A reprimand from Cindy Zirkle

I received this email from Cindy Zirkle today, which I am posting in its entirety. I asked permission, and she consented. Cindy is one of the voices in the county that I truly admire, and  I appreciate her forthrightness and bluntness. I will add some thoughts afterward.

First, belated but sincere congratulations to this site for improving the political scene in Cumberland County. For years deception, control and manipulation were the norm and now we have a shot at regaining democracy. However, I am very bothered by the posts that continue to degrade Bill Whelan and link his name with Lou. As many of you know I served on the CRHS board with Bill for 10 years and it is very easy to assess a person’s integrity when faced with the simultaneous task of providing the best education while being responsible to the tax payer. When Bill told me he had been asked to run for Freeholder by Lou my immediate reaction was total negativity. During the first year we clashed many times on issues I saw that I felt were downright wrong, but by the second year (and it takes fully 3 years to understand all the complexities of the County) he not only saw the power wheel that radiated from Lou but was determined to all he could to rein in the games and power struggles that were part of daily county life.

First and foremost Bill is a family man and will freely say his 34 year marriage to his beloved Carol is what matters most, followed by his 9 children. How he manages to be COO/EVP of a local bank, serve as Freeholder Director and still show up at 90% of his children’s athletic events is a daunting time management task. But that is perhaps the major difference between how Lou viewed the job and Bill does. Bill is NOT a “politician” (a term that is more hated now than at any other time in our democracy), he is a PUBLIC SERVANT in the way that people used to view election to office. The exposé of Lou coincided with Bill’s father’s final months and eventual death. He will say his father was the greatest man he ever knew, a humble man who put family and God first. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and in Bill there is a Whelan legacy that goes back many generations.

I want the county managed (not run by) a Freeholder board that understands their statutory role and responsibilities. That realizes the entire country is in dire economic conditions and that very, very hard decisions and cuts will have to be made in popular deserving programs. Jim Dunkins took a “raft of sh..” over issues with the Social Services department. As a MANAGER I am confident that he will correct the personnel problems that caused the issue, but it falls to the hired staff not the Freeholders to efficiently run these kinds of programs. Look at the election issue that Ernie and I are caught in the middle of (see: https://freedom-to-tinker.com/ for a fabulous overview by our expert from Princeton. Should a board of elections member be allowed to serve as a county and state party leader? Who appoints the board of election members? The Governor. So if you need an issue to investigate and correct Carl, the ability of an American citizen to cast a vote and know that the process is not subject to tampering, that the vote will be counted correctly, please use your proven powers to expose and “fix” this very serious issue.

What saddens me the most about politics in a number of towns, at the County level and higher is the venomous hostility that people cannot seem to get past. If all the energy was focused on making positive changes rather than the negativity that is directed personally towards those individuals willing to try to serve (and this goes for both parties) we could accomplish so much more. Instead, so much valuable time is spent defensively that the process grinds to a halt. At one of the first meetings I attended after Bill Whelan was sworn in a person in the audience asked him “what does the Freeholder board have the statutory responsibility for”. Bill in total honesty said he was still trying to get an answer from the state. That his approach would be to fund statutory requirements and then see what was left over for the niceties we have all come to expect from government. Unfortunately those niceties: the Manor, Library, 4H to name a few are all incredibly valuable to society, as is an open space program, parks, recreation and the list goes on. In an environment where residents are absolutely unwilling to discuss tax increases these niceties are history unless picked up by the private sector. But we cannot, must not, blame the person who is giving us the news. If there is a bright light in County finances it is Bill Whelan. He clearly sees the problems, knows the games that have been played over the past decades that has gotten us where we are, and knows that only through cutting can he balance our budget. Want the services back? Call him and tell him to increase taxes. The math is simple and we need Bill Whelan.

I understand the reason for this site, and as I said I FULLY support what was accomplished. It is very difficult to go from “attack mode” to “reasoned analysis” but Carl, you are a person with enormous talent and I hope that transition can take place.

It is this sort of feedback that I thrive on. It is this sort of support that has made MWatch what it is.

And, I confess that I have given the new Republican Freeholders some leeway; I have not criticized certain votes, writing them off as newbies getting the feel for the CumbCo political scene. At the same time, I may be more harsh on Bill Whelan, also a newbie, and not cut him the same slack I cut others. I guess only time will tell.

The last thing I want to be accused of is being a political hack, or hypocritical in the way I treat people. However, I confess I remain extremely cautious of anybody that was groomed by Lou Magazzu.

Personally, I don’t care who is in charge, as long as, as Cindy so succinctly stated, they understand “their statutory role and responsibilities. That realizes the entire country is in dire economic conditions and that very, very hard decisions and cuts will have to be made in popular deserving programs.” And, I agree with her whole-heartedly that the election fraud scandal that we saw in F airfield Twp is a critical issue that MUST be at the forefront of our attention.

And I do feel that a pendulum swing in party leadership of the county is mandatory in order to even begin seeing the changes necessary to bring this county back to a fiscally responsible condition.

And Cindy, again I thank you for your honest correspondence and support.


5 Responses to A reprimand from Cindy Zirkle

  1. Calhoun says:

    Cindy Zirkle, a contributor to Bill Whelan’s campaign, makes a fine case in support of Freeholder Whelan. And many will indeed vote for Mr. Whelan in the upcoming election. However, I will not be one of them.

    While I don’t dispute anything Cindy has written about Freeholder Whelan, I also remember all the cheerleading that Mr. Whelan has done over the years in support of Lou. When the Independent Ds came out against Lou, Bill Whelan remained in Lou’s corner singing his praises. When Lou resigned as freeholder director, Whelan sang his praises, and he did so again when Lou resigned as CCDO chair. In fact, the only time I can recall when Freeholder Whelan was critical of Lou was the day he called for Lou’s resignation back in early August. However, by then, the gig was definitely up for Lou, with the whole state D establishment pretty much insisting Lou go (the unelected Long and Balicki were left to defend Lou).

    Then there was the NACo fiasco. Bill Whelan endorsed Lou’s run for NACo second V.P., and Whelan took money from Lou’s NACo slush fund to help pay for a trip to D.C. Freeholder Whelan also sponsored a resolution back in February 2009 that modified the county’s code of ethics, so as to allow Lou to raise money for NACo. It is said that actions speak louder than words. However, in this case, Whelan’s inactions spoke louder than any words he may have spoken to any of us in private that he was concerned about Lou’s “power wheel.”

    Zirkle wrote that what saddens her most is the “venomous hostility” in politics today. However, all too often, Whelan was silent when Lou was spewing his venom, his silence lending consent to Lou’s behavior. Meeting after meeting, Freeholder Whelan was silent when Lou engaged in his shenanigans (Remember movie night when Lou disgracefully showed clips of “Saving Private Ryan” to defend the chapel? Audience members spoke out, but not Whelan).

    It may be said that some of us are being too hard on Whelan, since no one else on the freeholder board was criticizing Lou. However, many of us expected more from Freeholder Whelan for the very reasons Cindy wrote – he does indeed seem to be a public servant as opposed to a pol.

    Zirkle also wrote: “…the Manor, Library, 4H to name a few are all incredibly valuable to society, as is an open space program, parks, recreation and the list goes on. In an environment where residents are absolutely unwilling to discuss tax increases these niceties are history unless picked up by the private sector…Want the services back? Call him and tell him to increase taxes.” However, I believe Zirkle (and Whelan) maybe presenting us with a false choice here. Before I see the 4-Hers, Manor residents, and librarians kicked to the curb, I want to know why these programs are on the chopping block, while the county continues to dole out contract after contract to the politically connected. What percent of the current county budget goes to lawyer and consultant fees? How much did the County used to spend on these? How many recently created politically appointed jobs (e.g., warden) can we do without? Before we go axing programs that help county residents or raising taxes that will hurt county residents, I want answers to these basic questions.

  2. Calhoun well spoken. Maybe you should consider running next year.

  3. Guess-Who says:

    Anyone REMEMBER the 2008 Campaign Promise of $75,000.00 the Surrogate would take for a Salary ?

    Then there was the Claim by the Surrogate of the WIDOW-MAKER Health Condition that was Causing Him to Seek the ADDITIONAL $27,500.00 in Salary.

    Do U remember how B. Whelan VOTED in April 2011 on this matter Mrs. Zirkle ?

    (Walking the Walk & Talking the Walk) was something that B. Whelan made during that 2008 Campaign Appearance on Tv (Infomercial).

    B. Whelan believes it is OK for Freeholders to Send & Receive Text Messages during an Official Chosen Board of Freeholder Meeting 😦

    B. Whelan sucked up to Lou Magazzu the whole time while sitting on the Freeholder Board & did WHAT he was told to do from the Camden Location.

    What has B. Whelan done that DESERVES the Support of the Residents in Cumberland County ?

    What has Improved in the County with B. Whelan on this Board of Chosen Freeholders ?

    Unemployment is above 14%

    Teen Pregnancy is one of the Highest in the Nation

    The Debt of the County is over $12,000,000.00 & has been the Last few Years.

    The Prosecutor Facility is 3+ yrs behind the Date the Freeholder Board agreed to in the Out of Court Settlement & is still NOT going to be operating for another year or two.

    Mrs Zirkle, I L{.}{.}K forward to hearing your RESPONSE 🙂

    CHECKS and BALANCE make the County a Better Place

  4. 2cents says:

    The problem as I see it is buried in CZ’s comments about Dunkins taking the heat over the recent issues with the Social Services Department and then goes on to blame it on personnel issues that Dunkins as “manager” not as a “run by” needs to fix. Knowing how the county functions this means that someone else will get blamed for allegedly not telling Dunkins what was happening. Freeholders love to run, command, and manage everything and everyone but don’t want to take the heat for a problem they caused.

    The freeholders should neither manage or run county departments and operations. This is the responsibility of the people who actually know the job in the first place. For all intents and purposes they should function as more of a corporate board of directors that establish policy, goals, objectives, and financial balances.

    In the corporate world there would be a CEO responsible for making this happen. However, many of these freeholders undermine or interfere in the day-to-day departmental operations to the point that the people in the top management positions are rendered ineffectual. Lou was the absolute micro-“manager” who wanted absolute dictatorial power over everything, and was allowed to do so by freeholders such as Whelan. That same Freeholder mentality holds true today and Whelan is falling into the same mold.

    In the real world the board of directors, if they felt there was an issue, would bring the CEO to a meeting and find out what the issue was and how it could be addressed. Never do individual board members, without approval of the board, just go on their own initiative to tell lower-level managers and employees what to do. But the Freeholders circumvent management all the time and go directly to people in the lower chain-of-command. Now as someone in that chain, with the reinforced thought of a Freeholder gunning for you if you don’t do their bidding, what would you do?

    The Freeholder Board needs to focus on getting real industry and business to this area, not interfering in the day-to-day operations. Or, as in the case of Social Services, using it as a target rich environment for potential voters for the Democrats. However, being so cynical of politicians, I’d bet they continue doing the same stuff because putting out the effort to do something of substance can be politically risky, or worse yet, work.

  5. WuLi says:

    Cindy asked me to post this response to Guess Who:

    To Guess Who:

    I have pondered whether to respond. While I love a good discussion particularly with those who have different opinions (I learn something all the time that way), I am uncomfortable writing to people who will not leave their real name.

    I have in the past few years contributed to Jen Swift, Tom Sheppard, Frank LoBiondo, Bruce Peterson and Carl Kirstein. I pick people I hope will bring positive (from my perspective) changes to the political scene. I find I cannot scroll between your post, Guess-Who, and this response but I can tell you in no particular order that reprimanding an equal in a public meeting is not something I would expect Bill, or any reasoned person, to do. If texting is judged unacceptable by the collective committee, whether Township, Freeholder or BOE, than a policy can be developed, that is the way democracy works. The Rainear vote was tough if I remember the discussion. Remember that Lou had no legal right to pay any of the Constitutional Officers less than is set statutorily, if Rainear had sued he was entitled to it and the County would have lost a $32,000 reimbursement. Sometimes votes that are taken are not fully understood unless all the information leading to the vote is understood, this was one of those. Constitutional officers should not be political in my humble opinion.

    What has Bill Whelan done? I am guilty of not watching the Freeholders as well as a really concerned resident should. Also, what is important to me might not be the key issue or issues that another person is interested in, so here is my personal list. Far from all that has been done I am sure but the “top five”.

    · Proposed a resolution to keep the tax levy the same. This was not popular, but it ended the games Lou played with “we did not raise taxes” when the levy was increased annually. With an ever lowering ratable base this is not the same as “no taxes” but goes a long way.

    · Helped refocus the concept that county employees not the elected officials are managing the County. Since I believe strongly that the Freeholders should act as a board that sets policy and oversees department directors to try and get politics and politicians out of direct management this is a big one for me. Giving “jobs” has been a major perk of elected office, even more than the current practice we need to get away from the “good old boy” system. Ah, I can hear it now, what about Matlock, a friend of Bill’s. When complaints and concerns arose Bill did absolutely the correct thing and placed Carl Kirstein in charge of public safety removing himself from overseeing the department.

    · Which brings me to the third issue I think is a tremendous plus…there is more bipartisanship on the Freeholder Board that I have seen in 30 years of “watching”.

    · Reports from each Freeholder covering their areas of responsibility are major to me. Before Bill I always wondered what each person did during the month…now I have a much better idea.

    · Established an administrative code, again maybe no high on anyone else’s list but something I found was critically lacking when I first started with OPRA requests at the County to try and get a handle on what games Lou was playing (5 years ago).

    This is not an all-inclusive list as I stated but you asked a question, it made me think (a good thing) and these are my thoughts. My phone number is in the book or 455-6611. I would far rather talk to someone individually or at an open meeting but this forum seems to be the wave of the future so I either “get with the program” or fall by the wayside. I hope this answers your question.

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