The Courier, Thursday, August 30, 2007   Page 5,     Middletown , New Jersey

‘Equalizers’ defeat Middletown in federal case

But has the township complied with components of the settlement?


It took three years for David to defeat Goliath in  Middletown.

But in this case, however, "David" is Leonardo resident Carolyn  Schwebel and Aberdeen resident  Carmena  Caivano  Stoney. "Goliath," of course, is Middletown Township. The duo filed a complaint against the township in 2004 based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Schwebel said she had been lobbying for the township to upgrade some of its facilities to include features that were more accessible to the disabled. Both her and  Stoney are members of "The Equalizers," a local advocacy group that has been taking similar measures throughout the  Bayshore. The group has won additional cases against Red Bank and Keansburg through complaints filed with the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Although an initial settlement was reached in February of 2006,  Schwebel said it was "essentially ignored."

"We had been struggling ever since then," she said. "They were supposed to look around the town and see what's wrong, write up a plan and fix everything. That should have been done by January of 1995. It's very frustrating."

Schwebel said a new settlement reached in July enforces the previous settlement. According to a press release issued by "The Equalizers" on August 14, the township was required to appoint an ADA (Advocated for Disabled Americans) [Americans with Disabilities Act]  coordinator, publish the settlement on its Web site, and draft and ADA transition plan that addresses accessibility needs throughout the township from people with disabilities.

Further, progress reports were required to be made to the plaintiff's every 60 days. Failure to comply with the terms of the settlement results in a $10,000 fine each time the township does not meet the stipulated deadlines.

"I am pleased that there will be increased accessibility for all in Middletown,"  Schwebel said, "and for the children and adults with disabilities and the many dedicated veterans who will better be able to access and enjoy the facilities of their town."

Township Administrator Robert Czech said the town has indeed complied with all of the stipulations that were implemented as a result of the settlement. However,  Middletown's Web site,, suggests something different.

A notice posted on the site on August 15 simply states that the township has designated its  EEO officer to serve as its ADA compliance officer. The site mentions nothing of the settlement, which according to  Schwebel, is in violation of the agreement.

"They should've posted the actual settlement on the Web site as well," she said. "Hopefully, they will follow through with this now. I like the idea of a financial penalty in the settlement because it lets the public know that these shortcomings are costing the township."

Schwebel did not specify if she would take further legal action against the township if the entire settlement is not posted in the near future.

In a prepared statement issued via e-mail through Public Information Officer Cindy  Herrschaft, Czech stated that the township follows all necessary ADA regulations and did not ignore any area of the settlement.

"The township does take steps to assist disabled residents as evidenced by the fact that accessibilities to facilities required to be used by the public are in compliance," he said. "The township did not ignore issues raised in the lawsuit as evidenced by the remedial work that was done and completed both at the library and other township facilities."

The administrator added that Middletown spent $45[,ooo] on legal fees related to this matter. He said the funding was taken from the 2007 site budget.

Schwebel said "The Equalizers" are a small, yet effective group that has been tackling numerous accessibility problems throughout the area.

For more information on "The Equalizers" visit

[Edits by webmaster noted in red]