PORTASH: With Portash Gone, Change Finally Came
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 looks at the aftermath of Portash's death, and how it not only spurred a change in government, it also spurred a change in everything.
MANCHESTER CHANGING ITS FORM OF GOVERNMENT
PUBLICATION: Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)
SECTION: NEWS DATE: May 7, 1990
Four candidates are vying to be elected tomorrow as the first mayor of Manchester Township under its new form of government.
Other Ocean County towns with elections tomorrow are Island Heights and Beach Haven.
Manchester Township Mayor Ralph Rizzolo 3d has filed to retain his position under the new municipal charter. His challengers for the four-year term are Jane Cordo Cameron, who is endorsed by Stop Tax Oppression Promptly (STOP), Holmes Ertley and Harold Hatton.
Voters in January decided to change the form of government from one in which elections are held in November, with a mayor appointed by the township committee from among its members, to a mayor and council form of government that reorganizes July 1.
Also up for election are five council seats. The STOP slate candidates are Carmen Cicalese, Dorothy Buhr, Kenneth Vanderziel, Samuel Fusaro and Joseph Maschuci.
Other candidates are Committeewoman Dorothy Litman, Theresa Lettman, Vincent DeRose, Stewart Swann, Paul Elia, Edwin Forrester and Suzanne Plesnarski.
The length of the council terms will be staggered. After the election, the successful candidates will decide who will serve which length terms. The events that led to the charter change began in June when the township committee tried to pass a controversial salary ordinance. Critics said the measure would have given certain staff members much higher salaries than those paid in nearby communities for comparable work.
Criticism of the ordinance led to the move to change the form of government and oust the administration, including Joseph Portash, the township administrator, who has since died of a heart attack. STOP was formed, and it circulated petitions that placed the question on the ballot. It was approved Jan. 9 by a vote of 6,237 to 5,215.
Cameron, 66, is a senior partner in the Toms River law firm of Cordo, Murphy and Ward, past director of Ocean-Monmouth Legal Services and a resident of the retirement community of Leisure Knolls. If elected, Cameron said, she will target high taxes, water pollution and insufficient services. She focused on Pine Lake Park, where some residents have been without potable water for years because of groundwater chemical contamination.
After all the water lines are in, residents will next be faced with paying to have sewer lines installed. "We need innovative financing. Government should work with the residents by providing some kind of low-interest, long-term loans," Cameron said.
Hatton, 71, is a retired chemist who has had years of administrative and supervisory experience. He is a resident of the retirement community of Crestwood Village VI. He said his strengths are being able to work full time as mayor and being a senior citizen. Senior citizens make up 75 percent of the township's population.
"I think a senior citizen should be the mayor, and I'm getting sort of bored with my retirement," Hatton said. Hatton, who is making his first bid for public office, said he is running a low-key campaign by passing out copies of his resume and has spent only $600 of his own money. Rizzolo, 42, a Pine Lake Park resident, was not available to talk about the campaign.
Ertley, 71, is a retired electrical supervisor on large electrical projects in western Pennsylvania. He is a resident of the retirement community of Leisure Village West. "I have watched things deteriorate all around me mostly because people are not aware what a township should do," Ertley responded when asked why he was running for mayor. He said there is a large public works department and "no one really knows what their purpose is in the community. I intend to find out."
In Island Heights, the candidates for two three-year council terms are incumbent Albert Gabriel Jr., Lucy Bottomley and Gary Goldberg. Candidates for a one-year, unexpired term are Diane Cullen and Audrey Chambers. Mayor David Siddons is unchallenged for re-election. Beach Haven candidates for three four-year terms on the commission are incumbent Watson Pharo, Nick LoRocco, Warren Koseff, William Dondero, Leigh Walker and Ernest Senior Jr.