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PORTASH: The Initial Rumblings

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 initial rumblings of the scandal, and how local residents became puzzled that their taxes were increasing for no apparent reason. As it turned out, much of that money was filling the pockets of township officials.

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MANCHESTER TWP. SEEKS ADVICE ON 'MEETING'

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

SECTION: NEWS DATE: June 17, 1989

EDITION: FINAL

JEERING, CHANTING CROWD 'CANCELED' COMMITTEE SESSION ON PAY HIKES

An attorney for Manchester Township was in court yesterday to seek advice on how to handle a situation that arose when a noisy crowd prevented any business from being conducted at Thursday's township committee meeting.

Manchester Township officials were forced to adjourn the meeting after hundreds of people protesting a salary ordinance prevented business from being conducted. Township committee members tried to open the meeting four times, beginning at 8 p.m., and were shouted down by a jeering and chanting crowd.

Following the advice of township attorney Siegfried W. Steele, the committee adjourned the meeting at 11:45 p.m. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday evening at the Manchester Township High School.

Steele met yesterday morning with Superior Court Assignment Judge Eugene D. Serpentelli in Toms River to seek advice about the unusual situation. Serpentelli advised Steele to give the widest notice possible of the rescheduled meeting so the town can "meet the spirit as well as the letter of the law."

Steele said he will have to research whether road improvement equipment bids, advertised to be accepted Thursday night, will have to be rebid.

David Trombino attended the meeting representing the Pine Lake Park Association for a Better Community. He said he was pleased that the next meeting would be held at the high school.

"That's what we wanted last night (Thursday). We wanted everybody to be able to get into the meeting to participate," Trombino said.

The main complaint from the crowd Thursday night was that the township committee meeting room was not large enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.

The crowd, which wanted the session moved to the high school, chanted, "Move the meeting."

Steele said he advised the committee that the meeting should be held at the location that was advertised, which was in the municipal building. "To relocate would not meet the notice requirement," Steele said.

Also, there was the "practical matter" of trying to relocate the people, official tape recorders and documents to another building under control of a different organization. With more than a week's notice, the township should be able to hold the meeting at the high school, he said.

Trombino said residents wanted to protest what they consider excessive salary increases for about a dozen employees. Among them are a increase for township administrator Joseph Portash from a range of $55,000 to $64,500 to a base salary of $69,500; township clerk Pauline McCallum's increase from a range of $32,500 to $42,500 to a base salary of $50,000; and an increase in the township attorney's retainer from $50,000 to $75,000.

"There are retired people here living on fixed incomes and single people raising families. These types of salaries and other actions by the township committee are placing a burden on the taxpayer," Trombino said.

Dan January 25, 2013 at 03:57 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
Dan January 25, 2013 at 03:57 PM
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, 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.

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