It's common for elected officials from different parties to butt heads.
But here in the township, two members of the same GOP party—Mayor Keith Hartman and Councilman Dennis Kleiner—have had a serious falling out, and apparently are not talking to each other at this time.
According to Kleiner, the feud escalated when Hartman accused Kleiner of tipping off a state agency about alleged pay violations by a business Hartman partially owns.
Jersey Shore Pharmacy, the local pharmacy partially owned by Hartman, was the subject of an investigation by the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development on March 28. The agency determined the company owed three employees a combined $53,735.03 in back pay for overtime payment violations.
Hartman said the employees were paid, and that his company conducted a complete self-audit which encompassed all employees going back to 2008. The three employees in question were the only three owed any pay, Hartman said.
"We paid them everything going back to 2008," Hartman said. "We didn't have to do that. We only had to pay them for 2009 and 2010, but we went back to 2008 because it was the right thing to do."
Kleiner said he wasn't the one who dropped a dime on the mayor, and Hartman later learned he was wrong about the accusation.
Hartman later discovered it was one of the pharmacy’s employees who had called the state, which then came in to conduct an audit of the company.
“I apologize for the accusation, but what was I supposed to think?” Hartman said during an interview Thursday night.
Kleiner said the mayor never apologized, even after learning the truth. “I told him it wasn’t me and he told me he would never believe me.”
Hartman said Kleiner has a political vendetta against him, but the mayor wouldn't offer any details.
“Councilman Kleiner is trying to divert attention from more serious issues by trying to make an issue out of what goes on in my private business,” Hartman said.
Township government has been in a bit of turmoil in recent weeks, with the township's longtime business administrator leaving, and the township clerk on leave for what she said was a
, who has worked in the township for 24 years, including a stint in which she served as township manager and business administrator simultaneously, will be leaving the township on July 15 to take a similar position in Asbury Park.
Lisa Tilton recently missed her first meeting since she became township clerk, and hasn't been to work in two weeks while Carol Hackney serves as acting township clerk.
During an interview with Galloway Patch, Hartman also addressed some rumors circulating about his personal life, saying he still lives in Galloway and has the documentation to prove it, and that he is running in this year’s election, “at this time.”
Hartman is one of three councilmen up for re-election in November. Kleiner is not up for re-election until 2013.
Meanwhile, the distrust between Hartman and Kleiner continues to grow.
“I know he said that in anger, but you have to know the facts before you accuse someone,” Republican Party League President Terry Luccarelli said of Hartman's accusation against Kleiner regarding the pharmacy.
Luccarelli said she knows Kleiner is willing to sit down with Hartman to discuss the situation, but is unsure about Hartman.
She said she sent him a text message asking him if he would sit down and talk about the situation, but Hartman didn’t respond.
She said she didn’t call him on the phone because Hartman is going through a lot in his personal life right now.
“I’m going to give him time to think about it, and I think it will work out in the end,” Luccarelli said. “They do have to serve together.”
She said she’d probably give the two “another week” to think about the situation.
Hartman has called Kleiner "Luccarelli's lap dog," and said he feels he no longer considers himself a Galloway Township Republican.
“I’m not concerned,” Luccarelli said. “We always come together. We’re always united and we always work together. They’re not going to allow their differences to affect the way they govern.”