June 09, 2006

Freeholder Threatens Residents with Arrest at Public Meeting

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”.

Dear Freeholder Holmes:

I will pick up brochures outlining the First Amendment when next I visit the NJACLU and will pass them on to the board for reference. In light of the fact that there is a resident, Toy Ling Washington of Hillside, who is alleging she is being harassed by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office because of her political efforts against the Democrat machine there…and In light of the fact that an ex-girlfriend of Assemblyman Joseph Cryan was arrested using 19 officers from the Prosecutor’s Office for the crime of putting a note in his car……I find your threats to be credible. I am perfectly aware that the County of Union, with your absolute power and infinite connections in the State of New Jersey can do just about anything you’d like to a citizen who dares speak out against you.

Bring it Chester. You’re not shutting me up. We have soldiers sacrificing their lives to bring democracy to the Middle East. I am proud to join them, in this very small way, to ensure New Jersey remains free from tyranny.

Tina M. Renna
Union County Watchdog Association, Inc.

US Attorney General's Office
NJ Attorney General's Office
NJ American Civil Liberties Union

The County of Union passed a whopping budget last night. There were reporters from 2 weekly newspapers there and they won’t report on this until next Thursday. The Star-Ledger was not only absent, but today they ran what was obviously a statement from the county’s Public Information office which was inaccurate and misleading. It should have had the disclaimer above it THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT PIAD FOR BY THE UNION COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE.

There were about ten residents that spoke on the budget and items on the agenda. I believe that is a record number. Needless to say, none were happy about it. I will attempt to document it here. I didn’t plan on covering this meeting so I did not take notes. If you would like to correct me and add to this record please send the info and I will update this blog. In light of the Star-Ledger’s outrageous disregard for the enlightenment of their readership I felt I needed to try, and will do my best to give a voice to the citizens that took the time to come out and denounce actions of a governing body that is out of control, and the major media – The Star-Ledger wasn’t there and worse – they ran a propaganda piece for the government. Too bad the Ledger doesn’t have meetings where the public can tell them off. I’d gladly get arrested for crossing the line there.

Elizabeth Cox of Summit:
She had read through the county employee list on the Union County Watchdog Associations website and found many instances where the county was not following civil servant’s rules. There were employees making more money than employees who had a higher title. When the freeholders next give themselves a raise they should consider these hard working employees.

Tina Renna:
The Union County Watchdog Association came up with a top 10 list of things taxpayers can do without. The county public information department complained to editors that our claim that you spent over 7-million dollars on phone services in 2005 was inaccurate. D’Elia’s number – which I didn’t see any documentation for – was more like 1-million dollars.

At first I thought it was the usual PI Department strategy to discredit me. Tina Renna get’s her numbers wrong bashing – but then I thought better of it. I realized that we had put a considerable amount of time and energy into this research, which was conducted by using the 2005 check registry, and it is quite possible that you have no clue that you spent 7-million dollars on phone services in 2005 spread over 18 vendors. It will be a priority for the Watchdog Association to analyze your purchasing habits this year and we will of course share all our findings with the public.

I find it absurd that the public has to purchase your Audit, which will cost about $40.00. To claim that this document is not available digitally is a lie. If you don’t have it digitally it is because you are requesting that your auditor not give it to you in that form so you don’t have to release it that way. I would encourage you to put this information on your website like many open government bodies do today and demand that your auditing firm produce this document in electronic form. If they don’t you can simply scan it as the Union County Watchdog Association is going to do it for you. We will purchase your audit, scan it and put in on our website along with your minutes, budget, and vouchers because people need to keep an eye on you. We can no longer afford your back room politics.

Bruce Paterson spoke: Bruce brought up the fact that Senator Raymond Lesniak used the word Corrupt in his article referring to another governing body in the taxpayer funded newsletter “The Union County Directions”. He also reminded the board that they used similar disrespectful language in their last publication in relation to the President of the United States of America. Mr. Paterson asked the board to reconsider their rules for conduct during their own meeting as whenever he referred to the board being corrupt they gavel him and threaten him with removal. This is clearly a double standard.

Pat Quatrocci of Garwood spoke: Part one:

I intend to make this short. To say I was disappointed with this budget would be an understatement. Being well aware that the boards hands are tied when it comes to certain increases which are just facts of life and agreeably make up a large part of the increased tax levy on the residents, I still fail to see how this budget can go forward to approval.

In my own way, I have been urging the board for the last 3 years to reign in frivolous spending, though some items may on first blush appear to be minor in nature when taken in full context they cumulatively become 10’s of thousands of dollars. Even a novice reviewing the paid bills could detect many areas that they would nip, tuck and consolidate.

I ardently believe that the best interests of the hard working residents of Union County will not be well served by this budget and request that you return to the drawing board revaluate it, and make some cuts. So I ask that this evening you vote No on the budget.

Comments on anything:

As I am sure you recall a couple of weeks ago I asked that this board to take a position on the governors proposed tax increases, including the sales tax increase, I have to say that again I was not disappointed as this board did exactly as I had expected, Nothing. I honestly don't know why I expected more for the hard working taxpayers of Union County.

Chairman Mirabella’s reply as I walked away from the podium:
" Hey Pat,.... I thought you were running for freeholder NOT Governor!"

A man from Roselle Park spoke: On the budget

A woman from Plainfield spoke: On the dilapidated condition of a county park their

Mayor Diorio of Roselle Park: Asked the board to study a heavily trafficked street which was a public safety concern.

A woman from Roselle Park: Asked the board the same.

(I myself live on Walnut Avenue in Cranford and know that residents have had the same safety concerns and have spoken with – and perhaps met – with freeholder B.J. Kowalski on this – Kowalski did not mention the Cranford concerns during last nights meeting which leads me to believe she could care less about Walnut Avenue and the people who contacted her wasted their time.)

Tina Renna: I mentioned earlier that the UCWA released a top 10 list and I don’t have time to mention the entire list but I would like to bring up county nepotism. The Union County Watchdog Association inputted all Democrat municipal chairs and Democrat elected officials and blended it in with the Union County Employee list in which showed that 542 county employees have the same surnames of elected democrat officials. We can’t say for sure that your all related but we can say we have no idea of knowing how many people are on their that don’t share the same surname such as in-laws and cousins – gumadas(sp) (At this point I was told I was crossing the line – meaning I was being disrespectful and could be stopped – even forcibly from speaking – Apparently you can talk about their mother-in-laws and cousins on the payroll but leave their gumadas out of it – they don’t want you picking on them) Employees are making a lot more money today than they were just 5 years ago. And this is an embarrassment to the taxpayers as is this taxpayer funded newsletter. ELEC complaints last year, that are still pending, didn’t keep you from using tax dollars for your campaigning. Although I will admit I enjoyed this one very much especially Senator Raymond lesniak’s piece in which he rants "There must be nepotism policies put in place in the Elizabeth Board of Ed Immediately!!!"

This paper’s finances go through the Union County Alliance which claims it is exempt from the OPRA. We are challenging that with the State’s Government records counsel. The public needs to know if politicians relatives are making money off of this publication that is funded by tax dollars. For instance, I have print bills which show while Assemblywoman Linda Stender was a sitting freeholder her husbands print shop was given this job and overcharged $20,000 more than the next lowest bidder. She did this 2 times. With the fiances going through the Alliance the public has no idea who is getting their money - it’s the perfect crime.

I see Stender changed her title about the same time she announced her run for Congress – She no longer gets paid to supervise volunteers who are selflessly working for free. She is now the fund Raiser and Foundation Director – a new position @ $70,000.

During the budget hearings it was announced that Runnells will be running a ½ million in the red this year. Yet that didn’t keep you from putting the county manager’s mother-in-law on the payroll. She makes $40,000 to be Linda Stender’s assistant. That’s $110,000 for fund raiser employees that haven’t raised one dollar to date.

Isn’t having an assemblywoman and a mother-in-law, who is a relative of Senator Raymond Lesniak, on the payroll @ $110,00 plus benefits a bit nefarious? Who are they going to fund raise from? Vendors another form of pay-to-lay and political shenanigans? Something not covered by ELEC laws?

Willie Sutton is one of the most infamous criminals of the 20th Century, best known for daring robberies in the 1920s and 1930s and as a master of disguise. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton quickly responded, "Because that's where the money is."

Tina Renna: Resolution 2006-568 was regarding increasing some liability insurance.

With all of the recent employee law suits stemming from nepotism and harassment costing millions of dollars in the last few years – especially the Finelli case which the legal fees along will be about 2.5 million dollars - I asked if they could take note of my question and write a letter back informing me of how exactly liability insurance works. The county had to sue their insurance companies in order to have some coverage of the Fanelli suit because it wasn’t reported properly. How much does a 4 million dollar legal settlement actually cost the taxpayers? Is it like car insurance? If you total your car does your insurance premium go up – like getting points on your license? Etc.

(I eagerly await their response. But will not hold my breath.)

Frank Prather of Vauxhall: He said everyone in Union County received this newspaper – in which he held up the UC Directions – and Freeholder Mirabella eagerly answered that question with a resounding yes. Prather then told the board that no-one in Vauxhall received it – in which Mirabella looked concerned and made note of that complaint and will look into it immediately.

Prather than mentioned the Battle of Springfield and that Vauxhall was involved in that battle and would like to see a sign erected honoring the people of color who sacrificed and fought in that war. Freeholder Holmes mumbled something about it and Freeholder Debra Scanlon, who is from Union, had absolutely nothing to say.

There was much more. I didn’t plan on covering this meeting……I just wanted to document that citizens took the time to come out and denounce actions of a governing body that is out of control and the major media – The Star-Ledger wasn’t there and worse – they ran a propaganda piece for the government.