Democrats Vote Out Gop Activist

Posted: January 06, 1988

The two Democrats on the Haddon Township Board of Commissioners, in a 2-1 vote last night, removed from the zoning board the former campaign manager for two longtime Republican commissioners whom they defeated last May in an upset election.

The action effectively ended Robert J. Venuti's 25-year tenure on the township planning board, where he had represented the zoning board. He was campaign manager in two successful elections for former commissioners William G. Rohrer and Richard C. Hardenbergh and current commissioner Gerald J. DeFelicis.

DeFelicis, who supported Venuti last night, was the sole survivor of the all-Republican board when Democrats William J. Park Jr. and Nicholas Laurito defeated Rohrer and Hardenbergh in May.

Although Venuti was not campaign manager in that race, he had run the Republicans' joint campaign four years earlier when Laurito was defeated.

"They're political animals," Venuti, 53, said in a telephone interview after the meeting.

DeFelis explained that Venuti was named to the planning board 25 years ago. Five years ago, he became chairman of the zoning board and represented that board on the planning board. His removal from the zoning board effectively eliminates his spot on the planning board.

Venuti was the only incumbent member of a township board passed over for reappointment last night. All three commissioners voted to rename Alfred Litwack, who has served 10 years on the zoning board, to another four-year term, and Frank Kirsche, who has served more than 20 years on the housing authority, to another four-year term.

DeFelis voted against Venuti's replacement - Stephen Sammut, a vice president at SmithKline Beckman Corp. - and opposed the appointment of Edward Vernon, a Mobil Oil Co. accountant, to the planning board to fill the three- year vacancy left by the death of George Abbott.

The commissioners were unanimous in appointing John Wilson to a two-year term as a planning board alternate, replacing John Tamaski.

DeFelis told Park and Laurito that he did not know enough about Sammut and Vernon, but Park said that DeFelis failed to attend a meeting Monday to discuss the appointments.

Park, who was elected mayor by the other commissioners last year, said after the meeting, "We had people we felt were very qualified. Sometimes changes are in the best interest."

But Venuti pointed to a wide range of civic activities and involvement in Republican politics, including his position as a commissioner on the Camden County Board of Elections.

Conceding that Litwack is also involved in GOP politics, Venuti said, "He wasn't considered an enemy. I was."

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