“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” George Washingon
Below is the text of six letters published by the Times of Trenton since May 11th that deal with the crisis of John Bencivengo and the charges against him.
Mayor Bencivengo should do the right thing: resign – May 11, 2012
In regard to our Republican mayor of Hamilton Township, I quote Chris Christie, who said, in 2009 (as Republican candidate for governor), in reference to charges of election fraud against a Democratic Essex County freeholder: “The principle I believe in is, once that cloud is over you, I think you owe it to the people who elected you to step aside and to let someone else who doesn’t have that cloud serve.”
Mayor Bencivengo’s supporters should stop vilifying the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the “cooperating witness.”
To label the calls for Mr. Bencivengo’s resignation as partisan is tantamount to ignoring the major New Jersey newspapers’ editors, columnists and well-regarded elected officials who have called for his resignation.
Mr. Bencivengo should heed Gov. Christie’s words and resign. He owes it to Chris Christie, his party leader, to his family and to the residents of Hamilton Township.
— Daniel J. Keelan, Hamilton
The writer was a Democratic candidate for Hamilton Township Council. _________________________________________________________
Drop charade in Hamilton – May 15, 2012
The tired claim by Hamilton Republicans that they saved our town is entirely baseless and false (e.g. letter, “Hamilton Democrats have no right to throw stones,” May 7), unless the exorbitant tax increase is considered a savings. The all-Republican town council hiked taxes by more than 30 percent in 2008 and is going to raise them again. It’s like they are arguing that the prior Democratic administration kept taxes too low.
Now they are seeking another tax increase after raising the mayor’s salary in 2011. The mayor’s 9 percent raise was done so quietly that, when the corruption charge against the mayor was brought by the FBI, even the newspapers reported for the first week or so that his salary was $98,000 per year when it was really $108,000 per year.
Now the council has the audacity to propose another increase for him to $111,000 (“Amid bribery probe, Bencivengo to get a raise,” May 4), all while he was allegedly peddling his influence with the school board for another $12,400. At some point, the hypocrisy and corruption has to end. Mayor John Bencivengo should heed the calls to resign, the all-Republican township council should join the chorus and demand it, and our town should be allowed to move on from this sorry state of affairs that the Republicans have inflicted on our town.
Kevin Drennan _________________________________________________________
Until we know for sure, mayor should resign – May 19, 2012
As an eight-year resident of Hamilton Township, I respectfully request that the township insist on Mayor John Bencivengo’s resignation. There is no reason we should be paying him while he is under investigation, let alone give him an impending raise.
It is also imperative that the residents be permitted to elect someone who represents them in an honest manner. If the mayor is found innocent, which I do not expect to happen, then we can give him the opportunity to earn his job back. Until then, we need to stop paying him and supporting his wanton ways.
— Iris B. Lewin, Hamilton _________________________________________________________ In Hamilton, a crisis of trust – May 20, 2012
These are discouraging and conflicting times for Hamilton Township. The Republicans want people to quit calling for the resignation of Mayor John Bencivengo, stop reminding them of ex-Mayor Jack Rafferty’s approval of the Baron Athletic Association’s gambling den and forget the fact that no charges were ever filed against former Mayor Glen Gilmore or any members of his administration, despite all the righteous indignation of certain council members. The mayor’s former girlfriend, a township employee half his age, wants us to stand by him “because he’s a good man.”
On the other hand, editorial boards of The Times of Trenton, the Trentonian and the Star-Ledger have called for Mr. Bencivengo to resign immediately. The council, however, has quietly arranged (so quietly local newspapers got it wrong at first) to give Mr. Bencivengo a raise — the same pay raise he gallantly turned down last year.
And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. The criminal charges of bribery and extortion against Mr. Bencivengo are very serious. In due time, the intermediary who cashed the check and gave the money to Mr. Bencivengo will be named. Soon, we will know which member(s) of the school board Mr. Bencivengo believed he could influence.
As The Times’ editorial board wrote: “Details that have emerged surrounding an FBI investigation and the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court against Bencivengo add up to a disappointing and sordid picture” (April 27).
Sadly, Hamilton residents are right to wonder, “Who is looking out for us?”
— Violet M. Harrison, Hamilton _________________________________________________________ Hamilton Republicans protesteth too much – May 21, 2012
For eight years, Mayor Glen Gilmore did a better job of holding the line on taxes in Hamilton Township than Republicans ever did. When Republicans regained control of council, they created a crisis and blamed it on Mr. Gilmore for political gain.
When Hamilton faced a $5 million shortfall (not $16 million), Mayor Gilmore put forward a plan to let the Morton Tract, which Republicans once wanted to develop into a water park that would have attracted high traffic and low-paying jobs, to be sold for a medical center for $5 million to close the budget gap. Instead, Republicans stalled the proposal and let it die, at taxpayer expense.
Coming into office, Republicans gave us a huge tax hike and blamed it on Mayor Gilmore. Inflating their numbers, they grabbed money from taxpayers and wasted it, including giving the mayor a raise. Republicans raised our taxes high and they’ve kept them high. And they continue to blame others while they bury our community in scandal.
Shame on Mayor John Bencivengo and his cronies.
— Kay Garruba, Hamilton _________________________________________________________
Mayor, step aside, let the people decide – June 1, 2012
Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo was caught on FBI tape accepting a bribe. He refuses to resign as mayor and has actually accepted a hefty raise, while the taxpayers of Hamilton struggle to make ends meet. Thankfully, the fundraiser he had planned to pay for his legal expenses was canceled due to pressure from the public (“Fundraiser is canceled for Bencivengo’s legal defense fund,” May 25). But the idea that he would even plan such a fundraiser shows his blatant disregard for Hamilton’s residents. After all, if an individual is accused of accepting a bribe, who knows what political favor might be granted to those who contribute to his legal fund?
Why did council allow things to escalate to this out-of-control state? Its job is to provide a system of checks and balances to protect the taxpayers. It has also let us down. In 2009, Gov. Chris Christie said: “The principle I believe in is, once that cloud is over you, I think you owe it to the people who elected you to step aside and to let someone else who doesn’t have that cloud serve.”
John Bencivengo must resign now and allow the voters to choose his replacement in November. His refusal to resign means that his replacement can be appointed and the taxpayers will have no say in November.
Resign now, Mr. Mayor, and let the people decide.
— Charlene Martucci, Hamilton