Here's the letter to the editor I wrote to the Asbury Park Press, which published it today:
From the Asbury Park Press
January 29, 2009
Ex-official arrogant in attack on prosecutor
Making his case that Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin had no right to put his family in his official vehicle may have been a problem for former Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Harry J. Conover, Jr., especially since municipalities are letting their employees take their vehicles home. ("Double standard in the courtroom," Jan. 23.) But the fact that he tried underscores an arrogance that shouldn't be ignored.
What's astonishingly easy to prove is that Conover put lives in danger by vouching for Asbury Park's emergency management plan. At the time of his suspension in 2007, his Web site claimed he had 100 percent of compliance in Monmouth County. But the Asbury Park plan at that time was a stack of white, unbound pages rising 3 to 4 inches off a table, some of which contained the names of defunct companies, outdated phone numbers and dead people to contact in case of a disaster. The section on how the public was to be evacuated was missing.
In fact, the only evacuation sign in Asbury Park, at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Route 35, directed people north on Route 35, which is contrary to State Police directives that people in this area not use that corridor. Doing so would potentially block cars trying to head west. Despite this, Conover's Web site said all municipalities in Monmouth County were in compliance, which raises the question: How many communities actually were prepared for disasters?
If Conover, in classic Club Monmouth fashion, allowed this on his watch, he may be more than arrogant — he could have been subject to criminal negligence charges.
Note: I expect to have the electronic file of the city's Emergency Managment Plan from Fire Chief Kevin Keddy any day now. Chief Keddy returned my phone call, leaving a v/mail that he is checking with the various parties responsible for contributing parts of the plan, called "annexes", which would include the annex for evacuation plans. As soon as the annex preparers have signed off on the plan, I'll be able to collect the electronic file from the Fire Dept., using a flash drive, and hopefully load it onto this site for your review and to refer to for emergencies.