Middletown Library Director and Democratic Committee Candidate Worked Together To Undermine Oversight, Raise Funds For Democratic Campaign
Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal submitted incomplete and haphazardly organized emails between herself and Linda Baum, a past and present Democratic candidate for Middletown Township Committee, in response to Judge Lawrence M. Lawson’s ruling last week that the emails are government documents subject to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.
MMM received the 298 pages of emails which include numerous duplicates, many truncated pages that cannot be fully read and omit relevant attachments, late this morning from Middletown Township via OPRA request. The emails can be viewed via Scribd at the end of this post.
The emails reveal a ongoing endeavor between O’Neal and Baum to undermine the oversight of the library by its Board of Trustees and the Township Committee. Additionally, Baum and O’Neal planned to use the library to forward the political objectives, including political fundraising, of Baum and the Middletown Democrats. Middletown Democratic Chairman Don Watson was copied on several of the emails.
In his ruling dated July 1 denying Baum’s motion to thwart the release of the emails requested by Middletown Clerk Heidi Brunt on behalf of Township Committeeman and Library Trustee Tony Fiore, Lawson wrote that Baum argued the emails have “absolutely nothing to do with the official business of the library” and do not relate to public operations.
Lawson wrote that “Baum argues that she has no relationship with the Library, nor is she an agent of the library in any respect.”
The emails reveal otherwise.
Baum, an insurance professional who administered the New Jersey Workers Compensation Insurance Security Fund from 2003 through 2010, according to her campaign website, solicited Worker Comp Insurance quotes for New Jersey insurers on behalf of the library. She received a quote from New Jersey Manufactures Insurance Company.
In addition to performing analysis of the Township’s and Library’s insurance losses/claims, Baum analyzed union contracts of the Township, the sewerage authority and the library and shared that analysis with O’Neal.
Baum and O’Neal exchanged information regarding the construction costs of the library and the Middletown Library Foundation’s (a separate entity) contributions to the costs.
They consulted with former Library President Randall Gabrielan, after he resigned the post under pressure for financial impropriety, regarding library operations and discussed withholding information from the library’s Board of Trustees.
O’Neal and Baum planned questions and rehearsed O’Neal’s answers to those questions at public meetings.
Fiore said his review of the emails confirmed the suspicions he had that lead him to make the OPRA request; 1) that O’Neal was sharing information about library operations with Baum prior to informing the Board of Trustees, and 2) O’Neal was creating “political theatre” and manipulating the Democrats.
Baum and other Democrats were vocal opponents to the recent closure of library branches. In several emails, O’Neal bemoans the branch closures and the spending of monies that could have been used to prevent the closures. Fiore said that the branch closing were O’Neal’s idea as a budget cutting measure and that she worked hard to convince him and others that the closings were appropriate, while at the same time instigating Democratic opposition to the closures.