August 29, 2006

Have the freeholders found religion?

Five months ago the Union County Watchdog Association asked the Union County prosecutor’s office to investigate the Union County freeholder board for routinely violating the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). I know what you’re thinking about the probability of anything coming out of that compliant; but consider that in the past the Prosecutor’s office has determined that the Elizabeth Board of Education, the towns of Roselle Park and Kenilworth and the Union County Improvement Authority had violated the OPMA.

The last update I received from the prosecutor’s office was four months ago. They informed me that they were waiting for the county to send them documentation. Apparently the prosecutor’s office has to wait patiently for the county to hand over their public records just like the public does. Oddly I find it comforting to know that the county has contempt for everyone, not just the average tax-payer off the street.

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 simply “calls 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 or when those discussions will be made public.

A recent example of the consequences this has on public information is the law suit that’s been filed against Freeholder Rick Proctor. Scala v. County of Union. The suit alleges that the defendant, Denise Santiago, an official within the County, refused to hire plaintiff, an attractive 33-year old woman, because Santiago, who was having an extra-marital affair with Freeholder Rick Proctor, viewed plaintiff as a threat to her romantic relationship with Proctor. (See previous post: Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?)

It was serendipitous that the minutes I chose at random to file the complaint with the Prosecutor’s office, as well as the States Government Records Council, happened to include the discussion of this case. The executive session minutes originally released to me simply stated:

9. Minutes redacted under Attorney-Client privileged communication in a matter involving on-going litigation. Minutes redacted under Attorney-Client privileged communication.

When the county responded to my complaint the minutes they gave the GRC stated instead:

9. Alyssa Scala v. The County of Union, v. Rick Proctor, v. Denise Santiago.

These minutes were dated February, 2005. Proctor was up for re-election that year. The county has managed to keep this from the public to date. This story is an exclusive of the County Watchers.

The Open Public Meetings Act N.J.S.A. 10:4-17 empowers the prosecutor’s office to enforce the act. Private citizens cannot enforce the provisions of the OPMA except through a civil action. The vast majority of citizens, unfortunately, do not- and cannot realistically be expected to have the time or resources to bring suit on their own. The Legislature, apparently contemplating this problem, vested county prosecutors office’s, with the power to impose the civil penalties.

While I’m disappointed that justice seems to be dragging its feet in this case, I am happy to report that recently the freeholders seemed to have found religion in that they have been adopting the required resolutions and keeping executive minutes somewhat up to the standards that is required by the law.

We’ll say Amen to that for now; but we’ll keep praying the prosecutor's office does their job and holds the county accountable for their past transgressions; or the sinners will surely fall from grace again. The minutes suggest they are already tethering on the brink.

The county doesn't post freeholder meeting minutes on their tax-payer funded website; but we do you can view them by clicking here.

August 27, 2006

Uniform Crime Report Shows Areas in Need of Improvement in UC

Annually the NJ State Police releases what is called the Uniform Crime Report. Viewable on the internet the report contains a wealth of information regarding who is doing what illegal activity in NJ and where the crimes are occurring. In case you were wondering how many American Indians and Alaskan natives were arrested for committing crimes in NJ this would be the place to look.

The report also contains a comparison of what happened the past two years and how each county fared; this could be considered a report card of sorts telling us how as a society we are doing from year to year.

In Union County 20,583 arrests were made which was a decrease of less than one half of one percent from 2004 and there were 13,145 more males arrested than females, which could be considered an interesting statistic and very telling when one ponders the differences between the sexes.

Adult arrests decreased by one percent but alarmingly juvenile arrests increased by 6 percent over last year also of concern is that murders increased by 64 percent. By comparison in neighboring Middlesex and Somerset Counties juvenile arrests were down 6 and 5 percent respectively and murders 24 and 79 percent.

So just what is going on here and what are they doing that we are not?

Perhaps the answer lies in what they have been doing in those counties after the fact. The Middlesex County website shows a plethora of services available to youth before and after incarceration at the detention center that it shares with Somerset County. Union County on the other hand had little information available about preventative services for youth or follow up services for that matter.

Looking at the stats for individual municipalities tells absolutely no story at all, the numbers are up and down in the suburban as well as the urban centers of the county, with Westfield and Mountainside showing some increases in arrests for violent crimes while Plainfield and Rahway showed decreases.

One conclusion that can be drawn is that it doesn’t matter much where one lives in the county as the incidence and type of crime shuffles back and forth from year to year from town to town. But overall 30.5 persons per one thousand inhabitants were victimized in 2005 which is down from 34 persons in 2000 and 35.5 for 1999.

Though things have improved since 1999 it is sad to say that according to the State Police Report Union County placed fourth out of New Jersey’s twenty-one counties for the number of murders and third for car jackings statewide, so it appears that we still have some considerable work to do.

Ensuring the personal safety of the county’s resident’s takes teamwork on the part of all the municipalities working closely with county officials to educate the residents so that they can take measures to protect their families and property, improvements in solving serious crimes and prosecution to the full extent of the law.

August 23, 2006

Freeholders are working for taxpayers pro-bono

Freeholder Nancy Ward, ran as an incumbent last year after just recently being appointed by the Union County Democratic Committee to replace Freeholder John Wohlrab who kind of/sort of resigned after being charged with alleged domestic violence.

During the freeholder debates the question was asked as to what the county was doing to curtail gang violence. Freeholder Ward, who had been on the board for approximately one-month at the time, responded that she had been participating in a gang task force and that Union County had nothing to worry about because “gangs are really not a big problem in Union County”.

A collective gasp could be heard in the audience which caused Ward to pout and repeate “they’re not”.

I was glad to read in the Westfield Leader this week that Freeholder Ward has now learned some truth about the gang problem in Union County. I have friends with children in just about every town in Union County. The truth is gangs are everywhere and they are a huge problem. My hometown of Cranford has at least one parent meeting a year which focuses on the influence of gangs and what to watch out for. I know a security guard who works in the Linden School District where Freeholder Ward lives. He told me they are constantly having emergency meetings to address gang related problems.

At the last meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, Freeholder Ward, who was reelected despite her name not being printed on the ballot, discussed that
she recently participated in a three-day program called “the truth about gangs”. Ward called the program a great success.

The Westfield Leader quoted Freeholder Chester Holmes, who also attended the conference and agreed it was a success. Holmes said “To keep me from 12:30 to 6 on a Saturday pro-bono; it had to be good.”
The truth about Union County Freeholders is they get paid $29,500 for their part-time positions (the freeholder chair is paid $31,500 and the assistant chair $30,500). Besides being expected to say-awake during the 3-dozen freeholder meetings a year, being available for a few hours on a Saturday to address the violent gang problem that is plaguing most towns in Union County shouldn’t be considered volunteer work. Holmes gets paid well, in fact Union County freeholders are the third highest paid in the state.

If Freeholder Holmes is concerned about having to do county work pro-bono, I’d suggest he get himself another job, preferably someplace where he can comfortably nap, without having to wear his shades, during convenient work hours.

August 20, 2006

Free training on using the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)

Union county citizens are invited to take advantage of free training on using the Open Public Records Act to obtain public documents from their local governments on Thursday, September 28, 7pm, at the Cranford Community Center, 220 Walnut Avenue, Cranford, NJ.

The free event is being sponsored by the Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) in response to many requests from local residents seeking information on how to utilize the OPRA. The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, the state advocacy organization dedicated to open government, will provide the training and materials, as well as answer questions and provide follow-up support.

“Hosting events such as this one in Union County gives us the opportunity to educate the public and give them the necessary tools to participate in the legislative process thereby holding elected officials accountable at all levels of government” explained Tina Renna, President of the UCWA.

Approximately 100 people attended a UCWA-sponsored program last year in which a trainer from the Citizens Campaign taught how to effectively advocate and participate in municipal government. Many people who attended expressed an interest in learning more about the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

Space is limited. Reserve your seat early by contacting Tina Renna at (908) 709-0530, or email at

The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government seeks to increase transparency, accountability, honesty and democracy in government at all levels by defending and expanding public access to government records and meetings.

The Union County Watchdog Association believes that good government can only be achieved through a checks and balance system that includes the watchful eye of the people. They strive to make county government more transparent by gaining access to public records and being a public resource for information.

August 13, 2006

Homeland Security Should be Number One Priority

Recently hundreds of American lives were saved using surveillance tools that critics have called illegal, and threatening to our civil liberties. Realizing that one third of Newark Liberty Airport lies in Union County and that we are the home of the most dangerous two miles on the eastern seaboard, I really don’t care much who is listening to my telephone conversations.

Just a few short days ago NJ Senators stood in the Port of NY and NJ claiming that the current administration has made incompetent security choices and aren’t putting the interests of the working families first.

Well, it seems to me that if the current administration wasn’t doing their job we surely could have had a plane or two exploding over the port taking a countless number of lives on both the ground and in the air along with part of a tank farm, a cat cracker and a piece of down town Elizabeth.

With campaign rhetoric sounding like he is the new kid on the block, candidate Bob Menendez says that America needs to be given a new direction where homeland security is concerned. His buddies say he is just the guy to send to Washington to do the job of ensuring America’s interests.

Somebody please tell me what he has been doing in Washington these past eight years; shouldn’t he have been looking out for New Jersey’s interests and her hard working families?

Certainly these are dangerous times and it wouldn’t take much for Union County, as we know it, to be a fond memory. It is important that we have the best of the best giving their undivided attention to Homeland Security/Emergency Management measures ensuring that in times of crisis UC is prepared.

The Dir. of Public Safety, Harold Gibson, is a county employee earning a salary of $109,793 per year. Currently he is being considered to replace the late Plainfield Councilman Ray Blanco. Council members have the responsibility to look out for their towns during times of crisis and Mr. Gibson’s county department is also an integral part of the county’s emergency management plan, so we must question his ability to be in two places at once, should a countywide emergency occur.

The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management issues directives, “how to” guidelines, provides training courses and sets the requirements and standards for departmental workers at the county and municipal levels. The office ensures that these standards are enforced as a division of the Dept. of Law and Public Safety/Office of the Attorney General. Position descriptions on the state’s personnel website list prior emergency response experience, specialized certifications and educational levels necessary to qualify for a variety of positions in county offices of Emergency Management. Grant monies help fund these offices with qualifiers attached in some cases to insure that the grants are used as intended including the hiring of qualified employees.

The UC Division of Environmental Health and Emergency Management writes an Assessment and Improvement Plan which outlines areas of concern, progress and existing services for handling both natural and man made environmental situations in the county. Though some changes and improvements have been made since the 2004 report, more can always be done to ensure the daily safety of county residents.

Probably the single most important department of county government because it has the potential to impact on the lives of all county residents, funding should never be an issue, regulatory compliance should always be without question, staffing second to none and deployment at the ready on a moments notice.

After all isn’t providing for the health and welfare of the residents what county government is intended to do?

August 07, 2006

Union County Alliance - Let the sunshine in!!!!!

Date: August 10, 2006
Contact: Union County Watchdog Association, Inc.

UNION COUNTY- The states Government Records Council (GRC), the official agency which oversees the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), has ruled today that the Union County Alliance is a public agency and is thereby subject to the provisions of the OPRA.

A complaint was filed with the GRC when a request for records was denied by the Alliance. Tina Renna, on behalf of the Union County Watchdog Association, sought documents pertaining to the Union County Directions Newsletter. The Alliance is listed as the publisher. The Alliance responded that they are not a government agency and therefore as a 501(c)4 corporation they were not subject to the provisions of the OPRA.

Renna submitted documents to the GRC supporting her assertion that the Alliance is a public agency. Along with other evidence, Renna asserted that the Directions Newsletter is sent out labeled “Postal Patron” which is a distinction that only government organizations can use and provided one of these newsletters in support of this. Renna further asserted that the newsletter is produced in the County Administration Building using county employees and equipment and is mailed to every postal patron only days before the Primary and General Election Day, featuring freeholders and other politicians who are up for re-election throughout its pages.

A June 18, 2002 letter from an Executive Vice President of the Alliance to the Postmaster indicated that the County of Union and the Alliance share a postal account.

In an October 21, 2001 letter from the County of Union Department of Finance to the Union County Alliance, the Director of Finance asks that the Alliance submit their $150,000 voucher to the County Manager, outlining details of how the funds would be spent and the goals and objectives of that spending. The letter goes on to state that payment for this voucher and invoice must be approved by the freeholders before a check can be distributed.

The GRC ruled that the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) defines “public body” as a commission, authority, board council, committee or any other group of two or more persons organized under the laws of this State, and collectively empowered as a voting body to perform a public government function affecting the rights, duties, obligations, privileges, benefits, or other legal relations of any person, or collectively authorized to spend public funds. N.J.S.A. 10:4-8a.

The Union County Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)4 corporation which, according to a County of Union press release, was founded in 1994 as a 501(c)3 by then County Manager Ann Baron. The Alliance’s Certificate of Incorporation lists Ann Baran and then President of Kean College Dr. Henry J. Ross as the initial incorporators, indicating a Kean College address. At the time of their filing for their nonprofit status the Alliance was operating under a grant from Union County; following an initial grant from the NJ Department of Higher Education. The Alliance currently receives 80 percent of its $300,000 annual budget from the County of Union.

In his uncertified response to Renna’s complaint Michael Murray, the Executive Director of the Alliance, claimed that the Alliance’s offices are not located within a government building and that only one employee receives salary and benefits from a government agency.

Renna was able to prove that the Alliance is located within the State’s Kean University and that an officer of the Alliance is in fact listed as a Kean employee. Murray himself is listed on the Union County Payroll with a salary of $104,000. Murray also has use of a county owned 2002 Ford Explorer.

Tina Renna, President of the Union County Watchdog Association today thanked the GRC for their ruling during the public comment portion of their board meeting and went on to state, “The Union County Alliance has been blatantly involved with the County of Union in politicking at the public’s expense and up until now only God knows what else. This GRC ruling will now give the public the right to request records pertaining to how their tax-dollars are being spent. This agency needs a good looking at and because of your ruling the public can now do just that.”

View Draft Findings and Recommendations for this GRC complaint, number 2006-73 below link (final’s were not available at the time of this writing). There was only one revision to the draft findings, the Alliance has to comply with the request within 7 business days and not 10. Vincent Maltese, Chairman of the GRC stated Murray should not be given any more time to comply with a request than any other custodian of records. The GRC’s phone number is 866-850-0511

View draft findings and recommendations
This is the last in a five-part series of stories on the Union County Alliance and the taxpayer funded campaign piece they publish "Union County Directions Newsletter".

Previosly reported in this series:

Political Graft and the Stenders's thesaurus lists words for graft: Kickback, fraud, fix, dishonesty, corruption, con, collusion, and bribe

The publication “Union County Directions” is published by the County of Union through the Union County Alliance (UCA) using tax dollars and county employees. There is a mound of evidence that the publication is being used as campaign literature to promote candidates supported by the Union County Democratic Committee.

The Union County Alliance's (UCA) Newsletter "Directions" was originally a County of Union Newsletter. The county freeholders made the UCA the publisher and gave the money needed to pay for the production and printing to the Alliance. By doing this, the county could side-step the procurement bidding process.

The printing of the first two newsletters were handled by printing broker Richard Stender, d/b/a SVO Printing. Richard was the husband of then sitting Freeholder Linda Stender, who was also on the Board of the Union County Alliance. Stender is currently an assemblywoman and is running for Congress.

Richard was able to charge $20,000 more for each issue he printed than the next highest bidder.

See quotes and invoices mentioned below

SVO, owned by Richard Stender, husband of Linda Stender, charged Union County Alliance $31,892.40 for printing and mailing the summer 1999 issue of Directions (see attached invoice E). This was $13,970 more than quoted by Rentec Design Studio, who quoted printing and mailing for $17,920.

The UCA was also charged an additional $634 for film that was not included in SVO’s quote but was in Rentec’s (see attached quote C). Stender also printed the Fall 1999 issue of Directions, this time charging over $18,000 not including the film charge.

For printing the first two issues of Directions, Richard Stender charged UCA over $33,238. The Union County Alliance has claimed that they are exempt from the Open Public Records Act so getting quotes, invoices and records is impossible without their cooperation. Their un-cooperation proves their guilt.

In 2001, when Joe Renna was working for the County of Union he obtained a quote to print a 24 page full color version of Directions. AFL quoted the printing and mailing at $26,989. (see attached quote G). Richard Stender quoted the same job for $71,315, over $44,326 more than AFL. (see attached quote H). Concerns raised by Joe Renna about the difference in the cost of printing caused the county to use AFL. Renna was served with termination papers stemming from SVO not getting the contract. In the proceedings, evidence showed that e-mails used as evidence by the county were back-dated. The Judge found the county lacked credibility and ruled in Renna’s favor. The docket numbers for the case are: (OAL DKT NO. CSV 3196-03, Agency DKT. NO. 2003-2371)

Did Assemblywoman Stender try to obtain a contract for her husband?

The content of this newsletter is controlled by the County's Public Information Department. The Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) argues that the UC Democratic Committee should reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of the newsletters, which are mailed to every postal patron twice a year just days before the primary and general elections, which we believe is a violation of Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) laws.

Mike Murray, who is now the president of the Union County Alliance was originally the director of public information for the county. Just as the current head of public information does, Murray made sure that the candidates up for re-election would be prominently displayed throughout the newsletter. The newsletter would be designed and redesigned to make sure that the Democratic party's selected candidates would be featured. Not only the freeholder candidates but those who could use help in their campaign in local elections as well.

For instance the two covers below show how the Summer 2002 issue of Directions was originally designed and then as it was actually printed. Note that the three freeholders that appear on the cover were the ones who were up for re-election that year. Freeholder Proctor needed a little extra boost since he was running as an incumbent by being appointed to fill a vacancy as most current sitting freeholders were.

Also note how the County of Union removed their name as co-publishers.

Original cover design featuring Senior Citizens:

Cover changed to feature campaigning freeholders:

This is the second in a series of findings. Previously reported:

Rubbing out a Freeholder

When sitting Freeholder Don Goncalves was up for re-election in 1999, he had fallen out of favor with the Union County Democratic Committee and did not get their support for the party line. His image was digitally removed from a photograph that appeared in the Directions Newsletter. This was done so it would not give Goncalves any publicity that may have helped his campaign. The before-and-after photos appear below.

Original photo of incumbent Democrat candidates for Freeholder Chester Holmes, Assembly Candidate Linda Stender, Freeholder Don Goncalves and Union County Alliance Director and Kean University president Henry Ross.

The photo as it appeared in the Directions Newsletter which was mailed to every postal patron before the election with Freeholder Don Goncalves rubbed out. Goncalves’ arm was made to look like it belonged to Ross.

Political campaign mail: An important trust

According to a Postal bulletin dated 10/19/00: (See Bulletin) Any material accepted for mailing at first-Class or Standard Mail (A) postage rates that is mailed for political campaign purposes by a registered political candidate, campaign committee, or committee of a political party is classified as a political campaign mailing.

The Union County Directions Newsletter is sent out tagged “Political” which is a postal designation to ensure campaign mailings get delivered prior to Election Day.

The production of the newsletter, its content and timing is politically motivated as stories and design elements focus on selective candidates. This included a guarantee the newsletter be delivered prior to the day of election. (See guarantee)

A letter to the Elizabeth Post Master from the Union County Alliance asks for a refund of monies in a joint account the Alliance controlled with the County of Union. This account is still being used for the Directions mailings. (See letter)

Even though the Fall 2001 newsletter was produced and ready to go to press the county did not print and mail it because it wouldn’t arrive in mailboxes until after the election.

County Mouthpiece calls mother “Wicked” girlscout “Evil”
The story on the cover of the June 2002 Directions Newsletter featured veterans receiving their high school diplomas. They had to leave high school to serve their country During World War II. A Westfield High School junior selflessly toiled on the project in order to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award.

Aside from using her work to promote campaigning freeholders, did the county appreciate this girl's work?

In an e-mail copied to several employees, including the county manager and deputy county manager, then County Public Information Director Michael Murray writes:

"I was at the last meetings, including the 'emergency meeting' with the evil Girl Scout, her wicked mother and the muted troop leader."

Did any county management defend the girl?

County Manager George Devanney responds to Murray's email:

"OK then, how about just snacks……all in favor????"

View Email

Below: Cover featuring three photos of veterans who served their country during war and five photos of campaigning freeholders. There are no girl scouts mentioned or pictured on the cover. They aren't mentioned until paragraph 13 on page 11. Which is seven paragraphs after Freeholder Mingo states, "I was very proud that I helped bring about today's events...:

August 05, 2006

Trust fund grants show signs of propaganda

Imagine if your town council launched an image building campaign at taxpayer’s expense. They would pay a consultant $45,000 to brand their image on everything including signage on all town buildings and town property, including vehicles that would read “This is a service of your town council, we’re connected to you!” You’d also have to pay for the signs, about 1-million dollars worth just to get started.

The entire town council would be run out of office on the next Election Day. If not sooner by taxpayers trying to impale them with these very signs.

So where did the County of Union get this idea from and why are taxpayers putting up with it? I can’t explain why taxpayers put up with anything, although I think it has mostly to do with most people not even bothering to vote anymore, but I can tell you where they got the idea from.

In the spring of 1999 Message & Media of New Brunswick was awarded a $45,000 contract to design new county signs. The firm was hired to implement “a new graphic and thematic image devoted to projecting a new identity” for Union County. It was a part of the county’s “Image Building Campaign” in which the firm boasted of being responsible for “the branding of the County with the “We’re Connected to You” image. (View Worrall Community Newspaper article regarding signage from 12/99)

The county even hangs these sings on municipal property. All 21 municipalities have sent the county millions in Open Space Trust fund monies since the fund’s adoption. The county in-turn has sent back one time payments of a few measly thousand dollars in the form of Open Space grants. You can’t miss where this money has gone. The county gives out these grants in October – right before Election Day and makes sure they have plenty of press releases about it in your local paper.

You’ll also see a county sign hanging where the money was spent even though your town has to match the grant’s funds in order to receive it. You can’t get county trust fund monies without signing an agreement with the county which includes agreeing to hang a “We’re connected to you!” sign. There is no stipulation in the agreement which states when you can take the sign down but you do have to agree to have the county install it “for you!” exactly where “they want it to hang!”.

The agreement states:

Upon execution of this agreement, the Municipality consents to the placement of a sign that reads, “Greening Union County/Kids Recreation Trust Grant Program/Preserve Union County”. A Service of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. You’re Trust Fund Dollars at Work for you!” Signage shall be designed and installed by Union County’s Bureau of Traffic and Maintenance. (View agreement template)

This Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders advertising at taxpayer’s expense is priceless to the all-Democrat ruled freeholder board. Along with the photo ops at election time, consider the cost of bill board advertising.

The town of Cranford has bill boards on the perimeters of their downtown. Some of these billboards hang on quite streets. The standard advertising rate for a non profit is $525.00 per bill board per month plus the paper which costs $85 a poster. The private sector rate is $1,600.00 a month.

The county doesn’t miss a chance to hang a sign on anything. Nothing is sacred or off limits to their propaganda.

August 04, 2006

Freehholder Franking???...Get Real

Recently, I referred to the Union County Alliance newspaper, “Union County Directions”, as a taxpayer funded political campaign piece to promote Union County’s Democrat public officials who are up for reelection. Of course this always draws criticism from the GOP's opponents who staunchly defend the county’s use of public money with the justification that the publication is merely intended to “inform” county residents of what is going on in the county and alerting residents of the various useful services that the county provides.

Timing being everything there are those who point to congressional mailings from legislators, one of which arrived a couple of weeks ago, as being the exact same thing and why is it that I don’t denounce the Republicans as being guilty of the same abuse of tax payer dollars.

Well, that is because there is a difference, namely "franking”.

According to the Committee on House Administration website,

In 1775: “The American Continental Congress authorized franking privileges to its members as a means of informing their constituents. The first U.S. Congress enacted a franking law in 1789. The franking privilege has remained a necessary and valuable tool of our representative government for more than 200 years.”

By investigating further an interested voter can learn that congressmen and senators are given an annual budget to use at their discretion for specific expenses one of which is called “constituent mailings”.

All mass mailings are to be approved by the Franking Commission and bear the notation:“This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense” and must hit mailboxes at least 90 days prior to an election, no exceptions.

Perhaps GOP detractors can point us in the direction of where to learn, just what are the “special franking privileges” that apply to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders?

Seems to me that NJ ELEC laws would apply to them and the entire cadre of Democrat candidates up for reelection or are they exempt?

Do NJ regulations apply only to Republicans?

Let’s get real here.

The Freeholder board sends taxpayer money to the Alliance for the publication of the UC Directions, the publication comes out twice a year, mailed to UC residents arriving just days before both the primary and general elections, it features Democrat incumbents up for reelection, both pictures and articles. Representatives of The Alliance claim that this is just a "coincidence".

NJ ELEC law says that these types of informational pieces, with incumbents, paid for with tax dollars must reach the general public in the district at least 90 days prior to an election. (Exceptions to the rule are response letters to specific individuals and notices of emergency situations which residents must be informed about, further, "Political" mailings are considered to be any communication which talks about the accomplishments of the individuals featured, certainly appears as though the UC Directions is just chock full of that sort of thing,therefore the publication could be considered "Political" and should not be paid for with tax dollars.)

Spelling it out

The Saturday or Monday before Election Day, which is always on a Tuesday is merely two days not three months prior to an election.

Obviously there is either someone who can’t count or the US Postal Service is in even worse shape and slower than we all originally thought.