November 18, 2007

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

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