SOMERSET, NJ – After 13 years on the dais in Franklin Township, Rajiv Prasad said his goodbyes at last night’s council meeting.
The meeting marked the end of his four-year term as council-at-large and he did not seek reelection in November. He did, however, announce a run for mayor – setting up for a primary showdown with Mayor Phillip Kramer – but dropped out of the race in April. In January, Democrat Sivaraman "Ram" Anbarasan will take Prasad’s place on the council.
“I tried to serve in my own human way,” Prasad said. “Though I may have had faults, I did the best I could. To that, I have no regrets.”
State and local officials lauded the long-time council member for his contributions to the township since initially being elected in 2006. A few officials and some community members gave gifts to the departing councilman. Councilwoman Kimberly Francois – who was elected alongside Prasad in 2006 – gave him a picture she unearthed of the pair being sworn in 13 years ago.
Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-Somerset) presented Prasad with a commemorative plaque to thank him for his years of commitment to the township. Though some of those years were difficult, Danielsen said “the bulk of our time was extremely successful for the betterment of the people of Franklin Township.”
Much of the difficulty in Prasad’s career came in the last year. The controversy over his handling of a proposed “Peace and Nonviolence Memorial” brought increased scrutiny of his behavior and allegations that he attempted to influence municipal court cases and the outcome of parking tickets. The controversy stemming from the memorial ignited a recall effort pursued by a group of residents calling for his removal. The recall ultimately failed, but some residents continued to call for his ouster for months.
Prasad’s troubles culminated in the council censuring him for his behavior last December, saying his actions were “improper for a person in his position.”
Upendra Chivukula, the commissioner of the state board of public utilities who originally encouraged Prasad to run for council, said the risk of upsetting people is what makes public life daunting.
“You can’t please everybody and you’re going to do something to upset somebody, but as long as you keep the public in the front of public service, you should be commended for that,” Chivukula said.
Assemblyman Danielsen told Prasad to focus on his accomplishments rather than his controversy. He praised his ability to bring people together and thanked him for educating him on some of the many cultures, religions and languages that make up Franklin Township.
“Allow me to remind you, councilman, that you have many righteous accomplishments that only you own and only have your name on it,” he said.
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