September 30, 2007

Still no accountability on juvenile detention center

At the September 6, 2007 Union County freeholder meeting the Board refused to answer when I asked when the new juvenile detention center would be opened.

The last time the county committed to an opening date was in the Star-Ledger on 4/15/06: “The facility should be ready for occupancy in August 2007, said Union County Spokesman Sebastian D'Elia.”

Loss of life

After the death of a 17 year old on Mother’s Day 2003 the Child Advocate reported that the 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.

Edward Sincalir, Jr. hanged himself on an exposed sprinkler head which was cited as a violation and suicide hazard by the state in a report sent to the county seventeen (17) months prior to his death. The county never made the recommended repairs.

The county also ignored pleas from the corrections officers union. The Star-Ledger reported on 5/13/03: “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.

The loss of tax-dollars

In an 11/30/2000 Worrall newspaper article, then Regional Editor Mark Hrywna reported that after spending more than $2 million the freeholder’s scrapped its plans to construct a new JV center. At that time board chairman Dan 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 UCWA 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 human life.
Other costs to date associated with scrapping the original 1998 plan:

Attorney fees to date, with no end in site, resulting from a 17 year olds death at the center: $330,000 (county costs alone)

State mandated updates to make the old facility clean and safe(r):
Approximately $800,000

Maintaining the state mandated cap on the center and housing youths out of county:

Total wasted money since the death of Edward Sinclair, Jr.: $1,685,952

The future of the 42-year-old structure 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. This would also offer the public a safe and convienent place to park during meetings.

Other freeholder comments regarding their accountability for the facility and the death of a 17 year old:

On December 16, 2004, after I was escorted from a freeholder meeting by two county police officers while making a public statement regarding the counties neglect of the JV center, then Freeholder Chairman Angel Estrada went on a long diatribe in defense of the county's treatment of juveniles.

"Let me just talk about Eddie Sinclair for a second the young angel
(Sarcastic) that we often hear unfortunately did die. But I think we also need to look at the realities in society in terms of what get people to where they are and the locations that they've been in not to say that I am not favorable to an individual who commits a crime and has to pay his punishment to society but the reality is that often we find ourselves that for some reasons individuals don't find their way out of the loop in time by which they do things that are totally improper and incorrect.

I by no means believe that this board is a cause and effect of this gentleman’s death and the reality is that there are many things that are behind the scenes that we are were not fully getting in terms of other potentials that may arise from this so the reality is that through the years I'm sure that you've all read articles in the papers where by this is not a problem of Union County this is a problem of the state of NJ. This problem of institutions that basically are not serving individuals in the right capacity. I'm willing to spend as many millions of dollars in terms of schools rather than detention centers but we have to do these things as well.

This board has been prepared and has moved on this and is working to achieve those goals. But understanding is that in the same token society and individuals in society have to take on the responsibility of things that they actually do that may cause harm to other individuals."

Oh really…

No employee or elected official of the state or the county has been held accountable for the death of Edward Sinclair, Jr., 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.

Child advocate’s report.

September 27, 2007

How boring to be tossed out of yet another freeholder meeting

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 orginzation default on their payments.

The Director of the Union County Improvement Authority is Charlotte De Falipo, who is also head of the Union County Democrat Committee who appoints the freeholders.

Freeholder Adrian Mapp asked that the ordinance be tabled because as a Plainfield resident not even he could speak as to what this project was about or who was behind it.

I have never seen a freeholder debate the board on anything, and obviously neither did they because the confusion that followed was reminiscent of the Key Stone Cops.

They didn't know how to proceed with the meeting. They were mumbling, they were fumbling and they were far reaching. Freeholder Holmes made a recommendation on how to include Mapp's objections in the second reading. He was then reminded that this was the second reading.

The only defense for their ignorance came from Freeholder Daniel Sullivan who has a state job working for the MVC. He said the Improvement Authority has always done their due diligence in the past, and if they O.K.’d this project then it is just dandy fine with him.

During public comment I commended freeholder Mapp and told him he had my vote. I then laughed in their faces telling them how refreshing this scene was and how absurd they are to be blessing a 7-mill project with no knowledge what-so-ever about it. I believe I used the phrase “eye popping” to describe Freeholder Sullivan’s blessing of 7-mill to the Improvement authorities due diligence. As if we didn’t already know the agenda is written at Charlotte De Falipo’s dining room table and her puppets blindly vote yes on everything put before them.

Freeholders get paid approximately $30,000 a year to watch over the approximate ¼ in property taxes we are forced to send them. Tonight shined a light on how they follow their leader when doling it out.

I was tossed out of the meeting because I reminded Sullivan that De Falipo gave him his state job and that she could take it away. I got one other shot in before I left the mike. I asked if the meeting was being video taped because besides their having spent $110,000 on new video equiptment they have stopped tapping meetings.

Anyone still believe this is a democracy?

Plainfield Today: Friday, September 28, 2007
$7M bond for nonprofit may leave Plainfield on the hook.. Letter to Asm Green.. Abbott Schools boost state.. Mortgage help..

September 24, 2007

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

Four years ago Union County Runnell's Specialized Hospital's administrator accepted a county retirement package which included life-time health benefits. One month later he was hired back as a consultant under the firm Aruspex, LLC to provide the same duties he performed one month earlier as a county employee.

Joseph Sharp was making $108,019 as a county employee. Upon retirement on July 1, 2003 he began collecting a $47,419 pension. According to county resolutions dated August 1, 2003 to date the county has paid Aruspex, LLC $365,950 for Sharp’s services as administrator.

Department heads are responsible for presenting resolutions to the freeholders for adoption. Sharp has been presenting resolutions as a contractor since his retirement.

Since retiring on July 1, 2003 Sharpe has collected $189,676 in pension payments. This is the amount the Union County Watchdog Association has asked the State Pension Employee’s Retirement System to demand back from Sharp.

It was recently reported in the Star-Ledger:.... Rahway business administrator and redevelopment director Peter Pelissier retired from both jobs to a log cabin on a 23-acre spread in Montana. His retirement after almost three decades in public service did not last long. The same month he began collecting his public pension from New Jersey, the 61-year-old Pelissier also began receiving checks from the Rahway Redevelopment Agency as a high-paid consultant -- doing the same job he had left for retirement, in an unusual, long-distance relationship.

Now the state wants the pension money back, arguing Pelissier never left the job as redevelopment director in Rahway.

The job he once performed for a salary was the same job he was being paid to do as a consultant, the state contends.

"If you retire, you cannot ... go back into a position similar to what you were doing when you left government, or another position covered by the pension system," state Treasury spokesman Tom Vincz said. "We're seeking to recoup all benefits paid out."

Vincz said the state comes across about a dozen cases a year of retirees doing public work while collecting a pension, spanning all manner of public employment, from school administrators to police officers.

Paula Franzese, a Seton Hall University law professor and chairwoman of the State Ethics Commission, said Pelissier's arrangement was "wrong on every level" and demonstrated loopholes in the system that need to be plugged.

"It's a betrayal of the pension system. It's a betrayal of the public trust and confidence, and it's a clear-as-day reason why local government needs to be within the purview of the uniform ethics code," Franzese said. "It just adds to the taint and perception that it's all politics as usual."

September 21, 2007

Freeholders Dis Westfielders


It appears that the ugliest government building in Union County is soon to have a sibling that could possibly nudge the Froehlich monstrosity, on North Avenue East in Westfield, out of first place and into second, much like when mom brings home a newborn bumping big brother out of the limelight. Artist’s renderings show that the new construction which will house county vehicles and office space unfortunately bears a striking family resemblance to its big brother, neither one fitting into the ambiance of charming downtown Westfield.

Coming before the Westfield Planning Board in early September Noel Musial, president of the Musial Group, of Mountainside, the county’s fav architect, spoke at length about how the building would be different than the existing garages and the doomed Venneri bldg on North Ave which will be demolished for what appears to be additional parking. The new buildings will be energy smart, which is certainly a good thing, having for instance solar panels on the roof for heating, but also up there will be rooftop parking at the second floor level. The office building will have yet a third floor which according to the rendering will have those porthole windows just like “Big Brother”. So upon completion, there will be the original Queen Mary and what looks like a barge towing a flush deck for your cruising pleasure. Whoever decided on the style of these buildings ought to be keel hauled.

Though Westfield residents send more of their tax dollars to the county for it’s operation than they keep to run the town, they have no say as to what will be built on county owned property within the town and the presentation to the planning board was a courtesy at best. It has been reported in all of the local weekly papers that Planning Board members were a bit taken aback by the magnitude of the buildings but were assured by Musial that some of their concerns will be addressed by planting shrubbery. It could just be speculation but will they be bringing in giant redwoods to hide this miserable looking building from sight?

The county contends that they want to be “good neighbors” and appear to think that by announcing that they are using a lot of recycled materials in the construction they will be able to get on Westfielders good side and glean acceptance for the project; like that would make it more visually appealing. However, if they were good neighbors they would have given more consideration to the hard work that officials have put into the planning and guidance of suitable construction styles appropriate for their town. Further, good neighbors are sensitive to the trials and tribulations of those in residence near to them, so one would think that the county would recall the well publicized parking garage issue which had brother fighting brother in Westfield. To quote former Mayor Garland “Bud” Boothe, “this just doesn’t do it.”
The bottom line is that Westfield, paying some of the highest taxes in the county, doesn’t seem to matter to the Freeholder Board as they surge forward awarding no bid contracts to political contributors like The Musial Group and Joseph Jingoli & Sons, who are also on board with the project. Looks as though they are thumbing their noses at the good taste and sensibility of the town’s residents while blatantly picking their pockets and telling them “we are connected to you”.

September 16, 2007

50% Here & 50% Here - Could have Been 100% There

Yesterday's Rock-on-Walkathon is said to have raised over $75,000 for County Manager George Devanney's favorite charities. .....proceeds are to be a 50-50 split between two charities - the following is from those charities websites:
50% - Love Hope and Strength Foundation - tax deductable contribution - going to Nepal.

In October, cancer survivors and co founders of the Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHSF) Mike Peters of the Welsh rock band the Alarm and entertainment insurance executive James Chippendale are taking the fight against cancer to new heights- Mt Everest; leading 40 musicians, mountaineers, cancer survivors, those whose lives have been affected by cancer and invited friends on the adventure of a lifetime. "Everest Rocks" is a fourteen day trek and acoustic concert at the base camp of Mt Everest, with a grand finale rock concert in Kathmandu. Leading up to the event will be a series of promotions and concerts in LA, NYC, Wales, Dallas and New Jersey.

50% - NJ Coalition for Cures - NOT tax deductable

The NJ Citizens' Coalition for Cures is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of New Jersey. NJCCC is dedicated to educating the public about the promise and realities of stem cell research. Our mission of advancing biomedical research in New Jersey to find life-saving cures and treatments is made possible by your donations. Donations to NJCCC are not tax deductible, thus allowing the Coalition to lobby for legislation that promotes better health and offers hope to patients and their families, who are waiting for medical miracles.

The following article appeared in many local newspapers, to include the Cranford Chronicle this past week .....The county could have supported this effort:

Walk for Hope, Walk for Mom at Nomahegan
Friday, September 14, 2007
CRANFORD -- CancerCare of New Jersey has announced that its annual Walk for Hope will take place at five locations in New Jersey, including Nomahegan Park, on Saturday, Sept. 22, beginning at 11:30 a.m.
The Cranford walk is also known as the ninth annual "Walk for Mom," organized by Tim Dursee in memory of his mother, Charlotte Dursee. Area residents are invited to join the Dursee family and friends for a walk around Nomahegan Park, and to receive a "Walk For Mom" T-shirt. Participants will enjoy entertainment, activities for the kids and refreshments, as well as the satisfaction that comes from working together to make a difference.
Walk for Hope is one of CancerCare's most important fundraising events. The event brings family members, friends and the community together for a fun-filled day to benefit an extremely important cause.

This year, the non-profit organization's goal is to recruit 1,500 walkers and raise $250,000 to benefit its completely free services.
CancerCare's Walk for Hope is an opportunity to honor those lost to cancer, celebrate those who are survivors, and give hope to those who are coping with the challenges of the disease. Visitors to Nomahegan will see the CancerCare Wall of Hope, which will offer participants the chance to write a message and make a dedication to someone they love.

The walk will take place rain or shine. For more information or to register, visit or contact Kathy Trethaway at (800) 813-HOPE (4673) or /

CancerCare is a national nonprofit organization that provides free professional support services -- including counseling with trained oncology social workers, education, financial assistance, and practical help -- to anyone affected by cancer: people with cancer, caregivers, children, loved ones, and the bereaved. All the services are completely free of charge.
© 2007 suburban_news
© 2007 All Rights Reserved.

Click and read here about the trek to base camp Everest Nepal

September 15, 2007

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.

This years VIP tent was set far off and out of sight and out of reach of a camera’s zoom lens.

In this photo you can see in the foreground is the beer garden, which was surrounded by fencing and open to the general public. Behind the beer garden are trailers and behind the trailers is the VIP tent (green and white stripe top), the sides of the tent facing the public were covered with tarp.

In this photo you can see the VIP tent tarps which covered the two sides that faced the public. There was another tent for the county Police outside of the VIP tent.

In this photo you can see the VIP tent from across the lake. This was the closest a 300 MM zoom lens could get. The only 2 sides of the tent that aren’t covered with tarp faced the woods.

In this photo you can see how the tent was protected with vehicles surrounding it.

The hastily constructed bridge was heavily guarded and off limits to the public. It led to the back of the main stage and the VIP compound. The county has denied that this bridge which cost $117,000 (not including a 500,000 engineering fee) was built just for this convenience.

This year’s music fest cost well over twice as much as last years. The county manager was quoted in the Ledger stating that they received $200,000 in sponsorships. He also claimed it won't be shared with the promoter, however, you can click HERE to read the promoters contract. Even $200,000 barely covers the cost of the new bridge.

It will take a few months, but the UCWA will hunt down every bill. But, there are costs that we will not be able to quantify. Such as the use of the on-duty Sheriff’s officers to pick up band members at Kennedy airport in their county vehicles at 1pm yesterday. The Sheriff’s department and county police are on hand all weekend working as a car service for music fest personnel including delivering them to a party at the County Manager's house last night.

September 13, 2007

Musicfest this Saturday

Politican charges video “a slur to the Irish”
Photo of Cranford Commissioner George McDonough

Last year the Musicfest Freeholder VIP tent provided catering for 425 people at a cost to taxpayers of $5,525. The bill for the VIP tent alcohol hasn't been provided to date. There was no permit issued for the booze and the county has written that this was an in-kind contribution and no documentation has been offered as to who the contributor(s) were.

At a Cranford township committee meeting this past Tuesday, Commissioner George McDonough had a meltdown over the video clip that was made of last years VIP tent from across the lake. We only filmed the tent for about 10 minutes and as the luck of the Irish would have it, McDonough was ponnying up at the keg at the time with relatives of Freeholder Daniel Sullivan.

McDonough had a VIP pass for the tent but there is no record of it. The county never gave a detailed accounting of who the 425 people in the tent were. I doubt they were all Irish.

It angered McDonough that no Republicans were invited to the VIP tent to be caught on video, he said "you never go after Republicans". It made me wonder if Christopher Christie gets tired of that line every time he indicts another Democrat.

McDonoungh ranted on "…I went to a concert, along with 10,000 other people! I was in a tent for elected officials and there was beer and wine!....” ” “I think this is a slur to the Irish”.

To be fair to the Democrats, I feel I must tell you that McDonough is quite the character in Cranford. During last years campaign there was talk about town of having Mayor McCheese T-Shirts made, and an emergency press conference was called right before the election. The Cranford Dem Committee needed to reassure people that had their candidate won, McDonough wouldn’t be made Mayor.

The juice down there was free: Click HERE to view video footage of the illegal drinking that went on in the V.I.P. tent during the Music Fest on a recent Saturday as well as the mess that was left unattended in the county park until Monday morning.

There is no drinking in the parks folks: Click HERE to view video footage of Freeholder Holmes telling a summer concert crowd “the only bad thing is that there is no drinking allowed in county parks folks”.

Taxpayer funded celebrity port a potty located in the VIP tent

September 03, 2007

UPDATE: UCWA Public Event

This event has been rescheduled for October 4th.
Union County citizens are invited to attend a screening of the PBS Point of view Documentary “Thirst” Fighting the Corporate Theft of our Water, on Thursday, October 4th, 7pm, at the Cranford Community Center, 220 Walnut Avenue, Cranford, NJ.

The free event is being sponsored by the Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) in response to the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA) entertaining the possibility of privatizing its Cogeneration Facility that is currently under construction. The RVSA serves the communities of Clark, Cranford, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, Rahway, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Westfield, Winfield Park (a customer to Clark) and Woodbridge.

Privatization of essential public services such as wastewater treatment may be contrary to the best interests of the ratepayers it serves. This fact has been very well documented in the documentary “Thirst” and the book “Thirst” by Alan Snitow & Deborah Kaufman. The main adverse impact to the ratepayers is increases in user fees which may be accompanied by a reduction in the quality of service. Based on the information presented in the documentary film and book “Thirst”, the viewer (or reader) may likely conclude that the main benefit of privatization is kickbacks and payoffs for the politically connected.

Preceding the documentary will be a presentation of the facts pertaining to the actions of the Authority regarding privatization to date including the Authority’s General Counsel (Weiner-Lesniak) and financial consultant (NW Financial Group) have already issued a preliminary facts report on privatization at RVSA. The report itself has cost tax-payers $40,000, and has indicated that the “procurement costs”, i.e. costs for work performed by the legal, financial and other consultants, will run about $500,000 regardless of whether or not the Authority enters a contract with a prospective vendor.

“Hosting events such as this one in Union County gives us the opportunity to educate the public and give them the necessary tools to participate in the legislative process thereby holding elected officials accountable at all levels of government” explained Tina Renna, President of the UCWA. “The decision to privatize the RVSA not only will affect our water rates but our drinking water as well. Citizens need to arm themselves with the facts and participate in this important decision.”

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

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

The negative impacts of privatization can be summarized as follows:

• Rate Increases. (When Rahway Water was privatized by United Water in 1999, the rates went up over 56% in the first year alone.

• Reduction in life expectancy of process equipment as a result of deferred maintenance. Privatization firms skimp on required maintenance in order to increase their profits. The result is a reduction in life expectancy and an accelerated schedule for capital replacement. Capital replacement is at the expense of the ratepayer not at the expense of the privatization firm.

• Privatization firms reduce costs by reducing staff, which usually has a negative impact on the quality of service.

• Privatization firms address certain operation and maintenance needs on a regional basis in the name of efficiency and reduced costs. This results in reduced response time and a reduction in quality of service. If you are experiencing a sewer back up or discolored potable water do you really want to wait for someone to respond from several counties away?

• Loss of direct control and operating philosophy. If you let a private, for profit firm run your essential utility, you are at their mercy to a very large degree.

• Additional charges for out of scope work. This includes equipment replacement costs. (A privatization firm will be more inclined to replace equipment than repair it. Repairs are at their expense, replacement is at your expense.) This is very significant in a poorly written contract. In Rahway, the City is liable for any maintenance amount in excess of $5,000.00. In addition, the Water Agreement between the City of Rahway and United Water provides for a 15% profit on top of their costs to deliver all water in excess of 5.109 million gallons per day. On their web site they claim that they are currently delivering 5.5 million gallons of treated water per day. This means that they are receiving 15% profit on 142.7 MG. They are currently treating 7.7% more water then the threshold amount. This additional fee is in addition to their fixed management fee. If the markup in their fixed management fee is 15% of their total costs, then the excess water that they are treating increases their profit by 7.7%.