SOMERSET, NJ: Franklin Councilman At-Large Rajiv Prasad is stepping away from his position on the council for an undisclosed amount of time.

At the Oct. 9 council meeting, Township Clerk Ann McCarthy read a statement from the councilman, who was not in attendance.

“After consulting my colleagues on the council I have decided to spend a few weeks away from council business so that the council may focus on the Franklin Township agenda,” Prasad said in the statement.

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Prasad cited “recent events in the news” and the “distractions” these events caused as the reason for his temporary departure. According to the statement, Prasad’s family and business were impacted as well.

Related article: This is How You Can Get Involved In Franklin Township’s Local Government

Controversy enveloped a proposed memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi during the Sept. 13 council meeting as residents and other council members criticized Prasad for the project’s lack of transparency and his derogative comments about the town’s Republican residents.

At that time, according to Prasad, there was a total of $80,000 donated to the project. However, after the uproar from the community, one donor was refunded his $65,000 donation, leaving the project in limbo with much less money to work with.

“The community foundation has met and we returned the $65,000 that was donated by one person and that leaves somewhere between $14,000 and $15,000,” said Mayor Phillip Kramer on Tuesday. “With that money in flux, it’s a little hard to discuss what should happen with a citizens’ committee as far as the memorial, so I’m going to be looking for input in the future from people about that.”

The council also declared October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the meeting and presented a partnership between Sister2Sister, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting minority and underserved breast cancer survivors, and the Franklin Police Department.

Sister2Sister and the police department will be working together this month to raise money and awareness for local women living with breast cancer.

“We work so hard all year trying to bring awareness to breast cancer,” said Sister2Sister President Dorothy J. Reed. “It’s unfortunate that minorities and underserved women die more of breast cancer. If they need help, or they don’t have insurance, [we hope] that they will contact Sister2Sister because we’re here to help them.”

Additionally, Township Council members unanimously passed an ordinance creating an “Online Exchange Zone” in the parking lot in front of the police station.

The ordinance seeks to create a safe and neutral place for residents to make transactions initiated online at websites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. While no police personnel or township staff will witness or supervise transactions, the parking lot is well-lit and under 24/7 video surveillance.

“Given the rise of internet transactions, the idea is to put spots in the municipal complex that can be monitored by the police department. It’s clearly stipulated that the police are not involved in the transaction, it’s a safe neutral meeting place that will be monitored by the public safety building. Hopefully this gives residents a little more ease when meeting with people they might try to do business with,” said Councilman William Galtieri.

TAPinto Franklin Township is independently owned and operated by  Malik A. Lyons FHS Class of 93’ Graduate. 

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