Councilman’s Conflict Of Interest Alleged

Ken Bressi (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  JACKSON – Two former members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment continued their call for Councilman Ken Bressi’s resignation, questioning his impartiality regarding his role on the township’s planning board.

  Dr. Sheldon J. Hofstein and Joseph Sullivan brought up their views during a recent Township Council meeting. They continuing a conversation that had started two council meetings ago, following their resignations from the zoning board in late August.

  Both men, along with Planning Board member Richard Egan, had attended the first meeting of local chapter of Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhood (CUPON). Their attendance at the meeting was a point of contention for members of council including Bressi who felt their presence at a meeting of a group calling for reduced development could present a conflict of interest since they sit on land use boards.

  CUPON is a grass-roots organization formed to reduce development. It formed in Rockland N.Y. Resident Eleanor Hannum has described the Jackson-Manchester chapter of it as an advocacy group.

  Accusations regarding the Aug. 15 meeting of CUPON held in Jackson began to circulate through reports posted in The Lakewood Scoop shortly after that meeting took place. The website identified the men and included sound clips from the meeting of discussions on how to counter proposed development plans.

  Currently, the township is involved in litigation regarding development issues involving the Orthodox Jewish community. One case involves Agudath Israel, a group loosely affiliated with World Agudath Israel which aims to meet the needs of the Orthodox Jewish community across North America. The group sued the township in 2017 over the 2014 denial of an Orthodox Jewish girls’ high school.

  Hofstein, Sullivan and Egan blasted Bressi at a Sept. 10 Council meeting and they each said Bressi had demanded their resignations.

  During that meeting the trio requested to be reinstated to their boards and called for Bressi to resign as councilman, adding that he acted inappropriately and accused him of leaking their resignation letters to The Lakewood Scoop.

  During the Oct. 15 council meeting, Hofstein once again brought up comments that Bressi had made to members of the organization Lakewood Neighbors, a group Hofstein previously said “plans to influence the future development of Jackson, Brick, Toms River, and Howell.”

  Hofstein asked Bressi why he spoke to Lakewood Neighbors and two other Lakewood groups that Lakewood Neighbors hired for $250,000.

  “In order to avoid any perception of collusion, Mr. Bressi, you should provide the council and residents with all the questions asked of you and answers you gave as well as all the discussions you had with the three groups. You should all note that the three Lakewood groups involved are concerned about regional planning, zoning, infrastructure and housing,” Hofstein said.

  “Lakewood Neighbors is overwhelmingly Lakewood-centric. It consists of leaders of the BMG Yeshiva, the VAAD, members of the Lakewood planning and zoning board, Lakewood civic leaders, Lakewood business leaders, Lakewood builders and other big shots,” Hofstein said during a September council meeting.

  Mayor Michael Reina is a charter member of that group and his name appears on a list at Lakewoodneighbors.org.

  Sullivan’s statements were equally pointed. “How is it that the man most responsible for the council allowing Jackson Trails and Jackson Park be part of the township’s fair housing settlement? That you haven’t recused yourself from the planning board member on these two applications?”

  “How is it that Councilman Bressi has not recused himself given the fact he is the man that spearheaded their being part of the fair housing settlement? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? By including them in the settlement have you not prejudged the merits of these applications?” Sullivan asked Bressi.

  Sullivan said, “it has been apparent by anyone paying attention that you have been pushing these applications through the planning board like cheerleaders. How can you keep any integrity and vote on these matters?”

  Further accusations by Sullivan included the councilman’s twisting facts to hurt the reputation of Mayor Michael Reina. “Did you feel that if you got Mike Reina out of office you would have a better shot at becoming mayor?”

  “Obviously Mr. Bressi your unethical behavior on all these issues should have you consider resignation from council. You have proven yourself to be unethical and only out for your own sordid self-interests,” Sullivan said.

  Bressi did not respond to Hofstein or Sullivan’s accusations during the council comment period of the meeting.