The following is a letter to the editor from Eatontown resident Sara Breslow:
Eatontown's contract with Tinton Falls for court-shared services states that "each municipality maintains its right to appoint their own judge, prosecutor, and public defender." Monmouth Beach, a party to the same agreement, chose its own judge without consequence from Tinton Falls. Eatontown abided by the terms of the contract. Tinton Falls betrayed Eatontown's trust by breaking the five-year agreement.
The excuse given by Tinton Falls Mayor Gerald Turning is that an inexperienced judge would increase expenses. That might be true if the contract did not allow Tinton Falls to recoup expenses if there is a shortfall, but it does. Tinton Falls would suffer no financial loss from Eatontown's decision. Eatontown, on the other hand, divested of its court equipment and personnel based on this shared services agreement.
Eatontown Mayor Dennis Connelly said he warned the council that there would be trouble if it appointed Eugene Melody as judge (which it did on January 1). Tinton Falls council met in closed session to discuss breaking the shared services agreement on Jan. 17, when Judge Melody had held court only two days. Then Connelly accused four Eatontown council members of backroom dealing in selecting the judge.
This situation begs the question, who is really guilty of backroom dealing? Why did Turning make threats and try to influence Eatontown policy? How could Connelly predict trouble before Melody was chosen? Why did Connelly throw his own council members under the bus instead of using his apparent relationship with Turning to keep the contract in effect and help the town?
The facts are: Tinton Falls agreed that Eatontown had a right to hire its own judge. Tinton Falls will be losing at least $150,000/year by breaking the contract. There has been no wrong-doing on the part of the Eatontown council members who selected Melody.
Maybe shared-service agreements only work when all involved are equal partners so one town is not at the mercy of another in the name of politics.
I'd vote for an ethical judge over unethical mayors any day.