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NEW JERSEY: Marmora pastor accused of trying to hire prostitute in November

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Randy Harry & wife Helen welcomed to Trinity United Methodist Church  in November 2011MARMORA – The senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Marmora was accused of trying to hire a prostitute in Millville this past November.

Rev. Randy E. Harry, 51, who came to Trinity as its senior pastor in October, was arrested by Millville police on Friday, Nov. 11 and charged with loitering to engage in prostitution. The News of Cumberland County reported the arrest in its police blotter in its Nov. 14 edition.

In multiple interviews with The Gazette, members of the church, and teachers and parents of students at the church’s nursery school, said questions about the arrest have been met by church officials with an attempt to cover the matter up. Several sources stated that school employees have been told they will be fired if they discussed it publicly.

Many of those interviewed said they were disappointed with the actions of the church, and said it was splitting the congregation apart. They also worried about the effects on the nursery school.

Those who spoke to The Gazette asked for anonymity for fear of repercussions to their jobs or standing in the church.

Teachers at Trinity Nursery School were made aware of the arrest at a meeting Monday, April 16, according to sources. Parents of students at the school are to receive a letter from the school this week.

The Gazette obtained a copy of that letter to parents on Wednesday. It is titled “Rumors concerning the Arrest of Rev. Randy E. Harry” and is signed by Diana Adelizzi, the church’s council chairwoman, and Keith C. Roller, the church’s lay leader.

The letter states that it “has recently been brought to our attention that there exists a record of an arrest for Rev. Harry which can be found on the internet. This information was anonymously brought to the attention of the head teacher of the Trinity Nursery School. Rev. Harry had advised Trinity Church leadership and Cape Atlantic District Superintendent Rev. Paul Maliel as soon as this incident took place. As a result of his arrest, Rev. Harry was charged with a violation of NJSA 2C:34-1.1, Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in Prostitution.

“Rev. Harry has continually maintained his innocence since the time of his arrest and disclosure of the matter,” the letter continues. “Rev. Harry retained the services of an attorney to defend him in connection with this matter. Subsequently, the charge was dismissed and downgraded to a local ordinance violation that in Rev. Harry’s attorney’s words ‘has no greater legal significance than a parking ticket.’”

In a short phone interview Tuesday, Harry said the solicitation for prostitution charge was dropped. He said he paid a fine and likened it to a “traffic violation.”

Harry then said he should not comment on the matter and referred all questions to Adelizzi.

Repeated calls to Adelizzi on Tuesday and Wednesday were not returned. A call to Roller continued to ring with no answering machine picking up.

The letter to parents states that Harry reiterated his innocence at a recent meeting before the Staff Parish Relations Committee of Trinity United Methodist Church. That committee has authority over hiring, firing and disciplinary action against any of the church’s employees.

“As a result of that meeting and the discussion held therein, it was unanimously decided that the Staff Parish Relations Committee of Trinity United Methodist Church would continue to fully support Rev. Randy E. Harry in his vibrant and growing ministry at the Trinity United Methodist Church Marmora and Trinity Nursery School,” reads the letter. “It was also decided that the membership of the church and the parents of the nursery school should be advised of the incident and of our continued confidence in Rev. Harry.”

The letter concludes: “We now consider this matter to be closed and wish to move forward in an atmosphere of positive growth and Love in Christ” and then welcomes questions or concerns by calling Adelizzi or Roller.

Those who spoke with The Gazette said a parent brought the arrest to the attention of the nursery school. The employee who brought that information to the church council was threatened with firing, according to sources.

“The council told them if anyone says anything they are going to be fired,” said a church member who asked not to be named.

This church member said the nursery school is “one of the most respected institutions in the community.”

“What is going to happen to it? Why are they protecting this pastor?” said the church member.

Another person who spoke with The Gazette likened the church council’s reaction to trying to “sweep it under the rug.”

A teacher at the school who spoke off the record Monday said she was afraid to speak Tuesday because of word that teachers would be fired if they discussed the arrest.

Harry has no role in the daily operations of the school, said teachers. The church does act as the sponsor of the school, however, and so is named on its state license.

The Bureau of Licensing, a part of the Division of Youth and Family Services under the Department of Human Services, requires that staff members, the director and the sponsor of a child care facility “be of good character and reputation.” Any conviction or guilty plea by staff members, the director or the sponsor for crimes or disorderly persons offenses must be reported to the bureau by law, according to information from the division.

Failure to comply could result in the removal of the sponsor, suspension, revocation or refusal to renew a child care’s license, according to state law.

Harry’s guilty plea to a local ordinance violation in January probably does not require a report to the Bureau of Licensing, although that could not be immediately confirmed. A conviction for Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in Prostitution would have required notification.