Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Letter: Here's "The Situation"

Dear Editor,

Former Jersey Shore cast member, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino is reportedly entering into a plea agreement in the Middletown Township Municipal Court to resolve assault charges stemming from a dispute with his brother at the tanning salon they co-own.

The plea agreement, which would reportedly see the matter downgraded from a quasi-criminal 2C disorderly persons offense to a municipal ordinance violation is in clear violation of state law and the Municipal Prosecutor Gerald Massell knows what he is doing is wrong. Almost two years ago, I wrote to Middletown to tell them that these plea deals violate the law and to discontinue the practice.

State law preempts municipal powers in this matter. It is illegal in the State of New Jersey to improperly downgrade statutory 2C charges to a municipal ordinance violation based on a November 18, 1998 directive from then Attorney General Peter Veniero and the case law from State v. Paserchia, 356 N.J. Super. 461, 466 (App.Div.2003).

New Jersey now has a diversion program for first time offenders in municipal court to complete a probationary period and avoid a criminal record. Improperly downgrading 2C offenses to a municipal ordinance violation prevents this system from accurately identifying first time offenders because an ordinance violation does not show up on a criminal history printout.

I previously complained about this unlawful practice taking place in the Middletown Township Municipal Court (as well as the Prosecutor and Judge having their private law offices in the same building, which is owned by the Prosecutor's father, a clear conflict), yet the Middletown court has failed to heed the legal warnings and continue acting as if they are above the law.

I believe Middletown Township has conspired to continue with these illegal plea deals for corrupt purposes, because an ordinance fine goes entirely to the township bank account as opposed to a state law violation, which must be shared with the state government.

Municipal Prosecutor Gerald Massell and Judge Richard Thompson should face criminal Official Misconduct charges, an ethics complaint and disbarment for their continued disregard of state law. What a situation.


Eric Hafner
Toms River

Pallone Encourages New Jersey Fisherman to Access Federal Fishery Disaster Relief Funds

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) encouraged New Jersey fishermen affected by Superstorm Sandy to apply for federal fishery disaster relief funds being administered by the state of New Jersey. This comes in response to the state’s announcement that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will make more than $2 million in grants available to help offset the costs that fishing-related businesses and recreational fishing infrastructure, such marinas and bait-and-tackle shops, incurred as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Congressman Pallone fought hard in Congress to see that these funds were appropriated to the state as part the Sandy Aid package and later as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 federal budget.

“New Jersey’s commercial and recreational fishing industries are vitally important to the state’s economy,” said Pallone. “While I strongly believe that more federal funds should be made available to fishermen and fishing-related businesses that were devastated by Superstorm Sandy, I’m glad to see that the state is finally taking an important first step to get this relief money into the hands of those who need it.”

At Pallone’s urging, Acting Secretary of Commerce, Rebecca Blank, declared a federal fishery resource disaster in New Jersey in November 2012, so that local fishermen and businesses could get much-needed federal assistance in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The Sandy relief package originally appropriated $5 million for fishery disaster relief in New York and New Jersey. Congressman Pallone continued fighting for additional fishery disaster funds in the Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill which provided approximately $3 million in federal funds to New York and New Jersey fisheries that were declared fishery disasters.

“The shore is my home, and I know what fishing means to life here,” Pallone added. “We must make sure that the damages suffered by New Jersey fishermen are not forgotten as we continue to rebuild and recover.”

Individuals and/or businesses in six fishing-related sectors—bait-and-tackle shops, commercial dealers, commercial fishermen, for-hire (party and charter) operations, marinas and shellfish/aquaculture—may submit Expression of Interest pre-applications to the DEP beginning October 1 until October 31. The pre-application is only available online and can be accessed here.

Thoughts On Middletown Day 2014

My hat goes off to everyone who helped put Middletown Day together and volunteered their time, without them the day wouldn't have been as successful as it was. The event was well organized and you couldn't ask for a more beautiful day.

However, I was a little disappointed. In years past there seemed to be many more people in attendance then were there on Saturday. I can remember being on the grounds of Croydon Hall and not being able to walk around without bumping or nudging into people. And parking, I didn't have a problem finding a parking space near Croydon Hall, not once but twice. My wife and son volunteered for the day and I walked around the grounds for an hour afterwards before leaving and coming back a couple of hours later. In all I spent about 5 hours at Middletown Day and just couldn't get over how few (relatively speaking) people were there. I was also surprised to see how many marked vendor spaces were unoccupied. Why was that? I couldn't tell you but it was noticeable. I know it seems like I am being nit-picky but this is all just an observation on my part.

While walking around the grounds I stumbled upon the Middletown 350 birthday cake that was donated to Middletown by the "Cake Boss" himself Buddy Valastro of Carlo's Bake Shop. The cake was set up in the Croydon Hall field house behind the "White House". If you didn't know it was there you'd have missed. It wasn't well advertised.  The cake itself was nice, it was pretty big but I wasn't overly impressed with it. I think it was too "busy" and looked a little sloppy even though a lot of work went into making it. After the cake was cut, I did taste a small piece of it. It was good, the cake was firm but moist and the chocolate filling was decadent, but over all it was very sweet. You couldn't eat much if you wanted.

Front view of Middletown 350 birthday cake from Carlo's Bakeshop

Rear view of Middletown 350 birthday cake from Carlo's Bakeshop

As I said above, my hat goes off to everyone who helped put Middletown Day together and volunteered their time. They did a great job!  Below are just few random pictures from the day.


I forgot to mention that I stayed to watch the Beatlemania concert and watch the fireworks display. The concert was very enjoyable, you can't go wrong listening to the Beatles. It doesn't matter if the band interpreting the group does a good job or bad job at performing the legendary songs (and the Beatlemania band that night was good), it's the songs that matter and will always be timeless.  The fireworks were also very nice, the display lasted 15-20 minutes with some spectacular mid-air kabooms. It's too bad though that more people didn't stick around to watch. I'd say by that by the time the concert and fireworks started there were less that 300 people there. MM 9/30/14

Monday, September 29, 2014

NJ Watchdog fights for Guadagno pension probe records in appeals court

For immediate release:

The mystery of what happened in a criminal investigation of an alleged $245,000 pension fraud implicating Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno may finally be solved in a New Jersey appeals court.

A New Jersey Watchdog reporter is appealing a lower court’s decision not to release three key documents that include the findings of a probe by the attorney general’s Division of Criminal Justice.

“In spite of what appears to be a clear case of high-ranking government officials aiding or participating in a pension double-dip scheme, the DCJ closed the investigation without any charges being filed,” the reporter’s attorney, Donald M. Doherty Jr., argued in a brief submitted last week in Superior Court Appellate Division.

“The lieutenant governor was the Monmouth County sheriff during the questionable activities; she is also a former deputy director of DCJ, the investigating agency,” continued Doherty. “The public should be able to learn how DCJ came to its decision and whether it even considered the culpability of the lieutenant governor.”

Guadagno would become governor if Chris Christie steps down to run for president in the 2016 election. Release of the DCJ files could lead to greater scrutiny of why Christie did not use his constitutional authority to appoint a special prosecutor or investigator and avoid the inherent conflict-of-interest.

DCJ lawyers contend that disclosing the records would undermine the agency’s ability to conduct investigations of public corruption.

“How ironic is it to have public officials making secret deals and then contending that revealing the investigation needs to be secret to preserve public confidence?” Doherty asked the court. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

The controversy known as “Doublegate” began when Guadagno was Monmouth County sheriff in 2008 – the year before she first ran for lieutenant governor as Christie's running mate.

As sheriff, Guadagno made false and conflicting statements that enabled her chief officer, Michael Donovan, to improperly collect an $85,000 a year pension in addition to his $87,500 salary, as first reported by New Jersey Watchdog in 2010.

The full story is now online at http://watchdog.org/173842/guadagno-pension-probe-2/. The brief can be viewed or downloaded at http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2014/09/ML-v-DCJ-appeal.pdf.

Congressman Chris Smith has not Lived in NJ for Over 30 Years!

By District 4 Coalition for Change:

Congress gave themselves the month off to campaign.


Congressman Smith has not lived in NJ for over 30 years. He raised his family and educated his children in Virginia.

Law requires Congressional Representatives to maintain a domicile in the state they represent. For most of his career, Congressman Smith rented a townhome in Mercer County from a relative and owned a
 home in Virginia. It is rumored that due to pressure from previous campaign rivals, Smith recently purchased the townhome. His neighbors have never seen him.

Where does Chris Smith Live?


Smith has not lived in NJ through 9/11, Irene or Sandy with the rest of us. He does not share our experience as a community.

Why do we put up with this?

STOP Chris Smith in November! VOTE.

NJ WATCHDOG: Report bears bad news; fails to bare abuses

New Jersey taxpayers will find plenty of bad news in the first report of the special commission Gov. Chris Christie appointed to study the $90 billion deficit in the state’s retirement system.

“This problem is dire and will only become much worse if meaningful steps are not taken quickly,” concluded the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission paper released yesterday.

Yet the findings ignored many of the weaknesses and abuses that have heavily contributed to the dilemma threatening New Jersey’s fiscal health. It did not mention of the sham retirements, double-dipping, disability cheats, part-timers collecting full benefits or generous six-figure pensions that have drained state funds.

The governor’s hand-picked, blue ribbon panel overlooked those abuses – including most of the “seven deadly sins” detailed in a New Jersey Watchdog investigative report earlier this week.

The story is online at http://watchdog.org/173560/nj-pension-report/.

The Cost of Inaction

The following is from Congressman Rush Holt's newsletter

Last Sunday, over 300,000 people gathered in New York City for “The People’s Climate March,” to demand action ahead of the UN’s Climate Summit, after the most recent report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided an ever growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating humanity’s detrimental effect on our planet.

(Rush Holt)
As the climate changes, we must change with it. Last year, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan established a framework to address climate change by placing regulations on new and existing power plants, promoting renewable energy on public lands, and piloting climate resilient strategies in New Jersey and other Hurricane Sandy affected regions. I have long been a proponent of the need to address the causes and threats of climate change. Ultimately, the only way to ensure that we have safe, affordable energy in the long term is to make sure there are sustained investments in the domestic clean energy sector, increased funding for research and development to foster new sources of clean energy and improve energy efficiency, innovation in the private sector, and incentives for companies to develop sustainable energy technologies.

The science is strong, and we have a moral obligation to act. I hope that the collective voices of those who marched in New York last weekend will reach the ears of those in Congress who would deny the evidence that our climate is changing, and that human action is the cause. Climate change has already imposed huge costs in dollars and lives. The costs of inaction will be far greater.

The Affordable Care Act is Working

According to a recent survey conducted by the Urban Institute, about 520,000 previously uninsured New Jerseyans were able to obtain health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The survey indicates that the number of New Jerseyans without health insurance fell by nearly half, from 21.2 percent a year ago to 11.5 percent this year. The ACA’s goal to prolong the life of Medicare by decreasing health costs is also being met: the law created incentives for healthcare providers and facilities to come together and create accountable care organizations (ACO’s), as doctors and hospitals who work together on behalf of patients will provide better care at less cost. In 2013, ACO’s saved Medicare $372 million. As more successful ACO’s are created, Medicare will see even more savings, which will continue strengthening and the solvency of Medicare for current and future seniors.

If you are looking to get health coverage, open enrollment begins November 15 and lasts until February 15, 2015. Additionally, you may be qualified for premium tax credits to help pay for insurance if your income falls below a certain level. For more information, and to sign up for a health plan at any point during that period, visit the HealthCare.gov website...


Rush Holt
Member of Congress

President Obama's Weekly Address 9/27/14: America is Leading the World

WASHINGTON, DC -- In this week’s address, the President reiterated the forceful and optimistic message of American leadership that he delivered in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week. America is leading the world against the most pressing challenges, including the fight to degrade and destroy ISIL, the effort to stop the Ebola epidemic, and the movement to confront the threat from climate change. The world looks to America and its commitment to freedom in the face of uncertainly, and as the President said, it will continue to do so for generations to come.

Free Rabies Clinic for Dogs ONLY Oct. 4

From Middletown Alerts:

The Middletown Township Health Dept. will hold a free rabies clinic for dogs ONLY on October 4, 2014 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am at the Croydon Hall Gym, 900 Leonardville Rd., Leonardo, NJ 07737. Please be sure all dogs are either on a leash or in a pet carrier (one dog per carrier) and accompanied by an adult. Middletown Township residents may purchase a 2014 license at the clinic. The clinic is open to all Monmouth County residents. Call (732) 615-2097 or (732) 615-2094 for more information before clinic date.

Middletown Receives Additional SHRAP Funds

From Middletown Public Information

MIDDLETOWN – Middletown Township has received an additional $400,000 in state funding to help township residents whose homes were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Funding comes from the Superstorm Sandy Homeowner/Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP).

The township is the only municipality in New Jersey that applied and had been approved to administer the SHRAP directly to its residents. In total, the township has more than $1.9 million in state funds to assist homeowners struggling to recover from the historic storm, said Township Administrator Anthony P. Mercantante, noting more than 1.5 million has already been distributed.

“I’m grateful that the township has been authorized to distribute additional SHRAP funds,” said Mayor Stephanie Murray. “The amount of funds expended so far clearly demonstrates the program is sorely needed here.”

Middletown’s program is available to residents whose homes were determined be substantially damaged and that need assistance with housing related expenses. Applications had to be accepted by June 30, 2014. No new applications can be accepted because of state program’s requirements. Payments are not made directly to residents. The additional funding will be used to provide assistance to eligible residents already in the program.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Does Tony Fiore Have Women Issues?

Does Middletown's former Mayor, Tony Fiore have an issue with women? He certainly "Liked" this picture that was posted to his Facebook page on Sept. 14th.

The image is offensive on so many levels and is inappropriate for an elected official to display so proudly on his social media page. You would think that Fiore would be smart enough to understand how inappropriate and degrading the image is to women but he is so self-absorbed, smug and cocksure of  himself that I suppose he thinks the picture is harmless and funny. Tell that to former Baltimore Raven's running back and Rutger's University alum Ray Rice's wife, Janay Palmer Rice. I'm sure she'd think it's hilarious.

For a pompous politician who is up for reelection this year, you'd like to think he'd be a little more careful about his image and what he'd allowed others to publicly post or share with others on his social media accounts, let alone agree with what's posted with a thumbs-up Facebook "Like".

Below is a screenshot of the offensive post to Tony Fiore's Facebook page. The only editing I did to the picture was to delete the individuals name and picture who posted it to Tony's page. Notice that Tony "Liked" the picture.


Evidently Middletown Township Committeeman Tony Fiore doesn't want anymore people trolling his Facebook page. As of this morning, his profile page has been deleted along with the many other offensive posts he condoned.  I only wish that I had taken screenshots of some of those - MM 9/26/14


I'm working on a follow up report to this post. To clear things up Tony Fiore's Facebook Page was not deleted. Instead of having his personal page open to the public as it was when this post first appeared, he has changed its settings and is now "Private". I and a few others have been "blocked" and can no longer see any updates posted to Facebook from Tony Fiore.  Good for me I have pictures.... MM 9/30/14

Pallone Announces $1.37 Million to Hire Police Officers in Asbury Park & Long Branch

WASHINGTON, DC —Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) announced that both the Asbury Park Police Department and the Long Branch Police Department will be awarded a total of $1.37 million in grants to create or preserve law enforcement jobs at their departments. The Asbury Park Police Department will receive $750,000 to hire six police officers and the Long Branch Police Department will receive $625,000 to hire five police officers. The funds were awarded through the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program.

“Safety is essential to the future growth and success of our communities, and I believe that having these additional officers in Asbury Park and Long Branch will make a significant difference,” said Congressman Pallone. “This is a wise investment that will help the Asbury Park and Long Branch Police Departments add or retain the manpower needed to fight crime more effectively and keep our streets safe.”

Congressman Pallone has consistently supported robust funding for the COPS Hiring Program (CHP), which provides grants to address the full-time sworn officer needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies nationwide. CHP grants go directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new or rehire career law enforcement officers in an effort to increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.

CHP grants for 2014 fund 75 percent of the approved entry-level salaries and benefits for three years for newly-hired, full-time sworn officer positions or for rehired officers who have been laid off, or are scheduled to be laid off, as a result of local budget cuts.

Chris Smith Agreed to Oppose Climate Change Legislation

District 4 Coalition for Change:

(NYC Climate Change March, 9/21/14)
Congressman Chris Smith agreed to oppose any legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an offsetting amount of tax cuts for the worst Carbon Polluters - the Koch Brothers.

If Congressman Smith lived in NJ and experienced Sandy and Irene with the rest of us, perhaps he might feel differently. Smith has lived in Virginia for over 30 years.



STOP Congressman Chris Smith in November.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

APP Editorial: Freeholders bear some blame for Lucas fiasco

If you have been keeping tabs on the Andrew Lucas land deal, the Asbury Park Press published a very important editorial today, which blames Freeholder Director Lillian Burry, Deputy Freeholder Director Gary Rich and the all-Republican Freeholder Board for the land deal between Manalapan's Republican former Mayor, Andrew Lucas and Monmouth County. Last week Lucas was just found guilty on all 11 counts for illegally obtaining the property.

This is what Democratic candidates for Monmouth County Freeholder Larry Luttrell and Joe Grillo have been campaigning on for months, this editorial collaborates what they have been saying all along and is important for their campaign.  The good ol' boy network that has been running the County for years needs to be stopped and ethical behavior by those we elect needs to be reinstated.

From the APP:
Former Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas was convicted last week of falsifying tax returns and fraudulently obtaining funds to purchase a piece of property that netted him nearly $1.2 million in farmland preservation taxpayer money. 
Andrew Lucas
The convictions, for wire fraud, loan application fraud, making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service, aggravated identity theft, obstruction of a grand jury investigation and falsification could land him in jail for decades when he is sentenced in January.
While officials at the county and local level were quick to distance themselves from Lucas, the whole fiasco could have been avoided if the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders had long ago barred elected and appointed officials from participating in the farmland preservation program. In classic “closing the barn door after the horses have left” fashion, the freeholders did not get around to that until April.
The farmland preservation funding Lucas received for his 97-acre Diamond Developers at Burke Farm sparked controversy as some politicians rightly insisted he should not have applied for the money while he was a sitting officeholder in Manalapan.
After purchasing the farm, Lucas applied for and received $694,800 from the state’s Farmland Preservation Program, $277,920 from Monmouth County’s open space fund, and $185,280 from Manalapan. Under the deal, Lucas was allowed to keep the farm but gave up any right to develop 96 of its 97 acres. While Lucas faces jail, Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry, who championed the deal from the beginning, now finds herself backpedaling at breakneck speed.
Burry said last week that the “guilty verdict against Andrew Lucas ... has nothing to do with the freeholders, the county or the farmland preservation program.” Lucas, she said, stands alone in that it was he who falsified the tax returns and fraudulently obtained funds to purchase the property.
Burry was not alone in acting as cheerleader for the deal. Manalapan Mayor Jordan Maskowitz and Committeewoman Susan Cohen also supported it from the beginning.
We are not buying Burry’s self-absolution....

Continue reading

Pallone, Booker Team Up With EPA, BJ’s Wholesale Club to Tackle Environmental, Economic Impacts of Food Waste

For Immediate release:

EDISON, NJ – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck to highlight Hunger Action month. They visited a BJ’s Wholesale Club in Edison, New Jersey to announce the store’s participation in the EPA Food Recovery Challenge Program that reduces food waste and hunger while also protecting the environment. They were also joined by BJ’s Wholesale Club’s Doug Schiefelbein, Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s (CFBNJ) Tristan Wallack, and Edison Mayor Thomas Lankey.

 (Cory Booker, Frank Pallone, Judith Enck, Tristan Wallack. Credit:EPA)
“Thirty-one percent of food that is available at supermarkets, restaurants, and in households goes uneaten and ends up in a landfill,” said Congressman Pallone. “Meanwhile, millions of Americans struggle every day to put food on the table and feed their families. The Food Recovery Challenge tackles both of these critical issues by reducing the amount of food that goes unsold and recovering more wholesome unsold food to donate to people who really need it. I commend EPA for organizing this campaign to reduce food waste and BJ’s for participating.”

Participants in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge reduce, donate, and compost as much of their excess food as possible, which saves money, feeds hungry people and helps protect the environment. As part of this new agreement, BJ’s plans to develop new benchmarks to measure progress from its food donation program BJ’s Feeding Communities as well as utilize EPA’s tools to enhance its environmental programs and minimize its environmental footprint.

“A staggering amount of nutritious and edible food is wasted every day, winding up in landfills where it produces methane gas,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA commends BJ’s Wholesale Club for being part of the commitment to feed people and not landfills.”

Fourteen percent of New Jerseyans live in a state of food insecurity, and 50 million Americans live in households that struggle against hunger. Food accounts for the greatest percentage – more than 20 percent - of waste going to landfills in the United States. One way to reduce that volume of waste is by donating edible food that would otherwise be thrown away.

“Hunger is persistent problem in New Jersey and across the nation,” said Senator Booker. “Yet each year Americans waste more than 36 million tons of food - 96 percent of which is thrown into landfills and incinerators. I commend the EPA, BJ’s and all the other participants in the Food Recovery Challenge because the only way we truly tackle complex problems is through public/private partnership. Committing to this challenge isn’t just good for society - it’s good for the bottom line.”

In addition to being the first wholesale club to join the Food Recovery Challenge, BJ’s also recently awarded a grant of $21,000 to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in honor of the company’s 30th anniversary and Hunger Action Month in September. The grant will help the Community Food Bank of New Jersey build capacity through the purchase of additional refrigerators, thermal blankets and other equipment for their partner organizations such as local soup kitchens and food pantries. The new equipment will help their anti-hunger partners store a larger amount of perishable items and distribute more nutritious options to local families struggling with food insecurity in New Jersey.

“At BJ’s Wholesale Club, what is not sold, is shared; we have a vested interest in addressing and helping to solve the very real problems of hunger prevention in our local communities,” said Doug Schiefelbein, general manager of the BJ’s Wholesale Club in Edison, New Jersey. “BJ’s Wholesale Club is proud to join the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge. We look forward to working together with the EPA to help keep food out of landfills and minimize greenhouse gas emissions to better the neighborhoods we serve.”

EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge is based on the fact that wasted food has economic, environmental, and social impacts. Much of this waste is not waste at all, but actually safe, wholesome food that could potentially feed millions of Americans. Excess food, leftovers and scraps that are not fit for consumption and donation can be composted into a nutrient-rich soil supplement. There is also a tremendous waste of energy and natural resources that goes to the growth, processing, transporting and marketing of food, all of which goes to waste when food is thrown away. A full list of the 600 participants can be found at Food Recovery Challenge.