirement system, which is underfunded by $170 billion.

In 1999, Higgins retired as a state police detective. Since age 51, he has collected pension checks from the State Police Retirement System, which currently pays him $55,000 a year. SPRS rules allow members to retire after 25 years of service, regardless of age.

But Higgins never really retired. The month before that “retirement” took effect, he was hired by the Sussex County sheriff as an investigator. He quickly enrolled in another state pension plan, the Public Employees Retirement System. Higgins remained in PERS when he left the sheriff’s office in 2003 to join the county prosecutor’s staff in a similar position.

For 16 years, Higgins has collected a Sussex County salary – $101,696 in 2014 – plus his SPRS pension. Last year, his two streams of income from public coffers added up to $156,746.

At age 67, Higgins has decided to retire again – this time as a detective sergeant in the county prosecutor's office. But it’s not a garden-variety retirement based on his length of service.

Instead, it’s a disability retirement – a type of pension that will pay him more than he would have otherwise received. It was approved by the PERS board of trustees in closed session last month.

The full story is online at http://watchdog.org/207540/new-jersey-double-dipper/.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

President Obama's Weekly Address 3/21/15: It's Time to Confirm Loretta Lynch

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President called on Republicans in Congress to stop playing politics with law enforcement and national security and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the United States. Loretta is an independent, career prosecutor who deserves to be confirmed as soon as possible. She has proven herself time and again throughout her 30-year career, yet come Monday, the amount of time her nomination will have languished on the floor of the Senate will total more than that of the past seven Attorney General nominees combined. In his address the President asked Republicans in Congress to stop denying a vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch and end the longest confirmation process for an Attorney General in three decades.

Saturday Morning Cartoon: To Spring

You wouldn't have known it from the snow that fell yesterday but Spring arrived last night at 6:45pm , making today the first full day after the Vernal(Spring) Equinox. So, let's start the first full day of Spring with a classic cartoon that celebrates it's arrival!  The cartoon that I have chosen for today seems to fit in perfectly with how things have been in our neck of the woods this year.

"An MGM, Happy Harmonies cartoon, featuring Spring Elves and Old Man Winter. A group of elves are in charge of adding color back to the landscape for spring! Old Man Winter fights back, pushing the lever to turn the "spring machine" off!" 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Middletown PBA Local 124 Facebook Post: "...township committee shows little to no thanks at all..."

Actions speak louder than words as they say, and it seems that members of the Middletown Township PBA are tired of all the lip service that they have been receiving from township officials. Take a look at the Facebook post for Middletown Township PBA Local 124 that was placed on the page a little while ago.

According to the post, which has thus far been "liked" by over 250 people and "shared" by nearly 140,  Middletown officials are quick to give "kudos to the police" as long as news outlets are there to publicize the their efforts and accomplishments, while behind closed doors the tune changes.

I believe the police union is in the middle of contract talks with the township. Reading this posting you can't help but get the sense that many officers are frustrated with the proceedings and as a result have displayed the dirty laundry list for others to see.

For the past few years, I have heard from various retirees that have stated much of the same feelings to me that have been expressed in this Facebook post, I'm a little surprised that the level of frustration has finally reached this point and has boiled over into the public domain.

Township employees generally won't speak out against their employer because they're afraid of retaliation, I wonder what kind of effect this will have on others.

Just in case the post is taken down I've copied it below:
Please take a moment to read...

I am a police officer in Middletown Township. I am proud of my profession and privileged to work with the many great men and women of The Middletown Twp. Police Department. We work hard for the good people of Middletown. Our efforts have paid off for the residents. According to MONEY Magazine, "Middletown, one of the best places to live." The NJ State Police Uniform Crime Report puts our crime rate at 8.57 incidents per 1000 residents. This number represents a 15% decrease in crime from 2013. This 2014 number is the lowest in 25 years according to past records.

The governing body of Middletown Twp., including Mayor Stephanie Murray, has been using these accomplishments of the police department to show how great it is to live in Middletown. They will put blue lights on in support of the police department... as long as news outlets are there to publicize their support. They will give "kudos to the police," as long as it's printed in the papers. Behind closed doors is a much different story.

They thank their younger newer officers by freezing their pay. Young men and women are buying Middletown homes and starting families in the very same communities they protect. Many newer officers have chosen to flee the township and go south and east where home prices are cheaper. They thank us by not honoring our contract during negotiations. They choose the costly route of interest arbitration instead of continuing civil negotiations. They look at us with contempt. They ignore offers to save the township hundreds of thousands of dollars. The PBA has offered minimal raises, longevity freezes, retirement payout caps and has an open mind about implementing a more cost affective health care plan. They forget that we chose to pay into our health care years before it was mandated by state law.

They want to take all the benefits away from the current and future officers of this township. Mayor Murray could care less if Middletown Police Department turns into a revolving door of new officers every year. These benefits are as small as a space for a gym; a gym that is maintained by the members of PBA 124. They thank us by refusing to pay officers salaries but have no issues giving themselves 20% raises outside the 2% cap police officers are held to by the state legislature. They pour money into fields that aren't used and enormous "smart boards" for their conference room. However they can't pay the salaries of the officers that constantly make sacrifices for them and the town.

We drive patrol vehicles that have well over 100k miles on them. We dress in a locker room that will flood with the smallest rain storm. We have roll call in a room that is smeared with dirt, broken windows, and lights that house more dead bugs then light itself. Our cars are filled with equipment that is broken, missing or never made available.

Truth be told, our township committee shows little to no thanks at all. So I wish to truly thank the officers of Middletown Township for their consistent sacrifices. As for the residents, know that we keep vigilant and give them the protection they deserve. As for as our leadership... You're welcome.

For the record, I fully support Middletown's "men and women in blue". They deserve more than lip service from the township and our elected  officials. There's no reason why we can't pay them and support them enough to keep them working and living in the town they protect.


Letter: Education Is Key To Rehabilitating Amato Legacy

The expressed opinions or views of this letter does not necessarily represent the opinion of the MiddletownMike blog:

Dear Editor,

Now retired SPCA Police Chief Buddy Amato exercised extremely poor judgment by sharing some offensive jokes at work, that have resulted in a lawsuit and his resignation.

Sue DesMarais did the right thing by standing up to racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic jokes in the workplace. Such conduct is not acceptable and can be hurtful to many.

But I also believe Buddy Amato deserves the opportunity to become more educated on diversity issues and be rehabilitated, so his legacy can be remembered for all the good things he did.

His past volunteer work with the NAACP and other good deeds show that while he made mistakes and should be held accountable for his actions, he's not a lost cause.

I hope that the NAACP and Garden State Equality offer him counseling and give him the chance to do advocacy work on behalf of racial and religious minorities, as well as LGBT people, in order to demonstrate his character and redeem himself.

Eric Hafner
Toms River

Pallone Meets With FEMA to Discuss Insurance Fraud Allegations

Highlights need for outreach from FEMA to policyholders who may have been defrauded

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and other members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation met with Brad Kieserman, Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to discuss the recent allegations that private insurance companies denied the flood insurance claims of thousands of Superstorm Sandy victims because of fraudulently altered engineering reports.

Pallone sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on March 3rd requesting that the agency provide notification of the fraud allegations to flood insurance claimants and establish a process that allows homeowners to easily file an appeal if they believe that they have been a victim of an intentionally altered engineering report. FEMA has since agreed to notify all flood insurance claimants about the allegations of fraud.

In the meeting, Pallone stressed the importance of FEMA establishing a notification process in a timely fashion and the need for adequate staff to address corrective action. Deputy Associate Administrator Kieserman committed to setting up this process within 45 days, saying that he would place the initial focus on the 15,964 Sandy-related flood insurance claims that included engineering reports.

“FEMA has a responsibility to inform the public about this fraud and to implement a process to ensure that Sandy victims get the money they are rightfully owed,” said Congressman Pallone. “I am pleased that FEMA is taking these allegations of fraud seriously but I ensured Mr. Kieserman in today’s meeting that I will be staying engaged in this process to make certain Sandy victims are given the opportunity to have their flood claims reviewed.”

Deputy Associate Administrator Kieserman reiterated his commitment to get Sandy victims the money they are entitled to under their flood insurance policy. 74,052 National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claims have been filed in New Jersey stemming from Sandy damage, but the vast majority of those who have filed claims are likely unaware of the recently uncovered fraud in which engineering reports have been intentionally doctored.