July 22, 2005

"Aloha" to Union County Taxpayers

Last week five freeholders, our 'appointed' County Manager who happens to be State Senator Raymond Lesniak's nephew, and our trusty Clerk of the Board who runs the office that wracked up nine Open Public Records Act complaints and has been placed on the state's 'Matrix' list to be watched closely to make sure the county complies with the law, traveled to lovely Honolulu Hawaii on the taxpayers' dime.

That's a silly saying isn't it? You can't even make a phone call for a dime anymore. The sad reality is that this Hawaiian vacation had to have cost Union County taxpayers thousands. I will request the records and wait until the county forks them over or until the state forces them to comply with the law, to report down to the last 'dime' what it cost. From experience, I predict it will take months to get the truth out of the county.

I was curious about this trip since I hadn't heard or seen a word written about it up until now, so I checked out the county website to find some PUBLIC INFORMATION about it. But, there were no press releases regarding the upcoming delegation being sent to Honolulu, no information as to why they needed to attend this conference, and no pictures of freeholders doing the hula with the locals.

Did the county think they could sneak off seven people to Hawaii without anyone noticing? Well, they almost did just that. Kudo's to Worrall Newspapers for a great investigative reporting piece.

Since our taxes have gone up 50 percent in the past five years and the budget has gone over the $400 million mark, I hope this conference taught these county officials a thing or two about what they are doing wrong and how to implement desperately needed changes to fix the problems. But Mai pa'a kou hanu. Or as we say in Union County, don't hold your breath.

Reported in Worrall Community Newspapers July 21, 2005
Aloha to NACo conference

By Lauren DeFilippo Staff Writer
On Friday, county officials from throughout the United States descended upon the city of Honolulu, Hawaii.
They were there to take part in the annual National Association of Counties conference.
The conference, which started Friday and ended Tuesday, invites county officials to meet others in similar positions and share ideas.
According to the Union County Department of Public Information, the county has been a member of the organization for more than 20 years and this year sent its smallest delegation ever with seven members to try and keep costs down.
Registration for the conference ranges from $ 415 to $ 600, depending on when arrangements were made.
According to Public Information Director John Salerno, Clerk of the Board of Freeholders Nicole Tedeschi said that money was saved by registering delegates early and various airlines offered rebates. Tedeschi also said room rates near the conference were comparable to those from other conferences.
Salerno said each department has sub- accounts for covering costs associated with training and other travel expenses in their individual budgets.
The Union County representatives included County Manager George Devanney, Tedeschi, and five freeholders — Chairman Rick Proctor, Vice Chairman Alexander Mirabella, Angel Estrada, Chester Holmes and Adrian Mapp.
"By not participating, we would short- shrift the county on grant information, the latest technology and the opportunity for the freeholders to network with officials involved in county government throughout the county," Salerno said.
Topics under discussion for the conference include community development, homeland security, and even a few sessions entitled, "Running Your County", which cover budgeting, retirement planning, and administrative processes.
Salerno said NACo rotates its host city selections by choosing a East Coast city, then a West Coast one, and then, one in the Midwest. In previous years, the annual conference was held in cities like New Orleans and Phoenix. The 2006 conference is scheduled for Chicago.