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Helmetta Business Administrator Resigns Amid Animal Shelter Controversy

Herbert Massa Submits Resignation as Borough Suspends Shelter Directors Pending Termination
Helmetta Borough Council
Mayor Nancy Martin's chair was empty for two consecutive meetings of the Borough government. YouTube

HELMETTA, NJ—Herbert Massa, the administrator for the Borough of Helmetta, submitted his resignation for approval at a November 26 Borough Council meeting.

Massa's resignation is the latest in a series of resignations and suspensions that come amid a storm of allegations against the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter, a facility that the town borrowed nearly $2 million to construct.

The shelter once had as many as 20 towns in Middlesex and Monmouth County signed up to use the facility as their official kennel for Animal Control purposes, including New Brunswick.

But the Hub City and several other communities have pulled out of their contracts, after a November 13 raid by the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) and a county Department of Health quarantine that remains in effect today.

According to NJ.com, Helmetta officials passed a resolution granting the NJSPCA receivership of the shelter for 90 days.

The NJSPCA had threatened to take legal action against the Borough of Helmetta if receivership of the shelter was not granted to them.

The Borough Council also decided, by a vote of 3-2, to suspend shelter director Michal Cielesz and shelter assistant director Richard Cielesz without pay, as well as file for the termination of their contracts.

The husband and wife had been a main focus of activists who have been protesting against the shelter, blaming them for  poor conditions and mismanagement of the embattled facility.

During the public portion of the Council meeting, members of the "Reform Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter" group spoke out against Helmetta mayor Nancy Martin and her connection to the Cieleszs.

Residents also called for the resignation of Mayor Martin, who was not at the council meeting.  She has not responded to those calls.

Both Martin and Massa were also absent from a special Council meeting held on October 29, as well as the November meeting.

On October 22, the Borough Council accepted the resignations of the Borough's CFO, Public Works and Animal Control Officer, and Animal Control and Animal Cruelty Investigator, 

Massa's name still appears on the Borough's website as the Business Administrator. A phone message left at his number was not returned.

While Borough officials say they are advertising the Business Administrator job, no such advertisement appears on the Borough website.  Currently, three positions are posted: Animal Control Officer, Animal Shelter Assistant, and Animal Shelter Volunteer.

Over the last couple months activists have been accusing the shelter of committing animal cruelty and breaking various laws.  Employees of the shelter, including the shelter veterinarian, have also spoken out against the practices of the shelter.

The whole ordeal began this summer when a viral video led to the resignation of Helmetta police officer Richard Recine.

Recine was captured on video telling a man investigating problems at the shelter that the Constitution no longer applied in America because President Obama had "decimated" it.

The man and his daughter are tossed from the municipal building by Recine and Police Director Robert Manney.  But they got the last laugh, as Recine was forced to resign and a national spotlight was shined on the tiny town's troubled shelter.