September 02, 2006

Nothing in it for UC's Little Guys

Lifestyle diva Martha Stewart told Barbara Walters in a 2004 interview; “I didn’t cheat anybody out of anything.”

She was sentenced to five months in prison and five months of home confinement after a jury found her guilty of obstructing justice, conspiracy and making false statements during an insider trading investigation into her sale of ImClone stock.

Martha called the badly timed sale totally innocent, the feds called it Insider Trading and a jury of ordinary folks agreed, so off she went on an all expense paid trip up the river.

Likewise Michael Milken, who has been called the embodiment of the “booming ‘80s” earning a whopping $550 million in 1987 alone, also had the privilege of enjoying the amenities of the Graybar Hotel. He served almost 2yrs for using information, that the “Average Joe” just didn’t know about or have access to, to earn millions.

Both cases involved illegalities but also both Martha and Michael, were considered to have acted unethically when they used their position and special knowledge of available opportunities for their personal gain and perhaps that of their inner circles.

If you are of the mind that this kind of stuff only happens with the rich and famous think again.

Just this week the Star Ledger, in a front page story, told the sleazy tale of longtime Union County Sheriff Ralph Froelich’s stepson, a UC sheriff’s officer as well, who was able to acquire three luxury cars valued at over $100 grand for a mere $300 smackeroos. Purchased at a sheriff’s sale, the cars had been confiscated by the sheriff’s department from a local car dealer which sonny boy had sued for damages after purchasing a vehicle with a defective radio from the same dealer.

It has been reported that the only announcement of the impending sale was a notice on the wall of the sheriff’s office where of course we all stop in, on a daily basis, to check the specials.

Ever at the ready to do damage control, county spokesperson Sebastian D’Elia issued a statement that the county counsel’s office had reviewed the affair and determined that all was on the up and up. He didn’t say if the transaction was reviewed before or after the fact and the sheriff naturally had no comment.

Prior to his heart attack, singer Isaac Hayes had been contracted to appear in Union County at an event in a county park arranged by the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Roberta Flack was booked to replace Hayes at an additional cost of $35,000.

When learning about the last minute change, Freeholder Betty Jean Kowalski expressed her delight in an Email to a staffer, which was obtained thru the OPRA. “I love Roberta Flack” she wrote; than she went on to request that 8 VIP passes be put aside for her that she would pick up at the upcoming freeholder meeting.

VIP passes allow “special guests” access to catered refreshments and the best viewing area in the venue. One has to wonder just who Ms Kowalski was using her position to entertain that particular evening with the bill being footed by the taxpayers.

By now most everyone in Union County has learned of Angel Estrada, a sitting Union County Freeholder, manager of the Elizabeth office of the MVC, and his role in the affairs of Attorney General Zulima Farber, which cost her a job. The state Ethics Board is currently investigating to determine if Mr. Estrada used his position for the personal benefit of himself or his friends. If that is found to be the case he could face fines, loss of his job, elected office and possible criminal charges.

After the Stewart trial one of the jurors said, “This is a victory for the little guys.”

Union County residents need to remember that they are the little guys and only they can bring about changes to ensure that these abuses of power and priviledge don't continue.