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Newcomer spreads the word on Haddon Twp. issues

from the Courier Post updated full online article

HADDON TWP. — Tom Cassel’s meeting attendance record is nearly as impressive as that of Haddon Township commissioners.

Cassel is present at almost every commissioners meeting and the occasional zoning and planning board meeting.

“If you want to know what’s going on in your town, you have to go to the meetings,” said the 51-year-old real estate professional.

He is such a constant presence at meetings that when he missed one while on vacation with his family, a commissioner dropped off the meeting’s agenda at his house.

Although he has lived in Haddon Township for less than four years, he is known as a fierce watchdog of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.

“When we have heavy rains, there’s flooding in the backyards, so I went to the town to see if they could help us deal with the problem,” Cassel said of the first meeting he attended. “Once I went to the first meeting and I saw what was going on, I couldn’t believe my ears.”

From his close scrutiny of measures up for a vote — ordinances, resolutions, the payment of bills and hiring of professionals — Cassel has brought many issues to the attention of voters.

It was Cassel who first pointed out alleged improprieties with the collection of rental fees for a municipally owned hall and questioned whether the former police chief could collect two paychecks by using his sickleave while working for another municipality.

 He unsuccessfully sued the township for violating the sunshine laws by holding a series of meetings between the township solicitor and commissioners. A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the township, saying the billing software the solicitor used made it appear as if more than one commissioner was present at the meeting.

“I started to learn the process and how it works,” Cassel said. “My view is the corruption in New Jersey is due to the fact that politicians, if not watched, will do things that are not in everyone’s best interest. If someone is watching, I believe that politicians will think twice before they do certain things.”

In addition to attending meetings, Cassel blogs about township issues and writes many letters to the editors of local publications.

“I believe in open and transparent government at the end of the day,” Cassel said.

Although his neighbors have asked him to run for office, Cassel said he is not interested.

“Right now, I don’t know if I can commit the time to run for office, but I have to commit the time to know what’s going on,” Cassel said.

Although sometimes Cassel’s advocacy brings friction between him and the government, he feels they have a good working relationship.

“I ask challenging questions in a respectful way,” Cassel said. “Sometimes they see me as an adversary and sometimes they see me as someone who helps them run our town better. I just want good government. At the end of the day, that’s all I want.”

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48 Responses

  1. It is becoming quite clear that Mr. Cassel has been correct all this time, and Randy, Paul, and their buddy former-solicitor Klineburger are wrong.

    Cassel took two lawyer-commissioners to court along with their campaign-donor lawyer and spanked the whole group. Cassel the citizen-activist won a court case against a bunch of lawyers, after he warned them for 2 years that they were breaking the law and they just laughed.

    Folks, that says it all. Randy Teague and Paul Dougherty are failures as commissioners, are wasting our tax dollars, and are an embarrassment to this town and their purported legal profession.

    Time for change

  2. Thanks for your input Tom/Pat/Charlie hope to see you out in May 2011!

  3. I enjoyed the articles in today and yesterday’s Courier Post, recognizing community watchdogs.

    I also appreciated the article in yesterday’s paper about Fred Stine and Jane Nogaki’s ongoing leadership and efforts to fight the good fight for the proper use and preservation of Petty’s island.

    Citizen efforts like these are absolutely vital to our communities. — KH

  4. Hey Commissioner Paul. We know you posted the one above Kathy. I post with my name. Kathy posts with her name. Why do you keep posting anonymously?

    Also, I find it kind of interesting that when we look at your elec forms, 13 of the people in your 7/15/09 Elec form receive money or have financial ties in one form or another from the town including 3 senior employees. I guess since you passed the “no pay to play” ordinances, you really haven’t stopped taking money from appointees and employees at all. Everything I am sure is 100% legal based upon the loose law you passed. . But the people of the town don’t care about legal, they care about ethical.

    Let’s list them:

    Thomas Cella – senior public works employee and candidate for position of Director of Public Works
    Cathy Ward – Stradley Ronan – Bond counsel – reappointed
    Gerald Banmiller – President – 1st Colonial Bank- deposit accounts, they also get certain bond and notes,
    Robert Baxter – attorney – special counsel
    Steve Peterson – town prosecutor
    Charles Wigginton – town public defender
    Joseph Iacovino – Haddon Township Housing Authority – executive director (appointed this last year at $25,000 per year for a part time position), head of Planning and Zoning board.
    Key Engineers and Greg Fusco – township engineer
    Richard Klineburger – township solicitor – he didn’t know that he would not want to continue in this role when he contributed, in my opinion.
    George Band – husband of Betty Band, personnel director for town and employee
    James Stevenson – head of water department and township employee and Candidate for Director of Public Works
    David Cuneo – attorney and special counsel
    Maggie Downham – son was given position last summer at pool.

    Let me put this in a simple way for everyone to understand. There were 23 listed people on the report. 13 of them have receive money/and or have monetary ties to the town. Again nothing is illegal about this. But 57% of your listed contributors are just return favors for their continued employment and financial support, direct and indirect, in my opinion.

    Paul – anything you want to say about that?

    Being the town “watchdog” sure is fun sometimes.

  5. Tom
    I am sorry to let you down for not being a Commissioner. I know all three of them quite well. My family and I who live in town support them. The funny thing is defining yourself as a watchdog. I would like to think a watchdog is an objective individual with no political motives. The fact you actively supported one of the losing slates and are an active member in the Haddon Twp. Democrat Club is quite indicative of your political agenda. You are nothing more than a political hack and Charlie’s puppet!

    • I supported Randy, Paul,and John. I also know them. Since then both I and several other of their supporters have become very disappointed with them.

      They really changed after the election, and it’s sad to see how they never lived up to their promises.

      • I voted for these guys and can promise you that I will not in 2011! I am tired of seeing the same dump on Haddon Avenue and hearing a lot of hot air. We need people who will actually do the job and not blow smoke. You cannot have a fragile ego and still be a good leader….

  6. Tom,

    Bob Harris and Family Limo gave these guys campaign money. Family Limo gets all the bus trips from the town. Bob Harris’ brother in law works for the town too. Add them to the list.

  7. You are correct. You aren’t Dougherty. You are not the one who posted last time either. And you continue to use bogus anonymous names.

    Relating to the term watchdog, that is what the Courier Post refers to the people they featured in the various articles.

    Remember, it isn’t about me. I am just a private citizen. It is about the commissioners and the fact that they are filling their coffers with money raised from the people who have the most to lose if they are not reelected. Do you have any comment about the amount of money raised 2 years in advance of an election from people who are receiving township contracts and employees trying to get promoted to more senior positions? Obviously not because there is no defense for this. It is the definition of pay to play.

    I am a lifelong proud Democrat yes. I joined the club to meet more people and to go to the rather informative meetings about different organizations in town, that is all. For those don’t know about the club, the only thing to making yourself “Active” is paying $10/year in dues. Woohoo.

    Oh, I forgot to mention two other contributors in my prior post. There was a curious contribution from David Avedissian. He is an attorney in Haddonfield. In fact, he is the attorney that Ryan Nussey, Klineburger’s law partner, hired to threaten me with a lawsuit for bringing up the issues of pay to play after their initial appointments. Commissioner Dougherty disavowed any involvement at that time relating to these threats against me. Avedissian also applied for an appointment last year but the Commissioners didn’t hire him. After being turned down for a position in early 2009, he contributed to their campaign according to the ELEC report. I find it rather interesting that he would in fact give to their campaign if he had no prior involvement with the commissioners. I am not making any judgments, only giving the facts around the situation which I find curious. You may come to your own conclusions.

    Relating to Bob Harris, nowhere in the 2011 Elec reports is he listed. So how did you get this info?

    I did see Michael “Froggie” Almond on the list. Maybe he is grateful that they didn’t make him remove all the debris that he dumped at Zizak’s property illegally. There are pictures and videos of Almond brothers doing the dumping. He was the single largest listed donor at $1,000. These are just facts. Remember when Randy threatened to arrest me at the meeting when I wanted to talk about this situation of illegal dumping? This is getting good.

  8. How can we find out if Bob Harris and Family Limo contributed? I will ask at the next meeting. I have a limo company and I know my prices are less than Harris and his family limo business, He must get the work becuase he contributes to their campaign.

    • please do stand up and ask. you won’t. cassel and a few others are the only ones who have the courage. You are either one of the commissioners or their few one supporters. Nothing gets you guys out of your holes like a courier post article that is positive of Cassel and his efforts. Won’t be long before St. Evelyn makes an appearance.

  9. Check the Elec reports.

    http://www.elec.state.nj.us/ELECReport/DetailFilingReport.aspx?ID=289885&Page=1&CommitteeName=victory%202011

    Every person I mentioned previously is listed in the reports.

    There is no record on Elec of Bob Harris contributing. I picked up the phone. He told me that he didn’t contribute. Feel free to come to the meetings and ask. That is why there is a public portion to ask questions. Nothing is off limit (except when the mayor threatens you which hasn’t happened in a long time). You guys are too funny making stuff up. To quote Al Franken, “You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your facts”. Well guys, I always do my homework and get the facts right. Too bad you don’t.

    One other thing. If the Democratic Club is so political against the commissioners, why is the commissioners’ campaign manager, Frank Monzo, a member of the Democrat club? Why is the BID coordinator and a town employee Kate Burns a member? It is obviously a communist organization made up of left wing radicals, correct? I can only laugh if that is the only mud that you all can throw at me when I state the facts of the campaign contributions of our commissioners and how they are inextricably tied to doling out jobs and contracts. One or two people contributing… that would be “Well okay, a couple of people who got contracts and that is okay.” But when the majority of people listed as contributors over $300 are financially tied to our commissioners, I see a pattern that I personally do not like. I just think everyone in our town should understand what is really going on.

    • The fact that Betty Band is still strutting around the municipal building says it all.

      Randy Teague and Paul Dougherty are an embarrassment to our town. The Teague administration has erased all talk of the Bill Park administration — that is really something when you think about it.

      Randy Teague will, in my opinion, be remembered as the worst mayor in the history of Haddon Township. He, in my opinion, stood for nothing, did nothing, accomplished nothing, and watched the town go down the cra**er. Randy Teague, in my opinion, never takes a stance on anything, has no backbone, and lacks any conviction. Randy Teague is, in my opinion, a politician of questionable character, questionable integrity, and poor leadership. Enough! (in my opinion)

  10. what was that spineless anon with no balls

  11. Hey, whoever that was is entitled to their opinion. And so are you. I do find your comment to be humorous in light of the fact that you posted anonymously to say it.

    No comments about my pay to play revelations? No comments about how the commissioners’ campaign manager is a member of the “Democratic Club”?

    By the way, Kate Burns, sent out an email on the township email list today about a Haiti Fundraiser on Friday night at Studio Luloo. It looks like a nice event that you can bring kids to as well. If you go to the htbid website, go to the around town page for more info. Spread the word. It looks like fun. And see you all there.

  12. Since I can’t attend township meetings, I’m interested to know if any discussions are taking place regarding the budget. With property revaluation taking place this year, and the economy still in the toilet, are our elected officals planning to make any cuts? I believe raises were given last year and hiring is still on going. Our schools will be looking for more money since the State is not forthcoming with funds. Hopefully, OUR elected officals will give us a nice tax cut and set an example for other towns, our state and our country. Maybe, I’m a dreamer and a wishful thinker!

  13. There should be some discussions about the budget in an open meeting. Last year, they had a illegal meeting (at least that is what the judge in my case stated) where all 3 commissioners met without properly publishing the time of the meeting with all of the department heads. Other than the attendees, I am the ONLY person in the town to know what happened because the just forced them to provide me with the recording of the meeting. It was clearly the most informative meeting I have ever heard about the budget of our town. I am hoping that the commissioners will have this meeting in public this year.

    Be careful though about the idea of lowering taxes. Over the past 2 years, the commissioners have raised every other charge and fee at the town so that the overall revenues of the town increase but they can say “we lowered taxes”. It is purely a shell game. When your water and sewer increase by large percentages, they are just taxing you differently. The devil is in the details.

    I would like to suggest that you call the commissioners and ask them to videotape these meetings and put them available on demand on youtube or on the website. That way, since you are unable to attend, you can still see what is going on. The town has all the video equipment and technology to do this at a minimal cost since there are already 10 township employees at the meetings, any one of which could videotape it.

  14. Rumor has it that there is dissention between the three over a few key issues:

    The Cowardly Lion (Randy) and the Scarecrow (Paul) are vehemetly against the taping of meetings while the Tin Man (John) thinks it is a good idea to allow the meetings tobe streamed on YouTube. Randy and Paul are afraid that clips from the videos will be used against them in the campaign next year. Perhaps they should be more worried about their behavior in the local taverns on a manny a night!

    Also, what happened to our Pool House that was so dangerous 2 years ago that it would not be safe for anyone to use? Recall Tom Cella bringing a concrete chunk to the meeting that allegedly fell off of the building? Randy told us that we needed a million dollar replacement immediately and that the building could not be repaired? How is it that we are still using the same building some 2 years later? Perhaps it is a magic building that somehow repaired itself over the past 2 years? LOL…

    Some campaign donors are angry because the downtown of Westmont looks like a patchwork of modern development, empty storefronts and a brownfield. While Dorothy (Kate Burns) has worked hard at building up the BID, these 3 have not done one thing to help her along except frequent some of these business (G-Bar, Treno, PJs, Brewer’s, The Pour House, Cork, Tom Fischer’s, etc…) Leadership requires one to be SELFLESS not SELFISH!

    Do I live in Haddon Township of the Land of OZ? Kate, please click your ruby red slippers 3 times so we can go back home to reality, if that doesn’t work then it is up to us, the voters to force the government o be transparent and expose themselves for who they are and what is going on.

    Thank you Tom…

  15. Great Story Molly!
    Because its wriiten in English I can’t accuse Bobby or Dan of writing it. Pat may have gotten help from his fellow County workers since its written during working hours but the threads are tied so well together with imagination that its probalby not Paddy either. Are you back Charlie? or maybe its only Tom again and again and again.
    The BID likes the publicity!

  16. Your welcome Molly.

    And Paul… keep on guessing, because I am not the only concerned citizen, just the one of the few who posts with their name. You see, I have nothing to lose from posting with my name since I really don’t care about any criticism as I know I am right. I just want clean and open government without pay to play.

    Return all the money from those who you have hired or it will be the MAIN campaign issue next campaign and I will absolutely make sure of it. Interestingly, I spoke to my brother in Miami and they have a ZERO tolerance rule. No money from employees. No money from government vendors or contractors. ZERO. Totally illegal. Until we get to that, nothing will change on the political front. You have proven through your ELEC reports that your pay to play ordinance is an absolute joke. It allows you to fill your campaign coffers with the money that we the taxpayers are paying the vendors and employees. That means we are paying them too much because they just look at it as a cost of doing and obtaining business. Otherwise they could charge us less. That sends everyone in our town the wrong message. You guys are not smart enough to realize that everyone will see right through you because I will make sure of it.

    We need sunshine sunshine sunshine. My advice for you… when you do what I am suggesting, I will ride away into the sunset.

  17. I heard fusco is also working for the housing authority

  18. Taping the meetings is a great way for those of us that cannot attend. It would be nice to learn what is taking place in our town and what our elected officials are doing for us. I also believe the BOE meetings should be taped, since over half of our taxes go to our schools. Are the budgets for our town and our schools available in line item form?

  19. Towns that care about informing the public, and who are not afraid of encouraging public participation, post their public meetings online. It’s the responsible thing to do. I wish HT would move in that direction.

  20. I have recommended at several public meeting that the town video the meetings and post them on the website and they have flatly refused to do it. Why? Lame excuses particularly that they don’t want grandstanding at the meeting. Please come to the meetings and ask yourself and hear the excuses. They have acknowledged that we the taxpayers already own all the equipment needed to do this. We are redesigning a website where this could be easily incorporated.

  21. Quick update.

    I verfied today that Tom Cella, our Certified Public Works Manager and Certified Purchasing Agent and head of the streets department within public works, was fired yesterday. This happened even though he made a campaign donation. I had heard several weeks ago that the hiring process for the new head of public works was predetermined and that they went through the bogus process to put Jim Stevenson as the new head of public works. It happened. I guess they are cutting costs. I can’t wait to see how well the streets in town a plowed this weekend without Tom Cella leading the effort. If the last snow was any indication, my street was passable but never fully cleared.

    We the town need to be aware that we have a very bad situation there. We have Jim Stevenson being appointed the head of public works. He was appointed to the planning and zoning board. He was recently appointed to the Haddon Township Housing Authority. He is being puppetted by the commissioners in my opinion. Our town employees should be independent of these boards because of the possibility of their boss (in this case the Mayor) going to the employee and either influencing them or potentially threatening retribution if they don’t do what they want at the boards that are supposed to independent of the commissioners’ influence. This is why we had a rigged process for the hiring of Joe Iacovino as executive director of the Housing Authority, for example.

    I went to the planning board meeting last night.

    First, I saw Maggie Downham about whom I had written above who told me that her son never worked at the pool. Apparently he had been hired to but never actually did according to her because of scheduling conflicts. He did a little work for the town she said. I am always glad to update my info if I am not exactly correct, which apparently I was not.

    Secondly, Fieldstone presented on 2 applications. First, the block assembly adjacent to the Sentry office building was approved. It sounds like about May for the construction to start reconfiguring the parking lots to allow for the sale of the Sentry lot in the Dydee site to the town. Again the town has not stated what they plan to sell the lot that we the taxpayers own within the Sentry parking assembly as part of this transaction.

    Relating to site plan approval of the Dydee site, Fieldstone applied for a height variance for the buildings on Highland Ave. The variance is fo 6 to 23 inches and results from them wanting to remove a 3-4 foot wall that they had proposed and reduce the grade against the building, widen the sidewalk, and increase tree grates. The building itself is not changing at all. The main focus was increase plantings in lieu of the wall to make the area, which is residential transitional more attractive. It is obvious that Fieldstone’s original plans raised the topography so that they could meet the height ordinance without a variance previously. Now, they are revising the landscaping which required the variance. From my view, the new plan is much better. The biggest issue is that building heights in our ordinances are not measured from street level but rather from grade level within the lot.

    It’s always fun in Haddon Township!

  22. If the video equiptment is available then how come they just don’t allow HS students or interns who want to learn about production and editing tape the meetings and post them on the website? It would be a great way for the town to help local students and be informative to the public as well. I am working overtime through tax season and cannot attend the meetings until April.

    Tom, could you make this suggestion please?

    Does anyone know why they would fire the Head of Public Works right before a huge snowstorm? That makes no sense whatsoever! I am lucky enought o be able to utilize public transportation but I feel sorry for those who will be stuck if things don’t go smoothly….

  23. …..And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,

    stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.

    It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

    And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.

    Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before:

    “Now that we fired Tom Cella, who will plow the streets?”

  24. This is a sad situation.
    But let’s look at the funny of it all – the Teagues and Doughertys will have to live in this town after they are voted out of office. That’s gonna be funny. Randy Teague and Paul Dougherty will be talked about for years.

    Randy “help me find my backbone” Teague.
    And Paul Dougherty — 25 pounds of cr*p stuffed into a 10 pound bag.

    At least Foley was always a gentleman. It’s a shame he got messed up with those two.

    Maybe Betty Band can plow the streets — probably can get a nice raise and a title of “snow removal technician?” Maybe they can scoop up the snow and dump it at DyDee? Or maybe Froggies private dump?

  25. When Randy fired Cella did he have the character and integrity to do it in person, or did he hide in his office and ask the police to escort him out like he did with Dan?

    Poor Tom Cella was a good company man and look where that got him. He got Teagued!

  26. Don’t know who the guy is that is plowing my area but he has done a fantastic job and I will write a note to the township about him.

  27. They are actually on our street for the third time since early this morning. Much better job then last snow

  28. Township was up our street at least 4 times and did a great job. Tom, you must be upset to heat that news.

    • No.

      I don’t agree with a lot of what Mr. Cassel writies or says, but when HT does a good job at something, he does celebrate it.

  29. St. Evelyn is back. it can’t help itself.

  30. I am not upset when then do a good job in snow removal. I had heard so many negatives from the December snow that expectations were low. They did a much better job this time. One thing I did hear is that the public works employees were all scared for their jobs so they did a better job this time. I only ventured out about 5 blocks to the hill to go sledding with my son today, but all the roads were in great shape.

    I wish that they would have forced people to move their cars off the road so that they could plow better. My street is good except by my house where my neighbor decided to leave his car in the street and they plowed too far from the curb in front of my house in particular making it difficult to get in and out. I hope that they make another sweep tomorrow and plow his house in after he moves his car. . The police should be out in force tonight ticketing every car covered in snow that doesn’t have an overnight permit. It is the only way for people to understand the only good reason for that law… so that the town can do its job and clear the streets especially in the event that there is a fire in the neighborhood and the large vehicles need to get through.

    Sistergb – call you buds and suggest this, okay?

  31. Cassel makes a great point.
    When Randy and Paul passed the ordinance about overnight parking fees it was for exactly this reason.

    This event is a perfect test of evaluting the integrity of Randy’s statements. We have a snow emergency. Will they ticket/remove the cars that are parked overnight without permits?

    If not, then we have to ask what was the real reason for the ordinance?

  32. Kudos to our public works people! The same young man came down my street three times today. He did a fantastic job. All my neighbors had their cars in their driveways and the young man and his plow made fast work of clearing away the snow and our street. Great job Haddon Township Public Works!!

  33. I am sure that they were happy to work lots of overtime in Public Works. Here is their union contract.

    http://www.perc.state.nj.us/publicsectorcontracts.nsf/e20dbee295d1a49c85256f2b00591946/133ad1ccabb658a185257426004b4d49?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,haddon

    Remember that all of the time that they are working is considered overtime and paid at time and a half. I expect them to do a good job at these pay rates.

  34. […] Newcomer spreads the word on Haddon Twp. issues January 2010 43 comments 4 […]

  35. Valuable suggestions , I loved the analysis . Does someone know where my assistant might be able to get ahold of a sample a form copy to fill out ?

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