Friday, September 23, 2005

Broschart drops out of race

Published in the September 22, 2005 issue of The Courier.

Broschart drops out of race


In an unexpected turn of events in Hazlet politics, Committeeman Scott Broschart resigned his candidacy for the November special election.

In May, Broschart was selected by the Township Committee to replace former Mayor Paul Coughlin. Coughlin resigned in April, two months after he was arrested by the FBI in a corruption sting that netted 11 Monmouth County officials.

At the time, Hazlet Republicans expressed reservations about Broschart’s ascension into government office.

“His work experience is close to nothing. The other Republicans that were nominated for his seat are professionals and own property [in town],” Rich Kohler, a Hazlet Republican, said in an article in the July 7 issue of The Courier.

In the same article, Hazlet Republican Chair Steve Grossman said, “There were qualified candidates. Someone as young as Scott has no real work experience. He has no real life experience.”

Broschart denied that his youth would affect the way he would govern and launched an “Ethics Reform Plan” that included campaign finance reform regulations.

When the Township Committee voted unanimously to approve an anti-Pay-to-Play ordinance, however, Broschart was bombarded with questions from Hazlet Democrats about his own campaign fundraising activities.

In the resume he submitted when seeking to fill Coughlin’s seat, Broschart wrote that he “raised over $40,000 in contributions” as campaign manager for the successful 2004 election of Mayor Michael Sachs and Committeewoman Bridget Antonucci.

In fact, Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) reports show that $20,535 was raised for the campaign, a number later adjusted to $20,831.

“Either you falsified the election report and violated state law or you falsified your resume to become a member of the Township Committee,” Vincent Solomeno, a Hazlet Democrat, said at the September 6 meeting.

In a later interview, Solomeno questioned whether or not Broschart’s appointment was in itself Pay-to-Play.

“He is the one who raised tens of thousands of dollars for the very people who voted to appoint him to his position,” Solomeno said. “What this says is that someone who doesn’t have a steady job, who doesn’t pay Hazlet property taxes can become a committeeman by raising tens of thousands of dollars.”

Anointed not appointed?

When Coughlin resigned his seat and a November special election was imminent, Grossman said he began planning a “mini-convention” for county committee members of the Hazlet Republican Party to select who would run on the Republican ticket.

On July 20, that process was thwarted when Monmouth County Republican Chair Fred Niemann signed off on Broschart’s candidacy.

Niemann, who campaigned for county chair under the promise on enacting by-laws and restoring greater control to municipal clubs, reportedly told Grossman he was unaware of what he was signing.

Under a little-known rule, the county chair does in fact have the authority to select a candidate for a special election, Grossman said. Nevertheless, the rule hadn’t been applied in Monmouth County in 20 years, according to Grossman.

Broschart bows out just under the wire

At a meeting of the Hazlet Republican Club held at the Lakeside Manor on Wednesday, September 14, Committeewoman and Republican Club President Tracey Maffiore announced that Broschart removed his name from the Republican ticket.

Broschart had attended the Hazlet Republican Club meeting but left before the announcement was made that he was resigning his candidacy.

Maffiore said that Broschart had made the decision to step down because the Hazlet Democrats were using him as a political issue.

In an e-mail, however, Broschart said he removed his name from the ticket so he could focus on his future.

“I need to focus on my career and I'm unsure if I will be residing in Hazlet over the next year. It would be a disservice to the residents of Hazlet if I were to run this year, possibly win and then have to step down if I am forced to relocate,” Broschart said. “In the meantime, I will continue to serve on the committee and fully plan on supporting Ric Medrow (a Republican running for the seat currently held by Maffiore, who is not seeking re-election this year) and the candidate who is chosen to run in my place.”

Hazlet Democrats, however, believe Broschart’s sudden resignation of his candidacy to be a direct result of the questions they raised at the last Township Committee meeting.

“Obviously I feel that our questions about Broschart’s campaign fund raising were instrumental in him stepping down,” said Jim DiNardo, Democrat candidate for Hazlet Township Committee.

DiNardo said that Broschart, as a sitting member of the governing body, still owes taxpayers answers about the ethical questions that have been raised by residents. The Township Committee also needs to be held responsible for Broschart’s appointment in the midst of these allegations, according to DiNardo.

“The Township Committee had a choice. They chose to put up a guy who obviously has some issues with campaign finances. It raises another cloud over Hazlet (following Coughlin’s arrest),” DiNardo said. “We need good government not more questions about the lack of honesty and integrity of our committee members.”

If Broschart had not stepped down by Monday, September 19, only a court order could have replaced him with another candidate on the ticket, according to Grossman. The Hazlet Republican Party will have until Wednesday, September 21 to present the name of the new candidate, who will have to be approved by Niemann.

Many members of the Hazlet Republican Club asked Maffiore to consider running in the special election. Maffiore said it was unlikely that she would run this November, as she took on a new job last year and found her free time severely limited. She said she was heartened by the show of support from other Republican Club members.

Grossman said the club will continue to move forward.

“I wish Scott the best of luck. I think he did the right thing for Hazlet and for the party,” Grossman said.

Kohler said he was pleased by the turn of events.

“I think [Broschart] brought this upon himself. I think we almost had a case of the system running amok,” Kohler said. “Thanks to Steve, we got it back under control.”

With reporting by Christian Alexandersen.

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