PORTASH: The Legacy - Jane Cordo Cameron, Hero To Most
Two decades ago, a ring of Manchester officials - led by Joe Portash - looted more than $10 million from the township's treasury.
The next installment of a series on Joseph Portash, who helped fashion the township as a seasonal alternative for retirees who thought Florida was too far, and too hot for them to treat as a year-round home.
In the early 1990s, however, he became the central figure in a scandal that transformed his image from a reformer and innovator to that of a large-scale petty thief and burglar.
Every Thursday, we'll look back at the stories that told the tale of what happened, and how Manchester survived one of the worst corruption scandals in the state' history.
We'll also look at how Portash rose to prominence as an Ocean County freeholder and Manchester mayor, and then as an administrator who ushered in the cash cow known as "adult communities."
This installment is The Asbury Park Press's 2009 obituary for Jane Cordo Cameron, who became mayor after Portash died and helped uncover the scandal, followed by an article from 1990 that reported on the moment she became mayor.
JANE B. CAMERON
AGE: 85 FORMERLY OF TOMS RIVER
Jane B. Cordo Cameron was born on Nov. 11, 1923 and passed away peacefully on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 surrounded by her loved ones. Jane graduated John Marshall Law School in 1948.
She was a corporate attorney for Bamburgers (Macy's) in Newark from 1950-66. Following that, she was Executive Director of Passaic County Legal Aid Society 1966-70. In 1971, she moved to Toms River and became Executive Director of Legal Services of Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
She was the first woman elected to the office of President of the Ocean County Bar Association 1980-81. She also had her own law firm with partners, Joan Murphy and William Ward until the late 1990's. In the late 80's she served 8 years as Mayor of Manchester Twp.
She was predeceased by her husband of 43 years, John Cameron. Jane is survived by her 3 children, Catherine C. Dow and her husband, Mark, Chris Cameron and his wife, Jamie, and Bruce Cameron; grandchildren, David Dow and his wife, Linda, Suzanne Tavarez and her husband, Ismael, Christopher Cameron and Nicholas Cameron; as well as great grandchildren Bridget and David John Dow, Sarah and Samantha Tavarez.
Interment was at St. Mary Lake Cemetery in Lakewood. Arrangements were been entrusted to Wimberg Funeral Home 211 E. Great Creek Road, Galloway. 609-641-0001.
For condolences, please visit wimbergfuneralhome.com.
TAX REBEL TAKES OVER AS MANCHESTER MAYOR
PUBLICATION: Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)
SECTION: NEWS DATE: July 3, 1990
Manchester Township Mayor Jane Cordo Cameron began her first workday in office yesterday by being locked out of the municipal building
Anxious to get a look at the township budget, Cameron, who was sworn into office Sunday, said she arrived at 8 a.m., because she was "under the impression" the building would be open.
"I now have a key to get in the front door," she said laughingly.
Her being locked out of the building and concerned about how the taxpayers' money was being spent is symbolic of the movement that led to a change in the municipal charter and election of a new governing body.
A little more than a year ago, hundreds of residents incensed about a proposed salary ordinance they claimed would give excessive pay to certain employees stormed a township committee meeting and prevented it from taking place.
The jeering, chanting crowd wanted the meeting moved to the high school so all could be seated. After several hours, the meeting was adjourned until the following Friday and held at the high school, and the proposed ordinance was scrapped.
The anger at the spending practices of the governing body did not subside and Stop Tax Oppression Promptly (STOP) was formed with the expressed goal of changing the all-Republican government.
In January, voters approved a question calling for nonpartisan elections to be held in May with the governing body organizing July 1. Cameron and the five candidates for council on the STOP slate were elected.
The mayor at that time had said he would not cooperate with the incoming team. Cameron said Ralph Rizzolo later changed his mind and began to provide some information.
Also leaving at the end of his administration were seven who quit as of Friday. They were Treasurer Janice Gawales, Welfare Director Pamela Judy, and several secretaries to municipal boards.
Cameron emphasized that those who "faithfully served" the township have nothing to fear. She said they need to ask themselves, "Am I part of the problem or the solution?"
The priorities of the new government are to get a budget approved by the state (which should have been done by Jan. 15) and to hire an administrator and a chief financial officer.
One of the campaign targets of STOP was Township Administrator Joseph S. Portash, who died last February. Portash, a former Ocean County freeholder who lost his elected office after being charged and subsequently acquitted of illegally accepting money from a developer, became administrator in 1977.
He had his critics and his admirers for overseeing the development of Manchester Township into the largest concentration of retirement communities in the state and controlling town hall.
After his death at 58 from a heart attack while he was vacationing in Maine, the governing body renamed Colonial Drive, which runs in front of the municipal building, after Portash.
One of the first orders of business for the new governing body was introducing an ordinance to take down the Joseph S. Portash Memorial Boulevard signs and put back the Colonial Drive signs.
Cameron said both senior citizens and young people have approved of the step. "I think anyone with any history in the town would understand why some people were very upset with the naming of the street," Cameron said.
Also serving with Cameron is Kenneth H. Vanderziel, who was elected council president by the other council members, Joseph N. Maschuci, Dorothy F. Buhr, Samuel F. Fusaro Jr., and Carmen J. Cicalese.
The new governing body also lowered their yearly salaries. The mayor's salary was lowered from $12,000 to $10,000 and the council members from $10,000 to $8,000. The difference in pay will be kept as "seed money" to be given to anyone who can come up with ideas for "hard-cash savings" in the budget.
Another measure was setting an interest rate for delinquent taxes at 8 percent for balances less than $1,500 and at 18 percent for balances greater than $1,500. "I want to make sure the large developers don't use us as a bank.
If the delinquent taxpayer is a senior citizen or a single parent who cannot make it, then we will work with that person," Cameron said. Until the budget is completed and approved and a new pattern for government is set, Cameron said she will be working morning, noon, and night at either the municipal building or her Toms River law firm.
Cameron, who uses her birth name in her law practice, is a senior partner in Cordo, Murphy and Ward. After the most pressing township business is completed, the 66-year-old Cameron said, she will meet with employees about their positions.
"I'm hoping everyone will stand fast until the budget is done," she said. In the meantime, she is hopeful that the employees will learn that she is not an "ogre" and is willing to work with people willing to work for the township.