Concerns about an effort to drum up funds for a Fair Haven government employees’ holiday party prompted Borough Administrator Mary Howell to issue a letter telling business owners there are no repercussions for declining to contribute.

Because of “miscommunicated” information, “some business owners are under the impression that there would be negative consequences if donations were not provided,” Howell wrote to the Fair Haven Business Association last Friday. “That is simply not the case.” (Click letter above to enlarge.)

Howell writes that for the past two holiday seasons, the borough has solicited contributions for staffers …

to express appreciation for their work and dedication throughout the year. In light of the fact that the Borough cannot finance such an endeavor, we reached out to local businesses to ask for possible donations of their services as gift certificates and the like if they were so inclined.

Unfortunately this request has been miscommunicated.

“While businesses are welcome to join in the efforts to thank the staff,” she wrote, “there is absolutely no requirement to do so.”

We sent Howell an email asking her about the nature of the miscommunication, but didn’t hear back from her.

We also didn’t hear back immediately from Michele Berger, who heads the association and to whom the the letter was sent, about the nature of concerns that had been raised.

One local store owner, though, told redbankgreen that the solicitation “is probably an illegal request.”

Mayor Mike Halfacre said that Berger told him that “he had heard some grumbling that this was some sort of subtle quid pro quo.

“To the extent that anyone took it that way, it’s a big mea culpa,” Halfacre said. “We don’t ever want to give the impression that there’s any quid pro quo. To the extent it could be taken the wrong way, I’m sorry. I’ll take the blame.”

Halfacre said this is the second year that the solicitation was made for an employee party. He said the event is not political and that he and members of the council “were not even invited. It’s intended to be entirely for the employees.”

Last year’s was held at the Nauvoo Grill Club, and he said he believes the same venue will be used this year.

Halfacre said it was his understanding that the solicitation was mainly for gift certificates and other “door prizes,” not for cash, though he said some businesses may have contributed cash. No record of those who decline to contribute is kept, he said.

The borough has 45 employees.

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