How weak-kneed elected officials destroy towns

This posting is a reprint of a comment that was posted on the Hunterdon county discussion forum under the screen name ExMayorNick on November 3, 2011. The posting was deleted twice by It was posted in response to item #9168 (“Cork owns this forum” by “lessdrama”) and as an elaboration on item #9158 (“Attorney Robt J Benbrook convicted of DWI” by “ExMayorNick”).

In brief, the posting connects the dots between the behavior of attorneys who threaten weak-kneed elected officials, and the habit those officials have of selling out their towns and their taxpayers.

You know, lessdrama, we could perhaps have an interesting discussion or debate, if you had any interest in the issues facing Hunterdon and Clinton Township. But you’re too busy complaining that I’ve got no right to post information, my comments or my opinions — right after you “explain” that the purpose of this forum is for you and others to post yours.

A quick look through your recent posts reveals two things: They’re so nasty they get deleted by, or you’re attacking the messenger while rarely contributing to the substance of an issue. You never bring up a topic yourself.

You don’t think a piece of news about a local attorney belongs here because you don’t like the fact that I posted it. I posted it because a lot of people in the area know [attorney Robert J.] Benbrook. They’ve seen his antics, arrogance and dishonest manipulations in front of boards and town councils. They don’t know he got busted and convicted on a DUI because no newspaper has reported it. Now they know.

If you object to my bringing it up, why don’t you tell us all about Benbrook and why you’re so eager to protect him from his own public record? He’s an officer of the court. He has frivolously sued Clinton Township and other towns with the same gambit every time — threaten, pound them with paper, intimidate weak officials, and get away with it when they cave in to their fear of a has-been lawyer who’s accustomed to “getting away with it” for years. If he was ever a good attorney, he’s been riding that old reputation way too long.

When Benbrook got torn up in court in a recent Clinton Township land use case, it was revealed he doesn’t know how to deal with a town that isn’t afraid of him. Kudos to Clinton Township for mounting a solid defense and winning.

The story you’re missing is a big one: With that case, Clinton Township sent out a signal to opportunistic lawyers and their developer clients — If you want to play, think again before you bluff and bluster, because it’s going to cost you in court. There’s no more free ride for threatening our town. Lots of people got away with ridiculous settlements because past officials were wusses and sold our town out for nothing.

The last attempt at a big-time sell-out was when Tom Borkowski and Jim Imbriaco offered Pulte Homes a landmark settlement deal — the keys to the township. That was the last time town officials rolled over and played dead in the face of a legal threat. What few realize is that there was never any real threat — it was manufactured, then sold to the public by a mayor and planning board chairman who cried the world would end if Clinton Township stood to fight. Turns out the rest of us were right, and Borkowski and Imbriaco were wrong. Those days are gone.

Why is this relevant to Benbrook? Because for a long time he has personified the empty threats that were routinely used to get huge settlements out of Clinton Township. Guys like Benbrook started to believe they had incredible power — and that no one would dare to stand up to them and hold them accountable.

Then a N.J. State Trooper in Blairstown changed all that and busted Benbrook. That’s news.

That’s the story here — and it’s why Benbrook’s DUI conviction is important. It reveals that the breaks he’s been accustomed to are no more. He’s been forced to account. Credit goes to the cop who busted him and to the prosecutor who got the conviction. But no credit to the newspapers that haven’t reported the story.

lokayokel [another screen name on] makes an interesting point. You imbue me with incredible powers. Why is that? “Cork owns this forum.” I make pointed posts sometimes, and people whose public, political actions I criticize may not like it. But I don’t get deleted because I don’t call anyone an Anti-Christ, write about their spouses or kids, or attack them personally. I suspect you get deleted because your posts don’t include much more than the bile you’ve stored up about me — and people get tired of bile.

I didn’t delete the posts you refer to. Someone obviously did — and they succeeded because they have the power of public opinion and public decency. You should spend some time studying the difference between gratuituous personal attacks and substantive discussion and critique of people’s actions in the public forum — especially the actions of public figures.

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