Golden: “I’m not going into the weeds with with John… Let’s talk about the future of our Party”
Monmouth County Republican Chairman John Bennett said that the letter released to MMM by the municipal party chairmen of Manalapan and Freehold Township raising ethical concerns about Shaun Golden serving as both County Sheriff and the GOP County Chairman was not a negative attack on Golden. Rather, Bennett said, “They raised an legitimate issue that could very well impact that Party and the Freeholders. We may be giving the Democrats an issue that we don’t need to give them.”
Bennett said that Golden’s response to the letter, wherein the Sheriff raised Bennett’s municipal employment as a borough administrator and multiple municipal legal jobs, was a negative attack. “Shaun never raised these jobs as an issue before,” Bennett said, “now he’s attacking me for them.”
The Chairman said that the Court case Golden cited in response to the ethics question is shoddy legal work and supports the position that one person should not hold both the Sheriff’s office and Chairmanship.
“I don’t know who his attorneys are,” Bennett said, “but I hope the are not getting paid much by anybody. That case was 12 years before the Local Government Ethics Law was passed and it concerns a municipal chairmanship, not a county chairmanship. A municipal chairman does not have political power over freeholders who have to approve a sheriff’s budget. If anything, that case supports my position, that it is inappropriate for one person to be both Sheriff and Chairman.”
Bennett said that there is no case law regarding the issue and that the Local Finance Board has not issued any advisory opinions on the matter.
Advised of Bennett’s remarks, Golden said, “Comparing me to convicted felons in not a negative attack?”
“I’m not getting into the weeds with John about this. There are multiple precedents and many elected officials now servings honorably as Chairmen. It’s a non-issue. My letter to McEnery and Graziano speaks for itself. What is an issue is the future of our Party.
In their letter released last Thursday Manalapan GOP Chairman Steve McEnery and Freehold Republican Chairman Anthony Graziano said the Local Government Ethics Law appears to prohibit one person holding both the office of Sheriff and Chairman at the same time. McEnery and Graziano challenged Golden to release an advisory opinion from the Local Fiance Board, the entity within the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs with jurisdiction over local government ethics, or to explain to the Republican County Committee members why he failed to do basic due diligence by obtaining just an advisory opinion.
McEnery and Graziano pointed out that in two instances in the past when a County Sheriff also served as County Chair, that the office holders were indicted and that one is currently in jail. “The danger of wearing two hats is clear.”
Golden responded to McEnery and Graziano’s letter on Thursday with a quote to MMM:
“It is disappointing that John Bennett and his supporters want to make this race negative and personal, and of all things about ethics. It is hurtful that my friend Steve McEnery would lump me in with convicted felons and Democrats who were gaming the system for personal gain.
“This is a frivolous statement and matter has been settled by numerous precedents, including John Bennett’s multiple roles as a full time Borough Administrator, full time Superintendent of Public Works and Chairman, as well as his numerous municipal and board of education legal jobs throughout Monmouth County, including legal work by his firm for the county which he pledged they would not do.
“Elected officials of all types have served honorably as chair, as will I when I am elected.
“If John Bennett wants to debate ethics, I welcome the challenge. I’d rather talk to County Committee Members throughout Monmouth about the future of our Party. I will continue to focus on a positive vision for our future.”
Later Thursday, Golden released his written response to McEnery and Graziano, wherein he rebuked the chairmen for a personal attack on his integrity, “in gross violation of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment,” and cited case law, Lanza v DeMarino, which he said settled the matter.
MMM asked the Local Finance Board, “Is it appropriate for an elected official, in general, and a sheriff specifically, to serve and the County Chairman of a major political party.” DCA spokesperson Tammori C. Petty declined to comment “on a hypothetical situation that could be presented to the Local Fiance Board.”