December 31, 2006

New Year Resolutions - Please take notes

The New Year is here and along with it come our resolutions which we hope, and I do mean hope, we will keep for at least the next 3-4 weeks.

There is one thing that my current employer, an Army Major Retired, did for me when I first started in his employ, and that was to provide me with a Franklin Planner, much to my objection as I thought I was one of the most organized people going. . I must say that 13 years later my Franklin contains my entire day to day life.

Three different binders and styles have come and gone, but my trusty handwritten planner is never very far from my side, though I am not quite as anal as some who carry a “satellite” where ever they go, my planner has come to be a dependable friend and traveling companion and admittedly at times my memory.

Franklin Covey has many programs that one can buy into intended to make people more productive and goal oriented thus, the marketing program goes, more successful. I am not so sure about the successful part, but, many major companies subscribe to the theory and have installed the Franklin Planner on their firm’s PC’s and purchase Franklin PDAs complete with seminars for their executives.

One of the Franklin tenets is that if humans write tasks and goals down then they are more committed to completing those tasks necessary to reach the goal. Also they espouse the belief that we will remember over 80% of what we write.

Personally I enjoy seeing the little checks rather than X’s or an arrow next to my daily planner entries, so there appears to be some validity in what they say. I should point out that 4 out of 5 of my fellow employees also use company supplied Franklin Planners and one, the retired major, is called by some, in our highly competitive industry, an Executive Search Superstar.

As I updated my planner for 2007 I pondered weather or not the Union County Freeholders were spending the day updating theirs for the New Year as well, that thought lasted all of about ½ a second, what was I thinking?

Though I no longer use all of the tools provided by my planner as my “personal goal” is to get through the day in one piece with my sanity in tact, I do assign my planned activities, both business and personal are intertwined, an A, B or C and an order of importance 1-2-3 and so on.

Planning for the day is akin to making resolutions daily and I am not suggesting that the Freeholders run out and buy Franklins, I am suggesting that perhaps they take a few minutes and make some resolutions for the upcoming year that they can stick to.

May I suggest the following?

Chairwoman Kowalski – please resolve to refrain from calling citizen speakers at the podium by their first names, as your predecessor Mr. Mirabella was in the habit of doing.

Freeholder Holmes – please resolve not to attempt to intimidate the citizens into silence by reminding them that county counsel is sitting on the dais and that their personal attorney’s are not present.

Freeholder Mapp – please resolve to lean on maintenance to get you a microphone that works, as you appear to have a lot to say and those in the back of the room would like to hear you.

Freeholder Sullivan – please resolve to curb your sarcasm as it is most unbecoming for a professional such as your self.

Freeholder Scanlon – please resolve to recuse yourself or to abstain from votes in witch you may have a personal interest, such as the upcoming approval of financial institutions which will be used by the county in 2007.

Freeholder Ward – please resolve to come to a meeting at least giving the appearance of being fully prepared.

Freeholder Estrada – please resolve to do what you know to be the right thing ethically this year, (enough said).

Freeholder Proctor – please resolve to review suggested resolution for Freeholder Estrada bearing in mind.that if the shoe fits etc.

Freeholder Mirabella – please resolve to remember that the citizens are indeed your equal and treat them accordingly; after all they put you where you are.

Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders As the Whole– please resolve to take whatever steps are necessary and not raise taxes this year.

As for me you may be asking just what is she resolving for 2007?

The answer is quite simple really, I publicly resolve to continue to do what I do which is to watch and comment on the activities of county government in Union County. I have already made it an A1 task in my Franklin Planner and intend to see a lot of little check marks this year.

Happy New Year to all of You and Yours!!!

December 21, 2006

Chronicle of Harassment

Orignially posted in April 2006

Union County spokeman, Sebastian D'Elia, denied taking pictures of women while harassing them at a polling station this past election day. The above is a picture of D'Elia taken by one of the women while he was taking pictures of them.

Thursday, April 27, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff
……..In a lingering issue from last week's school election, Nathalie Yafet has filed a police report about an incident that allegedly occurred outside a polling place at A. P. Morris School.
Yafet, whose husband, Steve, finished fourth with 629 votes in the school board race, charged she and former mayor Barbara Rowen were harassed by county employees supporting the rival Democratic slate of Daniels, Smith and Katina Ginyard.
She charged communications director Sebastian D'Elia confronted her and Rowen as they were handing out fliers and persisted at taunting them.
"Had they just come there and handed out their flyers, nothing would have happened," said Yafet. "They were sent there to harass us." Yafet said D'Elia accosted her and Rowen, and took pictures without consent of them with an unidentified voter. D'Elia, who denied the allegations .........Hillside Democratic Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo defended D'Elia.
"He is a friend who I sent out to help with a campaign," she said,.......

April 27, 2006.........I am submitting for the public record testimonials from county residents regarding the behavior of your PI department. Some of which accuse this department of outright harassment. I myself have been a victim of this harassment on 2 occasions. Both were witnessed. The head of this department has a salary and benefits package of well over one hundred thousand dollars. This is an executive’s salary and would be considered conduct unbecoming of an officer in the private sector.

We have a county government that has a public information machine that apparently exists to keep information away from the public and disengage them from the democratic process. This department appears to be an in-house campaign staff.

Tina Renna, Cranford

To the Editor:On Tuesday, April 18, 2006 I was handing out flyers for Yafet, Menza & Simmons for Board of Education at the A. P. Morris School polling place on Coe Avenue in Hillside. There were two other people there passing out materials for the opposition candidates. Late in the afternoon, they were joined by two county workers - James Pellettiere and Sebastian D’Elia. Mr. Pellettiere raised his voice to me several times, particularly after I had just spoken with a voter, but he did not threaten me nor did I feel threatened.

However, Mr. D’Elia began by taking an unsolicited photo of me and two other women. I told him that I did not want my picture taken and he replied, “Now I have all I need.” Then he continued harassing me and taunting me even going so far as to hint that he might try to get a friend of mine fired.

One of the women with me asked who he was and - since I had seen him last year at the same polling place bothering one of the mayoral candidates I knew who he was - I told her that he was Sebastian D’Elia. At this point, I was also extremely tired from having been there all afternoon in the sun and upset because Mr. D’Elia would not leave me alone, so in my response to my friend I added that he was, “The Lord High Minister of MIsinformation for Union County,” but that was the only “name” that I called him.

After this exchange, he followed after me when I went to speak to a voter, reached across to me while jabbing his hand towards me and said, “I ain’t through with you yet,” which I perceived as a direct threat especially in connection with the unsolicited photo.

I asked the other county worker for his name and he would not give it to me so my friend photographed this worker as well as Mr. D’Elia for identification purposes. He took additional unsolicited pictures of us as long as he remained at the polling place.

Mr. D’Elia went on a tirade, at one point, and called me an “idiot” and then remarked that he “loved lunatics like you because you help my people get elected.” He refused to stop the harassment, although we kept walking away from him and I asked him several times to leave us alone. Eventually, he got in his car and left but he yelled out the window at us as he drove away.

On Thursday, April 20 I made a report to the Hillside Police Department on Sebastian D’Elia’s harassment of me and his threats.

Election days do tend to bring out heightened behavior in people and I certainly understand that. However, there can be no excuse for D’Elia’s actions and his threats. And why are county workers sent to polling places to harass residents and voters? Are they being paid by taxpayer money to do this? If so, I am in the ironic position of reimbursing Mr. D’Elia for harassing me during the last school board election.

Nathalie Yafet, Hillside

Open Letter to the Union County Freeholders,
In the Fall of 2002, Freeholder Nicholas Scutari sent the residents of Roselle a letter assuring them that the county had no intention of reactivating the defunct Staten Island Line. County Manager Devaney, and Chairwoman Scanlon are quoted in newspaper articles assuring residents that the County would not go against the will of the governing bodies of the 8 affected municipalities regarding the M & E Freight taking over the line. During that period of time, Sebastian D'Elia was also quoted in newspapers denying any intention of the freight line reactivation. All these people publicly contradicted the fact that the contract with M & E Freight line was signed by the Board of Freeholders in May, 2002. I question how D'Elia let all the newspaper articles quote these people promoting lies regarding the M & E freight line. Is D'Elia the problem or has D'Elia become a problem because of the nature of what is required of his office by his superiors?

The mayors of the towns began to realize that the county was not telling them the truth about their dealings with Gordon Fuller of the Morristown & Eire Railine. Mayor Croteau of Roselle called me and asked if I would serve as the Roselle member of the Coalition formed by citizens of the towns to STOP this freight line. I agreed to serve.

As part of the effort to stop this freight reactivation, the Coalition began getting signatures on petitions against this county contract which paid M & E more than 10 million dollars to use the 23 acres of right of way in Roselle alone. The borough provided a booth at the street fair in Roselle that Spring to inform citizens what was happening and to have them sign the petition. Sebastian D'Elia made his rounds at the Fair, observing the large number of residents at our booth. He began screaming at me saying, "Why don't you go back to Kenilworth where you belong! These people aren't against the train!" His tirade continued as he ran from our booth. I tried to tell him that I am where I belong. I have lived in Roselle for 30 years. There was no dialogue, just his shouting me down. We, the citizens of Roselle, were obviously doing something unacceptable.

This is very bizarre and intimidating behavior for a county employee, especially since he is on the payroll for disseminating correct information to the people of Union County. He is not supposed to be paid for promoting the party line, right or wrong. His public behavior is unacceptable.

Arlene Murphy, Roselle

The Westfield Leader November 3, 2005

Letter to the editor:

I sat in awe (at the Union County Candidates Forum) as I watched some terrible behavior, not from the candidates, but from the audience. One guy kept coughing and making some very rude comments with others about other people who were there. Then after the debate was over, these same people went to speak with the Democrats, and I saw them speaking with them in the parking lot outside.

Why do the Democrats have to stage the audience?

Did you have someone covering this debate? Did they see the same thing?

Kurt Mueller, Cranford

Publisher's Note: Our reporter noted harassment of Mrs. Tina Renna at the forum by those believed working for the DEM Campaign. Her husband Joe Renna chased these individuals to their car after the event without further incident.

A chronicle of harassment:
While attending the freeholder debate held in Cranford in 2005 I was harassed by county public information department employees.

One employee sat directly behind me and insistently made comments about myself and my family and other things that were incoherent. A reporter who was sitting right in front of me heard the whole encounter and this was reported in the Westfield Leader. I wondered why a public information department employee would behave so badly right in front of the press.

At the end of the debate several of these employees posed for pictures while standing behind me and making faces and comments. The harassment only stopped when my husband entered the room. This was also witnessed by a reporter and an Editor from Worrall Community Newspapers. The public information department apparently had no fear of the media exposing their bad behavior nor did they care that there were approximately 200 people in the room including 4 freeholders.

Harassment while recently obtaining OPRA records in the county administration building:
When viewing public records in the county administration building recently Seb D’Elia made several passes through the freeholder room where I was seated. When I was paying for the records Seb passed by Clerk Marlena Russo’s desk and said “Hang in their Marlena” as if to imply I was causing a problem. When I was waiting for the elevator D’Elia came into the hallway and said to me “Who are you going to sue next?”.

This was all witnessed by a friend who accompanied me that day.

Tina Renna, Cranford

Dear Editor,
An article by Joe Ryan about Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) president, Tina Renna, and the county rule which violates the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) did not substantiate the facts. County spokesman, Sebastian D'Elia is not the person to call to verify information about County problems. The Ledger has to back up what D'Elia claims with pertinent records. Ryan took D'Elia's word in preparing this article. This is unfortunate since D'Elia is the PR person the County uses for all kinds of political promos. Do reporters skirt getting Open Public Records concerning facts in their stories because the Union County information office makes it difficult and expensive to obtain them?

The County is actually saving time and money because of the UCWA. Instead of many citizens requesting the documents from the county, they can become informed, free of charge, harassment, and aggravation, by clicking on the UCWA Website ( Anyone wanting to know who is wasting County money should check the salaries of D'Elia and his large staff on the UCWA Website. Tina Renna, by requesting information from the county information office makes the staff work for the UC citizens, not for county political campaigns, preparing fliers, press releases, mailings, etc. During the last election year, my family received 32 lbs. of campaign mail.

In the past I requested OPRA records concerning the County contract with the M & E freight line running through 8 UC towns. Sebastian D'Elia called me at work asking me a number of questions, including why I wanted these records. Thank you, Tina Renna and the UCWA for challenging these OPRA policies as applied here in Union County.

Richard Lenihan, Roselle

Hi Tina,
Please note the following PR message that I received from Union County in response to my request for copies of their 2005 financial statements and 2006 budget. A simple request-- but a long-winded B.S. response that now requires me to submit an OPRA request. Now I see what you have been going through!

Stay well, and keep up the great work!

John Marquardt, Fanwood
----- Original Message -----
From: Sebastian Delia
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2006 11:47 AM
Subject: RE: Union County 2005 Financial Reports and 2006 Budget

Dear Mr. Marquardt:
Thanks for writing with your concerns about government. The documents you are seeking are available through the Clerk of the Board’s Office by filing an OPRA form. The Clerk’s number is 908-527-4140
We agree with the fact that New Jersey’s over-reliance on property taxes continues to hit homeowners hardest. .... Real all of the long-winded b.s. response by clicking HERE

Public Information Department employee John Salerno, annual salary $81,546, was filmed on video on the campaign trail for Bob Menendez this past campaign season:

Click HERE to see video.

YOUR TIME IS UP! During a December 2004 freeholder meeting County Watcher Tina Renna was physically removed by two armed county police officers when she went a minute over the 5 minute time allotment to address the freeholders. Peacefully speaking and armed only with her notes on the abuses that occurred at the Juvenile Detention center which led to the State’s Child Advocate, Kevin Ryan, releasing a report on the death of a 17 year old. Ryan wrote “the county set the stage for his suicide”…. “The County has a disregard for basic human rights”..

Previously posted on 6/9/2006:

In his closing comments during last night's public meeting, Freeholder Chester Holmes reminded residents in the audience that “Our chairman here has his attorney sitting next to him. You need to ask yourselves do you have your attorney sitting next to you? You should keep that in mind when you cross the line while addressing this board”.

December 14, 2006

Bruce Paterson's Countdown to Disaster-2006

Bruce Paterson of Garwood presented his 2nd annual address to the freeholders this evening: “Union County Countdown to Disaster-2006, the Year in Review.”
The previous year 2005 was a disastrous year for this county government all at the expense of the residents. So in the beginning of 2006, I challenged Chairman Mirabella and the freeholder board to use accountability in the administering of this government. Lets countdown the year together to see how we did.

February-a second lawsuit in 5 weeks is lodged against the county, this one alleging the death of an inmate who died in custody due to the withholding and lack of medical treatment. Suit ongoing.

March-Oh, oh the runaway budget is up another 5%, taxes up another 5% totaling over 50% increase in 6 years for the hapless county residents. And the freeholder board comes up with press releases that say they want to help contain your taxes.

March- When the initial county budget numbers were released, there was a $13 million dollar mistake. Finance director Carolsselli, it turns out is moonlighting working as the finance officer for Linden. Finances are not to be taken lightly especially in 2 burdensome jobs. But it appears that this blatant pension padding for Director Carolsselli since he is planning to retire in a few more years, a second job will boost his pension close to another $30 grand a year. And the residents have to live with the financial mistakes.

April- While Chairman Mirabella wrote a feel-good letter to the local media about childhood drinking, he turned a closed eye last summer to the county allowing a 3 time convicted drunk driver to go free in lieu of being incarcerated. It turns out the felon was a county worker and good friend of the county manager George Devanney. The judge in the case actaully had to have that guy hauled back to jail.

May- The county wide newsletter “Union County Directions” which is sanctioned by the freeholder board, has an article by Senator Lesniak, the county manager’s uncle. In it Lesniak calls a school district and I quote: “the poster child for waste and corruption”. However, if a resident calls the freeholders corrupt, he gets gaveled and threatened. One wonders just who the freeholders boss is- the residents or Lesniak?

May-we all know about the abuse of power in the attorney general Zulima Farber case. What a fiasco, and then it turns out that a sitting freeholder Estrada is being investigated for taking part in this episode by allowing the boyfriends license to be restored without going thru proper legal procedure.

June-it came to light thru a lawsuit that a developmentally disabled person back in 2004, fell from the back of a county bus and died. This was hushed up by the county…until this year.

June- Sheriff Froehlichs son, who is an officer working in the county appears to have manipulated a county auction and ended up with $150,000 worth of cars for $300. The car dealer sued and won to stop this travesty.

June-A large amount of Tainted dirt was found dumped in the county owned quarry. No one knows how it all got there especially since the quarry is a closely monitored operation.

July-Union County is rated in the top ten counties in the nation for taxation

July- A lawsuit was filed against Freeholder Proctor for sexual harassment. This is the second one. The taxpayers are of course footing the bill. The county attempted to keep the news from the public.

August-Undersheriff Cryan is simply reprimanded for taking gratuity in the form of PGA golf tournament tickets and not reporting it. And he is in the law enforcement department.

August- The government records ruled against the county that the county wide newsletter, “Union County Directions” is proven an instrument of the county government. And as such all the political photos plastered within of those incumbents up for election and paid for by the county is misuse of taxpayer’s dollars. Hundreds of thousands of dollars is spent on this type of political misuse.

August- it came to light about an officer Fanellis lawsuit. She was heavily intimidated, demoted and embarrassed for not agreeing to support untrue statements said by a county officer. The cost of the lawsuit is approximately $1.5 million. All at the expense of the hapless county taxpayers.

September-County music fest at nomahegan park had the county government VIP tent suppied with alcohol, but no permit was taken out for it. A government spokesperson said the government doesn’t have to abide by its own laws. Isnt that nice.

September-Heres a quote from guy who should be the next freeholder chairman: Union County assistant prosecutor William Kolano- “People who work for the government will pay an extra price for their misdeeds.’ May I add-unless you have friends in government.

September-Trip to Chicago-15 county employees-taxpayers foot the bill for over $20,000 and counting. Next largest county contingent was only 6 members.

October-a $2 million dollar no-bid communications contract was found to be given out to freeholder scanlons sister. Although Scanlon was at the meeting when the vote took place, the records show that she excused herself. This contract was lumped into a larger amount and no discussion was done on this. Good to have friends in government.

December 10, 2006

Feeding at the public trough

There were 35 freeholder meetings scheduled for 2006. To date with 6 bills unaccounted for and 2 more meetings yet to happen taxpayers have picked up a $10,510.83 tab for 27 freeholder meeting refreshments.

On average this comes to $389.25 per meeting; $43.25 per freeholder. This doesn’t include miscellaneous bills for groceries at local supermarkets ($9,978.00) or bills for bottled water ($9,853.00 - What do the freeholder’s know about the drinking water in Union County that we don’t, and why aren’t they doing something about it?).

Dinner meetings of a public body of which there is a quorum and the public isn’t invited to attend and minutes aren’t kept are less than transparent. Who could believe that these elected officials are getting together before a meeting and not discussing public business?

There are many other ‘refreshment’ bills in the check registry and the Union County Watchdog Association will keep a monthly tab on these in 2007. A total for all catering bills marked ‘meeting or refreshment’ for the first three quarters of 2006 is $42,454.03.

Also not included in the above numbers are meeting refreshment bills that turn up under employee reimbursements. The UCWA doesn’t have hard numbers for these but here are some examples:

A staff meeting for a press conference for the Jets held in Berkeley Heights where the County Manager’s wife is the town administrator cost $286.63 at the Trap Rock Brewery in Berkeley Heights. There is another bill for $69.04 marked “lunch mts: Re: NJSEA also held in Berkeley Heights where the County Manager lives.

Freeholder Rick Proctor had a $49.00 room service breakfast at the Hyatt Regency on 2/18/06, since no one can eat a $49.00 breakfast alone, we have to assume he was meeting with someone.

The above numbers also don’t include the VIP catering for the so called “free” county concerts. The catering bill for the Music Fest where over 300 people attended the Freeholder’s VIP tent was never provided despite an OPRA request and inquires made during public comment at Freeholder meetings. The bill for the VIP tent alcohol hasn’t been provided to date either.

December 03, 2006

Let me share this with you

In September 2006 the County of Union held a summit on shared services in which officials from all 21 municipalities were invited to participate. Boards of Education were not invited to attend. The summit was facilitated by the Forums Institute and a summary they prepared of the summit was obtained by the Union County Watchdog Association using the Open Public Records Act.

According to the summary the purpose of the summit was to "facilitate an interactive dialogue with the county’s mayors and administrators to identify areas of potential shared or regionalized services".

Only 12 participants representing 11 of the 21 municipalities participated. And one of the 11 municipal administrators was the county manager’s wife. Fifteen county representatives were present including 3 freeholders. Some areas for change noted by participants were: Not enough municipal participation was mentioned three times; Need ideas to foster a better turnout.

Here's an idea: Switch the concept. Everyone knows that the County of Union has never saved a taxpayer a dollar. The municipalities run their governments with more respect for their taxpayers and their money than the county does. The municipalities should be taking over services from the county and keeping the money they send to them. And who knows, with the savings they might be able to throw a concert in town and treat their residents like VIP’s.

This past campaign season the incumbent freeholders didn’t mention the word “TAX” once in their campaign literature or their press releases. Their behavior has been indefensible and even they didn’t want to be associated with the money they are spending on waste and mismanagement. The media followed the county’s million dollar Public Information Department’s lead and barely mentioned county taxes.

County taxes have increased over 50% since the year 2000. What doesn’t get mentioned at all is that just prior to 2000, in 1995, the state took over the County Courts saving county taxpayers $17.2 million. But spending was only decreased by $1.2 million the following year and then jumped expeditiously every year thereafter.

One unnamed participant of the Summit noted the opportunity to network was valued because “true shared service will revolve from trust and relationships of individuals.” This comment smells like it came from a freeholder.

How can any municipal official with the intelligence to get elected, or put on their socks, “TRUST” the county government to take over their services and save them money?

County budget year/expenditures:
State takes over the county court system: 1995/$272.6
1996/$271.4; 1997/$278.7; 1998/$282.7; 1999/$288.2 …

The County of Union has never consolidated a service within its own government. If municipalities start paying the county to run their services there are a few things that are guaranteed to happen. One, the cost for the county to deliver the same services would be much higher than the sum total of what the municipalities currently spend. Two, the county would create a much larger work force and/or will add additional layers of supervisors, managers, bureau chiefs, and directors. Three, money collected from the majority towns would be diverted to the few towns that represent the freeholders voting base. Although I doubt even the City of Elizabeth sees an honest return on their county tax dollars.

We already saw the costly disaster that privatizing the County Print Shop has become. At one point the county run printing facility did printing for municipalities at an inexpensive rate. Now the bulk of the county's own printing is sent to an outside vendor. A campaign contributor who is located in Hudson County.

Union County in only one of two counties that have both a Police Department and a Sheriff's Department. We also have a Public Safety Department which the corrections officers who run the jail fall under.

The county even wasted money on their shared services “initiative”. They received a $104,500 state grant to study the possibilities of consolidating municipal services. They spent over $200,000 on a commercial and a mailer that was sent to every resident featuring a Freeholder, who just happened to be up for reelection just weeks away. The commercial touts county services that are already in place, like ball fields and Runnells Hospital. The county is now seeking another $298,357 state grant to spend on “sharing available resources efficiently”.

In the logical world consolidation makes sense. Most of the country has their services performed by a county system. But we are talking about New Jersey, the bizarro land of politics and government, where everything is backwards and upside down. In New Jersey we should do away with wasteful and redundant powerbroker controlled county government. The State would take over services such as the courthouse and the municipalities, which taxpayers have more direct control over therefore government is held accountable, would have the ability to maintain the properties in their own town.

New Jersey, with meaningful pay to play reform being only a dream, with ELEC laws that do not stop the county from spending hundreds of thousands annually on taxpayer funded campaign literature and commercials, with no ethics commission to stop county government from dolling out no bid contracts to family and campaign contributors, with no state oversight of county hiring practices, with little state oversight of employee benefits which have indebted us for generations.....yada, yada.

Handing this form of government more power would be disastrous to our fragile democracy here in Union County. History has shown this government has no interest in saving tax dollars, only generating more jobs, contracts and power.

View the report on the Union County Summit on Shared Services held on September 8, 2006 by clicking HERE.

View taxpayer funded shared services campaign commercial by clicking HERE.

November 26, 2006

Union County Prosecutor tells freeholders to do a better job of informing the public

Union County freeholder meetings will be a lot sunnier now that the freeholders have been told by Assistant Union County Prosecutor Ann Rubin to adhere to the Open Public Meetings Act by keeping more comprehensive meeting minutes as well as to pass resolutions at open meetings which would inform the public of what they will be discussing when they adjourn into Executive Session.

In a complaint filed with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office on March 27, 2006, the Union County Watchdog Association charged that the Freeholder Board had been routinely violating N.J.S.A. 10:4-13. That statute requires a public body, before going into closed or executive session, to first adopt a resolution, at a meeting to which the public shall be admitted: a. Stating the general nature of the subject to be discussed; and b. Stating as precisely as possible, the time when and the circumstances under which the discussion conducted in closed session of the public body can be disclosed to the public.

Rather than pass the required resolution, the Chairman of the Board would simply “call for a motion” to go into executive session which is then approved unanimously. As a result, the public is deprived of any knowledge of the topics that the Freeholders are privately discussing behind closed doors or when those discussions would be made public.

During a public meeting held on February 10, 2005 the freeholders simply “called for a motion” and without any further explanation adjourned into their private chambers to discuss, among other things, a tawdry sexual harassment law suit that had been filed a month prior, involving a freeholder who would be facing re-election that year and a county employee who he was allegedly having an extramarital affair with. The law suit was filed on January 26, 2005. N.J.S.A. 10:4-12 b. states “when a lawsuit has already been filed with the court and is, therefore, a matter of public record, there is no reason why the title of the case cannot be set forth in the resolution and in the Executive Session minutes”.

Instead what the minutes reflected in this matter was: Minutes redacted under Attorney-Client privileged communication in a matter involving on-going litigation.

If the freeholders were following the law that day, they would have passed a resolution and this resolution would have been recorded in the meeting minutes which would have stated:

RESOLUTION: 2005-123 Introduced by Chairman Sullivan, who moved for its adoption, seconded by Board Member X Be It Resolved by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders that the Board met in private session from which the public shall be excluded, to discuss the following personnel matters: Alyssa Scala v. The County of Union, v. Rick Proctor, v. Denise Santiago…..

Rubin has also instructed the board to continually review and cross-reference the matters discussed in Executive Session so that the minutes can be updated in a timely fashion and the redacted portions of the minutes disclosed to the public to reflect with their current status. In a letter dated November 17, 2006 Rubin states “Based on my review of the minutes provided, there is a need for improvement in this area which can be accomplished through better communication between the Board and its counsel and those persons responsible for updating the Executive Session minutes and releasing them to the public. By copy of this letter, I am advising the County Counsel's Office of our position on this matter. I trust that County Counsel will act upon the contents of this letter and that further action in this regard will not be necessary."

The Union County Watchdog Association maintains that there should be better communication between the Board and the public. The Board has only recently started posting their regular meeting minutes on their tax-payer funded official website. They do not currently post their Executive Session minutes which we therefore, find it necessary to tediously post for them on our volunteer funded and staffed website.

A good open government practice would be for the Board to not only post their Executive Session minutes on their site but to indicate which minutes are redacted as well as indicate when they have been updated with new information.

In an open democratic society it shouldn’t take an independent watchdog group to monitor government meeting minutes to be sure that government is complying with the law and disclosing information to the public in a lawful manner.

View complaint to UC Prosecutors office by clicking HERE

View second correspondence to UC Prosecutor’s office by clicking HERE

View Executive Session minutes dated February 10, 2005 by clicking HERE

View Prosecutor’s response to UCWA complaint by clicking HERE

View previous post regarding the Freeholder Proctor/Scala sexual harassment law suit, by clicking: Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?

View previous post regarding Freeholder Rick Pric-tor and sexual harassment in Bloomfield: Freeholder Rick Pric-tor Appointed and elected twice with no mention of abusive history

November 19, 2006

They could put a turkey in every pot

As previously posted, this years freeholder campaign saw the incumbent one-party ruled county government spending upwards of $250,000 tax-dollars promoting incumbent freeholders in the weeks leading up to the election.

I attended the freeholder meeting the Thursday following the election. I knew the freeholders and their in-house campaign staff would be puffed up like Tom Turkey’s gobbling on about their victory; this is exactly why I wanted to be there. I wanted to pluck some of their feathers and laugh in their faces as they grandiosely congratulated themselves.

I wanted to remind them of why they win elections and ask them to ponder what an organization like the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless could do with $250,000, and would they please consider using this money to help people in the future?

I wasn’t surprised at their win. Statistically it is almost impossible to change the course of a freeholder election in Union County. Whoever Charlotte DeFalippo puts on the Democrat line will be elected.

“The people have spoken” freeholder Sullivan pontificated. He claimed that there was a 60% voter turnout in the county and that “this was a landslide victory”. Subsequently, it’s been reported that there was a 49.5% turnout. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Union County 2-1; most registered voters in the county are unaffiliated. What really keeps the Democrats in power is that most registered voters don’t bother to vote. All 9 freeholder seats are at large therefore the Democrats don’t have to do much to turn out the votes in the cities in order to win. They have 3,000 county employees to squeeze into volunteering and unlimited pay to play money to add to the tax-dollars that they spend on their campaigns.

Sullivan also bragged about how they “get out the vote”. If you’re around places like Elizabeth on Election Day you will see county employees getting out the vote.

Whenever I venture into the County Administration building, the county’s public information officer always makes an attempt to harass me before I leave. Waiting for the elevator at the end of the meeting Seb D’Elia, who doubles as an in-house campaign manager, passed by and hissed “It’s good to win”.

It is illegal to have public employees working on campaigns while they are on the clock.

Freeholder Scanlon thanked these employees “I want to thank all the Department Heads and employees; I know that you were pulling for us”.

Strangely enough, on Election Day the County Manager, who is Senator Ray Lesniak’s nephew, was seen pulling for Republican Mayoral Candidate David Cohen in Berkeley Heights. Voter fraud is being alleged there, but I’ll save that for another post.

Freeholder Mirabella bellowed “I will continue to be proud of our record, personally and collectively, I am only humbled by the trust and support the people have put in us.” Mirabella, who was the chairman of the board this year, has consistently refused to answer the public’s questions regarding a host of topics.

The county is planning on building an animal shelter, during the freeholder debates Mirabella spoke about how the “municipalities have been doing a terrible job of taking care of the animals” and that many “are needlessly euthanized”.

Mirabella, nor any other freeholder, has ever publicly acknowledged their responsibility in regards to the two prisoners who were needlessly euthanized in their jail cells. In two separate recent incidents prisoners died very preventable and agonizing deaths. Another 22 year old prisoner had to have his voice box removed because his cancer went untreated. A 17 year old hanged himself on an exposed sprinkler head which the county left unrepaired for 17 months.

The voters that cast a ballot for Mirabella obviously have no idea that he shouldn’t be trusted, even with their dogs.

Mirabella delivered the biggest laugh of the evening with this closing act “I’d like to congratulate all the winners of this years election” he then blabbered on about only Democrats that won and finished his segment with Linda Stender “She is a terrific lady who worked very hard…, she was up against a machine…., she was outspend by a million dollars…”. Mirabella did not offer similar condolences to his opponents on the Republican line.

Freeholder Sullivan stated “The voters are very smart in this county and very discerning”.

I questioned the intelligence of the people who blindly vote down the democrat line. I will back this up with the freeholders own campaign literature of which I am an avid collector of. No one could insult their voter’s intelligence any more than the county democrats. If they truly believed that the voters who keep them in power are smart and discerning then they wouldn’t send their voter base literature that suggests that they are running for the office of President of the United States of America: Click HERE

Sheriff Ralph Froehlich signed two letters endorsing the Democrat freeholders. What makes his letters noteworthy is that they were on phony official Sheriff's Department letterhead. The longest serving law enforcement official in the nation sent his constituents a flim flam campaign piece worthy of Boss Hog: Click HERE

Freeholder Holmes, who doesn’t quite get the concept of the First Amendment, stated “I don’t believe anyone has the right to criticize the voters”.

Can a voter be smart and discerning yet not care about domestic violence? During my comments I did poke fun at the voters who keep this regime in office, scandal after scandal, although most of their scandals are only reported on this blog and don’t make the local main stream media, therefore voter ignorance is justified to some extent. I brought up the fact that in 2004 70,000 people cast a vote for Freeholder John Wholrab despite the fact that he was arrested and charged with allegedly beating his live-in-girlfriend just 6 weeks prior to the election.

Despite it all....Let us give thanks

I sat down at my computer today with the intention of writing about being thankful as well as hopeful for a better future.

A few days ago I sent out an email to our watchdog list asking for donations. The immediate response I received has been overwhelming and inspiring. I am thankful that there are intelligent Union County residents that care where ¼ of their property tax bill is going and how it is being misspent and misused. Even though we are in the minority, together we can make a difference by shining a light on government. Despite the statistacal fact that the Union County Democrat machine will not be out of power any time soon, I am still confident that change is in the air and it is attainable.

I’m also grateful to know that there are good people at a higher level who are committed to changing the culture of corruption in this State. The abuses the freeholders so freely get away with stems from the lack of law and the lack of commitment to enforce the ineffectual laws that are in place. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of meeting Paula Franzese who heads the State Ethics Commission. She is pushing for a complete overhaul of the state’s ethics system. Among the priorities of the Commission are to enact a uniformed and meaningful ethics code for not only the State, but the county and local governments as well.

As a member of the Board of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside passionate open government activists from across the state. We are working towards increasing government transparency by putting some teeth into the Open Public Records Act and will push for legislation to overhaul the antiquated Open Public Meetings Act.

One day last week I helped out at my favorite charity. It is quite humbling to see people lined up for a free bag of food; seeing these seniors, young people with children and the disabled all needing assistance for their daily basic needs left me inspired to rage on against the machine. Property taxes are a regressive form of taxation; therefore we all suffer from government waste and corruption.

As I watched these people standing in line I wished the freeholders were there to experience the desperate need for help that is all around us. Maybe then they wouldn’t misuse over $250,000 tax-dollars on their campaigns as well as the other misspent and misguided millions. If they wanted to, they could use their absolute power and unlimited resources to literally put a turkey in the pot of every Union County family and so much more.

November 08, 2006

"GET ACTIVE" in the Democratic party for a successful public service career

To get ahead in a public service career consider taking the advise of a party insider and try to "GET ACTIVE" in the Union County Democrat party.

John Salerno is an example of a successful ACTIVE county employee.

Salerno who's title is currently County Director of Special Projects & Graphic Compliance, (annual salary $81,546 up from $52,084 in 2000), is shown on video recently BEING ACTIVE in the Democrat party. Click HERE to see video.

John Salerno’s Union County employee history:
2000 - $52,084 - Clerk/Public Relations I
2001 - $56,467 – Clerk/Public Relations I
2002 - $60,286 – Clerk/Public Relations I
2003 - $69,375 –Confidential Assistant
2004 - $72,844 – Confidential Assistant
2005 - $72,844 – title N/A
2006 - $81,546 – "Director of Special Projects & Graphic Compliance". For a job description see previous post: Costs to taxpayers to date for incumbent Democrat freeholders fall campaign: $245,926.
2007 - Raises will be announced in January

Applicant was asked: Which party are you?Friday, November 03, 2006
Cranford Chronicle
A job applicant for a Union County post was asked about his political affiliation and encouraged to "get active" in the Democratic party to improve his chances of being hired, Republicans say -- and they've got the emails to prove it. But the county employee who made those comments was not responsible for the hiring decision, and a county spokesman said this week that her comments did not represent the county's position "in any shape, way or form."
Carolyn Vollero, a former county employee and chairwoman of the Cranford Democratic Party, asked Garwood resident Dennis Clark about his partisan affiliation while Clark was seeking employment with the county in 2004. The written request is made in a chain of emails shared with the Chronicle last week by Phil Morin, the chairman of the Union County Republican Party and a former Cranford mayor.
Vollero, who is also a former Cranford mayor, recently retired from her post as chairperson of the county Bureau of Mosquito Control. She did not return repeated calls for comment regarding the correspondence.
Clark, who is a registered Republican and is currently running for a seat on the Garwood Borough Council, said that he and Vollero met when she was invited to judge an essay contest for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post in Garwood. At the time Clark, a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War, was looking for employment. He applied for a job as a part-time clerk with Union County Division of Veterans Affairs and in an email dated March 24, 2004, thanked Vollero her for her involvement in the VFW contest and asked for assistance in the application process.
That day, Vollero responded to say she would reach out to a woman she knew in the Veterans Affairs office.
She also asked Clark what she called a "personal question." "(A)re you a registered voter & how are you registered? Dem. OR Rep.??" Vollero wrote.
Clark responded less than 10 minutes later, telling her that he is a registered Republican, though he rarely votes along strict party lines. "I hope that won't preclude my getting the position, if I'm qualified," he wrote. In another email two days later, Clark wrote that he had had an interview and was hopeful he would be offered the job. "I think this job is tailor-made for me and I would greatly appreciate any help you would be able to give me," he wrote.
Ultimately, though, the job went to another applicant -- a veteran with ties to the Democratic Party. In an April 5 email, Vollero wrote that she had been told Clark was "a wonderful candidate, but only one position was open." She offered him encouragement for the future and then wrote, "Also consider trying to get ACTIVE with the DEMOCRATS in Garwood. Think about it."
Clark responded later that day, writing, "How if I'm a registered Republican can I get active with the Democratic Party of Garwood? I don't think it should matter what party I'm affiliated with, if I meet the qualifications for a County position." Clark said he kept the emails and sent them to Morin about a year ago, after reading a story in a local newspaper about the impact of political affiliation on employment opportunities. Asked if he feels his political views affected his application, he said, "Absolutely."
Morin called the emails the "most blatant example of partisan politics as the deciding factor of getting a job in Union County," and he said Vollero's role is significant because of the "senior position" she held with the county. "She certainly bragged in her emails (about) her ability to assist him," Morin said.
However, county officials said this week that Vollero's comments do not mirror the county's position. "Carolyn Vollero's views and opinions expressed in these emails do not represent those of this administration or the County of Union in any shape, way or form," said Sebastian D'Elia, a county spokesman. "Ms. Vollero's employment duties did not include hiring or the development of hiring policy for the County." "The County of Union hires the best suitable candidates for all our positions (and) is an equal opportunity employer," D'Elia said.
He also said that the county employees mentioned in the correspondence between Vollero and Clark did not recall the interview with Clark, nor did they remember any conversations with Vollero about Clark's application for employment. The county does not typically allow department heads to speak to the press, and D'Elia declined the Chronicle's request to interview the individual who made the hiring decision.
According to the New Jersey State Department of Personnel, which deals with discrimination in the workplace, political affiliation can not be considered when evaluating a job applicant. "It is totally and unequivocally inappropriate to ask an applicant about their political affiliation," said George Laufenberg, communications director for the department.

November 04, 2006

County resident submits an in-dept spend analysis of Union County Government to Freeholders

Dear Freeholder Sullivan:

As a resident and taxpayer I am greatly concerned about wasteful spending by Union County government and alarmed at the resulting 50% increase in county property taxes over the past 5 years. With a 2006 budget $413 million dollars and a bloated payroll of nearly 3000 employees Union County is well on the road to fiscal disaster and taxpayer revolt. What is needed is a top down change from a "tax and spend" and "business as usual" culture to one that is more disciplined, financially prudent and focused on cost savings.

In an effort to address these concerns I attach a "Spend Analysis of Union County Government" based upon my review of 2005-2006 check registers that were obtained via OPRA requests. This pro bono and non-partisan analysis was prepared to 1) identify wasteful spending and purchasing practices of Union County government and 2) provide some insight and recommendations that, if implemented, will save the County (and taxpayers) millions of dollars annually. If you are really serious about achieving meaningful cost savings in county government I urge you to read this spend analysis and forward it to the appropriate Union County financial and procurement managers to act upon.

Regarding shared services....In order for Union County government to demonstrate to our over burdened taxpayers and dedicated municipal government leaders that shared services is a viable initiative you must first take steps to make cost savings a corner stone goal of county government leadership. Spending nearly $200,000 on your shared services commercial and promo mailer to publicize a $104,500 state grant for shared services did not send the right message! if you want to be perceived as a role model for cost savings and an innovative resource for municipalities to reduce the growing cost of government you need to make some hard decisions and take bold action to change from a mentality of business as usual to one of cost conscious and accountable government.

I hope you will consider the attached document with an open mind and I look forward to hearing from you.

View Spend Analysis of Union County Government by clicking HERE

John Marquardt
Retired Procurement Officer
Fanwood, NJ

November 03, 2006

Costs to taxpayers to date for incumbent Democrat freeholders fall campaign: $245,926

The Union County Republican Committee has issued a press release today stating that it has asked both the State and Federal governments to investigate the spending of tax dollars which promote incumbent freeholders at election time.

During the recent freeholder debate Freeholder Al Mirabella defended the practice of spending taxpayer money on mailers and commercials. Mirabella contends that they need to inform the public of services. Why they only need to inform the public of services at election time wasn’t mentioned. Mirabella also didn’t offer a reason why the county spent approximately twice as much touting their shared services initiative as the $102,000 State grant they received to explore ways to save money.

Pay close attention to the messages you get from Union County government and the timing of when you get them. After all, you are paying for them. Don't expect the freeholders to show you the bill or even tell you that they are behind it, but be sure that their pictures and names will be prominently featured in the hopes that you'll remember them in the election booth. I hope you remember them too, here they are again: Democrat Freeholders, Al Mirabella, Debora Scanlon and Chester Holmes.

The taxpayer costs to date for the Democrat freeholders fall campaign are $245,926. The following is a breakdown.

Union County Day at Trailside mailed 9/21/2006 featuring Al Mirabella:
Cost: $148.00
for postage (County claims that this piece was printed in-house therefore there are no costs associated with printing 500 4 color 2 sided glossy piece.)
View postage bill by clicking HERE.

Union County shared services program in which the freeholders tell us “We’re going to be even more connected to you”. Commercial which has been running these past weeks leading up to Election Day features Al Mirabella and Freeholder Daniel Sullivan who will be up for re-election next year when no doubt this same commercial will be run during the 2007 campaign season:
Cost: $159,925.
View commercial bill by clicking HERE.
View commercial by clicking HERE.

Shared Services mailer sent 10/12/2006 featuring Al Mirabella and Daniel Sullivan:
Cost: $32,369.42 for postage (County claims that this piece was printed in-house therefore there are no costs associated with printing 200,000 4 color 4 page glossy piece.)
View postage bill by clicking HERE.
View mailer by clicking HERE.

Senior News Letter featuring all 3 freeholders who are up for re-election and a mention of all 9 on the back.
Cost: $3,483.83 for postage mailed 10/20/2006 (County claims that this piece was printed in-house therefore there are no costs associated with printing approximately 13,350 of the 8 page news letter.)
View postage bill by clicking HERE.
View newsletter by clicking HERE.

Every household and business in Union County received a copy of the Union County Directions Newsletter this week. You receive two every year, one right before the primary and general elections.
Cost: Approximately $50,000 for the postage and printing. This piece is produced by county employees during their taxpayer funded work day.

November 3, 2006
Contact: Phil Morin – 908-451-4995

GOP Says Democrats Fail To Disclose
Use of Taxpayer Money to Pay for Political Mailings, TV Ad

Today, the Union County Republican Committee (“UCRC”) sent a formal request to the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) and the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (“ELEC”) for an investigation of the Democratic freeholder candidates’ last-minute mailers paid for with taxpayer dollars and the Union County Alliance’s failure to comply with FEC and ELEC regulations, including the failure to file as a continuing political committee under New Jersey election law. The UCRC alleges that the Democratic freeholder candidates violated election law by using taxpayer funds to fund a six-figure media campaign and that the Alliance’s blatant political mailer requires the Alliance to file with ELEC.

“It is beyond question that the Directions newspaper, shared services flyer and television ad violate ELEC regulations regarding political communications within 90 days of an election,” said Phil Morin, Union County Republican Chairman. “What’s worse is that this election time propaganda is paid for with taxpayers’ dollars.”

Late this week, county residents received a 24 page newspaper from the Union County Alliance, which is funded with taxpayer dollars and was found by the Government Records Council earlier this year to be subject to the Open Public Records Act because of their close links with the all-Democrat Union County government. The thinly-veiled campaign piece featured at least 12 photos of freeholder chairman Mirabella, and 10 photos of Deborah Scanlon, who is also up for reelection, and numerous articles touting the freeholders’ alleged “governmental or political objectives or achievements,” a clear violation of the political communications regulations.

Additionally, the inclusion of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s photo in the Directions newspaper raises the question of whether federal election law requirements were violated we are calling on the FEC to investigate this matter as well. “The inclusion of a candidate for federal elected office in the Alliance’s election eve newspaper appears to be a violation of federal election law which we will prosecute to the full extent of the law,” Morin said.

That same freeholder chairman is featured in a television ad that conveniently began to run this fall and is linked to the county’s web page at . Ironically, the brochure and the TV commercial highlight the County’s receipt of a $104,500 state grant for promotion of shared services. The all-Democrat freeholder board has spent over $200,000 – twice the amount of the grant -- promoting the fact that they received this grant, according to bills for postage, printing and production of a TV ad were paid for with taxpayer funds.

“The brochure, Directions publication and the television commercial are “political communications” under ELEC’s regulations, and the cost of these communications must be disclosed as “in-kind” contributions on their campaign reports by law. The Democratic freeholders failed to disclose these expenditures on their 29-day pre-election day October 2006 filing with ELEC, which is a violation of law. The Democrats could be facing thousands of dollars in fines from both the FEC and ELEC as a result of failure to report the misuse of taxpayer dollars to fund what is essentially campaign literature.

“It’s time for the County Democrats to stop using taxpayer’s hard-earned money to pay for trips to Chicago and Hawaii, for no-bid contracts for their relatives and for their political campaigns,” Morin said. “The all-Democrat Freeholder Board is spending over $1 million of our tax dollars a day, is it any wonder why Union County is one of the top ten highest taxed counties in the country?”

(See below for text of ELEC regulation regarding “political communications.” Copies of all alleged political communications and bills relating to mailer/TV ad available upon request.)
N.J.A.C. § 19:25-10.10 Political communication contributions
. . . .
(b) A written statement, pamphlet, advertisement or other printed or broadcast matter or statement, communication, or advertisement delivered or accessed by electronic means, including, but not limited to, the Internet, that does not contain an explicit appeal pursuant to (a) above for the nomination for election or for the election or defeat of a candidate shall be deemed to be a political communication if it meets the following conditions:

1. The communication is circulated or broadcast within 90 days of the date of any election in which the candidate on whose behalf the communication is made is seeking nomination for election or elected office; except that in the case of a candidate for nomination for the office of Governor in a primary election, the period of time that a communication shall be deemed political shall be on or after January 1st in a year in which a primary election for Governor is being conducted, and in the case of a candidate for election to the office of Governor in a general election, the period of time that a communication shall be deemed political shall begin on the day following the date of the gubernatorial primary election;

2. The communication is circulated or broadcast to an audience substantially comprised of persons eligible to vote for the candidate on whose behalf the communication was made;

3. The communication contains a statement or reference concerning the governmental or political objectives or achievements of the candidate; and

4. The production, circulation or broadcast of the communication, or any cost associated with the production, circulation or broadcast of the communication, has been made in whole or in part with the cooperation of, prior consent of, in consultation with, or at the request or suggestion of the candidate.

October 22, 2006

Stender is the best choice to represent corrupt New Jersey

Former New Jersey Govs. Brendan Byrne and Tom Kean had the following to say today in their weekly Star-Ledger column in answer to the problem of double-dippers in the state pension system. Kean –“We’ve had a very high tolerance for corruption in this state for too long. … The press has not highlighted these cases, as they ought, to get them cleaned up.” Byrne – “The timing is right for reform. If we can’t get it now, we’re never going to get it.”

In the same edition of the Star-Ledger, Ledger editorial staff endorsed the Congressional candidacy of Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union 22) as the best choice to send to represent the 7th District in Washington.

Stender began her political career in 1988 as a Fanwood Borough Councilwoman, in 1994 she was elected to the Union County Board of Freeholders and in 2001 she became Assemblywoman of Legislative District 22.

Stender, who I've heard somewhere is a Spender, has been a double dipper since the day she left her Union County freeholder seat in 2001 to be an Assemblywoman. She was promptly placed on the county payroll that January with the title “Volunteer Coordinator”, with all the implications that title suggests, she was paid $66,083 to supervise people who were volunteering selflessly for free.

Around the time Assemblywoman Stender announced her run for Congress, her county title changed to Runnells Hospital Foundation Director. The Foundation was established as a non-profit 501(c) 3 with Stender’s salary being paid in part by grant money. This organization has not met the threshold of raising over $10,000 which would require them to file an IRS 990 form. This doesn’t stop the taxpayers from having to pay Stender's $72,858 county salary for her fundraising efforts along with her staff. The Union County Manager, who is the nephew of State Senator Raymond Lesniak, mother-in-law was hired to be Stender’s assistant with a salary of $40,430.

When Stender was a freeholder her husband’s printing business was given no-bid county contracts.

None of these documented facts have been highlighted in the press. Now the Star-Ledger who calls themselves “The Voice of New Jersey” would like us to export our worst sample of a New Jersey politician to represent us in Congress. Beleaguered New Jersey taxpayers may never see reform when the media sends the message to elected officials like Stender, “Corruption pays in New Jersey why not export the operation to Washington?”

October 16, 2006

AG is asked to investigate county

For Immediate Release:

Today the Union County Watchdog Association has submitted three separate requests to the State Attorney General’s Office, asking for investigations.

1) Freeholders relative profited from 2-million dollar no-bid contract
Union County Freeholder Deborah Scanlon’s sister, Diane Papst, was allegedly involved in a 2-million dollar no-bid contract awarded in a business deal that was not conducted in public view. View complaint by clicking here.

2) Open Public Meetings Act Enforcement
Although the Union County Prosecutor’s office was diligent in quickly enforcing the OPMA on four occasions, that we are aware of, the UCWA complaint against the power-broker backed Union County freeholders appears to be dragging along. View complaint by clicking here.

3) Union County Prisoners being inappropriately sent home on wristlet monitoring devises
This request, which involved a county employee who is alleged to be a close friend of the County Manager, was originally submitted to Attorney General Farber in May 2006. A response was never received from Farber’s office. In light of recent revelations which have shown Farber’s close relationship to Union County Freeholder Angel Estrada, the UCWA has resubmitted our request for an investigation to the new Attorney General Stuart Rabner. View complaint by clicking here.

In other UCWA complaint news:
1) The New Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Commission acknowledged receipt of our complaint regarding the Music Fest today; Click HERE to view video footage of the illegal drinking that went on in the V.I.P. tent.

2) An ELEC complaint is pending. The county has recently spent $163,938.75 tax-dollars airing a commercial which stars a freeholder who is up for re-election. They have also spent approximately $60,000 on a mailer sent to every county postal patron last week. Because we are sure that there will be more tax-payer funded campaigning featuring fat cat Al Mirabella, we will hold off and file one fat ELEC complaint after Election Day.

October 13, 2006

Freeholder Scanlon's sister profited from $2M phone system

Freeholder Debra Scanlon’s sister was allegedly involved in a $2 million no-bid contract awarded in a business deal that was not conducted in public view.

The meeting minutes of the regular meeting held on January 22, 2004 show that freeholder Scanlon was present. However, when it came time to vote for a $1,907,739.65 no-bid contract awarded to Consultedge, in which her sister, Diane Papst, is reported to have been the sales rep, she left the room when the vote was taken and she was marked not present. (view resolution by clicking here)

On August 23, 2004 it was Chairwoman Scanlon who moved Bond Ordinance No. 578-2003 forward which put county taxpayers in debt for over 28-million dollars for various improvements in which her sisters deal was lumped in with. (view bond ordinance by clicking here)

Because the freeholder meeting minutes do not show any discussion of this no bid contract, I tried to gain insight into this $2 million deal through the Open Public Records Act.

Several responses to my requests for records added up to the county wanting to charge $360.95 dollars for the pertinent documents. The few I did receive had all the employee names redacted.

Not only was this business conducted out of public view but it looks like this deal wasn’t conducted in the other freeholder’s view either. It is possible that the other freeholders had no clue as to Scanlon’s sister’s involvement and that this was another expenditure of county taxpayer dollars that was cooked up at Charlotte DeFilippo’s dining room table. This shines more light on the fact that freeholders vote yes on any matter that makes it onto their agenda with no questions asked.

It’s also possible that there was nothing illegal about this. Unethical sure, but this being New Jersey, ethics isn't something politicians are required to have. However, since I can’t follow the dollar here or get a freeholder, never mind a county employee on their new $2 million phone system to answer to this, I’ll ask the State Commission of Investigation to do it. If the state chooses to investigate, the county can charge them $360.95 for the privilege of knowing how a freeholder’s sister can profit from a multi-million dollar no-bid contract without her name ever being mentioned to the taxpayers or even the freeholders.

(view county clerks OPRA responses by clicking here)

October 04, 2006

Freeholders broke their own law

The juice down there was free: Click HERE to view video footage of the illegal drinking that went on in the V.I.P. tent during the Music Fest on a recent Saturday as well as the mess that was left unattended in the county park until Monday morning.

There is no drinking in the parks folks: Click HERE to view video footage of Freeholder Holmes telling a summer concert crowd “the only bad thing is that there is no drinking allowed in county parks folks”.

Wine and beer bottles, some of which weren’t empty, were left behind in Nomehegan Park until Monday after the county run Music Fest concert was held on a recent Saturday. Any underage person was free to walk over and have a party of their own with the freeholders VIP tent discarded left overs.

The Union County Watchdog Association has filed complaints with several state agencies asking for a full investigation into the illegal serving of alcohol at a county taxpayer and pay to play funded county event. They have also asked for an investigation into freeholders using these events to have catered parties for friends and family members as well as promoting incumbent politicians who are up for reelection.

Although it may be unwritten and assumed, it is not officially written within the Laws of Union County that “freeholders are above the law”. Although the laws strictly prohibit alcohol use in county parks without a permit, and during a recent summer concert Freeholder Chester Holmes reminded people that “there is no alcohol allowed in the parks folks” the VIP tent at the Music Fest held in September was well stocked with kegs and cases of beer and wine without the issuance of a county permit.

An Open Public Records Act request asking for permits to serve alcohol as well as any receipts for the purchase or donations of alcohol turned up no records. Freeholders are required to report gifts.

Live video footage was taken of the VIP tent from across the Lake in Echo Lake Park. Cranford's Deputy Mayor George McDonough was filmed at one of two kegs. There is no record of McDonough being given a VIP pass.

Photo of Cranford Deputy Mayor McDounough at the illegal trough.

Another Open Public Records Request seeking the VIP list was returned with a generic letter to all Music Fest contributors offering them passes. Although there appeared to be well over 300 people in the VIP tent in the heat of the night, the county claims not to have an accounting of who was there.

Although there is no record of any freeholders being given VIP passes to the Music Fest, before the headliner Cheap Trick was announced the MC of the event announced “Chairman Mirabella and the entire Union County Freeholder Board and Assemblywoman Linda Stender”. Mirabella and Stender are both on the ballot in the November election and were on hand throughout the day to “help out” the paid MC.

In a letter to sponsors of the event a value is put on these announcements. PA Exposure: Union Center National Bank will receive a :15 second announcement six (6) or more times during the course of the day. The Union County Watchdog Association believes this campaign exposure, as well as the unreported donations of several prominent county vendors, is a violation of the ELEC laws and will be reported as such.

An OPRA request asking for all bills for the Music Fest did not turn up the catering bill. However, a catering bill for a smaller gathering at the Rhythm and Blues Fest held in Plainfield in June turned up a $4,690.50 catering tab for 275 people ($15.00 per person). There was a record of VIP passes and preferred parking given to only three freeholders:

Freeholder Mapp was given 40 passes @ $15 per head = $600.00; Mirabella 20 passes @ $15 per head = $300.00 and Kowalski 8 passes @ $15 per head = $120.00

At a recent freeholder meeting after being questioned about the costs of the "free" concerts Kowalski was the only freeholder to respond. All she said was "People should attend these events and not just criticize them".

The freeholder’s abuse of the public trust in the guise of offering the public “free concerts” has been going on for years. The Union County Watchdog Association acknowledges they can not stop the abuse, but they can expose it and report it to the proverbial “proper authorities". Along with all the other scams in which the freeholders use tax dollars to bolster their campaigns, like taxpayer funded mailings, commercials, and press releases, these events will be closely monitored and reported to state authorities going forward.

The behind the scenes partying at taxpayer’s expense is over.

Taxpayer funded celebrity port a potty located in the VIP tent

September 29, 2006

County Emergency Managment Planner may be unqualified

The Union County GOP has charged the county with hiring a Golan Cipel type for a critical homeland security position. Below is their press release.

The employee who was given this position is Salena Carroll. Carroll was hired in 2000 and her title was “Community Organization Specialist” (view job description by clicking here) her salary was $38,659.92. Part of her job duties were to: train residents in activities necessary for them to assist them to develop and maintain a community garden, to establish a tutoring program for neighborhood youth….

In 2004 the county received homeland security funding to establish the position titled “County Emergency Management Planner” (view job description by clicking here). Carroll was promoted to the position and given a salary of $64,500. Her new job duties are to: develop, plan and provide technical guidance in the development of a regional response capability to a weapons of mass destruction incident….. Her current salary is $69,696.

God help us all.

_____________________________________________ Press Releases
Union County GOP
September 28, 2006
(ELIZABETH)- Union County Republican Freeholder candidates Pat Quattrocchi, Glenn Mortimer and Diane Barabas called for an investigation today into the hiring practices at the Union County Office of Emergency Management.
There seems to be a mystery around the procedure and process of the hiring of the position of the Domestic Preparedness planner, a key position should our area fall under a WMD attack in the future. “ said Pat Quattrocchi. The Republican candidates stated that the situation is particularly disconcerting since the job description calls for developing a regional plan capability that addresses the special needs of the UASI area that encompasses critical infrastructure target hardening measures, unique regional first responder capabilities and regional communications and information sharing resources.

It appears as though the individual hired for this position had no experience, has not submitted a resume, and her only qualification is that she is a good democrat party worker and friend of the political bosses. “ After months of attempting to determine what process was followed, I think we might just have the Union County version of Golan Cipel in our Emergency Management Planning Office”, said Diane Barabas.
This week’s chemical spill in Elizabeth has put this issue on the front page again. Over 50 people were sent to the hospital on Monday and the Republican candidates expressed their concern about the effectiveness of an unqualified political appointee running and planning Emergency preparedness for the citizens of Union County. “This is just another example of the democrats playing favorites, and putting their own political interests above the safety and welfare of the public,” said Mortimer. “This situation smells worse than the chemical spill.” “In the interest of public safety and our own Union County Homeland security, we are calling for an immediate investigation and we believe the public deserves an answer,” commented Quattrocchi, Mortimer and Barabas.


September 20, 2006

Will freeholder Estrada be indicted and charged with the same crime a former MVC Employee was in 2005?

It has been over a month since it was widely reported that New Jersey's motor vehicle agency has launched a probe into how Union County Freeholder Angel Estrada, who is the manager of the Elizabeth office, helped former Attorney General Zulima Farber's boyfriend update his delinquent driving status.

The Union County Watchdog Association has learned that a MVC employee who committed a very similar act as Freeholder Estrada’s was forced to resign and was indicted for helping a fellow employee renew a driver’s license in 2005.

Sharon A. Harrington, the head of the Motor Vehicle Commission, said regarding Estrada’s investigation that the agency would take action against employees if the investigation finds any wrongdoing. The agency "is working expeditiously to complete this investigation," Harrington said in a prepared statement. "At the end of this process, MVC will take action, if warranted."

According to an inside source at the MVC, who is surprised that Estrada is still reporting for work and is concerned that this is a sign that his political ties are going to put him above the law, a recent incident involving an MVC employee committing a similar offense involved Grace Hoogliviet and Tracey Scott.

Allegedly Hoogliviet was an investigator with the Security and Investigation Unit, Scott was a secretary in the same unit. Scott was unable to renew her drivers license as she did not have a certified copy of her birth certificate. Hoogliviet escorted her to the Trenton Agency and approved the transaction. The matter was reported, and resulted in both employees being terminated. Documents obtained through the Open Public Records Act show that both employees resigned this past May. (You can view these documents by clicking here.) Hoogliviet was also indicted and charged with conspiracy, tampering with public records and false records entry in 2005. Ultimately a deal was agreed to, and both employees were allowed to resign, with the agreement that they could never accept state employment.

A check of court records backed up the sources claim that Hoogliviet had been indicted. View indictment document by clicking here.
According to a clerk at the Mercer County court criminal records division there was no conviction. He said there had been a pre-trial intervention, and that if Ms. Hoogvliet completes the program, the charges will be dismissed.

A probe into Farber’s actions that day showed that after being allowed to Angel Estrada personally took charge of the matter and renewed Goore's expired car registration before he even arrived at the MVC office to sign official forms and pay a $137 registration fee.

Motor vehicle agencies require that proper Identification such as a driver’s license be submitted to renew a registration. If the owner of the vehicle is not present for the transaction, they must submit a power of attorney; this documentation is kept on file with the transaction.

"Mr. Estrada's handling of this matter before Hamlet Goore arrived at the MVC agency raises questions about the propriety of his practices and whether they were in compliance with MVC procedures," prosecutor Williams wrote in his report.
Farber was forced to resign because of her actions that day. Her boyfriend Goore also resigned as director of the Department of Community Development in Irvington. "He's on vacation and won't be returning," Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith said, declining to state the reason why Goore was leaving the $81,000-a-year post.

There are other allegations of Estrada being on a MVC tape helping Gore take a test for a motor cycle license. Freeholder Daniel Sullivan is also Estrada’s boss at the MVC, there is no word on what his involvement was in all of this, if any. I doubt we’ll ever here the entire story of what transpired between the three friends that fateful day. But if Angel Estrada doesn’t join his friends on the unemployment line and face criminal charges as Grace Hoogliviet did, the public deserves to know exactly why not.

Someone is Not Doing Their Job

In 1987 NJ native Danny DeVito stared along with Billy Crystal in the black comedy “Throw Momma from the Train”. The story line tells of a bitter ex-husband and a put upon Momma's boy. Both want their respective spouse and mother dead, but who will pull it off?

After many twists and turns along the way, despite their efforts to loose her off a moving locomotive, Momma survives which is really what DeVito wanted though he didn’t realize it at the start and Crystal’s character goes on to write a best seller based on their escapades, somewhat of a happy ending.

Recently I learned of a story involving a service offered by the Union County Dept. of Human Services that didn’t have anywhere near a happy ending.

“The Union County Paratransit System is curb to curb specialized transportation for seniors 60 years of age or older, people with disabilities and economically disadvantaged residents of Union County only.” The system provides non-emergency transportation to doctor appointments, and educational facilities as well as shopping and the like.

It is not certain where Adrian Riordan was off to that fateful day in 2004 when he boarded the paratransit bus however his trip was short-lived. Cited in a lawsuit that was brought against the county by his estate this past June, Mr. Riordan made an unscheduled and unassisted exit from the moving vehicle through the rear emergency door.

The astounding part of this story is that no one realized that he had been accidentally tossed out; those operating the bus service became aware of the situation only after having traveled a full block.

Mr. Riordan’s physical and mental states, at the time of the accident, are not clear, however, it is asserted that he was not properly secured. The fact remains that if he was elderly, easily disoriented and opened the door himself, someone wasn’t doing their job, if he was wheelchair bound and his chair was not properly secured, someone wasn’t doing their job, if the door was not functioning properly and opened on it’s own someone at the vehicle yard wasn’t doing their job and not to notice that he was missing till a full block later certainly means that someone wasn’t doing their job.

Mr. Riordan’s family is certainly justified in seeking damages and reimbursement for his medical bills as well as funeral expenses as they have been put through a nightmare.

Did county officials offer their apologies for this terrible tragedy, did they offer their condolences for this family’s loss, did they accept any responsibility for what occurred or did they simply choose to remain mum keeping the story under wraps.

The Department of Human Services, under the supervision of Director Frank Guzzo, has responsibility for the Paratransit service, as well as Social Services and the Juvenile Detention Center.

**** Recently an employee who worked for Social Services was sentenced to jail for the thievery of over $144,000 in welfare checks which went unnoticed for a period of years only to be detected by a bank teller.

**** And conditions at the detention center were so deplorable that the state Juvenile Justice Commission found that the county’s negligence in maintaining the facility as well as practices they enlisted were a contributing factor in the suicide of teenager Eddie Sinclair.

All of these events have occurred under Mr. Guzzo’s watch, it seems to me that someone hasn’t been doing their job; it also seems to me that Mr. Guzzo should be relieved of his position. Though in the movie DeVito got Momma back, the Sinclair and Riordan families will not be getting a brother or son back anytime soon.

September 14, 2006

9-0 mystery solved

The mystery surrounding how the freeholders unanimously vote 9-0 on most resolutions has been solved while seeking the meaning of the word “F R E E” as used in county’s billing of tax-payer funded - free concerts. This mystery has been vexing some informed members of the public for quite some time now.

Having attended freeholder meetings, and having read minutes of meetings I didn’t attended, I am always amazed how the freeholders vote 9-0 on every resolution with little or no meaningful public discussion. It’s illegal to discuss the expenditure of tax dollars outside of an open public meeting, so where are they making their decisions to vote yes? Mystery solved: Freeholders are not having discussions or making decisions. They are simply voting yes and I suppose there’s nothing illegal about that.

When Isaac Hayes, the headliner for the Rhythm & Blues Concert to be held in Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield this past June, had a heart attack he was quickly replaced by the production company the county hired to manage the event with Roberta Flack. A resolution was passed at the next freeholder meeting increasing the production company’s fee by $35,000. When questioned about the costs of this concert at tonight’s freeholder meeting I was told that Flack replaced Hayes and that the resolution would have been increased even if Hayes was performing.

Did the freeholders have a similar question to mine before voting 9-0 in favor of this $35,000 expenditure? An extensive OPRA request as well as a search of meeting minutes finds no discussion about the Flack costs. The only thing discussed by our elected officials and upper management before passing this resolution were their VIP passes to the event.

A VIP pass entitles you to attend the concert in the VIP tent, where there is “free” food and drinks (cost to taxpayers for VIP/Artist Catering for Flack concert: $3,750.00 plus $300.00 for servers). Only VIP’s are allowed in the tent, the taxpayers who are footing the bill for this party have to bring their own lawn chairs and sit outside and be grateful they are getting so called “free music”. The VIP’s even get their own port-a-potty.

An E-mail obtained through OPRA from Freeholder B.J. Kowalski states: Too bad about Isaac Hayes. But I love Roberta Flack. Would you please give me 8 VIP passes? I can pick them up when I come in for the June 8 FH meeting. Thanks, BJ

This email from Freeholder Kowalski was the only response to an email from a county coordinator for the event which was sent to the entire freeholder board, county manager and deputy county manager (a position most counties do without) and various other county employees. All of the employees who were involved in this process have a combined salary of $858,110.00.

The email from the coordinator simply stated: Unfortunately, I’ve received notice from the production company that Isaac Hayes has suffered a minor heart attack and is pulling out of any appearances he was supposed to make – including ours. The good news is we’ve been able to replace the headliner with a high caliber artist in record time. Roberta Flack is now our new headliner!

The employee goes on to state: I will be receiving T-Shirts and VIP passes. Please let me know how many you’d like. I can either have them sent via messenger to your home or have them on your desk when you come in for Thursday’s freeholder meeting.

In a letter to the editor which appeared in Worrall newspapers today freeholder Kowalski claims she attended this concert with 4 family members and they brought their own refreshments. At tonight’s freeholder meeting I asked Kowalski which was true? Her email requesting 8 VIP passes or her letter to the editor. No answer was given.

Kowalski seems to have a hard time grasping things. My complaint about the concerts was that the Union County Democratic Comittee use them as another creative way to spend tax dollars on their camapaigns as campaigning politicans are always part of the act.

In her closing comments Freholder Kowalski did not shed any light on the 9-0 vote or the expenditure of our tax dollars but rather recommended that people “don’t just criticize but come out and enjoy all that the county has to offer”.

I hope your family doesn't need para transit county services.

Did Kowalski go to the concert with 4 family members and her picnic basket or did she sit in the VIP tent with 8 guests?

View emails by clicking here.

View Freeholder Kowalski Letter to the Editor by clicking here.