Is Parsippany Becoming a Banana Republic?

parsippany focus

lettersDear Editor:

I have researched the goings-on in Parsippany that have taken place during the past several years in preparation for the June 4 mayoral primary.  What I have learned is that our township’s government is filled with public controversy, ongoing infighting, seemingly unilateral decision-making, what appear to be questionable actions and a constant stream of accusations against the mayor.

The articles that I researched showed that the public is often being ignored and is regularly treated with unconscionable rudeness when they exercise their first amendment rights.  Parsippany’s current government shows a pattern of acting in opposition to the will of the people.

Moreover, the articles point to a township in disarray.  This unremitting disruption can only result in a highly inefficient government – at taxpayers’ expense.

These circumstances are unacceptable and we must correct them.  We can do so in the Republican primary election on June 4th by electing Carifi, Peluso and Valori.

A.   THE CARIFI CHALLENGE

Mr. Carifi’s platform includes increasing “ratables” and thereby reducing taxes by working with businesses to move into Parsippany.  He plans to utilize available buildings to house businesses that move to Parsippany, rather than creating new developments while existing space stands empty.

Mr. Carifi opposes the Waterview project on this basis.  He also opposes stacking (more people in a dwelling than is allowed by current law) and favors enforcement of existing anti-stacking ordinances.  [1], [2], [3]

B.   DISTURBING CLAIMS-THE VALORI JOB OFFER ALLEGATIONS

Dr. Louis Valori, claims that he was offered a $50,000 per year job with the Parsippany Police Department as an incentive to not run for the Parsippany Town Council.  Paul Carifi who is running for Mayor, alleges the same thing.  These allegations have not been proven, nor has the case been settled.  [4], [5], [6]

C.   BAD TIMING – THE INVESTIGATION OF PAUL CARIFI’S BROTHER

James Carifi, Paul Carifi’s brother, is a retired Parsippany Police Department captain.  The township has elected to conduct an investigation on him, the outcome of which could dramatically affect his pension.  I can make no judgment as to whether any allegation associated with this investigation has merit.

However, the township started the investigation after Paul Carifi announced that he was running for Mayor.  [8][9]

D.  IGNORING THE TAXPAYER-THE WATERVIEW PROPOSAL

A developer requires a zoning change to develop 26.6 acres in the Waterview section of Parsippany in order to build a Whole Foods Market and a townhouse community.  600 people showed up at the second planning board meeting in December, 2012.  Residents subsequently formed an organization called C4HSW that is now suing Parsippany to halt the development.

Township government is moving forward in opposition to powerful resistance by residents.   [10],  [11],  [12]

E. NOT FOLLOWING TOWNSHIP RULES – THE PROMOTION ISSUE

The promotion of the Parsippany Police Department’s Jeffrey Storm to the Rank of captain appears to have been done improperly.  To be clear, this has nothing to do with Captain Storms himself, who is reputed to be a fine officer.

Reference [14] stated that Mayor Barberio has admitted that he deliberately circumvented the town council in the matter of this promotion.  The article quoted the mayor has saying, “If I waited, they would have an ordinance and then we couldn’t have done what needs to be done for the town.”   [13], [14], [15]

F.   PARSIPPANY AS A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT – THE ELESHA JOHNSON CONTROVERSY

One of the articles in the research conducted involved allegations of a hostile work environment against. Elesha Johnson was hired as town clerk in August 2011, to replace the retiring Judy Silver.  Within days, Tonae Bettelli, one of Ms. Johnson’s subordinates, complained about a hostile work environment.  No action was taken and Ms. Betelli quit a short time later.

Shortly after Ms. Betelli’s departure, three of Ms. Johnson’s other subordinates made similar complaints of a hostile work environment and reportedly again little or no action was taken by the current administration.  All four women are now suing the town, and their lawsuit alleges that the town violated the township’s written non-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions.

Elesha Johnson also sued the town in a separate court action and received a $200,000 out-of-court settlement.  Parsippany taxpayers paid $100,000 of this amount and the town’s insurance paid the balance.

If the tort claims in the lawsuits by Ms. Betelli and the three other employees are true, Parsippany has a serious problem with its current employment practices.   [16], [17]

G.  PARSIPPANY PURSUES THE “FIELD OF DREAMS” – AFTER CITIZENS VOTED IT DOWN IN A REFERENDUM

On January 22, 2013, the voters of Parsippany defeated a referendum to use taxpayer money in the Open Space Trust Fund to resurface and upgrade several athletic fields in town.  Yet, the current administration has proposed dissolving the current Open Space Trust Fund, which prohibits using money to resurface the fields.

The intention of the Parsippany government is to replace this fund with a new fund, called the Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.  This fund would have different restrictions, which would permit the township resurface the fields in spite of the will of the people.

Residents have voiced concerns that if this change is adopted, the mayor and certain township officials “are trying to find loopholes in the law to use the existing trust fund.  Efforts to do an “end run” by the current administration should stop.  The mayor and council should conduct all discussions about township business in an open and transparent manner.  [18], [24]

H.  MISUSE OF TOWNSIP LETTERHEAD – THE DANIEL MOSES LETTER

Daniel Moses is a man who had a drug dealing conviction.  Research revealed that Mr. Barberio attempted to intervene in his sentencing.  The articles showed that Mayor Barberio wrote a letter on Township stationary, vouching for 26-year-old Daniel Moses.

The mayor, as a private citizen, as the right to ask for leniency for a friend or anything else.  However, use of the township letterhead, and writing as mayor, carries the implication that he is speaking for the township.  This is inappropriate and raises ethical questions.

In his letter, the mayor requested leniency in sentencing.  Later, when the request for leniency became known, the articles quote the Mayor as saying that he never requested a reduction in Mr. Moses’ sentence.  The Morris County Assistant Prosecutor criticized the mayor for submitting the Moses leniency letter, given that the Parsippany Police Department was involved in the investigation.  [19], [20]

I.    LACK OF INPUT FROM EXPERTS – THE INCINERATOR REPAIR AND UPGRADE

Parsippany has a township incinerator in need of upgrade and repair.  Selection of a contractor should be a straightforward administrative task.  However, the articles stated that there were no full discussions on the subject and no available expert input sought out before the decisions regarding contracts were made.  In fact, the article said that the mayor was making decisions in a vacuum.  [21]

J.    LOSS OF BUSINESSES IN PARSIPPANY – THE REALOGY MOVE

Parsippany has many businesses which help keep our taxes lower.  My research revealed that real estate company Realogy announced that it was moving to Madison from Parsippany, taking approximately 950 employees with it.  While the Mayor admitted that it was a blow to Parsippany, one of his comments was to point out that the good news is that Realogy is staying in NJ.  But where was the fight to keep the company in Parsippany?  [22]

CONCLUSION

The research revealed patterns that  are disturbing and tell a story of conflict, strife and churn in Parsippany’s administration.  The township should run like the proverbial “well oiled machine.”  It appears that the opposite is true: ongoing disruption looks like the order of the day.  That tells me that Parsippany officials are most likely in a state of constant crisis management.

Moreover, the Township of Parsippany has moved in direct opposition to the will of the people on the Waterview proposal and the Field of Dreams project.  The township also failed to get proper input on the incinerator work but simply moved ahead.

Why do you suppose that this is?

Based on the information reviewed, I believe that now is the time for a change in Parsippany’s leadership.  That is why I am voting for the Carifi team – Carifi, Peluso and Valori.

[Disclaimer: I am a private citizen, I have not been paid to write this letter and I have no connection with any campaign.  I have lived in Parsippany for 28 years, raised my children here with my wonderful wife of 40 years and continue to love Parsippany.

I am, however, angry, and believe that I am witnessing the transformation of this great township into a banana republic.]

Jack Puglis
Parsippany

June 2, 2013

 

 

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