CLARK — Two democrats running for ward council seats on the November 8 ballot, Dario Valdivia and Michael Shulman, took to the podium to address Mayor Sal Bonaccorso and the council at its October 17 meeting.
Mr. Valdivia, 1st Ward democratic council candidate, criticized Mayor Bonaccorso’s social media use. “There’s a lot of unkind words being said,” in reference to Facebook comments made by Mayor Bonaccorso.
“We do have a code of ethics in this town for behavior of employees and elected officials,” Mr. Valdivia stated before reading from the document, “[public officials and employees] should not be a source of embarrassment to that government and should avoid even the appearance of conflict between their public duties and private interests.”
“The social media hysterics our mayor engages in are embarrassing,” Mr. Shulman echoed. In a personal Facebook post, Mayor Bonaccorso called the 2nd Ward council candidate a ‘poodle,’ which refers to a politician who obediently or passively follows the lead of others. “Our town seal sits behind every comment he makes,” Mr. Shulman added.
Both candidates accused the council of erroneously stating that Clark taxes are low, particularly in comparison to surrounding towns, and that they have not increased in the past three years. “If you do the work, and actually take out the county tax, take out the school tax, look at what is our municipal purpose tax, our municipal purpose tax is actually one of the highest in the county,” Mr. Shulman claimed, adding that municipal taxes have increased every year for the past three years.
“I started this campaign because of the news that came out this spring,” Mr. Shulman said in reference to a set of incriminating recordings that highlight snippets of derogatory conversation between Mayor Bonaccorso and several township police officials released in April 2022. Addressing the council, Mr. Shulman said, “… you’ve remained silent on the issue, but you remain silent on all the behavior.”
“Mr. Shulman has gotten up tonight and he talks about taxes. While you could talk about taxes all you want, he doesn’t realize when we took this town over 21 years ago, it was on the verge of bankruptcy,” Mayor Bonaccorso stated. “You had nothing for your services, you had a dilapidated municipal building that was an embarrassment to call a rec center. You had employees running at will, doing whatever they wanted, deals made in buyouts on sick time, which was illegal. We had to clean up.”
Mayor Bonaccorso continued, “We came in and we took this town over and we had to put a lot of discipline into it and we had to change a lot of ways of thinking. Gone were the Democrat ways of wheeling and dealing and making political deals to try to get people elected, such as what’s going on now.”
Mayor Bonaccorso and Councilman Patrick O’Connor pointed out that democratic candidates Michael Shulman, William Grzyb, Jr. and David Hessler missed the deadline to file intent to run for elected office in New Jersey in April 2022, but became write-in candidates only after the recordings were made public later that month. “If you were so interested in fixing Clark and Clark was so broken, why didn’t you file your petition in April, like everybody else in the state of New Jersey?” Mayor Bonaccorso asked.
Regarding Mr. Shulman’s comment about the council’s lack of response to the April 2022 controversy, Mr. O’Connor said that township attorney Mark Dugan instructed the council to not speak on the issue due to a pending investigation. Mr. Shulman is trying “to create reasonable doubt and cast a shadow on this council,” Mr. O’Connor stated.
In other township news, the council introduced an ordinance to amend the borough’s agreement with the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority. The council introduced a second ordinance that would update the vacation leave policy in the employee policy and procedure manual.