Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Property Tax Card Program seems like a true win/win situation.

There are always many issues that arise that challenge municipal officials to find answers.  But there are two consistent challenges that always persist: (1) finding ways to reduce property taxes for our residents; and (2) finding ways to support our local businesses to keep the town commercially vibrant.  The governing body is exploring a program that seems to address both of these challenges in a meaningful way.  Ladies and Gentlemen....I introduce you to the "Property Tax Card" Program (hereafter, "PTRP").

PTRP is a Township economic development program which provides tax credits as an incentive for residents to shop in town.  It matches participating residents with participating merchants.  Here is how it goes:

The Township distributes a property tax card (like a reward card) to its residents.  When shopping at a local store that participates in the program, the shopper presents the property tax card to the merchant along with the normal payment (cash or card) for the goods or services being purchased, the merchant swipes the property tax card in a dedicated processing machine, and that will result in a credit to the shopper's property tax card account which is maintained by the program manager.  At the end of the year, the resident's credits are than calculated, and the credit (less the 25% administration fee) is then applied to the resident's property tax bill.  The credit is paid by the merchant (collected monthly) and ultimately applied to the resident's property taxes.

Example:  SpongeBob goes to Krabby Doors to purchase a garage door.  Sponge sees the door of his dreams for $1000 and presents his credit card and his property tax card to Patrick (Krabby Doors Manager) to buy the door.  Krabby Doors (owned by the brother of Eugene H. Krabs) participates in the program and offers cardholders a 10% property tax credit for purchases.  Patrick runs the property tax card through the special machine provided from the program, and the credit card in the credit card machine.  Transaction complete.  SpongeBob just got a brand new door, but he also just banked a $75 credit ($100 - $25 admin fee) towards his property taxes, and Krabby Doors got a sale it may not have had.  SpongeBob dances out of the store proud of how smart he is.  Mrs. Puff, watching the transaction take place before her eyes, excitedly drives immediately to the Municipal Building to sign up for the program.  The end.

A representative from PTRP is scheduled to make a short presentation and answer questions at the next council meeting on December 17, 2019 (my 30th anniversary to my lovely wife) at 6:30 pm.  All are welcome to attend....merchants and residents!

IMPORTANT:  This is NOT a done deal.  The Township has not made any commitment to this program.  We are doing our due diligence and engaging the community in this process.  Also, if anything that I have written is inconsistent with the program as described by its representative, the representative is right!

FAQs:

1.  What is the cost to the resident?  $0.00
2.  What is the cost to the Township?  A fee for the cost of making the credit cards, and the time and effort of an employee to assist in making the program successful.
3.  What is the cost to the merchant?  There is a $10 monthly participating fee, and a one-time cost of between $160 (dial up) and $230 for (IP) for the machine used to process the transaction.  The merchant determines the percentage of credit it will offer to participants at the time of registration into the program.  There are no set amounts.
4.  What does the company Property Tax Card get paid? 25% of the total credit earned.  For this fee, it manages the program.
5.  How can the resident monitor the credits earned?  On the program's website, the resident will have his/her own account to log into to see the amounts awarded.
6.  How can I learn more about this program?  Go to https://propertytaxcard.com/aboutus and attend the council meeting.



Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Story Of A Scam That Should Be Shared......

Hey Everyone! I just wanted to alert you all to a scam that is happening that targets older people. It’s my hope by sharing this (long) story that you retell it to anyone you know that may fit the demographic. I have personal knowledge of this happening two times in the past week. It goes like this: Let’s call the victim “Bart” (a widower in his 80s…fit and self-reliant) to make it easier to tell. Bart receives a phone call in the morning from someone (the scammer) who says he is his adult son. The scammer says “Dad, I am in the hospital and have a broken nose and broken arm from a car accident. I have been arrested for DWI and I injured another driver. This is my only phone call, but here is the number for my attorney who will call you and give you instructions on how to make bail. Dad, please don’t tell anyone about this….no one can find out about it.”
Bart is in a panic, he calls the number his “son” gave him. A man picks up and identifies himself as an attorney.  Bart asks if he is representing his son, and the man says yes. The man says that we have to act fast or we won’t be able to get him out of jail on bail until next week. Bart is told that bail has been set at $50,000 and he needs $5000 in cash immediately. The attorney instructs Bart to go to the bank and get it and then call him back. Bart, with his paternal instincts in overdrive, rushes to the bank and withdraws $5000 in cash. He calls the “attorney” back and tells him he has the money. The attorney says that the case is being handled all the way up in Passaic County, so the fastest way to get the money to him is to go to a local PNC bank and deposit in the account of ….let’s say, John Doe…in account # 123456.
Bart rushes to PNC bank where the Teller promptly refuses him because by law you cannot deposit money into another party’s account (and that they don’t have that account on record). Bart calls the “attorney” and tells him the bad news. The attorney tells him to try Wells Fargo (knowing full well he will be refused again but this is all a part of the scam). Bart drives to the bank and receives the same response. Bart is now in a panic, so the “attorney” tells him that the only thing he can think of is for Bart to go to Hamilton and buy $5000 worth of “bitcoin” and that he will give him instructions once he gets that done.
Well Bart has no idea what bitcoin is and breaks down and calls his grandson and asks for help. Bart tells his grandson to please tell no one “but I am trying to help your father, and I need to buy bitcoin.” Luckily, the grandson knows this scam well because it happened to a grandfather of his friend. He tells Bart that it’s a scam and to go home and he will meet him there. Bart, if you talk with him and see him, is a sharp man for his age. But he is human, and his emotions overcame his common sense…and this is what makes these scammers awful human beings. For 3 hours Bart was driving around thinking this terrible thing happened to his son, and is doing his best to try and help him while telling no one because his son asked him not to.
The police were called, and a report was taken. The officer told Bart that these scammers are often never caught because they are in another country. This exact scam happened the very next day to one of Bart’s friends who took the same action but was luckily stopped by his grandson (coincidentally) when he reached out for help. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not think this couldn’t happen to your elderly sibling, parent, grandparent or neighbor.  Bart still swears the voice sounded exactly like his son’s. If this scam was completed, Bart would have been devastated. Please tell this story to whomever you think may need to hear it. Let’s all work to keep our residents safe.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Hey Mr. Hoover......How about just a little fact checking before you publish an article?


In today's Trenton Times, there was an article on page 10 with the title: "Towns must stop dishing out tickets just to raise cash" by Richard M. Hoover (a guest columnist from (ironically) The Institute for Justice).  It inferred rather clearly that our town practices "taxation by citation" as a means to balance a municipal budget.  We do not.  I sent him the following email this morning, and I wanted to share it with you all because....frankly....I'm tired of the unjustified attacks....and being quiet and hoping these attacks just go away or are forgotten....well, it just ain't me.  

Mr. Hoover:

I read your article today with great disappointment.  Had you bothered to contact me to make a simple inquiry regarding whether or not there is any validity to the civil action filed by the 6 Lawrence Township police officers, I would have told you some facts that may have caused you to not disparage Lawrence Township as you did.


First, as a former Municipal Court judge in our Town, I completely understood the impact that the New Jersey Supreme Court’s position (and policy changes)  would have regarding revenue generated by municipal courts (from motor vehicle stops), and that our Town should not be relying upon levels of revenue generated in the past in future budgets forecasts.  It is clear that that source of revenue (one of many in a municipality) would be down.  In our particular circumstance, the reduced revenue from our court (and our impound yard) was offset by increases in revenue from other departments (i.e., construction office and permits, etc.).  This allowed us multiple budget years to get an accurate estimate of revenue that will be generated by our court (and impound yard) so we can do accurate budget forecasting.   This is what responsible municipal governments do. 
  
In addition, if you had asked, I would have told you that the problem that we were experiencing from our Police Department was that we had officers that in my opinion simply refused to work because they were either upset about some union dispute (our police department uniquely has 2 unions...which has proven to be a disaster for many reasons) and/or our former police chief because of how he treated his police officers in general.  

In our Town of 34,000 residents, 22 square miles, with more than 125 miles of roadway (that includes Route 1, I 95, Route 206 etc), our police officers had consistently made approximately 8000  motor vehicle stops annually (a number well within national averages).  In 2018, that number dropped to approximately 5100.  Our revenue from our storage facility went from $145,451 in 2016 to $77,328 in 2018.  This represented a ridiculous drop in traffic enforcement.  Speeders were able to speed without risk of being stopped….drunk drivers drove without risk of being stopped……uninsured and unregistered vehicles were sent on their way if they even had been stopped in the first place.  Basic traffic safety in our Township was being compromised.  I can’t tell you how many calls I received from residents complaining about speeding on their streets and never seeing a police car around. 


In response, there were concerted efforts (including seeking guidance from the NJ Attorney General’s Office) to get the police officers back to working…..to being productive….to earning their salaries that tax payers were paying….and to honor the oath that they took when they became a law enforcement officer.  It had NOTHING to do with revenue generating.  As difficult as you may find this, I don’t come from a finance background.  My decisions don’t start and end with the mighty dollar.  I actually worry and put emphasis on what is the right thing to do in all respects to municipal government operations (to respect and value our residents and our employees and make decisions that reflect that)….including police department operations.  Lawrence Township does NOT rely upon “taxation by citation” to balance its budget. 

So I take offense to you disparaging our police and administrative officials in your article without bothering to determine whether it had any basis in fact.  This is apparently the world we live in now, but I thought you should know at least one person cares about the reputation of our community, our police chief and the officials who run the municipal operations.   The next time you do an opinion article, may I suggest you make some attempt to verify your position.

Below is a link to a blog post regarding the police civil action that you may find interesting:


https://lawrencetownshipnjmanagerkpn.blogspot.com/2019/10/the-police-officers-lawsuit.html

Kevin
Kevin P. Nerwinski, Esq.
Municipal Manager/QPA – Township of Lawrence
2207 Lawrence Road
PO Box 6006
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Direct – 609.844.7005
Fax – 609.895.1668
www.lawrencetwp.com

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Moody's Upgrades Lawrence Township Credit Rating to Aa1 from Aa2.

The community of Lawrence Township has been the beneficiary of years and years of strong and responsible fiscal management.  This is not me taking any credit for this fact at all.  I am simply following an established playbook and executing it under the watchful eyes and guidance from our elected officials.  Our past longtime municipal managers (Bill Guhl and Richard Krawczun) and our current CFO Peter Kiriakatis have positioned the finances of this community very well.  This, in turn, directly effects our ability as a community to undertake significant capital projects under the best of terms from institutional lenders as a borrower.  To speak plainly, we as a community have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments over the years because of our strong finances.

On November 18, 2019, Moody's (an American credit ratings agency lender's rely upon when issuing bonds to municipalities) issued a press release upgrading the Township's rating to Aa1 from Aa2.  This rating means we are an "excellent" security at the highest level of this rating category.   If you want to explore what this means further, go to https://www.moodys.com/.

What follows are some of the more interesting comments from Moody's press release:

Credit strengths:  
- Large tax base with strong resident wealth and income.
- Strong finances.
- Low debt burden.

Financial Operations and Reserves: Growing and healthy financial position

The township's financial position has been on a positive trend over the past four years and will remain strong in the near to medium term. In 2018, the township’s Current Fund balance amounted to $15.6 million or 32.5% of revenues. Moody’s makes certain adjustments to New Jersey local governments’ fund balance to include receivables and reserves that would be eligible to be included in fund balance under GAAP accounting but are excluded as a result of state statutory accounting regulations. The Moody’s adjusted Current Fund Balance amounts to $24.2 million or a healthy 50.5% of operating revenues. Both figures are materially up; over the past five years, reported fund balance has increased 207.7% while adjusted fund balance is up 125%. Management attributes the strong results to a number of factors including controlling expenditures mainly by reducing staffing levels through attrition, as well as regular increases in the property tax levy. The strong financial performance is particularly notable as the township is actively engaged in efforts to replace debt with pay-as-you-go capital spending. Favorably, the bulk of the township's revenue (61.5%) is derived from property taxes. State aid contributes only 8.3% of revenues. An additional 11.8% comes from sewer charges and the remainder comes from various miscellaneous sources including construction code fees, ambulance fees, etc. Fixed costs are moderate at just under $8 million or 16.7%. Although 2019 is not yet over, management reports that revenues and expenditures are generally tracking well to budget. The township expects to at least replenish the fund balance appropriated in the budget and may even run a modest surplus.


LIQUIDITY

The township's cash levels ended fiscal 2018 at $24.8 million or a healthy 51.8% of operating revenues.

Management and Governance

Management is proactive in the township's financial management by producing monthly budget reports to track revenue collection and programmatic spending throughout the year. New Jersey cities have an institutional framework score of “Aa,” or strong. Revenues are moderately predictable and mostly consist of property taxes; however, cities are required to make county and school district tax levies whole in the event of tax appeals. Revenue raising ability is moderate as cities are constrained by a 2% cap on the property tax levy. Cities can raise the levy above the cap for debt service, pensions and certain qualified expenses. Expenditures, which primarily consist of personnel and public safety, are highly predictable. Cities have a moderate ability to adjust costs given the presence of collective bargaining and high fixed costs.

As we cycle past the election season, it is my hope that the residents of Lawrence Township have confidence that those of us charged with the responsibility to operate the government that serves you are doing what you require, expect and deserve. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

When Confidentiality Must Supersede Transparency in Municipal Government

     We have all heard the word "transparency" over the past several years when it relates to government operations.  It means that what is said and done in government should be made available to the public to review and scrutinize.  This concept absolutely makes sense when you understand and accept that "government" is the mechanism for the people to run the "business" of the community.  To bring this home further, the Lawrence Township municipal government serves the community, and is mandated to always act in the community's best interests.  Always.  Making its actions open to public scrutiny ensures that the public can make informed decisions on whether or not their government is, in fact, working in its best interests.

     Recently at one of our council meetings, a person in the audience remained in the council meeting  room after the regular agenda was completed and as the municipal attorney, council members, the municipal clerk and I prepared to begin an executive (closed) session.  After the public left the room, the man remained in his seat very much unaware about what was to take place.  He wanted to hear what we planned to talk about.  After a few moments of awkwardness, he was politely told that he must leave the room during "closed" session.  He seemed genuinely surprised that he could not remain, but eventually left the room.

     There are times when the "business" of the community requires its elected officials to be able to communicate with one another in confidence and outside the scope of public scrutiny.  The primary way that our municipal government does this is during "executive" session (or sometimes called, "closed session") that at times may occur during our public council meetings.  New Jersey allows for government officials to meet privately to discuss public business under N.J.S.A. 10:4-6.  This states, in part:

Public bodies may meet in closed session when the matters under discussion (1) are considered  confidential by federal law, state statute or court rule, (2) would jeopardize receipt of federal funds, (3) constitute an unwarranted invasion of individual privacy, (4) concern collect bargaining, (5) involve purchase, lease or investment using public funds, or concern the setting of banking rates, (6) concern investigations of violations or possible violations of the law, or techniques of protecting the safety and property of the public, where disclosure of such techniques could impair such protection, (7) are covered by the attorney-client privilege, (8) concern personnel, or (9) involve certain proceedings which could result in a civil penalty, suspension, or loss of license.

     The most frequent uses of executive session that we see in our municipality is to discuss land acquisitions, litigation, and collective bargaining (union) negotiations.  To better understand this concept, let's discuss the Town's recent acquisition of the Sheft property (the closing is pending).  The strategy for the negotiation of the acquisition of the property was discussed by myself, the municipal attorney and the elected officials in closed sessions.  Among other things, we talked about how much we would be willing to pay for the property and under what terms and conditions.  Now imagine that these discussions had to take place during a public meeting in the presence of the public.  This would mean that the Shefts could have sat in the meeting room listening to how we planned to negotiate with them!  Obviously, this would not be in the best interests of our community.

     Another example would be discussions involving the strategy the governing body wishes to pursue in collective bargaining negotiation with the various unions that represent the Township's employees.  How much would we be willing to offer for cost of living increases?  What terms and conditions in the prior contract need to be revised or omitted altogether because they work against the proper functioning of the department?  If these discussions were required to be done during a public meeting where union members may situate themselves, the best interests of the community would most certainly be jeopardized.

     As important as it is for your elected officials to be able to discuss certain issues in private among one another in a manner that protects the public interest, it is as important that those same officials keep the discussion completely confidential and not repeat anything that was said in closed session.  If an official violated that confidentiality and revealed to anyone what was said, it would be an ethical and legal violation of the law.  If the officials in a closed session fear that one among them will not keep the confidence of the subject matter and reveal it to others, open discussions cannot be conducted and government "work" cannot be completed.  It undermines the ability to act effectively on behalf of the community.

     In conclusion, there are very valid and real reasons to have government officials be able to communicate in private on issues that affect the community, and also for those same officials to know and understand the reasons why confidentiality must be protected.  In the end, when the acquisitions are completed, the union negotiations are concluded or litigation is settled, the minutes of the closed sessions are made available to the public to consider and scrutinize.  This system is necessary and it works.  




Monday, October 28, 2019

October 23, 2019 Community Gathering Speech




          This past Monday afternoon I sat staring off and pondering what the community has been through over the past couple of weeks.  I try to think from the perspective of a resident, but it is difficult from my vantage point as the municipal manager for the Township.  I am stuck having more information than most on these issues, and I lose the perspective of a resident who is busy with work, family and the daily personal challenges that compete for your thoughts from day to day, hour to hour or minute to minute.  But I know that when you heard about the incident that occurred on Friday evening at the high school, it stopped most of you in tracks.  It jarred your sense community; your sense of peace; it caused you to feel a range of emotions that included anger, outrage, sadness, frustration and hopelessness.  It is what I felt. 

          It was at that moment I just wanted to do something.  I wanted as many of us as possible who call Lawrence Township our home to gather together.  To see each other.  To unify and make a singular statement, just by coming here together, that says we reject hatred, we reject racism and bigotry in all forms.  By being here together tonight, by looking into each other’s eyes, I hope that we see goodness in each other.  We are here because we care.  We care for one another, and for the young girls who were victimized by racist and despicable acts this past Friday night.  And we care enough to act to make things better.

          Nelson Mandella said the following:  No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion.  People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.   

          I stand here not as a government official, but as someone who was raised in this community;  Who calls this community home;  Who is proud of this community;  And who understands that it is our diversity that just makes us better. 

          I have heard these last couple of days from many people that what happened on Friday night is not “our community.”  It’s not who we are.  But truth be told, for those young girls on that night it was their “community” and we need to own it as ours despite how uncomfortable it may make us feel.  We cannot forget or dismiss this. We must respond.  We can’t go back in time, we can only move forward.

           I am neither the race, age or gender of the victims last Friday.…and I cannot and will not say I understand how the hateful words and acts against them made them feel or what it feels like to be victimized by racism and hatred.  But as a resident of this community, I can be angry and outraged….and want better for everyone.  I know you all feel this way.  I can see it your faces.  I feel it by your presence here tonight. 

          So what we can do is for each of us take some personal responsibility to make change.   To act out of love for all, out of respect for all.  To call out racism and bigotry when you see it.  Teach your children to reject it completely and publicly.  Feel empathy and compassion for those that must live it every day in big ways and small ways….and if we each can do this, if we pledge to do this…...just maybe over time things will change. 

          I will end my remarks with this by a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; Only light can do that.   (candle lighting ceremony).



Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Police Officers' Lawsuit against the Township and the Chief of Police.


The Police Officers' Lawsuit….

                As you all know, I have made efforts to connect with residents through social media.  So you know me and I get to know you…a little better.  I often post about positive things happening in town to let you know that the good people who work for the municipality are doing good work.  By establishing a presence on social media, I believe it would be hypocritical of me to now not comment on what many of you have read in the Trentonian today.  Given that it is a pending lawsuit, there are things I cannot say or should not say, but I will share my thoughts and opinions with you, as much as I can, because you may want to know what I think, and Chief Caloiaro deserves a fair representation of the facts and circumstances to be made public. 

                First and foremost, I appreciate and have nothing but respect for all of you that have the wisdom and understanding to not form an opinion based upon allegations.  People tend to think that a lawsuit somehow has merit because it exists.  It doesn’t.  For the cost of $400, ANYONE and I mean ANYONE can (and often do) file a law suit in the Superior Court of New Jersey.  The Clerk of the Court simply stamps the complaint “FILED” with absolutely no review of the truthfulness or accuracy of the allegations contained in it.  So please do not be impressed that a civil action exists.  Nor be impressed that the Trentonian made it a front page article.

                The Trentonian article stated that the PBA Local 119 and the Township have been in negotiations for a new contract.  That is true.  During the negotiation period the PBA fired its attorney and hired another one.  This attorney, as facts will have it, is the very same attorney that prepared and filed this lawsuit against the Township on behalf of PBA members.  The very same.

                What many in the public don’t know is that our Police Department is very different than almost all others because we have 2 active police unions, the PBA and the FOP.  Recently, the PBA took over control of the bargaining power on behalf of the rank and file membership but the FOP remains the bargaining unit for the Superior officers of our Police Department.  Let that settle in for a moment….  Think about the type of environment this could and does create.  Complaints are frequently filed against each other that require the Mercer County Prosecutor to investigate and handle since these complaints can’t be handled within the department for obvious reasons.  There are more than a few currently being handled at this time.

                The law in the State of New Jersey is that it is illegal for police officers to strike.  It’s a good law for good reasons.  But the consequence to this law is that when rank and file membership become unhappy about how things are handled by the superior officers or, let’s say, a manager that does not offer them the money they want in their new contract, what they always have at their discretion is to put their uniform on, wear the badge, attend roll call…and then sit in their patrol cars all day and not do proactive traffic enforcement.  Traffic enforcement that is designed NOT to create revenue but to keep our streets safe. Safe from speeders, erratic drivers, drunk drivers.  (How many of you have taken the time out of your day to call me to complain about speeders down your streets and never seeing a police car anywhere?)  But by coming to work each day, a profession that required them to put their hand on a bible (often held by a family member) to swear an oath to protect and to serve, they get paid….from taxpayer money.  

                If you read about quotas in the newspaper.  That is accurate.  The Attorney General for the State of New Jersey issued long ago that requiring police officers to meet quotas is illegal.  It’s a good law.  It makes sense.  But how do you supervise or manage a police officers that come to work each day, sit in their patrol car and do no traffic enforcement while cars speed by, people unsafely hold cell phones, or drivers drive drunk?  If you mention the lack of productivity and the lack of work being done, what do you think the response is?  Yes, a grievance is filed that they are being made to stop vehicles and to meet a quota.  You ask, why can’t you just suspend or fire officers that are clearly not performing their job?  Because you can’t!!!  They are protected by Civil Service and their union.  Statistical evidence will make this very clear. This concerned me so much here that I contacted the NJ Attorney General's office several weeks ago to discuss what can be done about getting our officers back doing their job.

                When I took over this position in 2017, I honestly had no idea about what was really going on at the Police Department.  It didn’t compute to me that a police officer would simply stop performing his/her duty because they objected to Chief Mark Ubry’s style and actions as their chief at that time.  It became clear though fairly quickly.   From a non-economic perspective, it means the streets in our community are less safe.   From an economic perspective, it means that officers are being paid and not performing.  The Judge, Court Administrator, the Deputy Court administrator, the staff and security guards are all being paid but doing dramatically less work.  This is taxpayer money being wasted, and it’s unacceptable.

                One thing you can do as a test to judge whether the allegations are true or not, is to listen to the municipal council meeting recordings for February 5, 2019 and February 19, 2019[1].  These are budget discussions.  Listen to what was actually said and how it was said.  This is NOT about revenue to get our grubby hands on.  It’s about being able to craft a responsible budget.  One that is accurate.  You can’t do that if you don’t discuss and determine and forecast what revenues will be realized in the coming budget year.  I believe these Plaintiffs, in this complaint, do a disservice to our elected officials and our municipal judge by presenting facts in the way they have in the complaint.  Listen to the tapes…read the complaint.  Listen to the tapes….read the complaint. 

                As an example, let’s take Paragraph 20 on Page 5 where the Plaintiffs state the following:

                “During the budget meetings of the governing body of Defendant…., the council openly discussed how Municipal Court revenue increased and that the increase was due to pressure put on the Police Department by Chief Caloiaro.”  I listened to the tape….I didn't hear anything close to that.  The fact is that the Municipal Court revenue was dramatically down, and that presents an issue for budgeting reasons.   The shortfall in revenue from any source in our municipal budget is a legitimate concern to discuss “openly” in order to plan for a budget in the coming year.  This is how responsible government works.  Listen to the tape.

                Or in Paragraph 22 on Page 5 where the Plaintiffs allege the following:

                “…During his presentation, Judge Korngut addressed how he believed some decrease in Municipal Court revenue in 2018 was an “aberrational year” and the future of the Lawrence Court system was on an “upswing” back to levels they’ve seen in 2017.”  I believe proper context would be that the police officers stopped active traffic enforcement during Chief Mark Ubry’s time because they were displeased with him and the environment he had created. 

                Let’s look at Par. 71 through 81 concerning Sgt. Stein:  It states,

                "72.  In October of 2018, Sgt. Stein and his squad met at a Wawa to discuss patrol responsibilities for the shift.  The meeting discussed materials usually covered in a briefing.  Instead of a briefing in the department, the Officers decided to be a presence in the community while covering their shift responsibilities.”  I will wait a couple moments while you let this sink in.  Late at night, the Sgt. and his unit met a Wawa instead of in the Police Department before their shift starts.  How would you feel, as a resident taxpayer if you saw 4-5 police officers congregating at the Wawa, probably drinking coffee and talking?  I am told that some residents even called to complain about this.  

                As for the allegation that the storage unit in the back of the Police Department is designed for creating revenue.  Well that’s true to a degree.  When a police officer stops a motor vehicle and the vehicle is not registered or the registration is suspended, the police officer is REQUIRED to impound the vehicle.  There is no discretion.  This happens often times when a vehicle is stopped for a moving violation and further investigation reveals the vehicle is not registered or the registration is suspended.   Not surprisingly, impound revenues is down dramatically because…wait for it…..there are dramatically less motor vehicle stops. 

                It is my understanding that several years ago, Chief Mark Ubry came up with the idea to create a small impound yard behind the police department.  This would keep the impounded vehicles on police grounds, make an easier process for retrieval from the owner and create revenue for the municipality instead of privately owned storage lots.   Residents demand that municipal officials find creative ways to keep taxes down, this was an example of that.   Despite the suggestion that the officers have discretion to impound or not impound, it is not true by law.

                I could go on but I shouldn’t.  I speak honestly and openly to you all on all things and I cannot be silent now.   Some will say I am being unprofessional doing this.  I believe Chief Caloiaro is a good, honest hard working and dedicated police chief.  I believe he is undeserving of this.   If I believed the Plaintiffs, our officers, or that there was even close to the truth about these allegations, my actions would be swift on their behalf.  I hate the fact that I am writing this article.  I hate having been put in this position.   There are many good police officers on our force for sure.  They honor their oath and serve the community.  I am grateful to work with them.   But in my opinion there are some that have followed the lead of a few and have gone astray of their oath, and that’s a shame.    I hope that all of you do not rush to judgment on this lawsuit.  If you care about it, take the time to become knowledgeable about it.  Follow it through the court system to the end.  The Township will defend this civil action because in my opinion it is without merit.  I communicate this way by choice because I think it makes for more transparency.  However,  I will refrain from commenting any further on social media about this issue.  

POST SCRIPT (a simple fact that I thought important to share regarding an allegation in the complaint):  

           One of the allegations contained in the complaint is that the Municipality has an ATM positioned in the Court and Police lobby, and that Municipality is making money on its use.  I direct you to Par. 32 of the complaint where it says the following:

"32.  As the police department only takes cash or money orders, often times they force motorists to use an ATM machine in the lobby of the building.  The ATM machine has a limit of $200 per transaction.  The ATM collects a fee per transaction which pays additional money to the Municipality.  Therefore, in order for a motorist to get their vehicle back when he/she pays cash, the motorist has to use the ATM machine twice and pay two fees for the use of the ATM before they have enough cash to pay for the impound fee."

           When you read that in the complaint, how many of you were outraged?  How many couldn't believe that your Town would be so low to do such a thing?  Well, the truth is that Lawrence Township does not make a single penny on that ATM machine.  It was installed at the request of Chief Mark Ubry because he felt that it would offer more convenience to those that needed money while doing court or police business.  The transaction fee ($3.00) goes to the ATM owner.....NOT TO THE TOWNSHIP.   Do you know how simple it is to verify this fact?  All that you would have to do is to send an email to me, the clerk or our CFO and ask, "How much revenue is received by the Township for the ATM machine at the Court and Police Building annually?  We would all provide an answer: $0.00.  If you wanted to be more formal, you can file an OPRA request (Open Public Records Act) which you can do online and by email to our Clerk.  This was NOT done by the Plaintiffs or their attorney in this case.  Yet, so many of you believed the complaint on its face.  I have the emails and comments to me letting me know how awful we are.  This is something to think about when you wonder about this matter.




[1] You may contact the Municipal Clerk in advance to arrange to listen to the recordings.  Please do not just walk in as preparations have to be made to accommodate you.  

Property Tax Card Program seems like a true win/win situation.

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