(Image: Screen Shot from West Newsmagazine Website)
Political intrigue is often about undue influence, and in a recent story, West Newsmagazine's cup runneth over. In his December 5th story, West News reporter, Jeffrey Bricker, details how a long and drawn out dispute over a private water feature cost Wildwood taxpayers thousands of dollars was settled, for the time being, at the last planning and zoning meeting.
The dispute over Tom and Karen Robert's waterfall has wended its way through years of debate and testing (all of which has shown the water safe) at the behest of their neighbors David and Diane Hudson who claimed that Diane suffered numerous health effects from the water.
In his story, Bricker recounts the numerous private and tax-payer funded tests, which have all failed to find any toxicity to the Robert's lake-water that feeds the landscape feature while costing the city thousands of dollars.
The story notes that Tom Robert's who has been before the zoning commission for years over claims of toxicity by the Hudson's blamed in large part Vice-Commissioner Fran Gragnani's relationship with the Hudsons for what he considered a needlessly drawn out debate. Moreover, Bricker notes that Fran Gragnani, spouse of Dr. John Gragnani, Wildwood City Council member for Ward 1, did not recuse herself when she voted against the recommendation by city planner, Joe Vujnich, to finally permit the ornamental water feature.
(Image: Screenshot from West Newsmagazine's December 5th Story - Italics by West Newsmagazine)
It is not unheard of for a resident to feel unfairly treated if they do not get their way before a commission or board, but campaign contribution records found by Wildwood Matters seems to put credence behind Mr. Roberts allegation.
In 2019, Mr. Hudson, ran unsuccessfully for a Ward 1 Council seat against now Councilman Larry Brost. Initially both candidates tied with the exact same number of votes. Both candidates opted for a June 4th special election, which Brost ended up winning by a wide margin.
During that special election, Larry Brost funded his own race, but Hudson received $1,500 in campaign contributions. Dr. John Gragnani, who also lives in Ward 1, gave a maximum contribution of $325 to the effort.
Also listed, as giving the maximum amount is Pat Kozlowski, who is a neighbor of the Roberts, and along with Dr. Gragnani is perennial critic of Mayor Bowlin.
(Image: Wildwood Matters Archive)
Of course it is not unheard of for a citizen to feel the deck has been unfairly stacked against them, but in Mr. Robert's case, a record of campaign cash lends credence to his claim. It also raises a concern that the City of Wildwood may have been forced to spend money needlessly to fund a personal vendetta.
Don't go jumping waterfalls
Please keep to the lake
People who jump waterfalls
Sometimes can make mistakes
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