ROBBINSVILLE: Incumbents Ciaccio and Levesque, and newcomer Witt win Township Council seats


By Michael Boonin, Managing Editor
   ROBBINSVILLE — Voters on Tuesday re-elected Christine Ciaccio and Rich Levesque to the Township Council and put Planning Board member Ron Witt on the governing body for the first time.
   With 13.6 percent of the township’s registered voters going to the polls, Ms. Ciaccio was the top vote-getter with 757, followed by Mr. Levesque with 655. Mr. Witt narrowly defeated incumbent David Boyne, 564 votes to 538, while Joseph Schiavino, also making his first bid for public office, tallied 418 votes.
   The Township Council will reorganize July 1 when Tuesday’s victors will be sworn to four-year terms.
   Mr. Boyne, Ms. Ciaccio and Mr. Levesque ran for re-election under the banner “Moving Robbinsville Forward.” Mr. Schiavino ran under the slogan “Had Enough?” while Mr. Witt’s banner was “Independent Leadership for Balanced Growth.”
   Under Robbinsville’s nonpartisan form of government, candidates run for election without identifying party labels, but politics was at the forefront of this contest. Mayor Dave Fried, the Mercer County Republican Committee chairman, council President Sheree McGowan and Councilman Vince Calcagno, all publicly endorsed Mr. Witt.
   Meanwhile, Mr. Levesque, the GOP municipal chairman, ran for re-election with Mr. Boyne and Ms. Ciaccio on a slate that emphasized smart economic development to increase ratables and stabilize property taxes.
   The five current council members all are registered Republicans. Mr. Witt is an Independent and Mr. Schiavino a Democrat.
   Early last week Mr. Boyne accused Mayor Fried of making an 11th-hour political attack against him in order to help Mr. Witt. The mayor had halted the township’s financial involvement in the sale of Mercer Mobile Homes to the affordable housing nonprofit Allies Inc. despite Mr. Boyne’s decision to step down from Allies’ board of directors in an effort to end the controversy over his ties to the organization.
   Mayor Fried maintained Mr. Boyne’s position as an Allies board member was a conflict of interest that should have been disclosed to the township administration by Mr. Boyne and Allies.
   Then, last Wednesday, Mayor Fried exchanged verbal jabs with Mr. Boyne and Mr. Levesque over the trailer park issue during a lunchtime “town hall” meeting at the Senior Center. (See related story.)
   In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Mr. Boyne thanked the residents who voted for him, but went on to say Mayor Fried’s “negative attack” against him on the Allies issue was a factor in the outcome of the election, calling the mayor’s actions “unprofessional.”
   ”His attack hurt that company,” Mr. Boyne said, referring to Allies. “He hurt them to get me.”
   Mayor Fried on Tuesday night denied he was being “negative” and reiterated he thought Mr. Boyne should have disclosed he was an Allies board member before mentioning it during the April 30 council meeting.
   Allies recently signed a $5.5 million contract with Mercer Mobile Homes to purchase the trailer park off Route 130 for low-income housing in a deal that depends on a $2.1 million contribution from Robbinsville’s affordable housing trust fund. Mayor Fried announced the agreement in an April 18 press release.
   ”If we had closed this deal, and it came out later that we gave $2 million to a company with one of our council members on its board, and I told people later I didn’t know (that Mr. Boyne was on the board), they wouldn’t have believed it,” Mayor Fried said, calling it “an ethical issue.”
   The rest of the “Moving Robbinsville Forward” slate had a better day Tuesday as Ms. Ciaccio and Mr. Levesque easily won re-election.
   Ms. Ciaccio, 53, of Route 130, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, has lived in Robbinsville for more than 30 years and is the owner of Tony’s Farm and Garden Center. She has served on the council since 2007.
   Mr. Levesque, 29, of Garden Place, has served on the council since 2008 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. He was elected in 2009 to finish the remainder of that unexpired term.
   He is employed as director of public outreach and political affairs at Insight Consulting Services, a Trenton lobbying firm.
   ”I’m humbled by the residents’ faith they’ve put in me,” Mr. Levesque said shortly after the votes had been tallied. “We obviously have a lot of work to finish, and I look forward to working with the council to accomplish that.”
   Like Mr. Boyne, he said the rancorous nature of the race was a factor in the outcome.
   ”I think some of the negativity played a role in people’s reaction at the polls,” he said.
   Mr. Levesque said council members needed to put any differences behind them and form a “united front.”
   ”I think every member owes it to the voters to work together for the best outcome for the township,” he said. “We need to work together promoting economic development and good, clean ratables and stabilizing property taxes for the residents.”
   Mr. Levesque called Mr. Boyne “an excellent public servant.”
   ”I think the residents recognize Dave’s contribution to the council, and Chris and I recognize his contribution to the council,” he said.
   Tuesday’s other victor, Mr. Witt, admitted he was still a bit stunned when contacted minutes after he had learned the election results.
   ”I’m grateful and humbled that the residents felt enough to vote for me,” said Mr. Witt, 43, of Honeysuckle Drive. He is the executive vice president of a Cranbury-based construction management company and general contracting firm.
   As for the role politics played in the election, Mr. Witt said he had “no comment.”
   ”I just want to extend congratulations to Rich and Chris, and I appreciate all the hard work Dave Boyne has done for the town,” he said.
   As he contemplated his departure from elected office, Mr. Boyne, 58, of Barto Way, said he planned to play some golf in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where his family has a home two hours away.
   ”For the last six years, I’ve been tied up with the council,” he said. “I’m going to take a vacation from that.”