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The Battle to Get a Child Sex Offender Off the Proprietary House Board

You'd think things would be tranquil at the only existing mansion for the last Royal Governor of New Jersey 250 years ago. You'd be wrong.


The historic Proprietary House in Perth Amboy was all set to hold a historic reenactment June 16 of the arrest of William Franklin, the last royal governor of New Jersey when it was still a colony.

The event, held for more than two decades, is a big attraction with history buffs, and it always draws a crowd of school children. This year it was to have a special meaning, marking the 250th anniversary of the historic mansion.

But not this year. The event was supposedly cancelled because the Perth Amboy Board of Education ruled the off limits to the district's school children because a convicted sex offender was serving on the organizations' Board of Trustees. 

Kurt Epps heard about the allegations, and he was appalled. Epps has portrayed William Franklin - the son of founding father Benjamin Franklin - in the reenactments at the mansion for 23 years.

"I didn't know if it was true. So I looked up the man's name on the state's sex offender registry. Sure enough, he was there," Epps said.

Sex offender on the board?

Kevin Wenng, 30, of Cliffwood Beach, was the Proprietary House treasurer and a board of trustees member. He is also listed as a Tier 2 registered sex offender in the New Jersey State Police's database.

Wenng was convicted in 2007 of endangering the welfare of a child and with engaging in the distribution of Internet child pornography, according to the NJ State Police database.

When Epps realized that the accusation against Wenng was true, he said he and his fellow reenactor, Gene Hoyas, contacted Jeff Huber, who is president of both the Proprietary House's board of trustees and executive board. 

"This was days before the reenactment," Hoyas said. "Huber never returned any of Epps' phone calls."

Both men were getting upset and angry at what they said was Huber's stonewalling of Wenng's sex offender profile. 

"We have kids here all the time," Epps said. "[Wenng] should've left immediately."

By Friday, the day before the reenactment, Huber returned Epps' phone call. "He wanted to know what was going on for the reenactment on Saturday. He acted as if Kurt had never called him."

'He has rights'

Huber said he "had been aware" of Wenng's sex offender conviction, and that on advice of the board of trustees' attorney, they "had to be careful" how they handled the situation. 

"We didn't want to deprive him of his rights," Huber said. The attorney he consulted, he said, was another board member who is a lawyer.

Wenng had been a member of the Proprietary House Association for "awhile". "He introduced computers to the gift shop. He helped us increase our efficiency," which is why he was chosen to serve as treasurer, Huber said.

Wenng was treasurer for only a month before he was removed, Huber added.

The man "wasn't a docent or a volunteer. He didn't have any contact with children. He was never [at the Proprietary House]," Huber said, adding that the board of trustees holds their meetings at the historic mansion.

Both Epps and Hoyas told Huber that if Wenng wasn't gone immediately, they were dropping out of doing the reenactment on June 16.

Kicked out

Huber, they said, beat them to it. "He said he was replacing both of us in the reenactment with actors," Epps said. "A whole new cast of characters."

The next day, though, an announcement appeared that for the first time in 23 year history of the event, it was being cancelled. 

Insult was added to injury, Epps said, when "People were told it was cancelled because I didn't show up," said Epps. "That was completely untrue."

Meanwhile, Epps and Hoyas kept a watch on the Proprietary House website and noticed that Wenng was still being listed as part of the board and treasurer.

"I've been arrested every year for 23 years," Epps said about his portrayal of the former royal governor during the 20-minute reenactment scene. "Every year, the audience is packed. There are tons of kids. We let them tour the house, and take pictures with us in costume.

"Kids come to this place. We couldn't let him stay, not just because of the [sex offender] conviction, but because of what that kind of publicity could have for the Proprietary House."

Epps finally contacted State Senator Joe Vitale (D-19) and gave him the information. Vitale in turn contacted the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.

Within a day of that, Wenng was off the board of trustees.

Parole violation

"The prosecutor's office found out it was true, and they informed both [Wenng] and the board that he was to leave the organization immediately," Vitale said.

Wenng "was not to participate in an organization involved with children. It was inconsistent with the terms of his parole."

Vitale is a history fan himself, and a huge supporter of the Proprietary House. "This is bigger than any of us. We need to maintain the integrity of the house itself. The house is meaningful to a lot of people," he said.

Both men credit Vitale and the Prosecutor's Office with helping preserve the integrity of the organization and keeping young visitors safe.

"Senator Vitale asked me if I'd agree to do the reenactment" after the Wenng affair was over, Epps said - something to which the man has been obviously dedicated.

But it turns out the entire unpleasantness isn't over yet.

Huber said that the board is mulling over whether the arrest reenactment would be rescheduled. It's also problematic if he will allow Epps or Hoyas to reprise their historic scenes. 

"It's under consideration," said Huber. "I have nothing else to say about it."

Huber, who also serves as township historian in Woodbridge and is president of Woodbridge's historical society, said that they'd be instituting background checks of volunteers from now on.

Hoyas had devoted several entries in his blog to what he called "the shenanigans" of the Proprietary House board.

"The foot-dragging and intransigence on this matter was unbelievable," he said. "Huber thinks he's untouchable. We're not returning until the entire executive board resigns or is replaced."

In this case, it is all about the children, insofar as history is concerned. "You can't keep history alive with only older folks who enjoy the history aspect. You have to keep kids excited," Epps said. "The reenactments and events keep children interested and involved.

"This has to be cleaned up."

V. Wenng June 27, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I am proud of him. He served his time and is rebuilding his life crime free. Call me what you want, it just shows your immaturity. Name calling, how childish. Hope you or nobody in your family ever gets into any kind of situation like this. If you have children, I feel for them. Didn't you read the article, his 1 offense is clearly stated.
So Much to Say June 27, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Society isn't safe if this is how you feel. I'm immature???? Why feel sorry for my children, because they didn't get molested Kevin? Should I bus them over so he can get his cheap feel....YOUR DISGUSTING AND PATHETIC VIRGINIA.
V. Wenng June 27, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Kevin didn't molest anyone. Didn't you read the charge? Yes you're immature and totally incorrect. Get your facts straight. I also find it interesting how you can twist things to suit your view. You even hide behind a false "name" online. But use can use mine in that fashion. I am proud of his progress. He has no interest in touching yours or anyone's children. Society isn't safe from people who hide and use forums to throw around false allegations and scream degrading comments at people to try to justify their point. I will not sink to your level. Use your real name if your mature enough to stand by your comments. Oh and don't use my name ever again. Wonder how you found that out, it's not used here. Is snooping your thing, too? Now that scary for society. Done dealing with your type. Not worth my time. Have a nice life.
So Much to Say June 27, 2012 at 10:11 PM
At least I'm not a pervert. Be proud of your spawn. I am society darling and this is how all of society feels. Now your son is on the front page for all the world to see. Congrats you did a wonderful job mom. LOL
So Much to Say June 27, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Thank you Mr. Epps and Mr. Hoyas for letting the public know what lurks near our children.
V. Wenng June 28, 2012 at 12:01 AM
So Much to Say Isn't that YOUR job as a parent? Thanking strangers (?) for this information, a bit odd. Do you ever go to the House? Perhaps I'll see there at the next event. My husband and I do enjoy the place. We also admire the hard work and dedication of the Board and all the volunteers. Bye
Barry June 29, 2012 at 07:05 AM
Statistics point out, that pedophiles often repeat their crimes. And while it's important to ensure the rights of the convict who has been released from prison and has done their time, it's also crucial to ensure that the rights of our Children (mine and others) are equally protected. For me, that is paramount - to protect our Children - and Society has created laws to help ensure that. Whether or not, we like those laws is not important for this discussion. What is important, is that we abide by those laws and for the ex-con, that they also abide by the rules of parole. Mr. Wenng, I applaud you for staying on the Straight and Narrow, but for those of us who do not know you - we would like for you to abide by the laws of this land and also by the agreement of your release. I hope you continue your progress towards a crime free life.
Barry June 29, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Actually, Mr. Wenng - you did put yourself on the front page. It was your decision to join the Prop. House Board that started this situation which ultimately culminated with the Board of Education issuing a restriction upon Prop. House (because of your past actions with children) which was picked up in a blog by Mr. Epps and Mr. Hoyas. Please do not blame others for your actions. Please do not blame the reactions of others for your actions. Your decisions have consequences. You may not realize what they are at the time of your decisions, but your decisions and actions can have real consequences. All you have to do, is look at your record. To blame others for your actions and decisions is an effort to justify what you've done. Please don't do that. You've broken the law and now, you need to live with those consequences. Please do so gracefully.
Barry June 29, 2012 at 07:27 AM
Lori - statistics point out that pedophiles often repeat their crimes. Statistics also point out, that victims of these crimes are often traumatized for life. While you may have over come your situation, many have not. And while ex-cons do have rights, so do their victims. And all too often, it's the victims Rights, that are trampled upon.
Barry June 29, 2012 at 07:35 AM
Lori - are you telling us that you approve of child pornography and that you are equating child porn. with regular porn?
Barry June 29, 2012 at 07:41 AM
Mrs. Wenng - Mr. Wenng should use better judgement. Because of his past actions, the School Board of Ed placed a restriction upon Proprietary House because Mr. Wenng was a Board member. Trying to be technical in this situation isn't going to help your cause.
V. Wenng June 29, 2012 at 10:58 AM
I would like to claify that Mr. Wenng was not and has never been on parole. That is misinformation. He served his full sentence and was never informed that he was not allowed to be invovled with this organization due to this law that was passed several years ago. There is also a law that prevents other types of offenders from volunteering with children but there is no "list" to easily look them up. Also he had no contact with children anyway. He is employed while the House is open to the public so he's not there. I respectfully disagree with the fact that he put himself on the front page. Once he was informed and clalified that the this law applied to him, he immediately removed himself from any involvement in the House weeks ago. The issue was over except for these 2 man who have other issues with the Board and objection to the running of the House are now using him, along with other things, to attack the House and the people currently in charge of the Association. These men are rehashing a resolved issue for their own personal reasons. The one man's blog makes that clear as he also has makes many nasty accusations against other people there, that the state is apparently not listening to so they have brought their beefs to a newspaper. What makes better news than a sex offender headline to try to get their feelings known. The man's blog is linked in the article. Why? To get their message out. They are bringing the negative press and disrepect to the House.
V. Wenng June 29, 2012 at 11:07 AM
I would like to add that these men do not appear to be dues-paying members which would entitle them to attend meetings and voice their opinions there among other members. They are pretty clear that they volunteer as the "stars" at reactments but I don't understand why they don't attend House meetings as members then they get their information first hand instead of from "a source" who is a member at meetings. Then they would truely know the facts and perhaps get the support they crave.
V. Wenng June 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Barry- Mr. Wenng is not a pedophile. That's a medical term and it does not apply to him. Also the fact is that sex offenders have the lowest reoffense rate other than murderers. As you do not know the facts, which I will not go into here, of his offense, I repeat he is not a pedophile. He has never touched a child and has no interest to. And this not my opinion, it comes from the system's experts and therapists. Yes, I agree that all victims have rights and children need to be protected. Child pornography is most definately wrong in every way. However, he does has rights too. Check the warning on the front page of the Megan's Law website. It is crime to use the information on that site to harass, threaten, intimidate or otherwise misuse the information there. Guess the authorities will determine if his information is being misused. He is following every law that applies to him. Only problem is when a new law is passed and nobody informs him, how is he to know? The same situation applies to the average citizen, if it doesn't make the mainstream news or you don't read the paper, you or I could be breaking the law without knowing it. There is no system to let the public know of new laws. That a major reason, our legal system is flawed including Megan's Law. He places no blame on these men for his offense, just their misusing it for their own agenda.
Barry June 30, 2012 at 11:01 PM
After some research, it appears that the culprit for continuing this saga is Jeff Huber. I am sorry that Mr. Wenng has had to bear the brunt of Mr. Hubers stubbornness. Since I do not know the - "behind the scense" - story, it would appear that Mr. Huber is an idiot, causing much pain that needn't have been. Stitching together the time line, if true that Mr Wenng resigned at the time you say he had - then everything should be gone under the radar. Reading carefully, the articles in the blog and in the Patch - it appears that the only thing that Mr. Epps and Mr. Hoyas truly wanted, at that time, was for Mr. Wenng to step down. Being that Mr. Huber drew the whole scenario out gave cause for Mr. Epps and Mr. Hoyas to further their requests. This is a story that should have gone away, a long time ago. Mr. Huber is inept with the way he has handled this situation. If Mr Wenng stepped down before the reenactment - they were prepared to do the reenactment on that Saturday without any further fanfare. Mr. Huber decided to cancel the event blaming Mr. Epps for this failure. Furthermore, Mr Huber should have indicated to everyone that Mr Wenng had stepped down - instead - Mr. Huber decided to remain silent about this news. Because of this blunder - we now find ourselves where we are. A tragedy for everyone. Is Mr. Huber hiding other things? Well, only time will tell.
Barry June 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Whether a member or not - Mr Huber should have explained to everyone, that Mr. Wenng had stepped down. Had this been done before the reenactment, Mr. Epps and Mr Hoyas would have performed the reenactment and the story would have stopped right there. Instead, Mr. Huber decided that his ego was bigger and better than everyone else. That he did not have to answer to anyone else. This is what happens when people think that they are above everyone else.
Barry June 30, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Thank you for correcting my mistakes. I am sorry that Mr. Wenng has had to bare the brunt of this non-sense. I do hope that Mr. Wenng continues to abide by the laws as we all must. The laws are truly flawed in many respects. I hope that Mr Wenng will try to work with our legislators to try to remedy some of those flaws. Sometimes, you have to be on the other side of the law to see the inequities. Best wishes.
Barry July 01, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Greetings Mr Wenng. I do not know you, so I can not dislike or like you :) I also have friends who are ex-cons, who have served their time - so I get it. It is understood now, that you stepped down on Friday, the day before the reenactment. If I read the articles carefully, even though they were posted well after the fact, you can see the history of the events. It's clear to me, that had Mr. Huber simply apologized and informed the board of ed, the Perth Amboy Mayor and Council and the whole world that you had resigned, things would be different today. The Board would have rescinded their restriction and all would be well with the world. However, Mr Huber, for reasons only known to himself, decided to administer havoc on the world and put reason and fiduciary responsibilities to bed. He did not apologize and he did not inform the powers that be, of your resignation. That's what needed to happen on Friday, the day before the reenactment. Had Mr. Huber been a responsible Officer, he would have done that and averted this debacle. It appears to me, that this was posted on the days it was posted because they were waiting to see what would transpire first. Since Mr. Huber was playing games, and apparently at your expense, the consequences turned out to be as they are. We have Mr. Huber to blame. Apparently, if Mr. Hoyas wrote to the DEP and it may be that others may have been written to as well - Mr Huber may have even cooked his own goose.
Barry July 01, 2012 at 01:44 AM
My error - it was not the Board of Ed, but the School Super who restricted Prop House. Perhaps, we can verify whether or not, the School Super did that or not. I don't believe everything I read on the net - but that's what I have to go by for now. Which is why, I like to get all sides of the story first. :) It's true that the School Super or the Board of Ed can prevent kids from going places during their off hours - their restrictions can carry a lot of weight. Mr Huber, in retrospect - made a huge judgement error by thinking this would simply go away. That no one has any business regarding internal matters regarding Prop House. From history - these things have to be dealt with up front and in an open/transparent process. Whenever you try to hide something - or even give the appearance of hiding something - speculation will always be the worst case scenario. ie. what are they hiding? And since, Prop. House is really a public historical place, the public has a right to know how the organization is handling scandals or even perceived scandals. History shows that when organizations handle these types of situations quickly, openly, honestly and transparently - things blow over quickly. People are willing to forgive. However, when people feel as if there's a cover up, that's when the frenzy begins. All we have to do, is look at Nixon and Watergate, and now - Holder and Obama with Fast and Furious. It's just human nature.
Thomas P. Ward July 01, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Deborah: Thank you for posting this article. I see by the many comments that you reach a good many people in this area. I am a past president of the Prop House and saw these problems developing late last year. In January 2012 the new executive committe took over and it's been down hill since. Refusing to open on weekends for the public, refusing the Wiesnewski/Vitali bills to secure monies for the House's restoration, closing the Tea Room, locking the House to the public for the 4th of July celebrations, driving out long serving dedicated trustees only to replace them with family and friends , many of whom had never been to the House before, all these actions and more forced the Perth Amboy City Council to vote that Governor Christie remove the Executive Board. Let's hope it is not too late to clean house and get the (Proprietary House) soon to be called 'The Royal Governor's Mansion' back on track.
Deborah Bell (Editor) July 01, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Hi, Thomas. Thanks for posting. I understand the Proprietary House is supposed to be open for Independence Day. Is that true, as far as you know?
Truth July 03, 2012 at 02:32 AM
The Proprietary House was banned to school children by the Perth Amboy Superintendent of Schools, Janine Caffrey, on about June 1st. Ms.Caffrey is the top person in charge of the Perth Amboy public schools. The Proprietary House Association Executive Board revoked Thomas Ward's membership, as Mr.Ward had questioned what was going on. Prior to that Mr.Ward was a longtime volunteer with an estimated 1,000 hours of volunteer time per year. The Tea Room itself was closed for minor repairs, but could not tea be served in one of the other rooms? For example, coffee & cake has been previously served in the Breakfast Room & the Drawing Room on numerous occasion. So why not now? Finally, the Proprietary House was started in 1762 & completed in 1764 with the purpose of attracting a Royal Governor. It was originally started by the Proprietors to house then Governor Josiah Hardy, but by the time of its completion William Franklin had been appointed Governor by King George. So, from 1762 to 1776, a period of 14 years, the intent was for it to be a Royal Governor's House. And as far as the Proprietary House not being open on July 4th, well, that's just shameful.
V. Wenng July 03, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Truth- Do you have any proof that Dr. Caffrey issued this ban on or about June 1? We have spoken to several teachers in the Perth Amboy school system and they didn't get the memo. They never heard of this. Besides which the superintendent can't tell children what to do on their own time. Which was this story begins with the cancellation of the re-enactment because of this ban according to Mr. Epps. Nobody has been able to confirm it. I have knowlege of exactly why Mr. Ward was ban from the House. He knows too. Mr. Ward is now very involved with MoPA, so I'm sure his volunteer work is being appreciated there. I wonder if their historic buildings are open to the public on the 4th for tours. Again, the Proprietary House is a all volunteer organization so it's impossible to force people to be there. Yes, it was actually a royal governor's residence for a short period of it's long and rich history. It's listed as open today, so the public can certainly take a tour and learn there is so much more to the House in addition to William Franklin's living there and arrest. Happy 4th of July to all.
Truth July 03, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Yes, Ms.Wenng, as I personally spoke with Dr. Janine Caffrey, Superintendent Of The Perth Amboy School. Now, please let me ask you a question. Since the inception of the Proprietary House Association, the procedure for prospective new Trustees has been to submit a complete "bio", submit to an interview, & have a personal recommendation of at least one current Trustee. Did your son, Mr.Wenng, go through this procedure? And if not, then why? And if he did, then who conducted this procedure? Thank you in advance.
V. Wenng July 03, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Fine, that's what you say, however, who are you and why should I believe you? Did you inform the House of your reliable information or did she? I prefer to receive my information from the source or an independant unbias person. You seem to know so much about procedure and again why would I answer a complete stranger about personal information. I will not. A "bio", what someone's life story from birth? How about we start with who you really are because I would think that if you were a current Trustee or member, you would know the answer.
V. Wenng July 03, 2012 at 06:46 PM
7 people total are commenting on this article including yourself. It is basically become a question and answer session. With some asking personal questions without truely identifying themselves. BTW, since you ignored Ms. Bell question, I expect you'll ignore mine but are since you are involved with MoPA, are your historic buildings open to the public for tours tomorrow, especially since I read that several important events happened at them? Your Facebook page is most definately not helpful or informative. Thank you
V. Wenng July 03, 2012 at 07:27 PM
You say you spoke to Dr. Caffrey, "on or about", all well and good. Who are you and why should I should believe you? Did she inform anyone at the House, "on or about"? You seem to know alot about the House's procedure. Are you a Trustee or a member? If are a current member, you would know the answer to that question. This has gone on long enough with bash the House and him. Especially by people who seem to have gripes with the current Board. A "bio", you mean his life story from birth? There are so many false stories right now, it's all just bringing negative attention to the House and now you want a detailed history of his involvement. He is no longer associated in any way with the House and hasn't been for awhile. However, he and the rest of my family will continue to admire the dedication and hard work of the volunteers. Hubby and I are looking forward to our next visit. The House just continues to improve and get better with each visit we make lately. Good day.
V. Wenng July 03, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Why are my comments getting deleted?
Joe July 04, 2012 at 07:52 PM
July 4, 2012 Armed State Park Police opened up the Proprietary House for visitors, under the direction of the City Of Perth Amboy, who will soon be taking over the Proprietary House.
Al McDorman September 18, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Of the Bridge jumper in Point Pleasant, you commented, “What a LOSER.Couldn't even get suicide right.” If "society" all agrees with your HATE down in Ocean County, I suppose an educated dialogue may be something new to you. Rest assured your 1st Amendment Right to spew hate will be upheld.

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