Templeton Explains His Reason For Switching Parties

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Published: April 2, 2015 @ 5:30 PM EDT

Fifth Ward Councilman Richard Templeton hand-delivered a statement and addressed some questions to provide more detail regarding certain points in the letter. He was accompanied by both his wife and Roselle Park Democratic Municipal Committee (RPDMC) Chair Dan Petrosky, who also submitted a statement (Both are included at the end of this article).

Below is a text of Mr. Templeton’s prepared statement:

I decided to switch political parties after a lot of reflection on Roselle Park, the challenges it faces, and what the two political parties have to offer the town. It wasn’t a quick or easy decision, and it wasn’t made until after I was sworn in as Fifth Ward Councilman.

An important factor in my decision was my experience with the Republican committee during and after last year’s election, when I ran for Borough Council at the request of the Republicans as part of Mike Yakubov’s campaign for mayor. I was told that we were running to change things in Borough government. I was told that I would get a lot of input into the campaign and into the decisions about how to steer Roselle Park into the future. I was told I would be a partner in the campaign, in the strategy and in the decisions.

To make a long story short, my input wasn’t really sought, and the input that I tried to give wasn’t paid attention to. After the campaign photos were taken, Mike pretty much ran a one-man operation. I didn’t see a lot of input from others on the Republican committee, either. The bottom line is that I didn’t see any significant new strategy or planning for how to move Roselle Park forward, just a business-as-usual approach. I didn’t see any openness to change, despite what our campaign slogans said.

After I met with the Republican committee at its request about this year’s election, I was worried that there would be more of the same kind of thing. But, despite my family and friends warning me, I hoped I was wrong.

Then came the day I was sworn in. I was treated like a puppet. I was told by the acting chair of the Republican committee how I should vote on the appointment of the new director of the Casano Community Center. When instead I voted my conscience, Republican Councilman Kelly declared that I couldn’t vote on the matter. The Borough clerk had to tell him that I certainly could vote. The acting Republican chair was furious.

That was it for me. I finally saw what the Republicans wanted – no openness, no change, just business as usual, with people behind the scenes calling the shots.

But in the end, this isn’t really about political parties. And it isn’t about me. It’s about Roselle Park and its future. I want to serve because I want to make a difference. I want to help the town move forward. And I became a Democrat because that party shows the attitude and the commitment to do that.

I want to emphasize that, even though I’m now a Democrat, I represent everyone in the Fifth Ward – I represent Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike. This is all about Roselle Park and its future, and I’m looking forward to helping to make that future bright.

The first questions to Councilman Templeton were for him to clarify or correct a timeline provided by Elizabeth Cairney, the acting Chair of the Roselle Park Republican Municipal Committee (RPRMC), regarding his actions relating to taking office and switching party affiliations without notifying the RPRMC. The allegation was that Mr. Templeton refused to notify the RPRMC of his switch for almost a week as a tactic to prevent the political party from being able to put a name forth as a contender for the ward Councilman Templeton currently represents.

Ms. Cairney noted that on February 4th, she received an e-mail from Michael Yakubov advising of his resignation and that Mr. Templeton asked to be considered for council and called her directly to tell her that he wanted the position. Mr. Templeton stated that it was Mr. Yakubov who approached him to replace him in the fifth ward.

This was attested to by Mr. Petrosky who stated he read the e-mails, “Mike recommended him to take over the fifth ward. This is where it all started because he [Templeton] showed me all the e-mails on the 23rd.”

The former Fifth Ward Councilman was reached for a commented on this and responded, “Contrary to Mr. Templeton’s statement that he was asked to be considered as the council replacement to my seat. Mr. Templeton initiated this dialogue with me after several weeks of no communication post-election. ‘Mike, lots of people have been asking me to fill your seat when you step down, is it possible you can recommend me to the GOP?’ Please let the record show I did not ask him as I knew that the decision would be one of the GOP committee and I would no longer be involved in this process. I then sent correspondence to the Vice Chair and had Carbon Copied Mr. Templeton on the email as per his request.”

After being sworn in on March 19th, Mr. Templeton had his party affiliation notice received by the Union County Board Of Elections to switch from Republican to Democrat. Mr. Cairney contends that Mr. Templeton never notified her nor the RPRMC of his decision and they were intentionally kept in the dark. The RPRMC Chair stated, “From the 25th on we had games trying to get him to pick up the petitions and sign his petition. By late Sunday we knew he had deceived the RPRMC committee. Templeton never advised us of his change in party. He might have hoped that his deceitful actions would cause the Republican Party not to be able to file on time with a Republican candidate. Mr. Templeton deceived the RPRMC and in so doing, disenfranchised over 70% of the voters in the fifth ward.”

“I told Betty I’m working. I’m tied up. I can’t talk right now,” said Mr. Templeton, “As far as talking to you, I’m going away for this weekend. I’ll talk to you on Monday and we’ll get together and we’ll discuss [things]. I went down the shore and by Monday, it was too late then. they didn’t want to hear anything I had to say.”

It was then that Mr. Templeton was asked why, if he knew on the 23rd that he was not going to be the Republican candidate for the Fifth Ward, did he not notify the RPRMC that he had switched.

“I was working and I wanted to talk to them in person, not on the phone,” Mr. Templeton explained. He proceeded to deny that his lack of communication was a ploy, “It wasn’t intentional. I wanted to do it face-to-face. I was away with my family and I explained that to her.”

Mr. Templeton was asked if a similar situation occurred at work, and an employee acted in the same manner and provided the same reasons that Mr. Templeton gave, only to find out the day before a big project that the employee quit and went to work for another competitor, leaving his company unable to start the work, would he, as an employer, find such actions suspicious.

He first stated, “Everybody’s human. People have their reasons.”

When asked for a more definitive answer, Mr. Templeton remarked, “I would want to know why. I would want to find out why. Depending on what the valid reasons were, I’d be okay.”

When told the reasons would be the same that he gave, Mr. Templeton finally answered, “I would be okay with it.”

Mr. Yakubov concluded his thoughts on the matter by stating, “In my opinion, it is clear that Mr. Templeton is all about what’s in his best interest and displays no loyalty to those that helped him during the campaign. Rich consistently talks about people he knows, the free things he gets, what events he goes to, what organizations he belongs to and boasts about his full buyout pension from the State of NJ. To switch parties is not a new concept, several council of the past have done it. It’s the way Mr. Templeton did it, is what irks many residents including myself. Absolutely knowing prior to his nomination by the GOP that he would defect and deceit; he stalled and maliciously waited to the 11th hour to sign the necessary paperwork delaying the GOP an opportunity to place a candidate to run in time. This can be further evidenced by having Sheriff Cryan swear him in – it is always customary for the same party affiliate to swear in candidates, always. So his statement of he had an epiphany post the swearing-in is both delusional and deceptive to say the least.”

Providing more detail on his statement, Mr. Templeton expands upon events that he claimed made him change his affiliation, particularly on the 19th. He commented, “Here I am. I’m not even a foot inside council chambers, I get pulled from Betty right away telling me how to vote. ‘You can’t vote. You’re not voting for anything today. You can’t vote, especially on an Indian because the seniors will go crazy at the Casano Center. You’re going to abstain from everything. This is what you’re going to do . . . That’s where I lost it. I was actually upset about that.”

Mr. Templeton was referring to the hiring of Rupen Shah to the position of Administrative Assistant for the Casano Center for a period of 90 day at an annual salary of $47,175.15. Mr. Shah is a member of the Roselle Park Democratic Municipal Committee. Sources claim that he was previously going to be the Democratic candidate for the Fifth Ward before Mr. Templeton switched.

Ms. Cairney responded, “This is Holy Week, a time for faith and family. I am not going to spend an extra moment commenting on Templeton’s ever evolving story which has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. I made no comments of an ethnic nature, Templeton should be ashamed of himself. If he thinks that he will sully my reputation without being challenged he is mistaken. I asked Templeton to abstain on the political appointment of Mr. Shah. There has never been an interim hire at the Casano Center in the past. Volunteers filled the void. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars. A better question is why Templeton voted yes. He was on the dais less than an hour, had no history and voted yes to spend tax dollars without background unless he had been told to vote with his new majority party.”

Additionally, Mr. Templeton added that Second Ward Councilman Ryan Kelly also made similar comments, “And then I got Ryan pulling me to the side saying ‘Listen to Betty. Did you hear what she said? You don’t want an Indian guy in the Casano Center. You’re voting this way and this is how we’re telling you to vote.”

When reached for comment, Councilman Kelly answered, “Let me first start by stating I’m incredibly disappointed. The only advice prior to the new Fifth Ward Councilman’s swearing-in I gave was to abstain on any votes because he was only, to my knowledge at the time, aware he would be appointed less than 24 hours before. It would be unfair to expect anyone to be completely knowledgeable of what was on the agenda. As for the baseless accusation, I never said anything within the same solar system of what Rich Templeton is stating. I suppose this is where they want me to defend myself, kiss babies, and take photo ops with the Indo-American community to prove otherwise? I will not even entertain the accusation. I have ordinances to review and capital budget workshops to prepare for while continuing to find ways to help alleviate the tax burden in Roselle Park. I’m an open book and always available for comment but I will not be roped into the type of mudslinging that has been destroying Roselle Park for years.”

Continuing with Mr. Templeton, the question was asked if Mr. Petrosky would ever tell him how to vote, what would he do.

“I’m my own person,” was his answer. When asked why he did vote for Mr. Shah, when there already was a majority vote, Councilman Templeton said, “Basically, they said the community center wasn’t going to be opened [unless it was filled]. His name was on the paper. They had screened him and for 90 days, at least you give something to the seniors.”

After that meeting, Mr. Templeton recounted he was with his family and was put off by how he was being directed, telling them that night, “They’re not for the community. I was very disgusted. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be a Republican. I want to switch sides.”

In line with his previous statement of being his own person, Mr. Templeton was asked why he did not simply declare himself as an Independent, without any party affiliation. He response was, “Because I wanted to be a Democrat.”

A review of delinquent 2014 filings, which according to Mr. Templeton were filed by the RPDMC, shows that they were filed on March 18th, a day before he was sworn into office.

Returning to aspects of his statement, Mr. Templeton was asked to provide an example of how the Democratic Party in town displayed an openness to change, which was one of the key reason he stated for leaving his party.

“Everybody’s on the same team. Communication. Everybody cares. Coordination. All that stuff.”

Mr. Petrosky whispered about Mr. Templeton’s campaign financial reports and the fact that they were not turned in on time during Mr. Templeton’s run for Council-At-Large. He received a notice from the state claiming that he will be investigated for not following state campaign laws.

“I gave them to Mike. [He said] I’ll take care of it Rich . . . I’m thinking I have my chair taking care of all my stuff. He did absolutely zero. All he had to do was say hey I can’t do them and I would have done them. He skipped town and left me with a nice little letter from Trenton. They [RPDMC] took care of all my financial reports which was huge.”

Mr. Yakubov retorted, “Mr. Templeton asked me if he would need to file an ELEC document, I had indicated that yes whether you have an account open or not every candidate needs to have the preliminary forms required completed. He then asked if I can assist him in this filing process. I indicated I would be happy to and provided him the form as I did for the 1st Ward Candidate Ms. Jordan. After this, I had reminded him several times to get it done. If Mr. Templeton had difficulty with this, perhaps the road ahead may be quite challenging for him.”

Records show that when Mr. Templeton ran for Elizabeth city council in 2006 and the Elizabeth Board Of Education in 2007, his reports were filed in a timely manner. A review of delinquent 2014 filings, which according to Mr. Templeton were filed by the RPDMC, shows that they were filed on March 18th, a day before he was sworn into office.

It is expected that Councilman Templeton, who was absent during Tuesday night’s capital budget workshop, will be on the dais for tonight’s Mayor & Council meeting at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.

Copies of the statements provided as well as the submitted delinquent 2014 election reports are available below.

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