MONROE: Feist sent on unpaid leave following crash

Township Engineer and resident Ernest Feist has been placed on unpaid medical leave following a car crash last week that injured a total of four people, officials said.

By Charles W. Kim, Managing Editor
MONROE — Township Engineer and resident Ernest Feist has been placed on unpaid medical leave following a car crash last week that injured a total of four people, officials said.
   Mr. Feist, 54, is facing two counts of assault by auto and one count of aggravated assault after allegedly being intoxicated and driving at a high rate of speed before crashing into two vehicles on Hoffman Station Road June 4.
   ”He is on an unpaid leave of absence due to a medical condition,” Business Administrator Wayne Hamilton said this week.
   Mr. Feist, a male passenger from Pennsylvania and two women from Manalapan were hospitalized after the wreck, according to police.
   He was charged in the accident June 6 while in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, according to Jim O’Neil of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
   According to Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Feist works part time as township engineer and Director of Public Works at a combined rate of around $48,000 per year.
   Mr. Feist also volunteers as the Office of Emergency Management Coordinator for the township, Mr. Hamilton said.
   He also works on a per-project basis as the City Engineer for Perth Amboy since 2009, according to that city’s Business Administrator, Gregory Fehrenbach.
   The city could not immediately provide how much Mr. Feist has had collected for the projects.
   Monroe Mayor Richard Pucci released a statement regarding the accident and subsequent charges on June 7.
   ”I am very saddened as a result of the tragic accident which occurred Tuesday,” Mr. Pucci said in the statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured and their families.”
   He went on to say that Mr. Feist has always conducted his business with the township “in an exemplary way” and that Mr. Feist is now facing “serious charges.”
   ”The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and Monroe Police Department have and will continue to conduct the investigation in a responsible and professional way,” he said.
   Township Republicans, however, sent out a statement demanding that Mr. Feist be fired.
   ”After hearing from numerous township residents, The Monroe Township Republican Committee calls on Mayor Richard Pucci to terminate Ernest Feist from his taxpayer funded positions within the township,” reads the statement signed by four office holders in the party.
   The Republican statement questions if Mr. Feist was drinking during business hours and therefore on taxpayer time.
   ”This incident begs the question as to why Mr. Feist was not working in one of his taxpayer funded jobs on a Tuesday afternoon,” GOP Chairwoman Roslyn Appleby-Kane, Alan Friedrich, vice chairman, Brian R. Hackett, treasurer, and Priscilla Pomasan, secretary said in the statement. “What was he doing sitting in a bar in the middle of the work day?”
   While Republicans commented harshly on Mr. Feist, Democrats at the state and county level did not return multiple calls to discuss the case.
   Mr. Feist was elected to another term on the State Democratic Committee the same day as the accident and won the largest number of votes for the position in Middlesex County, according to results from the County Clerk’s Office.
   He has also been a dedicated donor to the Democratic party, with some $140,000 in contributions logged to individual candidates, county, and state organizations since 1997, according to the state Election Commission records.
   The donations come not only from Mr. Feist as an individual, but also through his firm, Feist Engineering, Inc., according to the reports.
   Included in those donations is some $21,950 to the Middlesex County Democratic Organization, $14,400 to Piscataway, $7,500 to South Amboy Democrats and $9,000 to Camden, according to the records.
   The balance of donations have gone to candidates including State Sen. Linda Greenstein and Middlesex County Freeholder Carol Barrett, the former deputy mayor of South Brunswick Township among several others, according to the reports.