Monday, October 15, 2018

The Curious Case Of An Email And The October 1, 2018 Middletown Township Committee Meeting

I can't believe that I haven't posted about this earlier, but seeing how the Middletown Township Committee will be meeting tonight for the last time before the November 6th election, I thought that I better say my piece about this.

Over the weekend of September 29th, a mysterious email started to make the rounds to inboxes of Middletown residents. The email from a group calling themselves, "RESIDENTS AGAINST OVER DEVELOPMENT", warned about the over development of Middletown, specifically the Village 35 project that is being planned between Kings Highway and Kanes Lane, along Route 35. Upon closer inspection this email was nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on Middletown Democratic Candidate for Township Committee, Sean Byrnes.

No one seems to be sure exactly how many residents through out the township received this email (I personally did not receive it), but it's safe to say hundreds did. Through a little detective work and the process of elimination, it was determined that the common denominator between those that received this email was that all subscribed to the township's Alert system.

Not sure that this was the case, Sean Byrnes attended the Oct. 1st workshop meeting of the Township Committee and asked for assurances that the email which residents received 2 days earlier did not come from the township. More specifically, if anyone on the committee had knowledge of the email or if it came from anyone on the committee seeking election this year (the video below is queued to the start of Byrnes's question).

As you'd expect, everyone at the table denied any knowledge or involvement with the email. There was however, evidence to suggest otherwise.

The email from Resident Against Over Development was sent through the automated email service MailChimp. As part of the service, those that receive emails can opt-out from receiving emails by clicking on the link to unsubscribe. When the unsubscribe link was followed all the way through to completion, the link took the unsubscriber to the Twitter page of Committee person Tony Perry.

On October 5th, the Asbury Park Press jumped on the story and published, "Middletown official won't deny sending mysterious political email", in which Tony Perry wouldn't deny having any knowledge of the email previously. He also, unpromted, offered that the Township email lists are public record that anyone can access via an OPRA request.

After the Asbury Park Press's article was published, the local Middletown Patch published a follow-up report, "Middletown: OPRA Request Forced Us To Share Residents' Emails", where it's evident that after the Press's article came out, Township officials decided that the best course of action was to deny knowledge of the email and blame an anonymous OPRA request for the release of a list of township residents email addresses. When the Patch questioned Perry about any knowledge of who may have been behind the email and linked it back to his campaign Perry stated that, "he hires various political consultants to run his campaigns".

That's not a very convincing denial. To blame this on various "political consultants" running his campaign is weak and shows what kind of backbone Tony Perry has; one that's crooked and spineless. I suppose though I shouldn't expect anything different from someone who was appointed to his seat on the Township Committee by his father-in-law, Gerry Scharfenberger.

The attempt to deceive Middletown residents by sending out an anonymous, dirty trick email, thinly disguised as an anti-development appeal is underhanded and unethical. Middletown Republicans must be truly afraid of losing control of the township committee this year, to have been so desperate to send this kind of email to hundreds or thousands of residents, hoping that it would swing a few votes in their favor.

It also shows the lack of character of Tony Perry and those currently running Middletown. If Tony Perry continues to refuse to take ownership of this and would rather continue to cover it up after tonight's Committee meeting, where I'm sure he'll be asked about it, then he doesn't deserve to be elected and hold office in Middletown or anywhere else for that matter.


Anonymous said...

This resident remembers sleazy actions by Perry's father in law several years ago that involved the unauthorized use of Monmouth University similar systems of communications during election campaign season.
It made the newspapers and ole daddy in law was reprimanded....too bad he wasn't fired.
This just indicates what character lacking jerks these clowns really are.Never gets better in always descends into the stupid nonsense because that's the only way today's republicans know.....down and dirty !!

Not one of these excuses for candidates can hold a candle to the decency of Sean Byrnes.
He served Middletown well in the past and he will serve us well again if he regains his seat on the TC committee. Maybe Middletown will get lucky and all three Democrats will will be elected !! What a refreshing change that would be !!!

Anonymous said...

They have to honor OPRA requests, but they do not have to give out personal information about who subscribes to newsletters. They could have redacted the personal email addresses and been in full compliance with the OPRA request. But let's be real. This has nothing to do with what is ethical or even what is legal. Our township committee acts under the precept that it will do whatever it wants as long as it can get away with it. Take for instance Tony claiming ignorance about the origin of emails that are linked to his Twitter account. He quite simply is full of shit and he has put us on notice of what we can expect from him if he is elected. They treat us like morons; let’s not prove them right by electing this morally challenged individual to represent us. We are better than that and we deserve better than him.

As a government agency, it is their responsibility to protect our personal information. I think we as residents have a reasonable expectation that our local government would take steps to insure our privacy instead of eagerly releasing it to help one of its own get elected.

N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 (Legislative Findings)

Privacy Interest - “a public agency has a responsibility and an obligation to safeguard
from public access a citizen's personal information with which it has been entrusted
when disclosure thereof would violate the citizen's reasonable expectation of

Burnett v. County of Bergen, 198 N.J. 408 (2009). Without amb