By Larry Barszewski
Manalapan is down to only two town commissioners — not six — as four have resigned rather than submit to a more detailed disclosure of their personal wealth that the state is requiring of elected municipal leaders starting in 2024.
Mayor Stewart Satter said he, too, will be leaving the commission.
“Regrettably, due to the new financial disclosure rules requiring that I disclose my net worth publicly, I am resigning from my role as Mayor effective this December,” Satter wrote in a Nov. 27 email to The Coastal Star.
Fortunately for the town, the massive shake-up underway isn’t as dire as officials first feared, as enough town residents have stepped up and offered to fill the commission’s new vacancies.
While the two remaining commissioners and the town’s nonvoting mayor aren’t enough for a quorum to run the commission’s next scheduled meeting on Dec. 18, the Town Charter allows that as few as two commissioners can vote to approve replacements for the commissioners who have left, Town Attorney Keith Davis said. Once that’s done, the commission can get back to business.
Commissioners Aileen Carlucci, Kristin Rosen and Richard Granara announced in October their intentions to resign, and Commissioner Chauncey Johnstone announced Nov. 13 that he was leaving for the same reason.
But the commission found out at its Nov. 14 meeting that there are still residents willing to be appointed, even with the new financial reporting disclosures, known as Form 6.
Thanks to a Nov. 1 town email blast seeking residents willing to serve, Vice Mayor John Deese and Commissioner Simone Bonutti will be able to restock the dais on Dec. 18.
The expected commission appointees are:
• Orla Imbesi to replace Johnstone
• Dwight Kulwin to replace Carlucci
• David Knobel to replace Rosen
• Elliot Bonner to replace Granara
Three of the appointments would end in March, while Knobel’s appointment would be until 2025.
Only two of the planned replacements — Imbesi and Bonner — filed papers in November to run in the March election. Because no one else filed for the two seats, Imbesi and Bonner are automatically elected to the term that begins in March, Davis said.
Because Kulwin didn’t get his qualifying papers in on time, the town is expected to hold a second qualifying period Jan. 2-12 for that seat, which would give Kulwin time to file his papers if he is still interested, or allow for others who may decide to run.
If the four appointments are made as expected Dec. 18, the four can be sworn in and begin serving immediately.
However, if Kulwin does not file qualifying papers in January, his service would end in March — unless no one else files and the commission were to reappoint him to the seat.
Satter hedged at the November meeting about whether he would resign.
“I would not comply with Form 6. So, if I decide to stay, I would just willfully not comply,” Satter said at the time.
But he is now set on leaving after the Dec. 18 meeting.
“Given how things have fallen into place, I think we’ve found some good candidates,” Satter said. “I feel much more comfortable that we’ve left the town in good hands.”
Once Satter’s resignation takes effect, the commission would be able to appoint someone to finish his term, which ends in March 2025, Davis said.
Some of those resigning are still willing to volunteer time if needed. Rosen, a former member of the Architectural Commission, said she would be willing to return to that board and replace Knobel, a current member who will have to step down if he is appointed to the Town Commission.