September 29, 2006

County Emergency Managment Planner may be unqualified

The Union County GOP has charged the county with hiring a Golan Cipel type for a critical homeland security position. Below is their press release.

The employee who was given this position is Salena Carroll. Carroll was hired in 2000 and her title was “Community Organization Specialist” (view job description by clicking here) her salary was $38,659.92. Part of her job duties were to: train residents in activities necessary for them to assist them to develop and maintain a community garden, to establish a tutoring program for neighborhood youth….

In 2004 the county received homeland security funding to establish the position titled “County Emergency Management Planner” (view job description by clicking here). Carroll was promoted to the position and given a salary of $64,500. Her new job duties are to: develop, plan and provide technical guidance in the development of a regional response capability to a weapons of mass destruction incident….. Her current salary is $69,696.

God help us all.

_____________________________________________ Press Releases
Union County GOP
September 28, 2006
(ELIZABETH)- Union County Republican Freeholder candidates Pat Quattrocchi, Glenn Mortimer and Diane Barabas called for an investigation today into the hiring practices at the Union County Office of Emergency Management.
There seems to be a mystery around the procedure and process of the hiring of the position of the Domestic Preparedness planner, a key position should our area fall under a WMD attack in the future. “ said Pat Quattrocchi. The Republican candidates stated that the situation is particularly disconcerting since the job description calls for developing a regional plan capability that addresses the special needs of the UASI area that encompasses critical infrastructure target hardening measures, unique regional first responder capabilities and regional communications and information sharing resources.

It appears as though the individual hired for this position had no experience, has not submitted a resume, and her only qualification is that she is a good democrat party worker and friend of the political bosses. “ After months of attempting to determine what process was followed, I think we might just have the Union County version of Golan Cipel in our Emergency Management Planning Office”, said Diane Barabas.
This week’s chemical spill in Elizabeth has put this issue on the front page again. Over 50 people were sent to the hospital on Monday and the Republican candidates expressed their concern about the effectiveness of an unqualified political appointee running and planning Emergency preparedness for the citizens of Union County. “This is just another example of the democrats playing favorites, and putting their own political interests above the safety and welfare of the public,” said Mortimer. “This situation smells worse than the chemical spill.” “In the interest of public safety and our own Union County Homeland security, we are calling for an immediate investigation and we believe the public deserves an answer,” commented Quattrocchi, Mortimer and Barabas.


September 20, 2006

Will freeholder Estrada be indicted and charged with the same crime a former MVC Employee was in 2005?

It has been over a month since it was widely reported that New Jersey's motor vehicle agency has launched a probe into how Union County Freeholder Angel Estrada, who is the manager of the Elizabeth office, helped former Attorney General Zulima Farber's boyfriend update his delinquent driving status.

The Union County Watchdog Association has learned that a MVC employee who committed a very similar act as Freeholder Estrada’s was forced to resign and was indicted for helping a fellow employee renew a driver’s license in 2005.

Sharon A. Harrington, the head of the Motor Vehicle Commission, said regarding Estrada’s investigation that the agency would take action against employees if the investigation finds any wrongdoing. The agency "is working expeditiously to complete this investigation," Harrington said in a prepared statement. "At the end of this process, MVC will take action, if warranted."

According to an inside source at the MVC, who is surprised that Estrada is still reporting for work and is concerned that this is a sign that his political ties are going to put him above the law, a recent incident involving an MVC employee committing a similar offense involved Grace Hoogliviet and Tracey Scott.

Allegedly Hoogliviet was an investigator with the Security and Investigation Unit, Scott was a secretary in the same unit. Scott was unable to renew her drivers license as she did not have a certified copy of her birth certificate. Hoogliviet escorted her to the Trenton Agency and approved the transaction. The matter was reported, and resulted in both employees being terminated. Documents obtained through the Open Public Records Act show that both employees resigned this past May. (You can view these documents by clicking here.) Hoogliviet was also indicted and charged with conspiracy, tampering with public records and false records entry in 2005. Ultimately a deal was agreed to, and both employees were allowed to resign, with the agreement that they could never accept state employment.

A check of court records backed up the sources claim that Hoogliviet had been indicted. View indictment document by clicking here.
According to a clerk at the Mercer County court criminal records division there was no conviction. He said there had been a pre-trial intervention, and that if Ms. Hoogvliet completes the program, the charges will be dismissed.

A probe into Farber’s actions that day showed that after being allowed to Angel Estrada personally took charge of the matter and renewed Goore's expired car registration before he even arrived at the MVC office to sign official forms and pay a $137 registration fee.

Motor vehicle agencies require that proper Identification such as a driver’s license be submitted to renew a registration. If the owner of the vehicle is not present for the transaction, they must submit a power of attorney; this documentation is kept on file with the transaction.

"Mr. Estrada's handling of this matter before Hamlet Goore arrived at the MVC agency raises questions about the propriety of his practices and whether they were in compliance with MVC procedures," prosecutor Williams wrote in his report.
Farber was forced to resign because of her actions that day. Her boyfriend Goore also resigned as director of the Department of Community Development in Irvington. "He's on vacation and won't be returning," Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith said, declining to state the reason why Goore was leaving the $81,000-a-year post.

There are other allegations of Estrada being on a MVC tape helping Gore take a test for a motor cycle license. Freeholder Daniel Sullivan is also Estrada’s boss at the MVC, there is no word on what his involvement was in all of this, if any. I doubt we’ll ever here the entire story of what transpired between the three friends that fateful day. But if Angel Estrada doesn’t join his friends on the unemployment line and face criminal charges as Grace Hoogliviet did, the public deserves to know exactly why not.

Someone is Not Doing Their Job

In 1987 NJ native Danny DeVito stared along with Billy Crystal in the black comedy “Throw Momma from the Train”. The story line tells of a bitter ex-husband and a put upon Momma's boy. Both want their respective spouse and mother dead, but who will pull it off?

After many twists and turns along the way, despite their efforts to loose her off a moving locomotive, Momma survives which is really what DeVito wanted though he didn’t realize it at the start and Crystal’s character goes on to write a best seller based on their escapades, somewhat of a happy ending.

Recently I learned of a story involving a service offered by the Union County Dept. of Human Services that didn’t have anywhere near a happy ending.

“The Union County Paratransit System is curb to curb specialized transportation for seniors 60 years of age or older, people with disabilities and economically disadvantaged residents of Union County only.” The system provides non-emergency transportation to doctor appointments, and educational facilities as well as shopping and the like.

It is not certain where Adrian Riordan was off to that fateful day in 2004 when he boarded the paratransit bus however his trip was short-lived. Cited in a lawsuit that was brought against the county by his estate this past June, Mr. Riordan made an unscheduled and unassisted exit from the moving vehicle through the rear emergency door.

The astounding part of this story is that no one realized that he had been accidentally tossed out; those operating the bus service became aware of the situation only after having traveled a full block.

Mr. Riordan’s physical and mental states, at the time of the accident, are not clear, however, it is asserted that he was not properly secured. The fact remains that if he was elderly, easily disoriented and opened the door himself, someone wasn’t doing their job, if he was wheelchair bound and his chair was not properly secured, someone wasn’t doing their job, if the door was not functioning properly and opened on it’s own someone at the vehicle yard wasn’t doing their job and not to notice that he was missing till a full block later certainly means that someone wasn’t doing their job.

Mr. Riordan’s family is certainly justified in seeking damages and reimbursement for his medical bills as well as funeral expenses as they have been put through a nightmare.

Did county officials offer their apologies for this terrible tragedy, did they offer their condolences for this family’s loss, did they accept any responsibility for what occurred or did they simply choose to remain mum keeping the story under wraps.

The Department of Human Services, under the supervision of Director Frank Guzzo, has responsibility for the Paratransit service, as well as Social Services and the Juvenile Detention Center.

**** Recently an employee who worked for Social Services was sentenced to jail for the thievery of over $144,000 in welfare checks which went unnoticed for a period of years only to be detected by a bank teller.

**** And conditions at the detention center were so deplorable that the state Juvenile Justice Commission found that the county’s negligence in maintaining the facility as well as practices they enlisted were a contributing factor in the suicide of teenager Eddie Sinclair.

All of these events have occurred under Mr. Guzzo’s watch, it seems to me that someone hasn’t been doing their job; it also seems to me that Mr. Guzzo should be relieved of his position. Though in the movie DeVito got Momma back, the Sinclair and Riordan families will not be getting a brother or son back anytime soon.

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.

September 10, 2006

Billing concerts as F R E E is a cheap trick

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
Id love you to love me.
Rick Neilson, Cheap Trick

“The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, led by Chairman Alexander Mirabella (pictured above performing at a concert), invites the public to attend this free concert”…is how every press release for the summer concert series reads. The series will end this Saturday with Music Fest. The rock band Cheap Trick will be the headliners.

In researching the cost to taxpayers for the so called free events, the Union County Watchdog Association found that events are free only to out of county residents and VIP’s who get to watch the concerts from a tent with free catered food and beer. Our property tax dollars are picking up the bills and we get to bring our own lawn chairs.

The freeholders present their concerts as a service brought to you by them. They’re “We’re connected to you!” banner is hung across the stage. Their information van is prominently parked on the side of the stage and it features a bill-board sized portrait of the freeholders and take home literature which has their faces and names plastered throughout.

Click here to view live video clip.
A freeholder who is up for re-election will be introduced before the concert and at intermission. This year we also saw Assemblywoman Linda Stender at every concert standing alongside campaigning freeholders who introduce her as “a great public servant”. Stender is running for Congress this year.

Last year, Stender wasn’t campaigning. She was still the Runnell’s Hospital “Volunteer Coordinator” she wasn’t seen at any summer concerts. Stender’s county coordinator salary was $66,083 the volunteers this “great public servant” was paid to coordinate volunteered for guess what? F R E E.

At around the same time Stender announced her run for Congress she changed her title. Now her county position is Runnells Hospital Foundation Director, her salary was increased to $72,858. The county manager’s mother-in-law was put on the payroll as her assistant with a salary of $40,430. It was predicted at this year’s budget hearings that Runnells would be running $500,000 in the red this year. Is that A L L?

The cost for the bands that performed in the 2006 summer concerts series in Echo Lake Park was $33,800.00. The county took in contributions in support of the concerts which totaled $18,800.00. How does $33,800.00 minus $18,800.00 add up to free? What button does the county have on their calculators that the rest of us don’t have and where can we get it? In reality this adds up to a $15,000.00 tab for the taxpayers to pick-up. This doesn’t include the county employee salaries who are on hand to pass out literature, the county police, set up and clean up crews, etc. There’s also a few loose miscellaneous bills including portable toilets in the check registry.

Deducting the contributions the county has received to date the Rhythm and Blues concert cost taxpayers approximately $130,800; Music Fest $144,500; Kids Kingdom $68,490.00. Total approximate cost of free events to taxpayers 2006 to date: $349,590.

The list of contributors is interesting. The Union County Democratic Committee contributed $2,000. Perhaps this explains why there are only Democrats campaigning at these concerts. The banking industry is barred from donating to political campaigns, but they can write a check to be used towards a free concert in which campaigning politicians cast the spotlight on themselves. Banks that have contributed include Union Center National Bank, First Bank Americano and Wachovia. The same goes for the casino industry, Harrah’s Atlantic City donated $7,500.00 to the upcoming Music Fest. Schoor De Palma no longer makes political ‘pay to play’ contributions but they donated $7,200 to this years concerts.

Freeholder Mirabella was reported in a local paper as having said “We’re out here giving back to the community; people can come out here enjoy the music and have some fun”.

People do attend these concerts, they do have fun, the county should provide these services, after all they do have a 300-million dollar budget and it shouldn’t all be spent on politicians, their family members and campaign workers salaries, but implying that these concerts are a gift from the freeholders when in fact the taxpayers are footing the bills for a campaign whistle stop is a cheap trick.

This is a 2-part series. Next up: Concert series research solves 9-0 freeholder vote mystery.

View event costs by clicking here.

View summer concert costs and contributors by clicking here.

September 08, 2006

Para transit passenger was discovered on roadway in Roselle

2003 Campaign piece

According to a complaint I came across at the Union County courthouse this morning, operators of a Union County para transit van were oblivious to the fact that a passenger had fallen, or was ejected from the rear door of the van, until approximately one block down the road. The passenger died the same day.

A law suit has been filed in Superior Court on June 5, 2006. The suit alleges that the operators of the van did not properly make sure that a passenger was belted, and/or they failed to inspect, repair, and maintain the rear door of the bus to make sure it was in proper working and/or mechanical order and in a closed and locked position.

On June 4, 2004 at or about the intersection of Amsterdam and Myrtle Street, Roselle, Adrian Riordan, who was a passenger in a Para transit vehicle was discovered on the road way. As a result of the negligence, careless, and recklessness of the County of Union, Adrian Riordan prior to his death, suffered severe and permanent injuries, severe pain, and loss of life’s enjoyment.

View complaint by clicking here.

I checked county resolutions dating back to 2004, there was nothing about this case which is called McCloud vs County of Union et als. I don't recall reading anything about this in Freeholder meeting minutes. I surely don't recall reading anthing about this in a newspaper.

September 04, 2006

Courage is the secret of liberty

Over 2-dozen citizens who helped sort through absentee ballots are witnesses to the voter fraud that occurred in Roselle this past Primary Election Day.

It takes courage (and money) to rage on against the Union County Democrat machine. Besides the pettiness of being dragged through the mud and targeted to loose a job, contract, or client, they are well entrenched in our legal system and justice does not come easily, if at all, for those who dare to seek it.

There is a fight raging on in the courts right now for a spot on the ballot this November for a council seat in Roselle. On election night all indications pointed to Democrat Christine Dansereau as the winner against Rosemarie Bullock who was backed by the Union County Democrat machine.

Then the absentee ballots were counted which put Bullock ahead of Dansereau 284 to 265. Of 62 absentee ballots cast, 54 were for Bullock. When one considers that a total of only 5 absentee ballots were filed in Linden’s 1st Ward primary for the same election, it’s impossible to believe the Judge who called Dansereau's case ”convoluted, contradictory and confusing” isn’t corrupt.

Bullock reportedly said "I won fair and square," "Sometimes disappointment hurts. She (Dansereau) needs to do something positive for the community."

Christine Dansereau is doing something positive for the community. She is raging on against the corrupt machine politics which last month managed to legally steal an election and 3 luxury cars with the help of Superior Court Judge John Malone who is a former Democrat municipal chairperson who’s wife works for Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage. It’s scandalous that this judge isn’t reclusing himself from politically charged cases.

Each of the ballots in question cast bears the signature of Councilman at Large Jamel Holley, a Bullock supporter who would like us all to "move on". Holley, works for the Union County Improvement Authority, of which Charlotte DeFalippo, the Union County Democratic Chair, is the Executive Director. Holley is also the Chairman of the Jamel C. Holley Civic Association. This non-profit association, whose application for 501(c)3 status has been pending for two years, frequently sends mailings targeted to seniors in Roselle.

This week an invitation was sent to attend a party at La Brassas in Roselle. In July a letter was sent “informing” seniors of the Union County Senior’s Nutrition Program. The letter reads like Holley is the facilitator of the program. It seems there is no end to the Democrats mail scams targeting potential voters with tax-dollars in the form of postage, or in this case, with tax-funded programs. (Click here to view letter.)
Dansereau has charged Holley and other bullock supporters encouraged people to use absentee ballots, helped them complete the forms and then delivered the ballots to the election division of the Union County Clerk’s Office.

The Union County Democratic Machine has turned out in-force to deny the charge. Anyone who views these ballots would see how convoluted their denial is. There is nothing to be confused about. Most of these ballots have the same distinct markings of a blue felt pen throughout. As if someone sat down and finished filling them out "maybe" after the voter put a pen to them.

Desiree’s attorney stated “It’s like a campaign worker going into the voting booth with the voter,” “They hovered over the voters while they were voting absentee. It would be illegal, of course, for someone to go into the voting booth with a voter, and it’s just as illegal to do this.”

A forensics expert hired by Dansereau stated in an affidavit that he could say with a reasonable degree of certainty that entries on absentee ballots purported to have been prepared by individual voters were in fact completed by a single person.

Judge Malone didn’t consider this when he threw the case out last month. He claimed Dansereau’s argument was “convoluted, contradictory and confusing.”

Over 2 dozen people studied the ballots at the Board of Elections shortly after the election. There were so many of us in the room latecomer would be supporters were sent home because of the lack of working space. We all saw those ballots and are witnesses to the voter fraud that occurred in Roselle.

Christine Dansereau's courageous battle for this seat has proven she is a model of a great public servant. It will not only be Roselle’s loss if this voter scam is able to pass through the legal system unpunished. If they can pull this off you can be sure that this scam could be coming to your home town soon. Dansereau isn’t only fighting to win an election, this fight is about our basic liberties and as former Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once poetically opined “courage is the secret of liberty”.

A Superior Court appellate panel on September 1, reversed Judge Malone’s decision to dismiss the case. They ruled that Malone was too narrow and restrictive in his view of the law in dismissing the matter and yet...they sent the case back to the very same narrow minded Judge John Malone, the former Democrat Chairman, whose wife works for Mayor Chris Bollwage.

Dansereau’s attorney is wisely looking into a change of venue.

Where do we go from here when the Union County Court system is failing us? When the Union County Board of Elections can’t seem to get a grip on running honest, equitable elections? Make no mistake about it. Our very liberties are at stake. Freedom isn't free, we each have a personal responsibility to preserve it.

Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis D. Brandeis
Source: Olmstead v. United States, 1928

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.