Guest Post: “The Morality Problem Lurking Below the Surface in Lakewood”

This is a guest post from Thomas G. Gatti, a Lakewood resident and supporter of municipal and educational equity. Gatti is a media consultant and former Chief Operating Officer of the College Television Network. He was previously COO of  DIR Broadcasting and an executive at Eastman Radio.

(For those of you new to Lakewood’s history of shortchanging non-ultra Orthodox schoolchildren and residents, see here, here, and here. For complete NJLB coverage, click here.)

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 I cannot even think of the words to express my shock that the adult Orthodox community in Lakewood has enough nerve to think there is any excuse for STEALING FROM and CHEATING the government. To use the stress and pressure under which the ultra-Orthodox live is an even bigger joke.

Do people realize the stress and pressure on people living on fixed incomes? I am referring to the seniors in particular, but I don’t think any seniors have been arrested. If you add to these arrests, the head of School for Children with Hidden Intelligence being accused of embezzling over $600,000.00, plus the beeper guy pleading guilty to at least one charge of illegally funneling money, plus all the LLC’s using his address, one would think there is a morality problem lurking below the surface in Lakewood.

If, in fact, the ultra-Orthodox community in Lakewood is as tightknit a community as they claim to be, one would think that members themselves would be reporting these abuses. Asking the citizens of Lakewood to believe no members of the VAAD (the town’s power brokers) did not know this was happening, is asking for an unrealistic leap of faith.  Unfortunately, all of these recent occurrences have just created a dark cloud over the ultra-Orthodox community in Lakewood. I think one of the ways to eliminate that dark cloud would be if members of the Orthodox community openly cooperated with law enforcement, starting by reporting illegal events.

If when you fill out your income tax and you know you have made $100,000.00 that year, yet you write in $40,000.00, what can you possibly call that?? A seminar to explain to educated people that’s a crime and illegal……ridiculous, and an insult to the citizens of Lakewood…..including the vast majority of honest Orthodox who have not committed this fraud.

I can only hope law enforcement continues to root out the dishonest people that are stealing from us all, so the town can get past this and begin healing.

If the VAAD is truly interested in stopping these crimes, why have they not offered more than just excuses and help to these people so they understand that they are committing a crime they could go to prison for?

The high-density building trend has put us all at risk because the infrastructure is so dramatically outdated. Traffic congestion also puts us all at risk, because emergency services have openly testified they can not get to emergencies in time because of the traffic. The ultra-Orthodox-controlled Board of Education can’t balance its budget and the “busing consortium,” which was supposed to be accountable to residents and public school families, is one of the biggest jokes in town.

In my opinion there is not sign that things will get any better before they get much worse.

What do you think?

One Comment

  1. Mr. Gatti —

    I disagree with you that there is any morality problem in Lakewood, not more than any community elsewhere in the country, I offer another thesis.

    People adopt the ethical standards of those around them, or perhaps, just below. If you believe your neighbors aren’t cheating on their taxes, you won’t either. To keep the system working requires the occasional morality story — the newspaper article about the movie star disciplined by the IRS, for example. When there is no outside force reminding us to stay honest, the standard goes down.

    Put yourself in the position of the IRS examiner, prosecutor, or state school board executive. How much would you like to start a probe into a “tight-knit” religious community? You can anticipate the cries of targeted enforcement, a polite way of saying religious intolerance.

    You can read the IRS standards for a church here (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf). You can Google for instructions on how to turn your home into a church or synagogue. Apparently some people in Lakewood did. Six percent of the properties there are tax-exempt. In next-door Toms River, it’s one and a half percent (http://www.app.com/story/news/local/jackson-lakewood/lakewood/2015/10/09/tax-exempt-orthodox-property/73641878/).

    If your neighbor is getting away with it, why shouldn’t you? I’m not surprised that there’s no self-policing. I’m ashamed that the government we pay so much for is not being even-handed.

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