(Published in the Thursday, September 8, 2005 issue of The Courier.)Broschart comes under fire about campaign finances
By JACKIE CORLEY
What was supposed to be the passage of an anti-Pay-to-Play ordinance led to allegations of wrong-doing by a sitting committeeman at the Tuesday, September 6 meeting of the Hazlet Township Committee.
Committeeman Scott Broschart, 26, who was selected to replace former Mayor Paul Coughlin despite questions by both Republican and Democrat leaders about his qualifications for the office, initiated “Operation Public Trust” in late June 2005.
The ethics reform package proposed by Broschart included Pay-to-Play regulations and an anti-nepotism ban. The anti-Pay-to-Play ordinance was passed unanimously by the Township Committee at the meeting.
However, Democrats charged that Broschart had severe campaign finance issues of his own to answer.
In his resume seeking to fill Coughlin’s vacant 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 $20,585 was raised for campaign.
When Democrat candidates for Hazlet Township Committee Kevin Lavan and Jim DiNardo attempted to question Broschart regarding the sum of money during the public portion of the Thursday meeting, Sachs refused to allow either man to speak on the issue.
“It’s political and has nothing to do with the business of this town,” Sachs said.
In an interview outside the meeting room, DiNardo disagreed with Sachs’s assessment.
“I feel it does matter to the citizens of Hazlet because Scott Broschart was the one appointed to the committee,” Lavan said. “I think it was a political appointment. The other two people who applied for the position had better resumes. We had one fellow in town (Coughlin) arrested because of illegal money, now we have a second person who took his seat having questionable financial actiivity himself. We have to take the political black cloud off of Hazlet.”
DiNardo concurred, saying, “I’m not happy with what’s happening. We’re not getting any answers from the Township Committee.”
Lavan said he and DiNardo filed a complaint with the Board of Elections and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in regard to potential violations of the state’s election statutes.
“Where exactly is this missing $20,000?” DiNardo said.
Vincent Solomeno, a Hazlet Democrat, was able to make more headway during the public portion of the meeting, posing questions to Broschart about his conflict of interest in serving as a campaign fund-raiser “to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for the Hazlet Republican Party” and serving as the proponent of Hazlet’s anti-Pay-to-Play ordinance.
Broschart denied engaging in the practice of Pay-to-Play, noting that he had an obligation to raise funds as campaign manager and was not a member of the governing body at the time he raised money. He said he trusted the Township Committee to make fair and ethical decisions.
“You were engaged in Pay-to-Play and now you’re a member of the township committee supporting Pay-to-Play reform. I think it’s hypocritical,” Solomeno said.
Solomeno also publicly questioned Broschart’s claim of raising $40,000 for last year’s campaign.
“Either you falsified the election report and violated state law or you falsified your resume to become a member of the Township Committee,” Solomeno said.
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.”
Rich Kohler, a Hazlet Republican, was the first to raise questions about Broschart’s campaign fund-raising claims in his column in The Courier in its May 19, 2005 issue.
In the column, Kohler wrote, “In [Broschart’s] capacity [as 2004 Republican campaign manager], he sent several arrogant and hostile campaign related e-mails to members of the Hazlet Township Republican Campaign Committee. These letters were barely written at a fifth-grade level…Although I supported both candidates, I limited my involvement in the campaign as a result of Mr. Broschart;s irresponsible correspondence and his lack of regard for the value of positive leadership. Rewarding this type of leadership with ordained political power will most likely lead our township in a negative direction.”
Kohler noted that questions about Broschart’s financial management of the 2004 campaign should be answered, especially in light of the Township Committee’s decision to propose anti-pay-to-play regulations.
“How can he pass the legislation if he has this hanging over his head? The money question needs to be answered,” Kohler said.
Following the Township Committee meeting, Broschart said DiNardo’s and Lavan’s decision to file a complaint with the Board of Elections about discrepancies in the 2004 campaign was “a political ploy aimed to get press for the campaign.”Pay-to-play and the November election
At the Tuesday meeting, Kohler and other Hazlet residents questioned whether or not the township’s pay-to-play ordinance had “any teeth.”
Hazlet Township Attorney James H. Gorman acknowledged that Hazlet’s ordinance was essentially similar to the state’s anti-Pay-to-Play ordinance, which goes into effect January 1, 2006. The Hazlet ordinance would put the regulations into effect earlier but would not go beyond the state’s legislation as such a step would be nullified by the state when its bill went into effect in January.
“There are other bills pending [at the state level], which may or may not even be passed, that would allow municipalities to set different standards for Pay-to-Play bans,” Gorman said. “Right now, I don’t see why we should spend any money, time or effort on regulations that would be nullified by state legislation in three months. The state has effectively said, ‘This is all you can do.’”
Hazlet resident Eugene Gere questioned whether the introduction of the anti-Pay-to-Play ordinance was merely politicking during election season.
“From a political angle, this will just allow candidates to grandstand. There are real problems that are not being addressed. There are no anti-wheeling provisions. I’m not sure what we’re really getting with this,” Gere said.
Ric Medrow, a Republican who is running for Hazlet Township Committee, said the baby shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater.
“I’ve never seen a perfect piece of campaign finance legislation. We can’t let that be an excuse for not cleaning up dirty money in politics. You have to start somewhere,” Medrow said.
Also, Medrow noted he was interested in expanding pay-to-play regulations to include developers looking to build property in town.
Broschart was selected by Monmouth County Republican Committee Chairman Fred Niemann to run for the second committee seat up for election this year, making Broschart, by default, Medrow’s running mate, despite concerns issued publicly and privately by high-ranking Hazlet Republicans about Broschart’s candidacy.
Nevertheless, Medrow feels he has much to offer to Hazlet residents and has been knocking on doors since the beginning of the summer.
“It’s essential that you get out there and talk to the residents and get to know their concerns and let them know what you’ll do as an elected official to ease those concerns,” Medrow said. “I’ve knocked on 2,200 doors so far. I’ve been out when it was 104 degrees and I’ll be out when it’s 47 degrees. The residents of Hazlet deserve that.”
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