Township Council Under Fire For Genesis Counseling Appointment

Genesis will provide counseling to lower level drug offenders who are not currently offered entry into a treatment program. Residents questioned the selection process.

By Aris Theofanopoulos

Controversy has surfaced regarding the township’s new counseling organization, Genesis Counseling Centers.

Genesis will provide counseling to lower level drug offenders who are not currently offered entry into a treatment program.

At Monday night’s council meeting, numerous members of the community raised questions to Council Vice President Orlando Mercado and members of council regarding how Genesis earned that position.

Genesis was named the official organization after being introduced as an addendum to the agenda during the May 28th council meeting.

“The public could not view the bid. There were no copies at the meeting, and it only took 50 seconds for the bid to pass,” stated citizen Robert Kolakowski.

Council originally introduced the idea of a counselor for the township during the May 5th workshop.

At that time, Council agreed to pay this position through the general fund.

Mercado also stated at this time that the position was to be handled by an individual.

Another point that raised eyebrows from the public: only Genesis applied for the job.

“The role was only available on the council's unfriendly website. It was a tainted procedure” according to Kolakowski.

Council defended its decision.

“It does create pause, but I did not know anything about Genesis before the vote, I do not think anyone here had,” explained Councilman Dan Hutchinson.

The rest of Council concurred.

“I do know someone else that was interested in the position, but the position is part-time, and that would interfere with other jobs. That is why it was limited,” reasoned Councilwoman Tracey Trotto.

When asked how would the public would know if the program will be successful, Police Chief Harry Earle replied, “We are not that far along.”

Earle explained Genesis would be following a three-step program in municipal court.

“Phase one is that the advocate would be in court and the domestic victim would be guided by the advocate, not mandated to do anything,” Earle said. “Phase two would be the judge saying the victim shall be under counseling, followed by recovery.”

Earle elaborated on his initiative known as Project SAVE (Substance Abuse Victimization Effort) earlier this week.

Though some citizens believe Genesis took an underhanded approach to gain this title, they agree that the services they will provide are necessary and much appreciated.

Genesis Counseling is a nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic support, care and education to aid people battling mental illness or attempting to overcome drug addiction.

The program begins as the county battles a growing drug epidemic.

A total of 15 heroin overdoses were reported in Camden County over a two-hour period in March.

Since then, the county hosted a heroin summit in Collingswood on May 19.

The county also began using billboards to spread awareness about the epidemic.

The Camden County Freeholder Board has created a heroin awareness task force, with members to be named next month.

Additionally, a program that was being used in the Jersey Shore that allows law enforcement officials to carry the heroin antidote Narcan has been approved for statewide use.

Pete Heinbaugh June 26, 2014 at 11:55 PM
Alas, there is probably no crime to report. Such is the nature of 21st century American democracy. We have weak campaign finance and disclosure rules. We have outdated, inadequate government reporting/transparency requirements. The rules for awarding contracts and selecting vendors (the so-called 'fair and open process') leaves a LOT of room for abuse, especially when your local government fiercely (even comically) opposes any true pay-to-play reform. So, if your government leaders are so inclined, and if the voters let them get away with it, they can do any number of immoral, corrupt, self-interest things and not commit a crime. So there is really no way around it...its left up to us to pay attention and to elect honest people.
Big Daddy 1 June 27, 2014 at 12:14 AM
It goes beyond the weak laws, such as flagrant bid rigging. Many of the bids are just stage shows where there is a predetermined winner.
Paul J. DiBartolo June 27, 2014 at 08:30 AM
Thank you, sir, may I have another. Gloucester Township should change it's slogan to, "We do business as usual, giving you the usual business."
Bea Coyle June 29, 2014 at 05:20 PM
The comment by Mr.Hutchinson above is hard to believe at best. Can we really believe that they knew nothing about Genesis when it only takes 2 minutes on line to find out that Salvatore Sicilliano Esq has been on the Board of Trustees for the Camden County Democratic Committee and was Vice Chairman for Camden County Board of Ethics. He is also on the Board of Trustees for Genesis Counseling Center .Others like Joe Sambuco also have ties to Camden County Boards and Genesis. So Mr.Hutchinson isn't aware of what goes in Camden County if you wish to believe him.I don't.
Paul J. DiBartolo June 29, 2014 at 07:38 PM
Hutchison has a history of stretching the facts. It's no mystery what's going on in this town and more and more people are seeing the light.


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