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.