Tuesday, August 07, 2007

MT mayor, committee make accusations at meeting

At last night's meeting of the Middletown Committee, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger called for Middletown Committeeman Patrick Short to resign. In addition, he took great exception to the work of Courier staffer Scott Shanley, and to the newspaper itself...again. Somehow, he linked one to the other.

Outside of a public venue, like a committee meeting, where a public official, in this case the mayor and the members of the committee, make noise I would not feel a need to respond to what is patently politicking for its own sake. But, the mayor and his fellow GOP members on the governing body decided to put on a bit of a show last night.

First, he claimed that Mr. Short met with Courier secretly to do a story, which is just bizarre. The Courier met and will meet with anyone in elected office for a story about government in any town it covers. The fact is that Mr. Scharfenberger and his committee, as well as his public information officer, refuse to answer most questions about how the governing body spends tax money to this newspaper. Mr. Shanley writes out questions, submits them (the committee makes them funnel questions through the PIO) and then fails to answer anything of any substance whatsoever with great regularity. This is what I have to believe is an "official way" to not have to answer difficult questions.

It is refreshing, in fact, to have a member of the governing body, Mr. Short, who does not feel it necessary to come up with long, convoluted stories not answering questions about how he wants to spend tax money to improve the town.

Second, Mr. Scharfenberger and company do not like to communicate about issues involving expenditures or accounting issuesd within their budget or oversight if they are not "driving the train" on an article. Flatly, subjects do not drive the train in our articles. If this newspaper was in error on any fact or anything, it is our continued policy to announce that error loudly through our corrections (which are on Page 3 of our newspaper weekly).

As to the issues of "lies printed" in Courier, my response to Mr. Scharfenberger and Co. is "Hogwash."

The Courier has never failed to print a dissenting opinion, or anyone who has taken exception to our reporting, or to those who have some form of random gripe about our presence. In fact, the staff at the newspaper takes great pride in the fact that it will, on every occasion, address critics in a straightforward manner, without malice or negative attitide. With that said, when this newspaper's reporting is accurate there will be no apologies for doing our job. Last week, there was a correction on the name of a community within Middletown, and so we printed the correction. There have been no other errors, and certainly nothing to correct to this point, other than what has already been addressed.

If Mr. Scharfenberger, or anyone else, would like to speak with me about this personally, I can be reached at (732) 957-0070, ext. 6116. However, I will be sure to speak at the next committee meeting about this, and am providing ample warning so Mr. Carton et. al. can be sure to arrange for the appropriate shills in the audience to heckle, as they deem necessary. Nevertheless, I am not about to give way to any cheap theatrics from the bully pulpit, or allow any abuse of my reporters through any elected official using poor taste and ugly tactics at a public session to go unnoticed and uncommented about.

This is not uncommon in Courier's experience in recent years, though. This same sort of conduct was expected with some regularity during the Minervini years in Keansburg.

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