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PORTASH: The Final Straw

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 what was the first step toward change. The ongoing concern about the rising tax rate in the community led to a petition drive to change the government. On Jan. 9, 1990, the majority voted for change, putting Portash and his government's future in jeopardy.

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MANCHESTER VOTERS GOING TO THE POLLS TODAY

DEBORAH COOMBE  
PUBLICATION: Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)

SECTION: NEWS DATE: January 9, 1990

EDITION: FINAL

CHARTER CHANGE MOVEMENT SEEKS DIRECT ELECTION OF MAYOR, COUNCIL

Manchester Township voters are going to the polls today to decide whether to change from a partisan to a nonpartisan form of government.

Voters will be asked whether they want to scrap the present committee form of government with members elected during the general election in November and replace it with a form of government in which a mayor and a council are elected in May.

Abe Beacken, vice president of Stop Tax Oppression Promptly (STOP), said a clean sweep of elected officials and the form of government is needed to end what he called "rampant nepotism" and cronyism.

Beacken said the movement toward changing the present system began last June when the township committee met to pass a salary ordinance. A jeering crowd prevented the township committee from conducting business because all who wanted to attend the meeting could not enter the room where it was being held.

Manchester Township officials rescheduled the meeting a week later at the high school. At that time, the salary ordinance was scrapped.

Beacken said the proposed salaries were "overgenerous" and "far in excess of what is being paid" in other parts of Ocean County.

An investigation by those concerned about the rising tax rate in the community, which contains the highest concentration of senior citizens in the state, led to a petition drive to change the government. Beacken said about 6,000 signatures were garnered.

Sentiment about a need for a change led to the first two Democrats being elected to the township committee in 27 years. Beacken said the Democrats showed they would support the present system by voting with the three Republicans for the re-appointment of Business Administrator Joseph Portash, who has come under criticism by STOP for the way the township is run.

Mayor Ralph J. Rizzolo said he and the township committee have remained neutral on the charter change. Under the present form of government, the committee elects one of its members to serve as mayor. Under the proposed form of government, the mayor would be elected directly along with five council members.

There would also be procedures to recall the mayor and for initiatives and referendums proposed by the public. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

ballyjduf January 17, 2013 at 11:49 AM
There was many more that deserved prision. I am sure they are still worried . Cold case's ?
billy madison January 19, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Well the town just bought 5 new vehicles for the road supervisors at what----$20,000 a pop. The town council had no knowledge of this !! How is that possible? So that means $100,000 in new vehicles without approval.I understand that these previous vehicles only had 50,000 miles. Now I understand that there has been a shake-up in the town. You see--I have an interest in corruption on all levels---call it a hobby. I would hope that particular individual that was demoted/removed from that position is not STILL drawing a pay check. But most likely is-----at the tax payers expense. Now I understand that the guys in the garage do not want their current Union. They do have the RIGHT to change if the choose. After all they are PAYING for the service which is SUPPOSED to be provided but is NOT. So common sense says--IF YOUR NOT HAPPY WITH A SERVICE THEN YOU DISPOSE OF THEM,AND START A-NEW. But the current Shop steward is attempting to mislead his fellow employees---for his OWN BENEFIT. I have been told that HE(the shop steward) has had to step down----thats amazing! Alot of people steping down lately. Alot of people steping down---all of a sudden especially in this economy. I also heard now that the CURRENT SHOP STEWARD for the garage is moving into a different "Role" in terms of position---oh, "white-collar" union how does that happen. never even posted a position. IS EVERYBODY STARTING TO CATCH ON?
Dan January 21, 2013 at 03:22 PM
STATE OF NEW JERSEY LOCAL FINANCE BOARD NOTICE OF VIOLATION In Re: [Michael Fressola, Mayor, Township of Manchester, Complaint This matter having come before the Local Finance Board (Board) pursuant to the Local Government Ethics Law, N.J.S.A. et seq., upon complaint that Mayor Michael Fressola used the address and telephone number of the Township of Manchester City Hall in a political mail piece, using the resources of the Township for his personal gain and securing unwarranted privileges or advantages for himself and his campaign in violation of N.J.S.A. and, WHEREAS, the Board determined that the allegations were within its jurisdiction, were not frivolous and were based upon a reasonable factual basis, authorized an investigation of this complaint; and WHEREAS, the Local Government Ethics Law states: N.J.S.A. 40A: No local government officers or employee shall use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages for himself or others; and,
Dan January 21, 2013 at 03:22 PM
WHEREAS, the Board, having considered the matter and the relevant statements and presented and all documentation with the written response to the allegations submitted by Mayor Fressola, concluded that the use of the Municipal Building address and telephone number in the letterhead of a political mailer distributed in connection with the May 11, 2010 election constitutes the use or attempted use of Mayor Fressola's official position to secure an unwarranted privilege or advantage for himself or others in violation of N.J.S.A. It is therefore, DETERMINED that Mayor Michael Fressola shall be assessed a fine in the amount of $100.00 for the violation as related to his engaging in activities prohibited by the statute. Said fine shall be payable to: Treasurer, State of New Jersey, and be submitted to: Thomas H. Neff, Chair, Local Finance Board, P.O. Box 803, Trenton, New Jersey, 08625 immediately. If payment of said fine is not received within 10 days receipt of this NOTICE, Mayor Fressola is subject to additional fines as determined by the Board in accordance with its powers in N.J.S.A.40A:9- 22.10, Violations and Penalties.
ballyjduf January 24, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Mister Tom Davis , were you aware of this ? The word on the street is you clear everything through mayor mikey before you post anything , is this true ? you know he is the king . We do appreciate the patch , but a little more in depth reporting would be nice . also fact checking before posting . thanks tom .

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