It looks like Holmdel Committeeman Terence Wall — who spends most of his time gathering wool in left field — has finally climbed the fence and escaped the park altogether. There’s an old Chinese curse that says something like, “May you live in interesting times.” And that curse applies in a funny sort of way to Wall, who is nothing if not interesting.
Over the years, we’ve crossed swords on a number of issues, and when you speak to him, he initially comes across as pleasant, knowledgeable and rational. But there’s always a little bit of something else, something not so pleasant lurking just below the surface, that usually shows itself about three seconds after you disagree with him or he doesn’t get his own way.
Frankly, I try to avoid talking to him whenever possible, but I have followed his political career for a long time — and it is always interesting . And whenever there’s any political weirdness going on in Holmdel — and to a certain extent Mon-mouth County Republican politics in general — there’s always a good chance Wall is involved at some level.
Perhaps the strangest saga was the case of former Holmdel Mayor Art Davey, who was acquitted in 2003 of charges he detained and threatened a young Holmdel man with a BB gun, and claimed throughout the ordeal that Wall was behind the charges and had, in fact, set him up.
Then there was the time in 2002 when the Holmdel Township Committee hired an attorney to prosecute Wall for harassment, disorderly conduct and disrupting a public meeting. Wall, for his part, filed counter-charges against Davey for ethics violations.
And the time in 2001 when Wall was censured by the committee for violating ethical standards by releasing confidential information. The next day, Deputy Mayor Gary Aumiller filed a report with police complaining he was “confronted” by Wall after the meeting and pushed into a wall.
And then, of course, there was Wall serving as campaign manager for Keyport Mayor John Merla’s unsuccessful run for a seat on the freeholders board. The fact that Merla left the Republican Party in a snit after he was denied the seat, and has since come under several corruption indictments by the feds — charges that might land him in jail for 100 years and cost him $1.75 million in fines if he’s convicted — might suggest that Wall should be a bit more choosy in picking his friends.
But Wall has trouble keeping friends, even when he makes them.
Last week, he turned on the woman who has perhaps been his closest political ally in Holmdel, Mayor Serena DiMaso, with whom Wall ran as a team during the last election, and the election before that.
The day after DiMaso assumed the mayoral post — which Wall apparently wanted for himself and was angry at being denied — Wall charged his former “protégé” with making anti-Semitic remarks about an unnamed member of the Planning Board and with making repeated references to Jewish people as “5-3-9s,” which spells out “JEW” on a telephone keyboard (also KEY and LEX). He did it altruistically, he said, to expose DiMaso’s bigotry and to distance himself from his former running mate. Wall claims to have the comments on tape, but he has declined to release the tape, citing a possible “legal issue.”
For her part, DiMaso was understandably ballistic, claiming that Wall was only making trouble because he did not get to be mayor and pointing to what she said was “a pattern of deceit and manipulation” by Wall that spans years. In her own press release, DiMaso accuses Wall of, among other things, manipulating the voice of former state Sen. John O. Bennett on one of Wall’s campaign recordings; manipulating a tape made by state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, and double dipping as a Holmdel committeeman and Keansburg’s town manager. She also noted Davey’s accusation that Wall turned up drunk at a public meeting and called for Wall to prove his anti-Semitic accusations against her or resign.
Wall says he won’t resign, and curiously suggests everyone should let bygones be bygones (at least that’s what I think he said, since his language is sometimes a little tortured). The Holmdel committee, he said, should just move on now and work for the citizens without disruption. “There has been some dialogue between folks to move on,” Wall said. “The general consensus is, ‘Point taken, move on.’ ”
That can’t be allowed to happen, however. The nuclear accusations Wall made against DiMaso aren’t the kind that can simply be forgotten or swept under the rug. If they are true, Wall must produce the proof and submit the tapes for verification. If they are untrue, then Wall deserves to reap the political whirlwind he has unleashed and either resign or be hounded out of office. As they say in poker, it’s time to show your hole cards, Mr. Wall. Person-ally, I’m betting it’s all bluff.
Where I come from, we have a term for certain kinds of bad behavior, but I can’t print it in the newspaper. For our purposes, I’ll call it chicken skin behavior.
What is chicken skin behavior? I’ll give you an example.
Last week, I talked to a young woman who had been stopped by Freehold Town-ship police for what the officer apparently initially thought was an inspection sticker violation. But when she explained that she had indeed failed her inspection, but had spent over $700 to have the vehicle fixed and still had plenty of time left on the 45 days she had to get the vehicle reinspected, the cop backed off on that issue.
But did he simply let her go on her way?
Nope, not this Dudley Do-Right. He gave her a $54 ticket for having one of those little plastic dealies around her license plate that said God Bless America (no kidding). Apparently, it’s illegal in New Jersey to have those license plate holders, even though lots of the auto dealers put them on when you buy a car (it’s also illegal to have anything dangling from your rear-view mirror, like your graduation tassels).
Did the God Bless America holder obstruct her license plates? Nope. I looked and you can read them perfectly.
Did the cop have to write her up for something , just because he’d taken the time out of his busy day to stop her? Nope. But he did it anyway. And I have a feeling that cops writing tickets for this obscure and absurd crime isn’t unique to Freehold Township — where common sense is apparently in short supply and using a God Bless America license plate holder can get you a chicken skin ticket that costs 54 bucks.
Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers.