December 31, 2007

A Countywatcher's year in review "2007"



On December 31, 2006 Time Magazine announced their 2006 person of the year on their cover which consisted of a mylar computer screen with a title “Person of the Year” “You”.

“You control the information age”. Wrote time…. “for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you”.

We here at the Countywathers blog graciously accepted the honor, and as we had been doing since June 2005, we spent the next 12 months proving TIME right. I keep a framed copy of the cover on the shelf above my computer to remind me if the Countywatchers didn’t report on Union County government, then who would?

The Westfield Leader/Scotch Plains Times is the only newspaper that maintains a presence at freeholder meetings. As of September 2007 the Star-Ledger officially abandoned Union County government coverage. Ledger reporter Brian Murray left and there are no plans to replace him. Ledger reporter Robert Missek’s coverage of Union County consists of doctored press releases which come directly from the county. Sensational stories, such as the recent jail break, are handled by seasoned reporters, but what little investigative reporting the Ledger did in the past regarding the day to day operations of Union County government is now non-existent.

Although the freeholders have over a 400-million dollar budget and commands approximately 1/4 of our property tax bills, and more importantly is largely in charge of over a half a million resident’s public safety, most of what you read in the printed media are positive stories which come directly from the county's extensive office of public information. Union County is spending more on Public Information salaries than any other county in the state. The government is in control of the printed media but they will never have control over our digital democracy.

Since its formation the Union County Watchdog Association has maintained a presence at every regular meeting of the freeholders. In February 2007 we began to air freeholder meetings on the web. One of our initiatives for 2008 will be to encourage all 21 towns in the county to begin to air freeholder meetings on their local cable access stations. This is not to be confused with the ½ hour show called “"Freeholders Forum" which is produced by the county’s public information department and is pure propaganda featuring freeholders who are up for re-election. We will encourage the towns to abolish this show.

A Countywatchers Year in Review "2007"

January

Governor Jon Corzine has confidence in Power Broker Driven Union County government

The freeholder’s reorganization meeting held on January 7, 2007 is something to be seen to be believed. All Union County Democrat political dignitaries were in attendance. Also present were the Chairwoman of the National Democrat Committee and Governor Jon Corzine who gushed on about his beloved home county……

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February

Freeholder Meetings now available on the web

The January 18, 2007 video meeting minutes of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders are now posted on the Union County Watchdog Association's website. Although the county spent $110,000 on new video and audio equipment you will see that the footage is blurry and the audio is scratchy. It's just what we've come to expect of Union County services.

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County will not allow budget hearings to be recorded

The Union County Watchdog Association recently requested permission of the County of Union to video tape their budget hearings. It was our intent to then upload the hearings to our website for free public access. The county initially refused, however, on the heals of a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision allowing for public tapings and reporter Joe Ryan of the Star-Ledger nudging around the county relented and taped the hearings themselves.

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March

Another one quietly bites the dust
The Plainfield Plaintalker reported this week that Freeholder Adrian Mapp will be replaced by Plainfield Councilman Rayland Van Blake. The only questions to be answered are will Mapp put up a fight and how soon will Van Blake replace Mapp on the Board?

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Bergen Record Reports: State investigating Union County's voting machines

"Nobody can understand what it's all about; we have no idea," said Dennis Kobitz, deputy administrator of the Union County Board of Elections, who spoke with his counterparts in other counties.

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No discipline for freeholder in Farber traffic case

Freeholder Estrada doesn't have to worry about his patronage state job and can be as happy as he was pictured here....

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Christmas in February

The Countywatchers reported that On December 22, 2006, the Friday before Christmas, a “staff meeting” was held for county Juvenile Detention Center employees.

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APRIL

The Courier News- a Gannet Newspaper, reports Freeholder Adrian Mapp’s car was hit by a bullet.

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Union County Superintendent of Schools Displays Questionable Behavior

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage appears to have the inside tract when it comes to obtaining government records and reports even when those documents are not obtainable under the Federal Freedom of Information Act, it has been reported by the Star-Ledger.

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The UC “Virtual” Improvement Authority”

It has been about six years that the Union County Improvement Authority has been renting space in a shop worn office building on Cherry Street in Elizabeth; the current rent is $2,500 per month. The commercial building is a short sprint, about 2 blocks from the county administration building. The UC Freeholders are in the process of purchasing the structure for $1.275 million to house the Improvement Authority.

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MAY


Union County elected municipal compensation study

How does your municipality fare against others in compensating your elected officials? What mayors and council members are also holding other public employment? The Union County Watchdog Association compiled the answers to these questions.

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Another bloated Union County Powerbroker-Controlled Budget is adopted

The Westfield Leader reported that a $414.4-million budget that called for taxes to be increased in 18 of the 21 municipalities as part of a $238.6-million tax levy. County taxes would jump 5.27 percent, or $11.6 million – about $66 per household countywide, according to county officials.

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County taxpayers have nothing to celebrate on 150th anniversary

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Bills are still adding up for harassment lawsuit against Sheriff Ralph Frohlich, Inc.

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Union County's Early Retirement Offering - Is It Really Voluntary??

The county now finds itself embroiled in not one but at least two law suits stemming from their so called early retirement offerings and layoffs.

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August

Union County Watchdog Association wins OPRA lawsuit


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Recommended Labor Day weekend reading
New Jersey Policy Perspective released a report in July titled: How Much is Enough? Drawing the Lines on Multiple Public Job Holding in New Jersey. And this being New Jersey, the media didn’t pay any attention to this important work, no wonder that media disenfranchisement is mentioned in the report as a key problem.


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September

Musicfest VIP compound



After being caught on film last year feasting and drinking in their exclusive tax-payer funded VIP tent, fit with celebrity port-a-potties, the county made sure they didn’t do it again - get caught on film that is.

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County owned Runnell's Specialized Hospital is being run by a contractor

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Freeholders caught voting on something they knew nothing about


At tonight’s freeholder meeting confusion ensued over the freeholders second reading of a Bond Ordinance which provided their consent to the issuance by the Union County Improvement Authority of up to $7-mill in bonds to fund an organization that the freeholder’s knew nothing about, the Black United Fund-Plainfield Project. They also didn't know who would be responsible for the bonds should the 501(c)3 organization default on their payments.

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October

County public information spin is as negligent and twisted as their prisoner care
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November

Union County served with subpoenas

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Peek into Union County machine politics

The Westfield Leader taped an interview with Freeholder Mapp. Mapp was thrown off the Democrat party line and is running as an independent.
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We get the government we deserve

The County of Union has recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit in the matter of Edward Sinclair, Jr., the 17 year old who died in their Juvenile Detention Center on May 10, 2003.

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County Manager goes to kathmandu
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December

Title Insurance Agency under investigation was to benefit from legislation

It is certainly interesting that other high ranking Union County Dems just happen to own shares in a title insurance company, “Camelot Title Agency LLC" in Woodbridge, NJ. They are said to be Union County Democrat Committee Chairwoman/Director Union County Improvement Authority/Legislative Aide to Neal Cohen - Charlotte DeFilippo who has had personal and business records subpoenaed by the State of NJ and Assemblyman/ NJ Democratic State Chairman/Union County Undersheriff - Joe Cryan, both appear to hold shares in the company and both are also Union County employees.

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Employee nepotism lawsuit settled

"We were able to establish that Mike Florio had repeatedly bragged to several people that he was going to get the job because he was a Democrat, his father was a Democrat and that they had made connections to Sen. (Raymond) Lesniak," stated Todaro's attorney David Corrigan in a Star-Ledger article.

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Christmas bonuses for Lesniak’s nephew and the freeholders

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Got Out of Jail - What an Embarassment!!! Unseen by corrections officers, inmates Jose Espinosa and Otis Blunt apparently spent days - if not weeks - boring through their cells' cement walls. They broke free, leaping some 30 feet over razor wire sometime last weekend. Their escape was not discovered until Saturday evening, when the men failed to rouse from their bunks for dinner.

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County's new recording equipment malfunctions "again"



The Union County Watchdog Association has requested an investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office into the malfunctioning of the recording equipment during the December 20, 2007 freeholder meeting. “I believe there may have been statements made during this meeting that could aid the current investigation into county management’s role in the prisoner escapes as well as past practices in the jail. Namely, prisoner health care, politically connected prisoners being given preferential treatment and the lack of cameras inside the facility” said Tina Renna, President of the UCWA.

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A county watchers year in review "2006"

ORIGINAL POST

December 28, 2007

UCWA requests investigation into $110,000 equipment


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Union County Watchdog Association has requested an investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office into the malfunctioning of the recording equipment during the December 20, 2007 freeholder meeting. The county recently spent $110,000 on updating and installing new video equipment.

The UCWA routinely requests a copy of the meeting recordings and then has them converted to be available to the public on the Internet. An Open Public Records Act request for a copy of this meeting was returned “no document to provide”. Also not available to the public is a written statement which was read by the County Manager regarding the county’s response to the recent prisoner escapes.

During this meeting there was input from the public on many important subjects both on and off the agenda. It is the county’s habit of taking care of messy business such as retroactive pay raises at their end-of-the-year meeting. This meeting was held 5 days before Christmas.

Although the announcement hadn’t been made yet regarding the done deal of Richard Childs becoming the new County Public Safety Director the freeholders were asked repeatedly what qualifications Childs had for this position considering he was currently a part-time investigator in the County Counsel’s office and why a national search wasn’t performed to fill this position as was being done to fill the Jail Director position. The new Jail Director will be reporting to Childs.

No explanation was given or public statements made regarding this all-important position of public safety. There is no record of this position being discussed during public or closed session meetings of the freeholders.

Consider that Childs will now be in charge of a department with about 400 employees, including 74 County Police. The Public Safety Department also includes the operations of the county's Divisions of Correctional Services, Emergency Management, Medical Examiner, Weights and Measures, and Health. Childs will also be responsible for the supervision of the Bureaus of Domestic Preparedness, Hazardous Materials, the Fire Training Academy and Fire Investigations Task Force, and the Office of Consumer Affairs.

The UCWA is requesting an investigation because we believe there may have been statements made during this meeting that could aid the current investigation into county management’s role in the prisoner escapes as well as past practices in the jail. Namely, prisoner health care, politically connected prisoners being given preferential treatment and the lack of cameras inside the facility.

Other important business during this meeting was the creation of 6 new captain positions in the Sheriff’s Department. This will bring the total number of captains to 11 and will allow for 6 Sergeants to be promoted to Lieutenant including the Union County Democrat Chairman, Charlotte DeFilipo’s daughter-in-law. Sheriff Ralph Froehlic’s step-son will be promoted to Sergeant. There are also 7 Lieutenants and 10Sergeants under 1 Sheriff and 3 Undersherriffs (one undersheriff is an assemblyman and another is the son of an assemblyman).

The main function of the Sheriff’s department is to guard the Courthouse which doesn’t include the prison. The freeholders were asked why six new Captains were needed. No explanation was given. These new captain positions and the other promotions will cost approximately $300,000 annually. Also created were 3 new lieutenant positions in the County Police Department.

Raises for the County Manager, who is appointed by the freeholders and is Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, and the freeholders were also on the agenda and voted on as well as raises for all constitutional officers - including the prosecutor and sheriff.

The county allows citizens 5 minutes to speak. Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jean Kowalski repeatedly tried to keep me from speaking on all of the above, and I repeatedly asked her why I wasn’t allowed to speak the truth. Kowalski eventually had me escorted from the meeting by a county police officer. Now the recording of the meeting isn’t available. hmmmm

Union County government takes approximately ¼ of our property taxes and can not be held accountable to the public. Citizens of Union County should be very concerned about their public safety as well as their Democratic freedoms as dictated by the county freeholders.

View OPRA response HERE

December 20, 2007

Got Out of Jail - What an Embarassment!!!


From:
The Star-Ledger
Thursday December 20, 2007, 4:20 PM
Unseen by corrections officers, inmates Jose Espinosa and Otis Blunt apparently spent days - if not weeks - boring through their cells' cement walls. They broke free, leaping some 30 feet over razor wire sometime last weekend. Their escape was not discovered until Saturday evening, when the men failed to rouse from their bunks for dinner.
The men hid their absence by stuffing their bedding with foam, rigging the material to make it appear that they were asleep in their bunks. They covered the gaping holes that they wriggled through with pin-up posters of half-naked women.

Even after reading the newspaper articles about the Union County Jail Break this past week, the question that still remains is: how was this possible??? Where was everybody? When a cinderblock was removed from an outside wall, didn’t anyone in charge notice even a modicum of fresh air coming from the cell? Since one of the escapees had only a short time prior made a similar attempt wasn’t it conceivable he would try again? Wasn’t anyone watching these guys? Weren’t they incarcerated in a high security area?

If these two weren’t the dangerous type what transpired would have been amusing since it was such a simple escape scenario, when was the last time any of us can remember anyone chiseling their way through cinderblocks with a hunk of wire. The only simpler scenario would have been for the outlaw’s horse to show up with a lasso and participate by pulling the window bars out thus enabling the prisoner to ride off unnoticed. That in of itself is probably what is causing our county prosecutor Theodore Romankow to be so enraged. Here in Union County the powers that be have justified their ever escalating expenditures for the county police and sheriffs depts. by claiming to be on the cutting edge when fighting crime. On television newscasts Romankow appeared as if he wanted to smack someone up side of the head and rightfully so for making UC corrections appear like the keystone cops.

Our county correctional facilities and uniformed services have not enjoyed the best publicity the past couple of years as prisoners have suffered fatal illnesses and law suits have been filed by employees against management and coworkers.

To Prosecutor Romankow’s credit he is demanding answers to these questions and others in short order, let’s just hope that when the answers come those responsible for this breech of security are held accountable and not given a free pass like the officers who set off fireworks and damaged residents personal property while blowing off steam after completing a drug case a few years back.
County residents deserve to feel safe in their homes and their neighborhoods and it would be nice to know that Romankow’s rage is in empathy with the residents and not a product of embarrassment because of someone else’s poor job performance.

December 15, 2007

Christmas bonuses for Lesniak’s nephew and the freeholders

At the last freeholder meeting an ordinance was introduced which simply stated “An ordinance fixing the salaries of county officials and department heads”.

During public comment I asked who would be receiving raises and the freeholder chairwoman refused to give any details. She instead instructed me to place an Open Public Records Act Request with the clerk. At the end of the meeting I spoke out as the freeholders were leaving the dais “Did you not answer me because you are ashamed of the raises? You should be you don’t deserve them”.

Bruce Paterson of Garwood also asked for the information during public comment and was instructed to place an OPRA request with the clerk. He stated he wanted to see the ordinance before determining “whether you deserve the raises.” He later read the first part of his “Union County Countdown to Disaster – 2007,” which he reads each December to the freeholders. He summed up a list of lawsuits against the county, county tax hikes, the use of county cars for non-work activities and a photo opportunity for a county freeholder candidate staged in front of the county’s new homeland security boat as well as the many investigations by both the State and Federal Attorney General’s offices. Mr. Paterson said county government continues to use “waste, mismanagement and corruption” in its operations.

After obtaining the full text of the ordinance through OPRA it was confirmed that the freeholders and the County Manager and Deputy County Manager will be receiving retroactive pay raises. Which means they are getting pay raises for the new year and a Christmas bonus for the past year.

A Westfield Leader article quotes county director of public information Sebastian D’Elia as stating the raises place the Union County freeholder salaries to fourth highest among New Jersey’s 21 counties. However, documents obtained by placing OPRA’s to all 20 counties reveal Union County will now be the third highest paid freeholder board behind Essex and Hudson counties respectively. The county director of public information was also quoted as stating the county has the “fourth or fifth” highest population in the state. However, according to 2006 census information on all 21 counties posted on the New Jersey State website Union County has the seventh highest population in the state.

Our county manager, who is State Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, became a Union County employee when two part-time positions were created for him Deputy County Manager and Director of Economic Development. He was appointed to the county manager position in 2001. Lesniak’s nephew is the third highest paid county administrator in the state behind Middlesex and Somerset who do not employ deputy executives. The Somerset county executive has been a county employee for 37 years.

Freeholders are part-time positions. They will now be paid $30,385 an increase of $885. The Chairman will earn $32,445 and increase of 945 and the vice-chairman will receive $31,415 and increase of $915. The County Manager will now earn $163,831 an increase of $6,301 and the Deputy County Manager $142,440 an increase of $4,817.

This Thursday, Dec. 20 the Union County freeholders will have the final reading of the ordinance. They will then allow public comment and most likely vote 9-0 in favor. Merry Christmas taxpayers.

December 08, 2007

3rd Annual "Union County Countdown to Disaster-2007, the Year in Review."

Submitted by Bruce Paterson of Garwood

The previous year 2006 was a disastrous year for Union County government all at the expense of the residents. This year was no different. Lets countdown the year together to see how we did.

February-A lawsuit against the Prosecutors office and the county alleging that the prosecutor’s office has no standard criteria for promotion and was frequently revised to allow for promotion of certain individuals with political connections. In addition, Hispanics had a distinct disadvantage. This sergeant when he spoke up was humiliated, harassed and his assigned parking spot was taken away.

February-Even though it is written in the county bylaws that all questions from residents should be addressed to the chairman of the board, chairwoman Kowalski told a resident you can comment, but we will not answer questions. Union county-we’re connected to you but only in 1 direction.

March-subpoenas handed down to the double dipping Union county undersheriff/ assemblyman Cryan. He is being investigated as to whether certain non-profit group’s donations to Cryan’s political fund in return helped them receive state grants. Hey when your sheriff in town, you make the law.

March-Cranford’s township authorized an 8 member committee to study the county taxes they pay versus the benefits they get from the county. They state that they pay over $13 mill in county taxes, they get 10 cents on the dollar in return and the rest is unknown where it disappears to.

March-State committee of investigation requested records from the county about our dealings with Sequoia voting systems, who the county bought the voting machines from. They want to study the reliability of the machines against tampering and all political donations from voting machine companies to the county political powers. Makes one wonder about the validity of elections in the county. The county subsequently said they are retrofitting them next year with paper ballots.

March-the only freeholder on this board who has financial experience was never allowed on the budget committees and now has been tossed from the upcoming election campaign. Why spoil the county record of financial disaster by having it addressed with experience.

April-Union County schools superintendent allowed a confidential and incomplete audit report into the hands of Elizabeth Mayor Bollwage so he could use it against the Elizabeth school board in the upcoming school election. This was unethical, despicable and possibly illegal since incomplete reports cannot be disclosed to the public.

April-the saga and lawsuits of the political patronage job continues in the County weights and measures dept. Two people were passed over for promotion so a politically connected hack could get the job. This guy also finished behind the 2 others in the civil service exam. Settlement finally happened this December the total fiasco costing close to $1 million. Maybe this is where Cranford’s county tax money is going.

May-Photos were taken about a county mosquito commissioner using his county car for political campaign work. This car was taken away from him. Finally 1 accountability.

May-It was uncovered that a county financial director has been using his county car to go to the gym when he is only allowed to go portal to portal. We wonder if he uses it for his second job in Linden. No reprimand.

May-oh oh county taxes to the residents up 5.3%. Total county taxes increases 70% since 2001. Probably had to cover all those unwarranted big raises from last year. Budget up 3.6%

May- A $5 mill Lawsuit against the county and dept of economic development and an officer of the improvement authority, from a person who alleges he was being forced into early retirement for political reasons. He’s not the same political party as the director of the improvement authority.

June-Final lawsuit settlements for harassment of a sheriff’s officer. Cost $2.5 mill. Direct out of taxpayer money: $1.7 million. Maybe that’s where Cranford’s county tax money is going.

July- County quickly settles suit with a Union county watchdog organization over unreasonable fees being charged for OPRA. Cost $1,900. Stated a watchdog- "that fee was just to stop people from asking for information from the county". Union County-we’re connected to you-only when we extort money from you.

July- County receives a Homeland Security Boat to protect the county coastline. Sadly the boat’s first critical mission was to have freeholder candidate Ryland Van Blake get a photo op with it for the freeholder’s upcoming campaign literature.

July- After promising $3 million in aid for flood relief to Cranford, the county gave the town $800,000 and reneged on the rest. Cranford deputy mayor and many residents went down to a freeholder meeting to beg for the rest. No such luck it appears.

August- The county medical examiner stated that he was forced out of the position for political reasons. He is now being replaced by 2 people. His salary was $145,000. The 2 new salaries total $350,000, one for $190,000 the other for $160,000. So much for the hiring freeze. And big raises take the place.

September-Another Musicfest extravaganza, this time costing twice as much as last year. Again there was the freeholder royalty tent set up with free alcohol and food for their cronies. Although the public pays for this, they are not invited to the tent. A resident last year said instead of inviting political cronies and hacks the freeholders should invite the disabled and specialized residents to the VIP tent. No such luck. The county is now big in the entertainment business. Maybe that’s where Cranford’s tax money is going.

September- Positive proof that the freeholders don’t even know what they vote on at their meetings, especially big ticket items. A $7 million bond ordinance for a non-profit organization in Plainfield was introduced. When questioned by a resident and Freeholder Mapp, the other freeholders said they didn’t know what it was about. A resident commented on this and was promptly thrown out for her comments. Union County, we’re connected to you, especially when they are dragging you out.

October- another inmate at the county jail ends up in intensive care after possible medical mistreatment at the county lockup. There were 3 deaths in as many years in the past. It seems one risks death being in county custody.

October- Again Sheriff Froehlich who was up for election sent out a political campaign piece using the official county seal. This is unethical and more likely illegal, but hey he’s the law around here so it doesn’t make a difference whether illegal or not.

October-Five subpoenas were served on the director of the Union County Improvement Authority, Charlotte Defillippo. They are requesting several back years of financial docs on the authority, her committee’s involvement with the Roselle primary election, and her ownership of a Camelot title agency. For 2 years we have implored you to get rid of this apparently shady character but you wouldn’t. Now the county is getting a black eye with the subpoenas to Cryan and Defillppo. It’s starting to look like a criminal enterprise thrives here in the county. And the taxpayers are the victims.

November-it appears that a sexual harassment lawsuit against a freeholder is back on the agenda. This freeholder already settled 1 sexual harassment lawsuit.

November- County finally settles lawsuit regarding the death of a juvenile in the detention center from 2003. Cost approximately $900,000. Over the years, the state had taken the county to task over the deplorable conditions which went on un-repaired for 18 months until this unfortunate death.

December- The county wants to create 6 new Sheriff Captain positions. So much for the hiring freeze. With big raises to take the place.

Every year, there are common threads in the countdowns-waste, mismanagement, lawsuits from political patronage, no accountability, death and harm. We dread to see what will chronicle next year. And here in the bizarro world of Union County government this is all rewarded with raises and promotions. It stinks, this is not Union county, it should be called ONION county.

December 05, 2007

Sheriff's dept. promotions to cost $271,604

The UCWA was told that an ordinance will be on the Dec. 6th or Dec. 20th freeholder meeting agenda to create six additional Sheriff's Department Captain positions, which will allow for Union County Democrat Chairman Charlotte DeFlippo’s daughter-in-law to be promoted to Lieutenant. Sheriff Ralph Froehlich's step son will be promoted to Sergeant. The following are listed in order of rank in passing the exams. (Under Lieutenants you will see 2 number 6’s – this is because the candidates had the same score).

The employees with (promoted Jan. 07) means they have already been promoted this year. With the reorganization passed, the others will be promoted in the new year starting 2008.

NEW CAPTAINS

There are currently 5 captains. Excluding 1. Roxanne Banek, who was already promoted in Jan. 07, the following will be promoted from Lieutenant to Captain:

1. Roxanne Banek (promoted Jan.07)
2006 salary
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 86,580
2008 salary
$106,186
Increase: $19,606

2. Gail Alexander Lie
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 89,949
2008 Captain Salary: 105,686
Increase: $15,737

3. Nancy Diesel
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 89,949
2008 Captain Salary: 105,686
Increase: $15,737

4. Matthew Jagusak
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 90,449
2008 Captain’s Salary: $106,186
Increase: $15,737

5. Richard Cederquist
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 89,949
2008 Captain Salary: 105,686
Increase: $15,737

6. Michael Frank
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 90,449
2008 Captain’s Salary: $106,186
Increase: $15,737

7. Cynthia Weber
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 90,449
2008 Captain’s Salary: $106,186
Increase: $15,737

NEW LIEUTENANTS

Excluding 1. George Kurz, who was already promoted in Jan. 07, the following will be promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant:

1. George Kurz (promoted Jan. 07)
Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant: 88,949
2008 Lieutenant Salary: 94,503
Increase: $5,554

2. David Pierro
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 80,984
2008 Lieutenant’s Salary: 96,003
Increase: $15,019

3. Dennis Burke
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 79,984
2008 Lieutenant’s Salary: 95,503
Increase: $15,519

4. George Valladares
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 80,984
2008 Lieutenant’s Salary: 96,003
Increase: $15,019

5. Melissa DeFilippo (Union County Democrat Chairwoman’s Daughter-in-law)
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 78,619
2008 Lieutenant’s Salary: 94,503
Increase: $15,884

6. Mark Banek
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 80,984
2008 Lieutenant’s Salary: 96,003
Increase: $15,019

6. Kara Davis
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 81,484
2008 Lieutenant’s Salary: 96,003
Increase: $15,019

NEW SERGEANTS

Excluding 1. through 4. who were already promoted in Jan. 07, the following will be promoted from Sheriff’s Officer to Sergeant:

1. AnnMarie Hagemann (promoted Jan. 07)
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 79,984
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 85,090
Increase: $5,106

2. Frank Miller (promoted Jan. 07)
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 79,984
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 85,090
Increase: $5,106

3. Nicholas Cadigan (promoted Jan.07)
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 80,984
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 86,090
Increase: $5,106

4. Brian Howarth (promoted Oct.07)
Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant: 72,032
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 77,652
Increase: $5,620

5. Frank Coon (Sheriff Ralph Froehlich’s step son – Not to be confused with Christopher Coon, Frank’s brother who was involved with the Sheriff Car Auction Lawsuit
Sheriff’s Officer: 72,032
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 77,652
Increase: $5,620

6. Stephen Lanzano
Sheriff’s Officer: 73,532
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 77,652
Increase: $5,620

7. Gerald Marko
Sheriff’s Officer: 73,532
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 77,652
Increase: $5,620

8. Clifford Meros
Sheriff’s Officer: 61,041
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 77,652
Increase: $16,611

9. Carlo Caparruva
Sheriff’s Officer: 72,032
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 77,652
Increase: $5,620

10. Carmelo Stillitano
Sheriff’s Officer: 72.032
2008 Sergeant’s Salary: 77,652
Increase: $5,620

Total cost for increases: $271,604

December 04, 2007

Freeholder’s annual holiday gifts to taxpayers...


More patronage, nepotism and arrogance. Gee they shouldn’t have!

Word on the street is that the county is on the verge of creating 6 new Captain spots which will enable a politically connected Sergeant in the sheriff’s department, who scored the sixth highest on the Lieutenant's exam, be promoted.

It’s Christmas time, the county always has some kind of scam involving raises during the holiday season. It’s right after the Election and people won’t be paying attention, we’re all busy making cookies…..The UCWA is paying attention, and we’ll have more on the Sheriff’s Department shuffle soon.

Union County taxpayers will now be paying two superintendent salaries for one superintendent of weights and measures, the son of former Union Township Mayor Florio. Three law suits stemming from the promotion of the mayor’s son over 2 long-standing county employees who scored higher on a civil service exam cost in excess of $790,000. The prize? A lousy $8,000 pay raise all around.

The county recently settled a second lawsuit brought by employee Maria Todaro who was hired by the county Division of Weights and Measurers in 1993. Michael Florio joined the county 5 years later in 1998. The division is responsible for ensuring that gasoline pumps, supermarket scales, store scanners and other measurement devices are accurate.

Todaro who scored higher than Florio on a civil service exam, has a math degree, is bilingual, formerly worked for a law school dean and was a former packing manager for Proctor and Gamble. She has been secretary to the New Jersey Weights and Measures Association since 1997 and was employee of the month. Todero was able to prove that she was passed over for the county promotion because she is a registered Republican.

The only background information I was able to find on Michael Florio is that he is the son of former Union Township Mayor Florio.

In Maria Todero's first lawsuit a Union County Grand Jury, which found she was discriminated against, initially awarded Ms. Todaro $300,000. Ms. Todaro appealed the second part of the lawsuit, in which she argued she should be awarded the job because she was the most qualified candidate.

At the November 8th Freeholder meeting the county agreed to settle Todero’s second lawsuit for $200,000 and give her the Superintendents pay raise but they would not give Todaro the job.

Employee Joseph Freitas, who joined the county in 1987, 11 years prior to Mayor Florio’s son, also won $150,000 in a suit filed in Federal Court for being passed over for the same job. Freitas also scored higher than Florio on a civil service exam. The counties legal fees were $25,000.

Quote of the year:
"We were able to establish that Mike Florio had repeatedly bragged to several people that he was going to get the job because he was a Democrat, his father was a Democrat and that they had made connections to Sen. (Raymond) Lesniak," stated Todaro's attorney David Corrigan in a Star-Ledger article.

You can view the lattest settlement document HERE.

Next freeholder meetings are Thurs. Dec. 6th and Thurs. Dec. 20th. The Dec. 13th meeting has been cancelled.

December 01, 2007

Cocktail Party Talk

Imagine a buffet table somewhere in Union County:


Hey Joe, how is that new business venture of yours going?

Pretty good Ray, but could be better.

What seems to be the problem Joe?

Just some pesky state regulations Ray that are getting in the way of our tapping a specific target market for our service.

Sometime Later>>>>>>

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/S2500/2229_I1.HTM

According to its synopsis, a bill, introduced in the NJ State Senate in October of 2006 by State Senator Raymond J Lesniak, a Union County Democrat, permits title insurance companies and agents to offer certain inducements in connection with the business of title insurance. There is no companion bill in the assembly at this time.

Has anyone else noticed this proposed piece of legislation which pertains only to title insurance companies and agents?

It is certainly interesting that other high ranking Union County Dems just happen to own shares in a title insurance company, “Camelot Title Agency LLC" in Woodbridge, NJ. They are said to be Union County Democrat Committee Chairwoman/Director Union County Improvement Authority/Legislative Aide to Neal Cohen - Charlotte DeFilippo who has had personal and business records subpoenaed by the State of NJ and Assemblyman/ NJ Democratic State Chairman/Union County Undersheriff - Joe Cryan, both appear to hold shares in the company and both are also Union County employees.

Surely there are those who would rather that this little extra tidbit of information not be put out there, but hey, to think that these people don’t talk to each other would certainly be naive to say the least. Could it be that title insurance companies/agents are one of Mr. Lesniak’s special interest groups? Where did his inspiration to craft and sponsor this piece of legislation come from originally? Was this just a case of incredibly bad, bad timing? Certainly doesn’t look good; does it?



November 26, 2007

Election time grant distribution show now available



At the October 11th freeholder meeting the annual election time ritual of the Open Space Trust Fund Grant distributions to municipalities was performed. Officials from 18 towns traversed to Elizabeth and paid homage to the freeholders for giving them back a fraction of the money their taxpayers paid into the fund. You can view the spectacle on our Veotag account HERE.

Although the county performs the grant distribution ceremony with lots of photo ops and press releases sent to the local media, they never mention how much towns have paid into the fund. Since the fund’s inception in 2001 municipalities have paid $58,565,562.02 into the fund and have collectively received back $10,165,402.84 in grants. You can view our spreadsheet HERE.

You can’t miss where this money has gone in your town. Municipalities have to sign an agreement with the county which includes agreeing to hang a “We’re connected to you!” sign pictured above. 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!” You can view a agreement template HERE.

I wouldn’t mind the spectacle so much, if once in a while the freeholders would come down from their thrones and show a little humility. They should acknowledge that they get their money from the towns. If they want ceremonies like the annual Open Space Trust Fund ritual, to be fair, why not have all 21 mayors present the freeholders with blown up prop checks in the amount the towns sent the county that year? The freeholders would have to say thank you and give an explanation as to what they are spending your money on.

I’d purchase a ticket to see that show.

Previously reported:
Rocks in our heads
Trust fund grants show signs of propaganda

November 18, 2007

A Countywatchers Year in Review "2007"



On December 31, 2006 Time Magazine announced their 2006 person of the year on their cover which consisted of a mylar computer screen with a title “Person of the Year” “You”.

“You control the information age”. Wrote time…. “for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you”.

We here at the Countywathers blog graciously accepted the honor, and as we had been doing since June 2005, we spent the next 12 months proving TIME right. I keep a framed copy of the cover on the shelf above my computer to remind me if the Countywatchers didn’t report on Union County government, then who would?

The Westfield Leader/Scotch Plains Times is the only newspaper that maintains a presence at freeholder meetings. As of September 2007 the Star-Ledger officially abandoned Union County government coverage. Ledger reporter Brian Murray left and there are no plans to replace him. Ledger reporter Robert Missek’s coverage of Union County consists of doctored press releases which come directly from the county. Sensational stories, such as the recent jail break, are handled by seasoned reporters, but what little investigative reporting the Ledger did in the past regarding the day to day operations of Union County government is now non-existent.

Although the freeholders have over a 400-million dollar budget and commands approximately 1/4 of our property tax bills, and more importantly is largely in charge of over a half a million resident’s public safety, most of what you read in the printed media are positive stories which come directly from the county's extensive office of public information. Union County is spending more on Public Information salaries than any other county in the state. The government is in control the printed media but they will never have control over our digital democracy.

Since its formation the Union County Watchdog Association has maintained a presence at every regular meeting of the freeholders. In February 2007 we began to air freeholder meetings on the web. One of our initiatives for 2008 will be to encourage all 21 towns in the county to begin to air freeholder meetings on their local cable access stations. This is not to be confused with the ½ hour show called “"Freeholders Forum" which is produced by the county’s public information department and is pure propaganda featuring freeholders who are up for re-election. We will encourage the towns to abolish this show.

A Countywatchers Year in Review "2007"

January

Governor Jon Corzine has confidence in Power Broker Driven Union County government

The freeholder’s reorganization meeting held on January 7, 2007 is something to be seen to be believed. All Union County Democrat political dignitaries were in attendance. Also present were the Chairwoman of the National Democrat Committee and Governor Jon Corzine who gushed on about his beloved home county……

ORIGINAL POST
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February

Freeholder Meetings now available on the web

The January 18, 2007 video meeting minutes of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders are now posted on the Union County Watchdog Association's website. Although the county spent $110,000 on new video and audio equipment you will see that the footage is blurry and the audio is scratchy. It's just what we've come to expect of Union County services.

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County will not allow budget hearings to be recorded

The Union County Watchdog Association recently requested permission of the County of Union to video tape their budget hearings. It was our intent to then upload the hearings to our website for free public access. The county initially refused, however, on the heals of a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision allowing for public tapings and reporter Joe Ryan of the Star-Ledger nudging around the county relented and taped the hearings themselves.

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March

Another one quietly bites the dust
The Plainfield Plaintalker reported this week that Freeholder Adrian Mapp will be replaced by Plainfield Councilman Rayland Van Blake. The only questions to be answered are will Mapp put up a fight and how soon will Van Blake replace Mapp on the Board?

ORIGINAL POST
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Bergen Record Reports: State investigating Union County's voting machines

"Nobody can understand what it's all about; we have no idea," said Dennis Kobitz, deputy administrator of the Union County Board of Elections, who spoke with his counterparts in other counties.

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No discipline for freeholder in Farber traffic case

Freeholder Estrada doesn't have to worry about his patronage state job and can be as happy as he was pictured here....


Click Here f0r a complete history on the Farber/Estrada flap

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Christmas in February

The Countywatchers reported that On December 22, 2006, the Friday before Christmas, a “staff meeting” was held for county Juvenile Detention Center employees.

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APRIL

The Courier News- a Gannet Newspaper, reports Freeholder Adrian Mapp’s car was hit by a bullet.

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Union County Superintendent of Schools Displays Questionable Behavior

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage appears to have the inside tract when it comes to obtaining government records and reports even when those documents are not obtainable under the Federal Freedom of Information Act, it has been reported by the Star-Ledger.

ORIGINAL POST
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The UC “Virtual” Improvement Authority”

It has been about six years that the Union County Improvement Authority has been renting space in a shop worn office building on Cherry Street in Elizabeth; the current rent is $2,500 per month. The commercial building is a short sprint, about 2 blocks from the county administration building. The UC Freeholders are in the process of purchasing the structure for $1.275 million to house the Improvement Authority.

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MAY


Union County elected municipal compensation study

How does your municipality fare against others in compensating your elected officials? What mayors and council members are also holding other public employment? The Union County Watchdog Association compiled the answers to these questions.

ORIGINAL POST
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Another bloated Union County Powerbroker-Controlled Budget is adopted

The Westfield Leader reported that a $414.4-million budget that called for taxes to be increased in 18 of the 21 municipalities as part of a $238.6-million tax levy. County taxes would jump 5.27 percent, or $11.6 million – about $66 per household countywide, according to county officials.

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County taxpayers have nothing to celebrate on 150th anniversary

ORIGINAL POST
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Bills are still adding up for harassment lawsuit against Sheriff Ralph Frohlich, Inc.

ORIGINAL POST
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Union County's Early Retirement Offering - Is It Really Voluntary??

The county now finds itself embroiled in not one but at least two law suits stemming from their so called early retirement offerings and layoffs.

ORIGINAL POST
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August

Union County Watchdog Association wins OPRA lawsuit


ORIGINAL POST
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Recommended Labor Day weekend reading
New Jersey Policy Perspective released a report in July titled: How Much is Enough? Drawing the Lines on Multiple Public Job Holding in New Jersey. And this being New Jersey, the media didn’t pay any attention to this important work, no wonder that media disenfranchisement is mentioned in the report as a key problem.


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September

Musicfest VIP compound



After being caught on film last year feasting and drinking in their exclusive tax-payer funded VIP tent, fit with celebrity port-a-potties, the county made sure they didn’t do it again - get caught on film that is.

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County owned Runnell's Specialized Hospital is being run by a contractor

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Freeholders caught voting on something they knew nothing about


At tonight’s freeholder meeting confusion ensued over the freeholders second reading of a Bond Ordinance which provided their consent to the issuance by the Union County Improvement Authority of up to $7-mill in bonds to fund an organization that the freeholder’s knew nothing about, the Black United Fund-Plainfield Project. They also didn't know who would be responsible for the bonds should the 501(c)3 organization default on their payments.

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October

County public information spin is as negligent and twisted as their prisoner care
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November

Union County served with subpoenas

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Peek into Union County machine politics

The Westfield Leader taped an interview with Freeholder Mapp. Mapp was thrown off the Democrat party line and is running as an independent.
ORIGINAL POST


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We get the government we deserve

The County of Union has recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit in the matter of Edward Sinclair, Jr., the 17 year old who died in their Juvenile Detention Center on May 10, 2003.

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County Manager goes to katmandu
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December

Title Insurance Agency under investigation was to benefit from legislation

It is certainly interesting that other high ranking Union County Dems just happen to own shares in a title insurance company, “Camelot Title Agency LLC" in Woodbridge, NJ. They are said to be Union County Democrat Committee Chairwoman/Director Union County Improvement Authority/Legislative Aide to Neal Cohen - Charlotte DeFilippo who has had personal and business records subpoenaed by the State of NJ and Assemblyman/ NJ Democratic State Chairman/Union County Undersheriff - Joe Cryan, both appear to hold shares in the company and both are also Union County employees.

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Employee nepotism lawsuit settled

"We were able to establish that Mike Florio had repeatedly bragged to several people that he was going to get the job because he was a Democrat, his father was a Democrat and that they had made connections to Sen. (Raymond) Lesniak," stated Todaro's attorney David Corrigan in a Star-Ledger article.

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Christmas bonuses for Lesniak’s nephew and the freeholders

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Got Out of Jail - What an Embarassment!!! Unseen by corrections officers, inmates Jose Espinosa and Otis Blunt apparently spent days - if not weeks - boring through their cells' cement walls. They broke free, leaping some 30 feet over razor wire sometime last weekend. Their escape was not discovered until Saturday evening, when the men failed to rouse from their bunks for dinner.

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County's new recording equipment malfunctions "again"



The Union County Watchdog Association has requested an investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office into the malfunctioning of the recording equipment during the December 20, 2007 freeholder meeting. “I believe there may have been statements made during this meeting that could aid the current investigation into county management’s role in the prisoner escapes as well as past practices in the jail. Namely, prisoner health care, politically connected prisoners being given preferential treatment and the lack of cameras inside the facility” said Tina Renna, President of the UCWA.


ORIGINAL POST
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A county watchers year in review "2006"

ORIGINAL POST

Peek into the workings of & between the freeholders & their boss lady

At a September 27, 2007 freeholder meeting, that can now be viewed on the UCWA Veotag video meeting minutes account, confusion ensued when freeholder Adrian Mapp moved to table a 7-million dollar bond ordinance put forward by the Union County Improvement Authority for a non-profit organization located in Plainfield. “We still don’t know who is behind the project, or who is responsible from the Union County Improvement Authority” said Mapp who resides in Plainfield. The board couldn’t answer to what the project was or who the people involved were, but this didn’t stop them from voting 8-0 to push the borrowing forward.

Depending on how you look at the new information the Union County Watchdog Association has gathered regarding this bond issue, the plot either thickens or the fog is lifted on the workings of and between the Union County Improvement Authority and the freeholder board who usually unanimously votes 9-0 on every ordinance and resolution without public discussion. One thing is crystal clear – the freeholders follow their boss lady blindly and vote on ordinances they have no knowledge of.

The Improvement Authority is headed by Charlotte DeFilippo who is also the Union County Democrat Chairman. The Freeholder board is made up of 9 democrats who, because of a myriad of reasons for which people vote down the Democrat line, are quite literally appointed and fired by DeFilippo and her machine.

In defense of his vote, Freeholder Sullivan, who works for the State Motor Vehicle Commission stated “Based on the county rules of governance, we have to approve any and all projects that the Improvement Authority puts forward,” said Sullivan. “Based on their track record and my faith in the Improvement Authority, they have done their due diligence and understand what the risks are with all projects. That’s why they have my support.”

But who is doing the Authority’s due diligence? A copy of the following letter was obtained through the Open Public Records Act. It was addressed to the Clerk of the Board of Freeholders and shows how a vendor of the Improvement Authority wrote the ordinance the freeholders approved without having any knowledge about it:

Dear Ms. Tedeschi:

Enclosed herein for consideration by the Freeholders for their next regular meeting is an ordinance requesting the County’s consent to issuance by the Union County Improvement Authority of its bonds in the amount of not to exceed $7,000,0000 to finance African American Fund of New Jersey Plainfield Project, a pre-school facility.

Should the freeholders approve this financing, I ask that you kindly forward a certified copy of the Ordinance as introduced, and as adopted to my office.

If you have any questions or comments, please do no hesitate to contact me.

Very truly yours,

John G. Hudak, Esq. (Not Charlotte DeFilippo, the Director of the Union County Improvement Authority)

The above letter, which can be viewed in its entirety HERE, included an attachment with the language for the ordinance that the clerk placed on the freeholders September 27, 2007 agenda and was approved 8-1. The one abstention being from Freeholder Adrian Mapp, who has fallen out of favor with the machine and was not given the party line during his bid for reelection.

An OPRA request to the Improvement Authority seeking to find out how the Black United Fund went about requesting funding from the Improvement Authority was responded to via email:

Dear Mrs. Renna:
During your OPRA review of the Black United Fund materials from the law office of John Hudak you asked if we had any preliminary documentation to how the Black United Fund was bonded. I have found that the Black United Fund went directly to our bond council, Mr. John Hudak, Esq. office.

If further information is requested, please let me know.

Thank you,
Jennifer Erdos
Union County Improvement Authority
10 Cherry Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07207
908-820-9710

So, you see, Sullivan and the other Freeholders admittedly blindly voted to approve the ordinance without any knowledge of what it contained. And even though he said he did so because the ordinance was presented by the Improvement Authority, records show that it wasn’t. This has been the motus operendi of the Freeholder Board for the past ten years and has put the County government in financial crisis.

I was tossed out of the meeting because I reminded Sullivan that DeFilippo gave him his state job and that she could take it away. Before I left the mike, I asked if the meeting was being video taped because besides having spent $110,000 on new video equipment the Freeholders had stopped tapping meetings.

They taped the meeting.

Is this all just for an opportunity to reward ‘friends”? Plainfield Today: Friday, September 28, 2007 $7M bond for nonprofit may leave Plainfield on the hook..

Miscellaneous Documents obtained through OPRA:

Draft Summary & Terms of Purchase

Black United Fund Plan of Finance

Union County Improvement Authority Resolution

Hudak Letter & Ordinance

Miscellaneous Correspondence

George's Trek




I must apologize.



I have been remiss, I neglected to wish County Manager George Devanney good luck in his climb to the base camp of Mount Everest last month.



Actually, I had intended to pass along an Associated Press article, which appeared in many media outlets, as he prepared for his trip, however my personal health drama got in the way keeping me away from my computer for a number of weeks.

Devanney you will recall was embarking on a sojourn to Nepal thanks to the shoe leather of county workers and others who participated in the “Rockon Walkathon” in September at Nomahagen Park in George’s name.

Nepal Considers Nudity Ban on Everest
Nepal's Mountaineering Authorities Call for
Nudity Ban on Mount Everest
The Associated Press
KATMANDU, Nepal

Attention climbers: Please keep your clothes on while climbing Mount Everest.
Nepal's mountaineering authorities are calling for a ban
on nudity and attempts to set obscene records on the
world's highest mountain, officials said Wednesday.
Last year, a Nepali climber claimed the world's
highest display of nudity when he disrobed for
several minutes while standing on the 29,035-foot summit
with the temperature about 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

"There should be strict regulations to discourage such
attempts by climbers," said Ang Tshering, president of
Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Other record-setting attempts that sparked controversy
included a Dutch man who attempted to scale the peak
wearing only shorts.
The people who live on the foot hill of Everest worship the
mountain as a god and mountaineering authorities have
asked the government to ban disrespectful stunts on
Everest, Tshering said.

Mount Everest has always attracted record-setters,
including the oldest climber (71 years old), the youngest
climber (15 years old), the first climber with one foot and
the first blind climber. In 2005, a Nepali couple exchanged
vows on the summit as the first couple to get married on Everest.

Since Mount Everest was first scaled in 1953 by New Zealander
Edmund Hillary and Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, thousands of people have scaled the mountain.

I certainly hope that George managed to keep his wits about him and not get too caught up in the excitement of the moment.

Follow the link below to view the complete itinerary of the trip of a lifetime that George Devanney made with the help of the walkers and what may be the use of county resources.

November 15, 2007

We get the government we deserve


“Union County Freeloaders” was the message emblazoned across this photo dipicted on t-shirts worn by protesters during a May 10, 2007 vigil which ended with a visit to a freeholder meeting.

The County of Union has recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit in the matter of Edward Sinclair, Jr., the 17 year old who died in their Juvenile Detention Center on May 10, 2003.

After the death of Sinclair, the State’s Child Advocate released a blistering report of the facility which stated that “Union County’s “disregard” of rules let the teen hang himself. The advocate went on to report that the county “set the stage for his death”. The Child Advocate also stated that the county had a disregard for basic human rights and held "juveniles" three to four to a cell for 18 - 20 hours a day in which they ate and slept in 8 x 10 cockroach-infested cells.”

The Juvenile Detention Center is a basic service of County government, instead of building a much needed new facility or even doing needed repairs on the old facility, the county chose instead to construct new buildings to house county employees. The state directed the county to fix the sprinkler head that Sinclair hanged himself on, 17 months prior to his being put in the filthy cell. The county never bothered to make the recommended repairs.

The county also ignored pleas from the corrections officers union. The Star-Ledger reported on May 13, 2003: “A lawyer for Council 8 representing 30 officers at the detention center said the union had filed numerous complaints with the county, warning that “Something like this would happen because of the overcrowding and under staffing” at the facility. “For the last couple of months the union has been documenting and complaining about the conditions there, but I don’t think they really addressed our concerns,” said attorney Michael Bukosky.

In a November 30, 2000 Worrall newspaper article it was reported that after spending more than $2 million the freeholder’s scrapped its plans to construct a new detention center. At that time freeholder board chairman Daniel Sullivan said the cost to build a new center “is just not worth it” given a declining population at the current facility.

According to records obtained by the Union County Watchdog Association through the Open Public Records Act it shows the center was at over capacity at the time of Sullivan’s statement. In the same article Freeholder Louis Mingo, stated he did not want to “waste a lot of money if we don’t have to. We want to make sure that if we make an investment, its on solid ground.”

The cost at the time to build a new center was projected to be $20 million. The cost of the current project is roughly $40 million - plus a 17 year old human life.

Other costs to date associated with scrapping the original 1998 plan:

Sinclair law-suit county attorney’s fees and settlement to date: $1,110,000; State mandated updates to make the old facility clean and safe(r): Approximately $800,000; Maintaining the state mandated cap on the facility and housing youths out of county: $555,952

Total wasted money since the death of Edward Sinclair, Jr.: $2,465,952

The future of the 42-year-old detention center, which is located above the county employee parking garage is undecided. The UCWA recommends the freeholders move their offices to the facility and have freeholder meetings up there to remind them and the public of what happens when government can’t be held accountable.

The new detention center is 8 months past due from its last promised opening date. With the settlement of this lawsuit only the Union County taxpayers have been held accountable for the death of Edward Sinclair, Jr. No employee or elected official of the state or the county has been held accountable for Sinclair’s death, the condition of this facility or the treatment of countless other juveniles. No one has been written up, reprimanded, fined, suspended or voted out of office.

Freeholder Daniel Sullivan was the highest vote getter this past Election Day. We get the government we deserve.

In memory of Eddie Sinclair, Jr.

Eddie's family and friends visited a freeholder meeting shortly after his death.

November 10, 2007

Late in "Breaking the News"

Just what is the role of the Fourth Estate in the everyday lives of the people and whatever happened to “who, what, when, where and how” reporting?


Appearing on the “Breaking News Page” of the NJ.com website and calling it “real time” news at 12:02 AM, Friday, November 9, and in the middle of the night, the Star Ledger announced that an investigation had been launched by state officials into the business and personal dealings of Charlotte DeFilippo the Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee and Director of the Union County Improvement Authority. The news article went on to explain that DeFilippo had been served with subpoenas in September and October so one could say that actually the Star Ledger was “late in breaking the news”, and shame on them.

Even in these times of high tech gadgets and gizmos many people get the news of their communities from the local newspapers, both dailies and weeklies. We want to know that those local papers will deliver the news in an up to date easy to read format, bringing us the facts relating to our local government, schools, sports, births, deaths and local business in a timely manner.

Yesterday’s news is basically useless as we live our lives in “real time” and need our news to be the same. We want to hear it all and prefer to decide for ourselves what information we will keep in our mental files for later use because it is important to us and what information we will discard. News in real time is what happened yesterday, today or what we can expect tomorrow, not what happed last week or last month because what are we going to do with old news, how will it benefit us now or in the near future.

The Star Ledger’s recent performance has been disappointing to say the very least. To claim that they choose to not report the details of the Union County subpoenas and their contents so that they would not be viewed as interfering with the recent elections is absurd. Should not the residents be informed of the unbiased facts of what is going on with their government and those running it in, shall we say “real time”? If the reporting of those unbiased facts coincides with some public event such as an election than so be it, and can holding back on news information be it good or bad also be viewed as interfering, why not just let it rip? Unless of course there are some forces that are actually running the presses and the newspaper is not, now, isn’t that sad?

Many would have to agree that what we really want from the news media is just the N-E-W-S!

Please just....tell me the facts,
give them to me in an expeditious & timely manner
and let me decide for myself what I will ignore and what carries some weight in my decision making.

To the Star Ledger: You are not my mother so don’t try to protect me from what you perceive to be evil or detrimental for me to know. And kindly refrain from attempting to cast the news in a good or bad light, which just annoys me because if I wanted an opinion I would have visited the editorial page.

Further in the case of government ... the last I checked it was by and for the people, not, by the news media shaped in their image for the people, this is manipulation of the facts, and inexcusable. Perhaps the Star Ledger should include the names of those who apparently are influencing their reporting on the mast head as they appear to be the ones steering the Ledger’s ship.