January 10, 2007

UCWA makes additions to its on-line library

The Union County Watchdog Association’s website has been averaging about 700 hits per month. This traffic has been increasing steadily. The UCWA mission is to SHINE A LIGHT ON GOVERNMENT by offering an on-line library for the public to have free and easy access to public records in order to monitor county government. In comparison to the information we offer the public, Union County government has just recently begun to post agenda’s and regular meeting minutes on their tax-payer funded site.

Two new features have recently been added to www.UnionCountyWatchdog.org:


In 2006 the Union County Watchdog Association filed a complaint with the State’s Government Records Council and the County Prosecutor's Office charging that the county routinely excessively redacts their executive meeting minutes. So as not to bog down the complaint with dozens of examples of meeting minutes that had been improperly redacted, the UCWA chose just one meeting at random. What was uncovered was that a law suit had been filed against a freeholder who was up for re-election that year – and the one-party ruled county government managed to keep this out of public view. What else had they managed to keep in their back room?

Not being able to rely on freeholder meetings to obtain information we learned how to look-up court cases at the courthouse where we came across a law suit charging that 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.

These two cases being kept out of the public view coupled with the fact that a lawsuit involving the county Sheriff was kept out of the media for years while the county racked up 2.5 million dollars in legal bills alone. In what was an apparent attempt to keep this case from the public, the county did not report the employee complaint to it’s insurance company which resulted in a lawsuit against the insurance company and a large tax-payer cash payment to the victim.

Shining a Light on Government

The UCWA found it necessary to embark on a huge investigative task of finding and documenting all county government lawsuits of the recent past and which were still generating legal bills. Ultimately we would like to include court costs and settlements on all cases as well as the judges and attorney’s involved, some of this information is presently missing from our spread sheet, we've decided to publish what we have so far. Gathering this information will be a constant work in progress.

We will keep a close watch on the courthouse going forward. Two developments in 2006 will ensure that these suits will no longer be kept from the public. 1. Following a complaint by the UCWA the Prosecutor’s office has ordered the county to be more forthcoming with what they are discussing in executive session and 2. We can’t rely on the freeholders being forthcoming, no matter who orders them to be, so we learned to look up court cases on the GSP terminal in the Courthouse. View law suits filed against the County of Union by clicking HERE.


We have developed a spreadsheet of Union County Improvement Authority Bonds and listed it on our website for free public access. You can view it by clicking HERE.

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