Signs of trouble between Republicans

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    WEST MILFORD—The split between two of the town's Republican organizations may have grown wider this week following allegations of theft and destruction of campaign signs by opposing GOP supporters. Former councilman Dennis Kirwan is facing charges of theft after an allegation he removed campaign signs belonging to fellow Republicans Ada Erik and Phil Weisbecker. Kirwan was charged with theft by unlawful taking or disposition of a movable property and was due to appear at the municipal court in town yesterday (Thursday June 16) at 5 p.m. The charges were brought by Erik, a recent write-in candidate in the primary election to represent the Republican Party in this November's council elections. It is believed there is at least one witness to the alleged theft. Erik confirmed this week she signed charges against Kirwan and said she was responding to eight telephone calls she received telling her about signs allegedly being removed or destroyed. Erik said, "This is the first time I've been involved in an election and it is a regretful thing that I had to do to a fellow Republican." Erik also alleged that signs belonging to Weisbecker and herself had been run over by a car on Macopin Road and in the Longpond Ironworks area of town. There is a history of political signs being removed and ripped up in town with both Democrats and Republicans on the receiving end of the offence. Erik said she felt the need to take action "It's gone on for years in West Milford that signs get stolen or destroyed but it's time to put an end to it." Erik is Weisbecker's campaign manager for the council elections while in the primary itself Erik received 28 votes for a council seat and one vote for Passaic County Freeholder. In spite of their shared allegiance to the GOP Erik and Kirwan are members of separate Republican organizations in West Milford. Erikis part of the group that calls itself the Real Republicans, to which Weisbecker also belongs. Kirwan is a member of the regular West Milford Republican group and lost his place on the town council in Nov. 2004 to Democrats Robert Nolan and James Warden. Kirwan is now the campaign manager for Carmelo Scangarello who is seeking re-election in November. Weisbecker is a former mayor of the town who was not selected to represent the regular Republicans in the newly introduced partisan council elections in 2003. Weisbecker did, however, unsuccessfully try to gain a seat in that election as an independent. The Real Republicans group was set up by a section of disenfranchised Republicans unhappy with the direction and in particular the leadership of the local party. Despite the split Weisbecker received the nomination from the regular Republicans to represent them in the forthcoming council elections. Kirwan was unwilling to discuss the matter but said on Monday "The West Milford Republican group will issue a full press release probably after the court date. I don't wish to make any comment at this time." Neither Weisbecker nor Scangarello or West Milford Republican Party Chairwoman Doris Ostenhoudt returned requests for their comments on the matter.