Observer-Tribune EDITORIAL: Making the right move

Observer-Tribune Link

1-November-2017

The Harding Township Republican Club made the right move when members postponed a talk by a township consultant at this Sunday’s GOP meeting until after Tuesday’s election.

The Republicans had drawn heat from Democrats for having hosted the township consultant on affordable housing at an earlier Republican Club meeting on Sunday, Oct. 1.

The two Democratic candidates for Township Committee claimed that consultants, who are hired by and paid by the township, should not attend a partisan meeting. The Democrats’ concern is that they would not be able to bring out the same consultant. It’s a justifiable point.

Democrats Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry said the appearance could benefit their Republican opponents, incumbents Chris Yates and Dev Modi. And they said the consultant should only be involved in municipal and not political events.

The Democrats were right on both counts.

The Republican Club statement said it was postponing a talk that had been planned for Sunday by its Glen Alpin consultant, Frank Pinto, partner of Greener by Design, LLC. GOP Club President Regina Egea referred to “unfounded accusations” and said the decision was made so as to spare the firm from being involved in a controversy.

She said the only reason the consultant was invited was to inform the public. If that was the real reason, the club should have waited until after the election to call on the consultant.

Egea, the former chief of staff for Gov. Chris Christie, said she was “personally disappointed with the attacks and accusations that have crept into this current race for the Township Committee seats in Harding.”

The Harding Township Democratic Organization has asked the state Election Law Enforcement Commission to decide on whether the appearance of a township consultant at a Republican campaign violates state law.

The Democrats claim that Pinto’s appearance would likely constitute an “in kind” contribution that must be reported to the state. Greener By Design LLC has an $18,200 no-bid contract with the all-Republican Township Committee.

State law prohibits contractors awarded no-bid contracts over $17,500 for professional services from making cash or in-kind contributions to the candidates or party committees that hired them in excess of $300.

Harding is about as Republican as it gets and the GOP has run municipal affairs unimpeded, for many uninterrupted years. It sounds like the party may simply have assumed that it could give the platform to its consultants.

That was wrong and at least a second apparent violation will be avoided.

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