PORTASH: About The Writer Who Was There As Manchester Crashed

Award-winning Journalist Thomas Peele recalls how he helped uncover what was, perhaps, the worst political corruption scandal in New Jersey's history

Joseph S. Portash was nearly 6’ 5”, a mop of graying hair making him appear stately. He was 56 when I met him late one February afternoon in 1988, and he would be dead in two years, his name synonymous with scandal. 

So writes Thomas Peele, who covered Manchester Township for The Ocean County Observer in 1988-89. Appearing Thursday is Peele's lengthy analysis on what helped bring down Manchester's own "teflon Don," the man who escaped an extortion conviction to dominate Manchester Township politics for more than a decade.

Eventually, Portash and his puppet government would lead the retirement-home-mecca to financial ruin before Portash died in 1990.

Peele is now an award-winning investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group newspapers in Northern California and a lecturer at the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. His first book, Killing the Messenger, A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash and The Assassination of A Journalist, was published last year by Crown. Reach him at Thomaspeele@thomaspeele.com.


Xavier January 02, 2013 at 01:44 PM
I saw the breaking news headline and thought something important was happening.
John B Taxpayer January 02, 2013 at 01:47 PM
He's dead, but there's a lot more out there to prosecute!
Tom Davis (Editor) January 02, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Thanks. We felt there was a lot more that needed to be reported, and we feel there is still more that can be done.
Michael reina January 02, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Me to chris.....i thought maybe just maybe somone was gonna start new year off with like an APOLOGY and saying somthen like sorry there are so many people still sufferung months after sandy and there are all those trailers still not being used and we apologize that so many (including myself) lost there homes and cars etc and are now still driving there kids to school some 20-30 miles extra and extra miles from work etc cause at end of the day we want to hold onto some normalcy for our children and ourselves..... BUT long behold it was just a useless story of somone who got over like 25 yrs ago WHO CARES !!!! LETS see if they are gonna talk about who answers to this scandle 20 yrs from now....i prob still be waiting to go back home (ortley)
Irina January 02, 2013 at 01:57 PM
He's dead....WHO CARES. Wanna run a story we would be interested in....George Gilmore....I bet that would be a story and a half on corruption!.
WhitingBoy January 02, 2013 at 03:16 PM
I am finding these articles very interesting. Perhaps some who lived in the area back then think it is rehashing old news; but not everyone knows all the details. Remember Burke's quote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Looks like we don't want to go too long with the same group in power controlling everything...creates an atmosphere where this type of stuff can go unchecked. Obviously I am not saying it is. We just need to make sure we have checks and balances via a dissenting voice or a critical eye. Either way, keep up the trip down memory lane with the Portash stuff and the old maps and pictures…very cool.
1stcav January 02, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Run one on "The Good Old Boys " club STILL in power for over 40 years in Ocean County..now there's an up to date story of corruption...Boss Hog & the ELECTED cronies of power & how they earned there millions being politicians, judges, superintendents for THE people...from YOUR pockets to there's and HOW it's done in NJ...while the Towns are hurting.. & people need the governments help , Nero plays his fiddle...
grace January 02, 2013 at 03:44 PM
you have spoken and we all can wait and watch now.....maybe he will be included in the book that will be written about kingpin ritacco....this story also brings up the terrible marshall story...how he is still alive and his mistress and co are running strong in the car business...
Don Lee January 02, 2013 at 04:24 PM
I never thought Portash really dead.....
Tom Davis (Editor) January 02, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Much of the Ocean County power structure is similar to what it was 20, 30 and 40 years ago. Portash served with these same people, and served as a freeholder and as a mayor. As Thomas Peele notes in his story, he could have very well ascended to governor or even higher.
Irina January 03, 2013 at 03:02 PM
@JENNY... Marshall's mistress is living in FL and her rotten son is still selling cars on 37... I wanna puke when I see his ugly face on my TV several times a day. Yes I bought a car from him and totally regret it.
sw January 04, 2013 at 09:32 AM
I was on the grand jury for this case. It took forever.
Dan January 25, 2013 at 03:52 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 03:52 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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