Committee caught up in a political pickle

The members of the Manal-apan Township Commit-tee need to take a step back from their present position and realize the 2007 election season is well under way. There are two seats up for grabs on the governing body this year, and a hard campaign will be waged by five people seeking office.

Unfortunately for Manalapan residents, the governing body fell into a political trap a few weeks ago when it took the bait thrown into the water by former committeeman and current Township Committee candidate Drew Shapiro.

Speaking at a committee meeting in July, Shapiro took issue with certain bills for payment that had been submitted in 2005 by the man who was the municipal attorney that year, Stuart Moskovitz. Shapiro was a committeeman at that time.

As soon as Shapiro mentioned the name Moskovitz, alarm bells should have started ringing on the dais because everyone who is involved in Manalapan’s municipal government knows that Shapiro and Moskovitz are sworn enemies. The mere fact that Shapiro mentioned Moskovitz’s name and said he had a problem with anything Moskovitz had done as township attorney should have set alarm bells ringing and cleared town hall.

At that moment Mayor Andrew Lucas, speaking for the committee, should have said, “Thank you for your comments, Mr. Shapiro, but given the fact that you are running for office, that you have significant issues with Mr. Moskovitz and that you are raising this issue a few months before the election, I think you should make this a part of your campaign and leave the committee out of it.”

Lucas did not make that statement, however, and that’s when the committee took the bait.

Committeeman Anthony Gennaro said he would look into Moskovitz’s bills from 2005 and report back to the committee. Gennaro made that report on Aug. 8, but the presentation he made was laughable and sank the committee deeper into the political muck.

Gennaro produced a report that had plenty of details about legal bills that had been submitted in 2003 and 2004 – by township attorneys other than Moskovitz – and no details whatsoever about Moskovitz’s bills from 2005. How is that possible?

And then, stating that he did not want to “get in the middle of a war” between Moskovitz and Shapiro, Gennaro proceeded to do just that when he delivered a prepared statement that was nothing more than a politically motivated diatribe against former and present township employees and professionals.

Gennaro’s attempt to deliver his entire statement was thwarted by Township Attorney Caroline Casagrande who rightly observed that he was supposed to be giving a summation of the findings of his review of Moskovitz’s bills and not serving as a public relations conduit for any one individual.

Gennaro’s concluding statement that “I consider this matter closed” hardly seems to close the issue, especially since he provided no evidence to show how he concluded there was nothing wrong with Moskovitz’s bills.

To compound the situation, Gennaro’s report cited a specific broadside against Shapiro that has been kicking around Manal-apan’s political rumor mill for some time. Gennaro’s mention of that particular allegation in his report is an unnerving coincidence in the context of a supposedly independent examination of Moskovitz’s legal bills.

Gennaro has to decide whose agenda he is advancing. It is the people whose interests he was elected to serve and he must refrain from petty politicking from the dais.

It is time for the Township Committee to say, “Enough.” No more campaigning during meetings. No more wasting time and effort chasing down candidates’ claims. Any candidate who has a problem with someone or something in Manalapan should call the local media to a press conference and make his or her complaints public in that venue and provide evidence to back up those claims.

Manalapan residents should not stand for real township business to be delayed or taken off track because committee members are getting involved in a political campaign.