September 28, 2005

When it comes to campaign financing “They’re connected to you!"

Campaign Kick-Off 2005 Cost to Union County taxpayers $198,284.00
The mailer depicting a freeholder who is up for re-election which every household in Union County received the week of September 19, 2005, was not paid for by the freeholders’ campaign committee. Neither was the commercial that was contracted to run on Comcast between September 12 through the 25th, featuring the same freeholder.

The four-page, four-color mailer titled ‘Keeping Union County Families Healthy’, cost Union County taxpayers $55,460.00. The commercial with the same health care theme cost $142,824. Bringing this year's taxpayer-funded campaign kick-off media bonanza to $198,284.00.

The county has launched a similar media campaign in September for the past two years. In 2004 the cost of this campaign cost taxpayers $240,830.81; in 2003 it cost taxpayers $296,458.00.

For the past three years I have been keeping track of the county’s spending on mailers and commercials which are all timed around the primary and general elections. The county has defended this spending as need to inform the public about services. Besides the September media campaigns, there are several other mailers sent to residents. There are no 'We're connected to you' mailings or commercials aired during the rest of the year. Apparently the public only needs to be informed about services at election time.

On top of the costs for the production, printing, postage and cable buy, is the consulting fee that the media firm receives for designing and producing these campaigns. The company has a no-bid county contract in the form of a $6,000 monthly retainer ($72,000 annually) for consulting services alone. According to a local news report, this same firm has a $5,000 monthly retainer with the Union County Democratic Committee for campaign consulting.

The result of this moonlighting is that the mailers' design and color schemes are identical and they usually feature the same freeholders. A recipient of these mailers would have to look at the piece very closely to tell if the message is coming from the Democrat freeholder campaign or their Union County government.

The Union County Republican Committee has issued a press release demanding that this commercial be pulled from the air (it wasn’t) and has warned that they will file charges with the ELEC Board if the Democrats don’t claim these expenses on their October election reports as campaign expenditures. If ELEC rules against the Democrats it could lead to their campaign being fined as well as them having to pay back the county for these expenditures.

The Union County Watchdog Association is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Union County monitoring the activity of county government and advocating change to eliminate waste, corruption and incompetence. We will be monitoring these 2005 ELEC abuses closely. If the Union County Republican Committee doesn’t take the promised steps, then we will live up to our mission statement and file the complaints on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Union County.

This is no small sum of money. Over the past three years to date these mailings and commercials as well as consulting fees cost Union County taxpayers approximately $1,439,868.00. This is a lot of money that is being diverted from services and is an egregious abuse of the public trust.

For more information on taxpayer funded mailings, please visit our website at

September 27, 2005

Trip to Honolulu cost taxpayers $18,230.40 (to date)

Although he was only reimbursed for the lowest airline rate, Freeholder Chairman Richard Proctor traveled first class when he was attending to freeholder duties as an attendee of the National Association of Counties (NACo) in Honolulu this past July.

Along with his $29,000 stipend for being a part-time Freeholder, Proctor serves as a part-time health administrator for several municipalities. Perhaps we should all be proud that our public servants can afford to travel in first class at $2,005.30. After all, if we are paying our public servants so well it must be because we the public are well off.

But I’ve never been to Hawaii - have you?

According to his airline flight information, it seems Proctor turned this trip into a 24-day vacation. Minus the days spent at the convention. But then again, did he even attend the convention? According to records obtained though the Open Public Records Act, Proctor's airline flight information showed that he traveled 7/10/05 from Newark to LA, 7/22/05 Monterey to LA, 7/22 LA to Honolulu, 8/3/05 Honolulu to Newark. The actual conference took place between 7/14 and 7/20. Yet Proctor’s flight information shows him in California on those dates. Perhaps he swam between California and Hawaii to save us taxpayers money. If he has video footage of that, I might even vote for him.

On a positive note, I was told that Freeholder Al Mirabella used frequent flyer miles for his airfare. However he had the biggest taxi/food bill weighing in at $405.88.

Freeholders Proctor and Angel Estrada, who are up for reelection, did not hand in expenses as of this date.

Although the county paid for nine people to attend the conference, only seven attended. I was told that the county will eventually be reimbursed for the two cancellations.

From what I could gather, attendees who brought guests along were County Manager George Devanney and Freeholder Adrian Mapp.

Hawaii NACo Expenses - Conference dates 7/14/05 to 7/20/05 (Only 7 of the 21 New Jersey Counties Attended)

Hotel: Seven rooms at the Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu $8,655.72

Registration for NAACO Conference nine people @ $415.00 per person $3,735.00

Attendee Plane Fare/Taxi&Food

Mapp: 785.13/323.38

Estrada: 704.43/N/A

Tedeshi: 661.35/194.87

Holmes: 788.20/104.00

Proctor: 661.35/N/A

Mirabella: N/A/405.88

Devanney: 953.13/258.00

Totals 4,553.59 1,286.13

Grand TOTAL: $18,230.44

According to NACo’s website ( the following are highlights of participating in the conference:

Participate in numerous educational workshops and learning opportunities.

Increase knowledge by participating in NACo’s Advanced Leadership Training Sessions.

Involve yourself in Committee meetings determining the future steps of NACo.

Have the opportunity at the exposition to conduct business with companies that sell products and services to local government.

Take part in the election of new NACo officials – including the NACo President.

Give yourself the opportunity to network with county officials representing 80% of the nation’s population.

September 22, 2005

Schoor DePalma - Pay to Player No More

The Marcus Group is a political consulting firm in Northern NJ. Founder Alan Marcus was quoted in a New York magazine article about James McGreevey and his financial backers. His quote has been appearing on the website,, for months, a subliminal message tucked over to the right serving as a constant reminder of what is wrong with the political system here in NJ. Marcus said “In New Jersey, you contribute money not for access but results. Anybody who doesn’t admit that is lying.”

It appears that one firm, Schoor DePalma of Manalapan, has decided to stop lying, according to an editorial in The Times of Trenton this week. Considered to be one of the “big boys” in the pay-to-play arena, Schoor DePalma is said to have notified its clients, which include municipalities and counties, that they would immediately stop making corporate political contributions and that employees were forbidden to provide or receive meals or entertainment with public officials or public employees.

Pay-to-play is the practice of making sizable monetary contributions to political organizations expecting to be awarded equally sizable contracts for services without the benefit to the taxpayers of competitive bidding. By informing their clients that they would stop making political contributions they have in effect shined a light in the pay-to-play closet.

Between October of 1999 and March of 2004 Schoor DePalma forked over in excess of $2.1 million to campaigns in New Jersey with $95,400 of it going to the Union County Democratic Committee. NJ Elec records indicate that this figure does not include what they have contributed to the campaign coffers of individual UC Democratic candidates for the state senate and assembly. Political contributions made by Schoor DePalma during that five year period fills 110 pages on the Elec Website! It should be noted that DePalma were able to reap over $4.1 million in no bid contracts from the Union County Freeholder board - the reward Alan Marcus was talking about.

Has Schoor DePalma decided to take the high road and rely on their excellent work reputation to secure work? Or perhaps it has just gotten all too confusing for the accounting staff. When one considers that they have to track where the contributions been made and what kind of return they have received on their investment, they may have just said, "enough is enough already!"

But perhaps there is something more going on here. Recently the firm was implicated in a scandal in Ocean County involving a former chairman of that sewage authority and an elected official whom the chairman did not identify. The chairman pleaded guilty to a single count of extortion for accepting a $15,000 kickback from the engineering firm and splitting it with the official. Federal guidelines call for at least a two-year prison term but he hopes that by cooperating with prosecutors he will win a lighter sentence.

DePalma denies any wrong doing and in a statement said that the firm will not allow its good name to be discredited. Truth be told, the damage has already been done and it is a sure bet that the feds will be looking at every move that DePalma makes from here to eternity.

It remains to be seen if other “professional services” companies will follow their lead and discontinue the practice of making contributions to political campaigns as it appears that these contributions can morph into something far more serious. A good look needs to be taken at the practice of awarding contracts without competitive bidding. Currently at the county government level there are no restrictions in place and the taxpayer is the one who ultimately bears the burden of funding political campaigns that perhaps they don’t support.

The Union County Board of Freeholders has a responsibility to the residents of Union County to see to it that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and that they are getting what they are paying for.

September 20, 2005

It's George Bush's fault stupid

The county launched it's yearly taxpayer funded campaign kick-off commercial this week. They will defend this spending as "needing to inform the public about services." Please ask yourself why the public only needs to be informed at election time.

Another ploy, which was also used in last year's election, is to get people angry at George W. Bush. The all-Democrat ruled county bashes the president several times in their taxpayer funded press release which was written by the office of public information for which the county claims they can't tell what their budget is or what the paid days off were for the head of this department. Imagine what the New York Times would do to Bush over that sloppy records keeping.

If the county can blame the federal government for all of your misfortunes it takes your mind off of the county raising your taxes 50 percent in the past 5 years and also subliminally bashes their competition in the November election. It's nothing more than political spin from a campaign consultant. Why are they spending our taxes on this? They have plenty of pay-to-play money in their war chest for campaigns.

Why don't people get angry about this? Because they don't have a clue about it. These commercials and mailers have no 'paid for by you' written on them and the Union County Media can't seem to bring themselves to inform people about this scam.

The below link is a press release from the county website. The release doesn't mention how much the commercial cost.

excerpts:....Proctor also used the opportunity to announce the Freeholder Board will soon be adding another new health initiative and making available $150,000 out of the County’s Family First funding available for health care efforts. Human Services officials are currently in the process of identifying where gaps in programs exist throughout the County, and will announce more details within the next month....
hmmmm more taxpayer funded propaganda on the way no doubt.

They could have plugged some gaps with the $187,000 they spent on this commercial. If they stick to the plot they used the past two years they will also be sending out a mailer with the same theme to every Union County household. Cost to taxpayers for postage and printing: $55,627.81. They will rudely not include a thank you note from the campaign.

And that's not all........
The company Message and Media produces these pieces. They have a $6,000 monthly no bid contract for unspecified consulting work. They also work on the freeholders' political campaigns. They charge the Union County Democratic Committee $5,000 a month. One has to wonder if they are getting their campaign pieces at a reduced price because the taxpayers are paying them $72,000 for consulting work that the county has no documentation to show for it.

I'll keep track of these taxpayer funded campaign pieces through the election season. I've been 'round that block before. The county spent approximately $607,939.66 in 2003 and $379,062.80 in 2004. I don't have all the bills; the county claims there are no bills for printing and copying done in-house.

The million dollar question is how much of these 'questionable' programs mentioned in the ad are funded with federal grant money? The 2003 commercial featured the federally funded Star Opportunity Center. An article in The Star-Ledger a few weeks after the election appeared about someone who was in the program when the money ran out. The county had to 'hobble' together the funds to send this guy out of state to complete the program.The article didn't mention the $187,000 commerical or the $55,627.81 mailer.

$242,627.81 could have put a lot of people down on their luck through this 'federally funded' program.

Imagine if it were George Bush spending our property tax dollars on his campaign. I wonder what the Union County taxpayer funded commercial featuring campaigning freeholders would have to say about that.

2005 mailings to date: Freeholders Proctor, Estrada and Ward are up for reelection as well as Clerk Rojappi

Letter dated July 2005 sent to several municipalities (the ones that lean Republican) extolling what the freeholders "have done for you!". An OPRA request was placed followed by a Government Records Council OPRA denial of access complaint which was filed on 9/20/05. County claims they don't know what I'm asking for. (Seriously, that's what they put in writing.)

Union County Directions Newspaper - Published by the Union County Alliance - Cost to the county: approximately $50,000

Senior Newsletter mailed during primary week featuring campaigning freeholders. 'Meet freeholder Nancy Ward and Adrian Mapp' on back cover and a message from freeholder Rick Proctor.
Cost: Postage $6,501.57. Copies are done in house so the county claims there is no cost (4 pages).

September 13, 2005

One party rule serves the party first and foremost

All Union County taxpayers should be very weary of Cranford Democratic Chairwoman Carolyn Vollero’s claim that an all-Democrat Cranford Township Committee would have benefits. “I think we will get things done a lot quicker with less bickering” she said in a recent Star-Ledger article.

In county races for Freeholder in 1998, which was the last year there was mixed representation on the board, the Democrats campaigned with the same rhetoric, saying that given total control they would be able to get things done a lot quicker with a lot less bickering. Unfortunately, the Democrats kept every word of that campaign promise.

Since they’ve taken total control of the 9 member freeholder board they now pass resolutions with lightening speed, most times while not releasing information to the public until the night of the meeting. They not only don’t bicker about anything during meetings, they don’t discuss much business either and they don't answer the publics questions. The public portion of the meeting is for public comments only. They vote yes on resolutions in unison without any public debate, which leaves you to wonder where are they discussing things if not in public? And who are they discussing them with if not the public? Even one dissenting voice on the board – one outsider - would put a stop to all of that.

Also consider that in the same year that the Union County Freeholder Board went all one party rule their campaign ridiculed the remaining Republicans because they wouldn’t give a surplus of money back to the taxpayers. Since winning total control, the all-Democrat freeholder board has raised their portion of our property tax bills over 50% with not one sitting freeholder willing to ridicule the board for any of the causes of the tax hikes.

No matter what the party is, one party ruled government gives outside political powerbrokers too much sway over local issues; we need a balance at all levels of government. Only healthy public debate can lead to government of the people, by the people, for the people – all the people, not just the connected polical hacks and powerbrokers.

September 11, 2005

Mission accomplished!

A message from the President of the Union County Watchdog Association, Inc.

This week a fellow watchdog responded to my email update regarding the Union County Improvement Authority being sent to the OPRA Dog House for not providing their meeting minutes in electronic format, thereby hindering our goal to place them on our website for public access. He volunteered his help and promptly scanned the minutes so they could be posted immediately. These chain of events brought every word of our mission statement to life. As a watchdog organization we have put our government on notice - their backdoor politics and closed government practices will not be tolerated.

Considering our organization is so new I found this quick spanking of the Improvement Authority to be an incredible accomplishment. In the short time that we have become organized our founding members dreams for this watchdog group have become real. Through sharing information we were able to quickly pull together as a community of concerned citizens and thwart the all powerful county government’s attempt to keep information from the public! We have become larger than a one person mission for information, larger than a handful of fed up taxpayers feeling powerless or doing what they can as individuals to find information and hold county government accountable.

By joining forces, by sharing information, resources, time and talents, we have accomplished our mission, we are shining a light on Union County government. And we’ve only just begun! Our email list is growing so keep up the good work of spreading the word and asking friends and family to join the list. Information is power and, as proven this week, you never know who you might inspire to take action.

Your all doing a great job. Thank you!

"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their government, for whenever things go so far wrong as to attract their notice, they can be relied on to set things right." - Thomas Jefferson

The Union County Watchdog Association, Inc. mission statement:

The Union County Watchdog Association is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Union County monitoring the activity of county government and advocating change to eliminate waste, corruption and incompetence.
The Union County Watchdog Association will act as a vehicle for the public to make their voices heard in the political forum, and to participate in the legislative process, holding elected officials accountable. We strive to make county government more transparent by gaining access to public records and being a public resource for information.
The Union County Watchdog Association believes that good government can only be achieved through a checks and balance system that includes the watchful eye of the people.

September 04, 2005

Democracy is not free.... is something that has to be fought for and protected by each citizen every day or we will all lose it. I find it absurd that we have troops in foreign lands fighting to establish democracy there while we take our own for granted right here.

Last week's Westfield Leader has a press release from Freeholder Daniel Sullivan which attacks GOP candidate Patrica Quotrocchi's recent press releases to the same paper. Studying county government the past two years I find it alarming how this one party ruled government becomes more arrogant and full of themselves by the day and almost seems to command us mere peasants to worship them. If anyone dares question them they go into attack mode to squelch any uprising.

Listed under a heading 'Union County News' Freeholder Daniel Sullivan speaks of the GOP's website as tired and the same old website with the same old candidates with a total lack of vision for Union County. He goes on to arrogantly ask GOP freeholder candidate Patricia Quatrocchi "maybe your next campaign release can explain why the GOP hasn't won a countywide election since 1994".

I'd like to direct Freeholder Sullivan to another website for the answer This site will give several explanations as to why no one has been successful at beating the Democrats in a county wide election since 1994.

  • It will tell him how the all Democrat Freeholder board used approximately $607,939.66 in tax dollars in 2003 and $379,062.80 in 2004 in the weeks leading up to the elections on commercials and mailers mostly featuring the incumbent freeholders.

  • It will tell him of the $72,000 yearly no bid contract with Message and Media for media consulting services which the county has no documentation to show the public what they do for this money. It will also tell him that the Democrats also have a contract with this same firm to handle their freeholder campaigns, and the result is that a constituent would be hard pressed to tell a campaign mailer from a government mailer.

  • It will also tell him how the county's Office Of Public Information, who's employees I have personally seen on the campaign trail the past two years, won't tell what their budget is or even give an accurate accounting as to the days off that these employees took in 2003 and 2004. This is the department that churns out press releases ad nauseum featuring campaigning freeholders - and this website will tell him the exact numbers of these press releases per freeholder.

  • Freeholder Sullivan, always the one to be nastily attacking anyone who dares to challenge his 'partners' by participating in the democratic process, or whatever is left of that in Union County, brings up that no GOP candidates ever attended budget hearings. He doesn't mention that there is no input allowed from the public at these hearings and, as is true at freeholder meetings, the public would not be able to have questions answered.

    Lastly, I attended several freeholder meetings last year and I never saw the freeholders who where appointed at various times for various reasons - John Wohlrab, Bette Jane Kowalski, Adrian Mapp or Nancy Ward - at any of them. My husband also ran for office the year before and I can't say I ever knew who these people where or what their visions were for Union County before they were appointed to their seats by the Union County Democratic powerbroker and puppet master Charlotte DeFallipo.

    * * * * * * *

    I've been out of town all week and I see that Bob M, while he can ignorantly slander me in the Star-Ledger while trying to gain favor with the democratic committee and get some work for his business, can't take it when people have something to say back to him. This class is labeled 'Marketing Your Business' in 101 Bottom Feeders school.

    Anyway, since Bob has followed his peers in attacking democracy by limiting freedom of speech unless you agree with them, and we can no longer have people post on this blog; please feel free to contact me directly at:

    September 02, 2005

    Eminent Domain: A Threat to Private Industry

    Published in the September 1,2005 edition of the Westfield Leader/Scotch Plains - Fanwood Times.

    As a child growing up in Union County it seemed as though the Garden State Parkway had always been there cutting a broad stripe through Clark, Cranford and Kenilworth as it wound it’s way South past the sand pits in Perth Amboy and North to my Aunt Virginia’s house in North Arlington.

    I vaguely recall sitting in the back seat of the family’s Nash listening to the grown-up conversation up front which would usually turn to the graves which were moved near Bloomfield to make way for the “super highway”.

    Shivers would run down my spine at the eerie thought of driving over what was once a cemetery and was now the GSP. Though the Nash is gone and Aunt Virginia moved to Florida years ago the thought of the government taking land for what is termed the public good still gives me shivers.

    Since the recent Supreme Court decision some weeks back Eminent Domain has frequently made headlines with stories about mobile home parks considered a blight on the landscape, Mom and Pop stores in the way, retirees transplanted from the old homestead and small manufacturing companies and their employees being faced with closure and job loss.

    However there is a new twist to the old story and simply put the court has ruled that private property can be forcefully acquired by a government entity and than turned over to a private developer for just about anything if it is in the best interest of the community’s economic development, all at fair market value of course.

    Most of us can understand making room for a highway exit ramp or new firehouse in our community but as Americans we are extremely territorial and the thought of our community giving a piece of our backyard tomato garden to a new Home Depot or Target Store just doesn’t sit too well nor should it.

    To be honest I doubt that the average Union County homeowner need be concerned but as a candidate for county office I probably should be paying attention to an Eminent Domain situation which is bubbling up in the town of Linden.

    It seems that the municipality has been attempting to pass to a private developer several hundred acres in the Trembly Point section of the city. Part of the private property is own by the firm ISP and the other part is owned by no less than the DuPont Corporation and neither company is willing to give up what they own.

    It comes as no surprise that the developer’s legal representation is being provided by state Senator Ray Lesniak whose district just so happens to border the properties that the city has been trying to take over.

    Now we learn the latest development is that the Union County Improvement Authority has entered the fray and took over this Eminent Domain project from the City of Linden last month. The Improvement Authority is an arm of our county government with the Executive Director, Charlotte DeFilippo, on the county payroll and it stands to reason that this would make the county the responsible party at some level. It should also be pointed out that Lesniak’s firm, Weiner Lesniak of Parsippany, has in the past represented other developers who also wanted to build on this very same property. Interesting to say the least when one considers that Senator Lesniak is a powerful Democratic State Senator and Ms DeFilippo is the chair of the county Democratic Party.

    Eminent Domain is certainly a most unpleasant way to promote the economic development of any municipality or county but relax folks the family home is certainly safe as it appears that certain high profile individuals in Union County may have much larger fish to fry; now this gives me the shivers.