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Web Special, May 29

Local officials questioned by prosecutor's office

Senior Staff Writer

Some Highlands councilmen opened their door to a surprise last week: an officer from the Monmouth County prosecutor's office.

Councilman William Caizza said an official stopped by his house late last week and left a card to make an appointment for questioning. Caizza said he is awaiting instructions from his attorney.

"We know what it's about: the bridge. I am not worried because none of us did anything wrong, from the ex-mayor for the rest of us," Caizza said.

Councilman Frank Nolan confirmed that he was also visited by a member of the prosecutor's office, received a card, obtained a lawyer and has called to make an appointment.

Some residents have called for the prosecutor's office to further investigate dealings with the borough and the Department of Transportation regarding the replacement of the Highlands drawbridge with a fixed-span structure.

Urgings for an investigation increased after an April 1 charge against a 22-year DOT employee for allegedly forging a signature on an agreement of sale for a land transfer between the borough and the state agency.

The county prosecutor's office would not confirm an investigation in the borough or that any municipal officials had been approached.

Although Councilman John Urbanski has not received a visit, he said he obtained an attorney. Urbanski also assumed the questioning would be related to the Route 36 bridge replacement and echoed Caizza's sentiments about the situation.

"It is really a shame it has gone to this point. There is no wrongdoing. I don't believe anybody up there volunteering their time had malice or criminal intent at all," Urbanski said.

Urbanski noted the responsibility of the borough professionals to straighten out any paperwork or liabilities, specifically after the council voted to pass something.

Councilwoman Nancy Burton and former Mayor Richard O'Neil did not return calls by press time.

Urbanski pointed out that the borough would pay for the individual attorneys representing the council members during the questioning, since it relates to their council duties.

Borough Clerk Nina Light Flannery said she could not discuss the attorney payment process, as it had never happened in the borough before. She added that if it had happened it would have been in executive session and she would not be allowed to talk about it.

Borough Attorney Joseph Oxley did not return a phone call regarding the borough's stance by press time.