HomeTri-TownTri-Town NewsHowell resident alleges appointee cannot serve on two boards

Howell resident alleges appointee cannot serve on two boards

HOWELL – Steve Morlino of Howell has filed a legal complaint against the township, the Township Council and the Planning Board in which he alleges that Robert Nicastro, who serves on the Howell Planning Board and on the Manasquan River Regional Sewerage Authority (MRRSA), is not legally permitted to sit on both boards simultaneously.

Morlino is a former Democratic municipal chairman in Howell. He filed the complaint on Jan. 21.

Nicastro is a former Republican member of the Township Council.

This week, Morlino told the Tri-Town News he spoke with a representative of the court on Feb. 8 and was told the court is awaiting the township’s response to his complaint. The township has 35 days to respond.

The complaint is seeking a ruling declaring that a Class IV member of the Howell Planning Board cannot serve simultaneously as a member of the MRRSA and directing that Howell, the Township Council and the Planning Board terminate the illegal appointment of any members who are in violation of the law with regard to the prohibition against such simultaneous and conflicting appointments.

The MRRSA was created in 1972 and serves commercial and industrial customers in Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell and Wall Township.

Morlino’s complaint states that Howell residents were previously advised they could not serve simultaneously on the Planning Board and on the MRRSA.

On Jan. 1, 2019, Nicastro was appointed as a Class IV member of the Planning Board for a four-year term.

On May 19, 2020, Nicastro was appointed as Howell’s representative to the MRRSA to fill a vacant seat.

Voting “yes” on Nicastro’s appointment to the MRRSA were Republican Councilman Thomas Russo, Republican Councilwoman Pamela Richmond and Republican Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell. Voting “no” were Democratic Councilman John Bonevich and Democratic Mayor Theresa Berger.

On Jan. 26, 2021, Nicastro was appointed to a five-year term as Howell’s representative to the MRRSA. O’Donnell, Richmond and Russo voted “yes” on the appointment. Bonevich and Berger voted “no.”

A Howell resident subsequently notified municipal officials of the alleged improper simultaneous service by Nicastro on the two boards, according to Morlino’s complaint.

According to Morlino’s complaint, Township Attorney Joseph Clark responded to that notification and said, “This is the exact issue I looked at (in 2020). Although it was originally unclear whether a member of the Planning Board could sit on the MRRSA, my review of the MRRSA membership indicated the chairman of MRRSA was also the chairman of the Freehold Township Planning Board and a Class IV member (of that township’s Planning Board).

“When I inquired about this situation with the MRRSA attorney and the township attorney in Freehold Township, the response was that they had reviewed the issue and there was no conflict, and provided a letter to that effect. Consequently, Mr. Nicastro was seated,” Clark said in his response to the resident.

Asked for a comment on the matter, Nicastro told the Tri-Town News, “I understand Steve Morlino, the former Democratic chairman for Howell, is bringing a frivolous lawsuit, and along with the Democrats on council, are costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars on both frivolous lawsuits and poor decisions.

“It isn’t the first time Morlino has been wrong. The Howell Democrats continue to play politics as usual, costing Howell taxpayers unneeded spending on lawsuits that can be better served for things like paving roads and infrastructure upgrades like parks and other facilities,” Nicastro said.

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