By DON STINE
Former Ocean Township Mayor Terrance Weldon, who was a central figure in the Operation Bid Rig scandal in 2002, died early March 23 at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune after dealing with a prolonged illness. He was 68.
Weldon, a lifelong township resident, admitted to taking bribes from developers while he was serving in office. He eventually spent several years in prison before his release. At this week’s Ocean Township Council meeting officials said Weldon made some mistakes but he was intrinsically a good person and did a lot for Ocean Township.
“Terry did wrong things but that does not mean that everything he did was wrong,” Councilman Richard H. Long said.
Long said he has known Weldon since they played Little League baseball together. And he offered the following quote at the meeting- from William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”
Long said that Weldon admitted what he did and suffered for it.
“He paid the price. But we must also think of the good things he did. He did many good things for Ocean Township and we should think of that as he is laid to rest,” he said.
Township Attorney Martin Arbus echoed Long’s sentiments about Weldon.
“He did a lot of good things in Ocean Township and he should be remembered for that,” he said.
Mayor Christopher Siciliano said that Ocean Township would not look the way it does today if it were not for Weldon.
“If you see something pleasing in town and you like it, it is probably because Terry Weldon did it. Terry had a keen eye for aesthetics and a good vision about what the township should look like,” he said.
Weldon was very involved moving the township library to its new building, to helping to create Joe Palaia Park, and improving other parks in the township.
“Terry was masterful at making improvements in the township. He took the parks, one by one, and invested in them to make them look nice. The split-rail fence and macadam trails at Joe Palaia Park – that’s Terry,” Siciliano said.
And the mayor, like everyone else, knows that Weldon made some great mistakes.
“But, God knows, he did his time – and then some,” he said.
Weldon also was an Asbury Park firefighter rising through the ranks to serve as fire chief. Following his retirement as chief in 2002 he was hired as the Asbury Park city manager serving until his arrest in 2002.
On Oct. 10, 2002 Weldon pleaded guilty to federal charges of accepting $60,000 in bribes from three developers between 1998 and 2001. He remained out of prison on $100,000 bail until January, 2008 while he cooperated with then U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s Operation Bid Rig investigation into public corruption in Monmouth County. He was eventually sentenced to 58 months in a federal prison and fined $20,000. He also lost his $20,000-a-year public pension. The charges for Weldon’s crimes carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents had secretly taped telephone conversations and other meetings between the mayor and the developers. Weldon’s charges and convictions only dealt with his dealings in Ocean Township and not as the city manager of Asbury Park, where he helped negotiate a $1.2 billion oceanfront redevelopment project.
Weldon was the Ocean Township mayor since 1991 and was also the Asbury Park city manager from November, 2000 until he was charged in 2002. Weldon, who was also a member of the Ocean Township Planning Board, admitted in court that he received cash bribes for assisting three developers to secure zoning and subdivision approvals on three projects in the township.
Weldon later admitted that in 2001 he accepted $50,000 in cash from a developer to help get planning board and council approval to build a 75-unit residential development in the township. He also admitted receiving three separate payments, ranging from $2,000 and $3,000 each, from another developer who wanted to build a 328-unit residential development in Ocean Township. He also admitted accepting $5,000 from a third developer who was building homes in the township.
Funeral arrangements by Buckley Funeral Home in Asbury Park are expected to be announced.