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Lakewood Township officials and the Board of Fire Commissioners have a lot to answer to right now. A whole lot, in fact.

As was reported numerous times on FAA News,  the Lakewood Township Committee and Industrial Commission have been quietly pushing forward a proposal to permit construction of 150 feet high rise buildings in a portion in the Township.

As part of their "keep it quiet campaign," Township officials have attempted to deny the full impact of this proposal, including the actual height of the proposed buildings.

Earlier this year, Township officials reached out to the Board of Fire Commissioners and asked them to review this proposal. At a subsequent meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners, when the Board discussed the Township's proposal and request for a report on the proposal, Larry Loigman, a member of the Board stated that the report should include financial considerations.

Despite that the Board of Fire Commissioners is duly elected by the voters/taxpayers and funds their operations with taxpayer dollars, Chairman Yaakov Steinberg pushed back against including financial considerations in their report, stating that the Township only asked for any safety concerns they may have had.

Fire Chief Jonathan Yahr then drafted a report which quietly admitted that the proposal would require the career department to be increased as well as for additional fire apparatus to be purchased, yet at the same time confidently assuring the Township that "we can handle your high rise building proposal."

Subsequently, Mr. Loigman penned a letter to the Township highlighting that in order to meet the increases that the fire chief indicated would be necessary, our property taxes would increase $6 million annually.

Shockingly, the rest of the members of the Board of Fire Commissioners are unhappy that this "top secret tax increase" was brought out to the light of day and shown to the Township Committee.

Even more shockingly, the rest of the members of the Board of Fire Commissioners now want to retaliate by admonishing Mr. Loigman publicly, FAA News has learned!

The rest of the members of the Board of Fire Commissioners have drafted a Resolution ceremonially admonishing Mr. Loigman for "violating their Code of Ethics." The hype they are creating is designed to distance themselves from Mr. Loigman's exposure of a tax increase and to impress that his letter was only his personal opinion.

Mr. Loigman's letter to the Township Manager was written on Board of Fire Commissioners letterhead and signed by Loigman in his capacity as Vice Chairman of the Board.

The last paragraph of the letter stated, "I am certain that the Township Committee and Administration share the Fire District's concerns for the safety and well-being of all the residents of Lakewood."

The Board's draft Resolution of Admonition, which was obtained by FAA News, charges that this letter was in violation of the Board's Code of Ethics which states that "each Board member recognizes that authority rests with the whole Board and will make no personal promises or take any private actions which may compromise the Board... Board members shall not make statements to the public on behalf of the Board unless authorized by the Board to do so... Prior to making personal statements regarding Fire District matters, the Board member shall identify himself as as Board member but indicate that their comments are neither authorized nor spoken on behalf of the Board."

The Resolution of Admonition asserts that Mr. Loigman's letter "falsely represented the concerns of the Fire District as a whole. Moreover, this letter made factual misrepresentations, including by impressing that the $6 million tax increase would be caused solely by the high rise building proposal."

While they are at it, the Commissioners are also throwing into the pie another of Mr. Loigman's recent "violations."

At a recent meeting, Mr. Loigman stated that he would send a letter to the Township asking them to notify the Fire District Administrator of all future emergency services meetings with various agencies. The rest of the Board opposed this idea, claiming that it was not necessary as the Fire Chief was already notified about such meetings.

Despite this "not necessary" directive, Mr. Loigman sent his letter to the Township anyways. The rest of the Commissioners are now upset that this letter did not disclose that the rest of the Commissioners disagreed and said that this was not necessary.

This "ceremonial admonition" is actually a very big deal. It's likely all part of one massive collusion with the Township.

As previously reported here on FAA News, following exposure on FAA News regarding the proposal, and the troubling issues therefrom, - which were based heavily on Commissioner Loigman's letter, the Township Committee put the brakes on this proposal saying that they wanted to get "clarification" from the Fire Commissioners regarding Commissioner Loigman's letter. (Read the Township's letter below). By now admonishing Mr. Loigman and adopting a formal resolution purporting that the letter does not represent the Board as a whole, they are actually clearing the path for the Township Committee to freely adopt their proposal without the "headache" of such exposure!

This is far from the only troubling issue with the taxpayer funded Board of Fire Commissioners.

Every Site Plan application that is submitted to the Planning Board gets forwarded to the Fire District for their review. According to the Planning Board, the Fire District is considered an "outside agency" which means that their approval is required before the Planning Board will allow any construction to actually occur. (Meaning, the Planning Board's own approval is contingent on the developer also receiving approval from the Fire District.)

However, instead of addressing this task appropriately, the Board of Fire Commissioners adopted their own Resolution which contends that "The Fire Department’s review is a more pragmatic approach and the recommendations are given on a case by case basis to assure an efficient and effective delivery of fire suppression... Their review is couched in terms of recommendations. The Boards have the final judgment as to the requirements taking into consideration the Fire Department’s consult... The technical requirements remain the prerogative of the individual Board and its professionals, as well as the professionals of the applicant."

It is shocking that the Board of Fire Commissioners and their paid staff do all in their wherewithal to be able to enjoy their cozy positions while "staying out of the limelight," when it comes to complex matters such as "politics" and "taxes."

Last year, as previously reported here on FAA News, the Board of Fire Commissioners thought it was a great idea to spend $90,000 annually on a Fire Prevention Specialist position. Following exposure on FAA News, the Commissioners pulled back on the idea.

As previously reported here on FAA News, after pulling out the above idea, the Board of Fire Commissioners gave their clerk a pretty generous taxpayer funded salary raise.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the Board of Fire Commissioners also used every loophole in the book to be able to retain Attorney Ian Goldman, Esq as attorney to the Fire District despite another attorney offering to take the job for less money.

As previously reported here on FAA News, as a result of all their generosity, for Fiscal Year 2023 the Commissioners imposed - without voter approval - a 23% increase in the amount of funds raised by taxation.

The members of the Board of Fire Commissioners, and their terms to expire are:

Yakov Steinberg - 2024

Larry S. Loigman - 2025

Harrison Pfeffer - 2023
Clerk (Secretary)

Yehuda L. Gold - 2024

Dovid Bender - 2023
Assistant Clerk/Treasurer

[After publication of this story, Mr. Loigman sent FAA News the following statement:

Curiously, the letter which I sent to the Township specifically said (in the second sentence) that I was expressing "my own views."  

I know that, as an elected official, it is my obligation to represent all of the citizens of Lakewood, and, as part of that obligation, I will always feel free to express my opinion on matters of public concern. Fortunately, the Constitution (as well as the Board By-Laws) protect my right to do so.

I am hopeful that my colleagues on the Board will reconsider the ill-advised attempt by the chairman to silence me, and that the resolution will not be adopted.]

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Anonymous said...

It's all one big cozy bed that they share together.

Harrison Pfeffer is the brother of Adam Pfeffer. Harrison is also a member of the Township Shade Tree Commission.

Attorney Ian Goldman is Adam Pfeffer's partner.

Yehuda Leib Gold is also a member of the Lakewood Development Corporation and the Lakewood Housing Authority. He is good friends with Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller, which explains how he got all his mighty positions so soon after he moved to town.

Anonymous said...

At least unlike the township they are in person and the public can speak out.

Chaim Klein said...

It's not surprising that Chief Jonathan Yahr "supports the proposal." Chief Yahr is not an elected representative of the people. He is a $191,732 taxpayer funded employee who has led the career fire department for many years prior to becoming a full time desk chief. He is very happy to allow high rise buildings as that will allow his favorite career department to continue to grow.

Simcha Steinberg said...

While the members of the Board of Fire Commissioners do have a right to "uphold justice" against "violators" of their "Code of Ethics," it is extremely disturbing to see that they have not placed on their agenda for tomorrow night a Resolution to send their own letter to the Township Committee regarding the tax increase.

To appear to appease Larry, the BOFC agreed to solicit a bid from VFIS to conduct a fiscal impact study. Since the bid solicitation has come in, the BOFC has chosen not to award a contract to VFIS to actually do the fiscal impact study.

Therefore, while they technically do have a right to say "the tax increase that you are claiming is inaccurate," they should back this up with their own guestimate of what the tax increase will be. If they do not want to guestimate, they can award the contract to VFIS to make that calculation for them. They chose not to guestimate and not award the contract to VFIS. Rather, they are simply blasting Larry, with no backup of their own.

By not providing their own fiscal impact estimate, and making tomorrow's meeting simply about blasting Larry, shows me that this is all a cover-up of the big picture - which is that they are blasting Larry simply to allow the Committee to adopt their ordinance in peace with no exposure and no headaches.

Anonymous said...

Tonights meeting will be fun! Come and enjoy. Some notes
- Not sure where Mr Loigman came up with the figure of six million. Looking at the budget and the amount of new hires needed it's a lot less
- Mr Loigman broke his own rules. He says he gave his own opinion yet he wrote as if he was speaking for the board. This is not the first time he has broken the rules and the others are fed up with his games.

Anonymous said...

As a resident taxpayer, I am grateful to have Mr. Loigman as our commissioner. There’s way too many shenanigans going on with some of the other officials. It’s time to put a stop to all the shtick on behalf of rogue developers.

Yoel Sternfeld said...

@Anon 8:15am

So did the rest of the BOFC come up with their own estimated tax increase? Did they bother to actually award the contract to VFIS to conduct their own professional study?

By not providing their own tax increase estimate, and only admonishing Larry, it seems that their admonishment is simply a cover up so the Township can have an easier time quietly permitting the high rise buildings.