More Strange Justice: A Warning to Public Servants

By Art Gallagher

Last November I wrote Strange Justice, a piece about my observations of the criminal sentencings of former Brookdale Community Community College President Peter Burnham and former Eatontown Detective Philip Emanulle.

Both men were charged with Official Misconduct. Burnham pled guilty to the Official Misconduct Charge and to Theft.  He charged $24,000 on the college’s credit cards for personal expenses over an eight year period and used a $20,000 federal grant for his son’s tuition at Monmouth University for personal use after Brookdale had already paid the tuition. In addition to Official Misconduct, Emanuelle was charged with Sexual Assault, Criminal Coercion and Tampering with Evidence.  The Sexual Assault and Official Misconduct charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. Emanuelle pled guilty to Coercion and Tampering.  Emanulle got five years probation.  Burnham was sentenced to five years in prison with the stipulation that he serve at least two years before he is eligible for release.

Burnham is in State Prison now.  A mutual friend tells me prison has not been easy for Burnham.  That is an understatement.   It hasn’t been easy for his family either.  Burnham had already lost his job and pension.  What was unexpected by his family is that he also lost his Social Security Benefits as a result of his conviction.

On January 8, Marlboro resident Mark Trawinski was sentenced to five months in prison for tax evasion.  Between 2002 and 2008, Trawinski didn’t pay the employment taxes withheld from his employees wages or the business’s employment taxes. He beat the government for $713,759 and used the money in part to purchase a $1 million home in Florida that he tried to hide from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the IRS.   In addition to his five months in prison, after Trawinski is released this spring he will be confined to his home for five months and he will undergo three years of supervised release.  He must also pay back the $713,759 to the IRS.

Why is Burnham doing two years hard time for stealing $44,000 while Emanulle got off with probation for Sexual Assault and and Trawinski got five months  for stealing $713,759?  Official Misconduct.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: January 18th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Brookdale Community College, Crime, Hurricane Sandy, Law Enforcement, Monmouth County Prosecutor, Peter Burnham, Philip Emmanuelle | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Strange Justice

Two former public servants were in Judge Thomas F. Scully’s courtroom this morning to be sentenced for crimes to which they had negotiated plea bargains.

The courtroom was crowded for former Eatontown detective Philip Emanuelle’s sentencing.  On one side of the gallery were Emanuelle’s wife, and many supporters.  On the other side was the 25 year old woman who said she was raped by Emanuelle while he was armed, the woman’s family and many supporters.   The tearful and tragic emotion in the room was raw.

Emanuelle, 33, of Brick Township, served in the Eatontown Police Department for eight years.  He was charged with one count of Sexual Assault, two counts of Official Misconduct, a count of third degree Criminal Coercion and a fourth degree count of Tampering with Physical Evidence.

The Sexual Assault charge and the Official Misconduct charges were dismissed as part of his plea agreement.  He was sentenced to five years probation, the loss of his job, and prohibited from public employment for life for the Criminal Coercion and the Tampering with Physical Evidence charges.  Emanuelle left the courthouse with his family and friends.

A different and smaller crowd was in the courtroom a short while later.  There were no tears shed by former Brookdale Community College President Peter Burnham or his family. Burham quoted Kipling’s The Road Less Traveled, while pleading with Scully to give him a lesser sentence than the one to which he had already agreed to serve.

Burnham, who presided over Brookdale for more than two decades, pled guilty to stealing roughly $44,000 from Monmouth County’s community college;  $24,000 in charges for personal expenses to the college’s credit cards over an 8 year period and $20,000 in tuition reimbursement for his son that had already been paid for by the federal government.   He was sentenced to five years in State Prison with no eligibility for parole for the first two years. Burnham was taken into custody after sentencing.

Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor, Christopher J. Gramiccioni, described Burnhman as “a king who ruled Brookdale with an iron fist,” a greedy arrogant man compensated very generously with a pay package worth over $300,000 per year who still betrayed the public trust by stealing $44,000.

In contrast, Emmanuelle’s victim graphically described being forcibly raped after she declined to perform oral sex on the detective who was still wearing his gun during the act.  She said another victim had come forth.  Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Schweers told Scully that his office did not believe they had sufficient evidence to prosecute Emanuelle for the other woman’s allegations.

The victim asked Scully to disregard the plea bargain that she agreed to and send Emanuelle to prison.

Scully told Emanuelle that his actions were “utterly hideous.”  The judge repeatedly expressed his shock at the high level of support Emanuelle was receiving from his wife, family and friends. Then Scully gave Emanuelle a longer probationary term than callled for in the plea agreement.

Burnham went to jail today.  Emmanuelle went home.

The fact that these two sentencing hearings occurred back to back is legally irrelevant. While they occurred moments apart, they seemed like alternate realities playing out on the same stage after a brief intermission.

Each case was probably disposed of justly on its own merits.   But viewed together, back to back, by a layman, it seemed that the cop got away with rape while the college president went to jail for a relatively minor infraction.  Burnham’s infraction seemed very minor compared to Emanuelle’s crime. Yet Burnham’s next five years will be much harsher than Emanuelle’s.

Posted: November 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Brookdale Community College, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Court, Monmouth County Prosecutor, Peter Burnham, Philip Emmanuelle, Public Corruption | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Gopal Slams Monmouth GOP, Freeholder Burry, Over Brookdale Scandal

Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal released the following statement yesterday afternoon after former Brookdale Community College President Peter Burnham pled guilty to theft by deception and official misconduct:

“Earlier today, Brookdale Community College President Peter Burnham pled guilty of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money. The web of corruption surrounding this case is just another example of Monmouth County Republican cronies profiting at the taxpayers’ expense.”

“Mr. Burnham, along with Brookdale Community College’s then Board President Howard Birsdall and Brookdale’s Board Attorney John Cantalupo were all close allies and major political supporters of the Republican Party establishment here in Monmouth County. Mr. Cantalupo served as Freeholder Lillian Burry’s close confidant and official Campaign Treasurer in her 2005 and 2008 Freeholder campaigns. In this same time period, Mr. Cantalupo negotiated the terms of Peter Burnham’s lavish Brookdale contracts. This represents a clear conflict of interest, given that Mr. Cantalupo was Freeholder Burry’s right hand man. Perhaps this is why Freeholder Burry sat silently on the sidelines as the truth about Mr. Burnhams theft was being exposed.”

“As a result of the Republican-controlled Freeholder Board’s lack of oversight, student tuition increased at Brookdale Community College while their college president profited immensely. This is what happens when a chief advisor for the Republican Freeholders is negotiating salary contracts on behalf of a College President that is funded by these same Republican Freeholders. It is time for Monmouth County taxpayers to unite against the Good Ol’ Boys Network here in Monmouth County”

Posted: July 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Brookdale Community College, Lillian Burry, Monmouth Democrats, Monmouth GOP, Peter Burnham | Tags: , , , , | 20 Comments »

Burnham Quits. Burry Blasts Him

By Art Gallagher

Peter Burnham resigned the presidency of Brookdale Community College yesterday in a defiant letter to the college board of trustees that touted his accomplishments.  His said his resignation should not be construed as an admission of wrong doing, according to a report in the Asbury Park Press. Burnham said he was confident that his good reputation would be preserved.

Freeholder Lillian Burry blasted Burnham with the strongest language that any official has yet to use to condemn the disgraced college president’s excessive compensation and spending irregularities:

“He disgraced himself in the eyes of his students, in the eyes of his peers, in the eyes of everyone who believed in his vision for Brookdale and every Monmouth County taxpayer,” Burry said. “He has to be held accountable for his actions.”

Burry also backed off her previous support of the college board.

“They did allow this to happen,” she said. “They created the environment that allowed Peter Burnham to become untouchable. Everyone believed in what he was doing and there was no oversight.”

Freeholder Deputy Director John Curley called upon the Board of Trustees to resign, saying that they are policing themselves which is unacceptable.  Freeholder Director Rob Clifton said that he expected that board members would voluntarily resign.

Across the aisle, Democratic Freeholder Amy Mallet was relatively quiet with the APP, deferring to her potential running mate, former Middletown Committeeman Sean Byrnes who ran for Freeholder against Curley in 2009.

The apparent lack of fiscal oversight at Brookdale is probably not unique to the college, Byrnes said Tuesday.

“Hopefully, the county will take this example and, perhaps, consider doing audits and investigations into some of the (other) boards they have ? library, parks,” he said.

Burry met with approximately 45 members of the Bayshore Tea Party Group last evening where she was very well received.  Charles Measley, a GOP county committee member from Rumson and active BTPG member who attends Brookdale was particularly pleased with Burry.  “I went into the meeting thinking Burry was a RINO, but came away impressed by how conservative she really is,” Measley said,  “regarding Brookdale, she told us of Burnham’s departure and assured us that there would be additional house cleaning.”

Barbara Gonzalez, BTPG founder, said that Burry was extremely impressive and that some of the group’s members thought she should run for higher office.

Posted: March 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bayshore Tea Party Group, Brookdale Community College, Monmouth County, Peter Burnham | Tags: , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Brookdale President Suspended

By Art Gallagher

Brookdale College President Peter Burnham has been suspended without pay due to a review of expenses that “revealed significant expenses and reimbursements associated with the President’s Office budget that may not be directly connected to Brookdale or are contrary to Brookdale’s adopted policies governing travel, mileage, and other reimbursable expenses,” according to a news release posted on the college’s website.

Dr. William Toms, PhD, a retired State Police investigator,  has been appointed Acting President of the community college.

Additionally, the Board of Trustees hire an independent auditor to investigate all expenditures made from the President’s Office budget, including all expenses and reimbursements.  The audit is due by the end of March and will cost no more than $12,500.

“We are conducting a comprehensive audit of the President’s Office and will release to the public the  findings as soon as we can.  This is a public institution and everyone from our Freeholders to our faculty to our taxpayers deserve answers,” said Howard Birdsall, Chairman of Brookdale’s Board of Trustees.

“Our highest obligation is to the truth and Dr. Toms is going to lead a very open and transparent process that gets us the answers we need.  If something happened that shouldn’t have happened, we want to know what it was, how it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again.  Dr. Toms has built an outstanding record of achievement during his career and has the perfect skill set to lead Brookdale through the challenges we face,” said Birdsall.

Freeholder John Curley first raised the issue of Burnham’s compensation and spending in a statement to MoreMonmouthMusings on February 16th.

”While I am appalled at the contract Dr. Burnham was given, I can’t help but wonder what other extravagances are in that budget,” said Curley, liaison to Brookdale. “It’s time we go through Brookdale’s budget line by line to see not just what the president is spending, but the other departments as well. A good hard look at waste in all public colleges and universities is long overdue.”

Way to go John!

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Brookdale Community College, John Curley, Peter Burnham | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »