June 05, 2006

Read this closely and you'll hear slap happy polka music playing

The Union County Directions ‘Newsletter’ hit the mailboxes just in time for the Primary Election Day which is tomorrow. It’s the usual promotion of freeholders who are up for re-election on line B with a comic section on page 3 featuring Senator Raymond Lesniak ranting against the Elizabeth Board of Education. The one budget in Elizabeth that he doesn't have his greedy fingers on. While reading his article I could have sworn I heard Polka music being played on an accordion.

What makes Lesniak an authority on this subject I suppose is the fact that Lesniak was recently appointed by Senate President Richard Codey to serve on the Legislature’s Joint Committee of the Public Schools. It was just last year that the county of Union under the direction of Lesniak’s nephew, the appointed county manager, hired Richard Codey’s brother and padded his pension quite nicely.

Lesniak leads off his moral tirade, which is humorous considering the author and his partners in politics including a very close relationship with James McGreevey who is quite possibly the most corrupt and unethical governor in New Jersey history, by telling us ……“Willie Sutton being one of the most infamous criminals of the 20th Century, best known for daring robberies in the 1920’s and 1930’s and as a master of disguise. When asked why the robbed banks, Sutton quickly responded, “Because that’s where the money is.” The State of New Jersey today needs to curtail waste and mismanagement of its resources and the place to start is where most of the money goes – to fund public education.”

I’ve noticed this trend in New Jersey. It’s a public relations theme that’s been picked up from the cooked up need for a property tax convention. The unsavory political types insist a convention is the only way to curtail property taxes because the schools are out of control. Not the municipalities – which Democrats run most of in New Jersey, and not the County of Union which is the true New Jersey poster child for waste and mismanagement – and corruption - where Senator Lesniak’s nephew is the appointed county manager and all 9 freeholders are hand picked by Lesniak and Charlotte DeFalippo - who is also on the Union County Payroll with a salary of $132,910.

Lesniak goes on to rant about …..

1) School board members having relative(s) hired by the Board after they were elected.
542 Union County Employees have the same surnames as elected Democrat Officials. There is even a Lesniak on the list. We can't say for sure that all of these people are releated but we can say we have no way of knowing how many in-laws and cousins - people who have different surnames than elected officials are on the payroll. And just recently a Union County Employee, who was supported by the Lesniak Democrat machine, was elected to the Elizabeth School Board.

2) New Superintendent of schools permits his confidential secretary, and other employees to work on fundraising activities during school work hours, using school equipment and facilities, for the election campaign of Board members.

I guess nobody told Uncle Ray that the Union County Directions newsletter, the very paper he is photographed in along with this article, was produced by the county Public Information Department right down the hall from his nephew, the Union County Manager’s, office and that the postage and printing is paid for with tax dollars.

Lesniak goes on to state that nepotism policies must be made mandatory in Elizabeth schools. He’s concerned with school children being shortchanged by board members who look out for themselves and not for them.

Now can you hear that Slap Happy Polka music playing?

Also on the county payroll along with his nephew being the appointed Union County Manager, is an Alec Lesniak; the county manager’s mother-in-law who is Assemblywoman Linda Stender’s assistant; the county manager’s wife, who used to work in Senator Raymond Lesniak's Legislative office, recently left county employee for public employment in the town of Berkeley Heights; the county manager’s ex-wife and his mother (Lesniak’s sister) are on the Kean University Payroll; and there are two other nephews who are the county manager’s brothers also on public payrolls.

What Lesniak doesn’t tell every postal patron that received this publication, which was paid for with tax dollars, is that he himself made his fortune by billing poor school districts for legal work. In January 2006, according to then Hillside Board Member Sergio Bichao, “three years ago Mr. Lesniak’s firm billed our school board three times as much as was spent on legal fees prior to hiring him and after we fired him when I won a seat on the board.”

Lesniak is so concerned about the ‘poor’ school children why doesn’t he offer his services to poor districts pro bono instead of over billing them and getting rich?

Here are highlights of a New York Times article published in January 2006, about Lesniak who blasphemously calls himself a born again Christian:

Days before his announcement, Mr. McGreevey sought out Senator Lesniak and confided that he was gay - an admission the governor made to the senator even before he told his wife, Mr. Lesniak later recalled. And it was the counsel of Mr. Lesniak, a born-again Christian and a friend from Mr. McGreevey's days as the mayor of Woodbridge, upon which the governor relied while weighing whether to leave office....

In many instances, the contracts awarded to Mr. Lesniak's firm came after the senator or his allies offered campaign contributions or other political support to local officials who decide who will get the work, a fact that Mr. Lesniak acknowledges...

"I don't deny that," Mr. Lesniak said of connections between his support and contracts for his firm. "People say, 'You raise money for people who get elected and then they hire your law firm.' I go, 'Shocking, isn't it?' Are you supposed to hire people who donated to your opponent?"

By Mr. Lesniak's estimates, government work accounted for as much as a quarter of his firm's business in recent years. Currently, he said, it accounts for about 10 percent...

During the 1990's, when Mr. McGreevey was the mayor of Woodbridge, Weiner Lesniak collected more than $5 million in fees from the municipality. At the same time, the firm contributed about $41,800 to Mr. McGreevey's campaigns, according to public records....

"I operate within the law totally and exclusively," he said. "But I'm not going to unilaterally disarm myself or the people that I support."

A bachelor bon vivant who dispenses advice with the enthusiasm of a self-help guru, Mr. Lesniak, 59, cuts a distinctive figure in the Senate, with his gravelly baritone and his eagerness to seize the spotlight....

After leaving the Army in the late 1960's, he played accordion in a polka band, Jolly Rich and the Polka Stars, to help pay his way through Rutgers.

A framed copy of one of their albums, "Polkas With a Kick," is on a wall in his office. "Can you pick me out?" he asked, pointing to a band photo on the back cover. "It isn't easy." As if trying to read a born-again, polka-playing political boss would be.

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