April 29, 2007

Writing to elected officials had $8.00 an hour consequence

Update as of 5/18/07:
Since sending our last email to elected Union County Officials regarding the County's newly instituted $8.00 an hour service fee to show us back-up documentation for vouchers ranging from catering bills to travel expenses for the County Manager, Union County Officials have been offering their support for our county watchdog efforts.
Westfield Councilman Sal Caruana has donated $1,000 to the Watchdog Association to cover these and any future service fees. And a statement of support was sent to the press today from the District 21 Legislative Office as well. Their correspondence follows.


Statement from District 21 Legislative Office regarding UCWA's Concerns about County Public Records Fees

We believe all levels of government should be committed to transparency in spending so that taxpayers can truly understand how their tax dollars are being used. That is why we are very concerned about recent reports from the Union County Watchdog Association that the County of Union might be hampering access to expense vouchers incurred by county employees by charging a newly instituted service fee to provide such records. Under Title 47 (Public Records), immediate access is ordinarily granted to budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts, including collective negotiations agreements and individual employment contracts, and public employee salary and overtime information. We encourage the Watchdog organization to challenge the legitimacy of this fee for service practice&nb

Senator Thomas H. Kean, Jr.
Assemblyman Eric Munoz, M.D.
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick


Dear Tina,

I applaud your efforts to expose wasteful spending and abuse on the part of Union County government.

A few years back I attended a Southside Johnny concert in Echo Lake Park and frankly I was shocked at the self-indulgence on and off stage of some connected to county government. Are these events really for taxpayers, or are they opportunities for some over-aged groupies on the public dime to rub wine glasses on stage with rock acts? Like many others I love Southside Johnny, but should the public foot the bill for elements of a private VIP event for elected officials and their friends? Were campaign contributors VIP's too? Perhaps the VIP guest list should be released as part of the public record.

As for the newly instituted $8.00 per hour service fee to obtain what should be freely accessible public documents: please send me an address to mail a $1000 contribution to your organization to cover these and future "service" fees, and do not hesitate to contact me when and if you need additional funds for this purpose. There is one condition: please pass on all evidence of obstruction and/or abuse to the U.S. Attorney's office. Enough is enough.

Sal Caruana
Westfield Town Councilman
P.S. You have my permission to circulate this e-mail as you see fit.

Original Post:

Dear Honorable Mayor and Council Members:

Since paying nearly $300.00 in early 2006 for the county to convert their check registry data base into a format that could be transmitted electronically to the public, the Union County Watchdog Association has been requesting the county’s check registry on a monthly basis and reviewing their vouchers. We then place OPRA requests for any vouchers we think the public should have further information on. We also publish the registry on our website for free public access.

There hasn’t been a month that we haven’t found some questionable spending item. Last month, for the first time, we reported to all elected municipal officials our latest finding, the $930.00 catered staff meeting which was held on December 22, 2006 but not processed until 2 months after the meeting occurred.

Since reporting this to you, we have been informed by the county that there will now be an $8.00 an hour service fee to retrieve back-up documentation for our monthly voucher inquiries. This month we asked for documentation on 35 vouchers and the county is estimating that the fee will be $56.00 for an employee to retrieve the documents.

All of this months requested vouchers (35) were for employee reimbursements and travel expenses which totaled $12,085.74 including: $1,112.78 reimbursed to the County Manager; $519.78 to the Sheriff; $210.31 to the Prosecutor. Eleven vouchers totaling $3,857.02 paid for refreshments including $1,773.75 for Gourmet Dining c/o Kean; $42 was paid for a cake for a ‘nutrition’ meeting (I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried). $1,200.00 went for in door plants.

From a public relations standpoint even I find it incredible that the county would have the arrogance to charge the public $56.00 to hand over this spending information. But as we all know, it is a sad reflection on our Union County media who will most likely not find this fit to report on, therefore, there will be little to no consequence for the county’s latest lack of transparency and contempt for the taxpayers.

In our last correspondence to you we called for greater participation in holding Union County government accountable to the people. We informed you that in 2006 taxpayers picked up a $10,510.83 tab for 27 freeholder meeting refreshments and we have since obtained the catering bill for the Music Fest.

We previously reported to you that over 300 people attended the Freeholder's VIP tent. The bill obtained shows that catering was provided for 425 people at a cost to taxpayers of $5,525. The bill for the VIP tent alcohol hasn't been provided to date. The county has written that this was an in-kind contribution and no documentation has been offered as to who the contributor(s) were.

Again I will ask you to imagine your own town council participating in these questionable spending sprees and then attempting to charge a citizen watchdog group $8.00 an hour for the privilege of you explaining how you’re spending their tax-dollars.

Imagine further that you provide a free concert in your town and while your residents are setting up their lawn chairs in the mud, you along with your colleagues, family and friends are enjoying a $5,525 feast provided by your tax-payers in a VIP tent equipped with ‘Celebrity’ port a potties and kegs of beer and cases of wine.

I’m sure your constituents and your local media would hold you accountable in a manner that would be fast, quick, in-a-hurry and furious. It is apparently beyond the scope of any one citizen, or even the Union County Watchdog Association, to hold county government accountable for the $413-million tax-dollars they are currently spending annually.

As you know county government takes almost as much money from your residents as your town council does. Some towns, such as Westfield and Summit, pay more property taxes to the county than their town. It is long past due for all good elected men and women, no matter what your party affiliation, to come to the aid of their beleaguered tax-burdened residents and demand accountability from a county government that is clearly out of control and unconnected to their residents.


Tina Renna
Union County Watchdog Association, Inc

View requested voucher list HERE
View county's OPRA response HERE

Freeholder's Music Fest VIP Tent port a potty:

Our Mission
The UCWA is a nonpartisan nonprofit 501(c)3 organization working on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Union County monitoring the activity of county government and advocating change to eliminate waste, corruption and incompetence.

The UCWA will act as a vehicle for the public to make their voices heard in the political forum, and to participate in the legislative process, holding elected officials accountable. We strive to make county government more transparent by gaining access to public records and being a public resource for information.

The UCWA believes that good government can only be achieved through a checks and balance system that includes the watchful eye of the people.

"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their government, for whenever things go so far wrong as to attract their notice, they can be relied on to set things right." - Thomas Jefferson

April 27, 2007

Has the Boss Tweed of UC turned murderous?

Just weeks ago it was reported that a bullet was fired at Freeholder Adrian Mapp’s car. Mapp has fallen out of favor with the Union County Democrat machine (a.k.a. Lesniak/DeFalippo) for reasons only the insiders know of as of yet and won’t be given the line in November. Just following this report a campaign mailer featuring a scull and the house of a political rival was mailed to all Hillside residents by Union County Democrat Chairwoman Charlotte DeFalippo.

Hillside School Board member Nathalie Yafet has been standing her ground against the Democrat machine in Hillside for years. She managed to have Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s law firm taken off the Hillside taxpayers’ backs. Her and fellow school board member at the time Sergio Biacho reported that the Board’s legal bills were affected dramatically by getting rid of Uncle Ray. Hillside taxpayers owe a debt of gratitude to the Yafet’s dedication. Residents can only imagine the sacrafices one takes on to stand up to the machine.

The Star-Ledger reports in the Union County section today about last week’s school board elections. Nathalie’s husband Steve ran for a seat on the Board and as usual the politics got nasty in Hillside. Last year’s county politicking in Hillside resulted in a police report being filed against a county employee who Charlotte DeFalippo was quoted as saying “He is a friend that I sent to help with an election.” (See post HERE)

Here is the Yaffet’s side of the story:

Dear Editor: It's always fascinating when political machines put their own sins on other people. In your story, Election quarrel spills into school board meeting, Friday April 27, 2007, Charlotte DeFilippo, the Union County Democratic Party chairperson and power broker, tries to take the moral high ground. That in itself is amusing and sad, too.

She gives herself credit for having the unspeakable idea of putting a picture of our home on the front cover of thousands of vicious campaign mailers and claims that it is appropriate to do so. Would she be as enthralled for her residence to have similar treatment? Ms. DeFilippo's nasty literature full of lies and misinformation is her signature style. After all, if your candidates have no merit, then the only other tactic left in dirty politics is to make personal attacks on others.

Ms. DeFilippo further asserts that, "she keeps running her husband." This statement is insulting to my husband, Steven, who made his own decision. The Union Leader endorsed him, called him "a necessity" on the school board and pointed out that he would ensure "fiscal responsibility in a town where taxes are already spiraling out of control."

Another ludicrous claim is that she is merely a simple resident of the township with, as she calls it, "a moral obligation," rather than the Boss Tweed of Union County and Hillside. Her candidates are fully funded and get hundreds of signs, expensive full-color mailers, county employees on Election Day, sound trucks and more. All they have to give up in return is their independent judgment and their votes. Sounds like politics to me.Conveniently, Ms. DeFilippo also fails to explain why she attacks me even when I am not up for re-election. Rather she says that every word in her trash mailer can be found by "Google-ing" me. Hardly. The only place you will find citations regarding my supposed plans for a "multi-million dollar" theater and other nonsense are in her twisted mind.

Nathalie Yafet
Hillside, NJ

April 25, 2007

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.

It is puzzling enough that the office space should be rented let alone the building purchased for what appears to be a “virtual” operation. Charlotte DeFilippo, the authority’s exec director, earns $132K annually and has made no bones about the fact that she does the county’s business from her Hillside home.

According to a Star Ledger interview, “She is at her dining room table by 7:30 each morning, her hands shuffling papers spread across a white tablecloth. She works mostly from home. By 8 a.m., the BlackBerry is buzzing, the cell phone is ringing and the spent cigarettes are piling in the ashtray.” On more than one personal unannounced visit to the authority office no one was found to be around, just a piece of old copy paper attached to the dull Luwan door, it read “be back later”, nothing further, leaving one to guess when later actually would be, and it has been reported by those making actual appointments that the visitors usually arrive before the admin who suddenly appears from somewhere off site regardless of the hour.

The Improvement Authority has nine members, the meetings are said to be very brief often not taking place at the Cherry Street location as advertised but rather at other county office sites. Bearing all of this in mind, why is the county purchasing this building to house this “virtual authority”?

A quick check of the county board of taxation website revealed that the current owners are Albert G. Mauti, Jr. and Joseph Mauti, his cousin as in M & M Construction Company. Between ‘99 and ‘04 alone the all Democratic Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders awarded various no bid contracts to M & M Construction Co. to the tune of over $20 Million.

From ‘99 thru ‘04 M & M made contributions to the Union County Democratic Committee, of which Ms DeFilippo is the Chair of at least $30,000. Further Assemblyman Joseph Cryan represents a portion of Union County to include the town of Union where he is the Dem Municipal Chair; he is also the Chairman of the State Democratic Committee and a Union County Undersheriff.

Numerous members of the Mauti family residing outside the county contributed over $22,000 to Cryan’s election coffers between ‘03 and ‘05. Family members have also contributed to the campaign of Senator Nick Scutari and Michael LaPolla’s run for Congress, both UC Dems

In 2005 the municipality of Union awarded Al Mauti a redevelopment contract to build town houses on a piece of property owned by a local developer who had obtained the lots by purchasing tax liens. The developer planned to build townhouses himself; the all Dem town council said he wasn’t working fast enough and moved to take the tract of land from him, he filed suit to protect his investment and the town, though they deny it, changed the zoning thus preventing him from building. Litigation is still pending and no one is building anything.

One could venture to guess that the county Dems could be looking to repay a favor.

What could be better than to take this debilitated office building off the Mauti’s hands? Unfortunately the residents of UC will be the ones paying for it and it can be predicted, it’s much needed refurbishing. All of this will mean more contracts and more bonds and more debt to the taxpayers. Perhaps the county will award that contract to M&M to spruce the place up, now there’s an idea. But why bother, the Exec Director of the Improvement Authority probably won’t budge from her comfy home office anyway.

April 22, 2007

Freeholder Sulli is a Bird Brain

At the last meeting of the Board of Union County Democrat Committee Chosen Freeholders I made a public comment about the public not being made to feel welcome at county public meetings.
Freeholder Sullivan either ignored or didn't comprehend anything I said and during his closing comments (they never respond to you when your at the microphone and can defend yourself) the bully went on a rant about Elizabeth being a safe place for people to visit.
Safe for whom I wondered? For Freeholder Sullivan who drives from his house in Elmora, which is the safest neighborhood in Elizabeth due to the fact that all the Elizabeth politicians live there, and then parks his car underneath the County Administration building? His feet never touch the streets in Elizabeth where violence is reported daily.

Freeholder Sulli insulted every Elizabeth Police Officer that puts their lives on the line protecting citizens by disregarding the dangers that naturally go along with a big city where many people live in poverty. Sulli and his partners obviously don't see nor care about the poverty in Elizabeth either.

My comment went something like this:

I attended swearing in ceremonies in three separate municipalities this past January and read about several more. All had at least one elected official thanking citizens for coming out to the first public meeting of the year and asked them to please stay involved. They were very inviting and stressed that government is “of the people” and can only serve the people best when people had an interest in it.

I have never heard a Union County Freeholder encourage a resident to stay involved. They’ve never appeared to be happy to see me walk into a meeting or up to the podium to make a public comment, that’s for sure. Public comment is just for commenting. Freeholders have stated, time and time again, that they do not answer questions at meetings.

The county website, which has cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to date and is maintained by the million-dollar public information department staff, does not have directions to the County Administration building. Their directions will get you to the Courthouse but not the building where freeholder meetings are held in the evening at 7pm. There is no information on where to park your car either.

Elizabeth is a very intimidating place to many people across the county. (I interjected that I wasn’t afraid to walk the streets of Elizabeth.) I personally know some Elizabethans who don’t like to go out at night. There is no parking on the street outside of the administration building. There is parking a block away and around the corner, which you will have to find yourself, and then you will have to walk the dimly lighted streets with no security around. The extensive security staff is all inside the administration building, protecting the administration.

Couple this with the fact that citizens are routinely harassed by freeholders after making public comments and at best are ignored by them, and you get a government that isn’t anywhere near a welcoming neighborhood “of the people”.

If it were an open government that encouraged and welcomed citizen involvement there wouldn’t be a need for a Union County Watchdog Association. We’d simply have good county government. With one-party rule and a disenfranchised citizenry, I don’t see the county neighborhood, which controls approximately one quarter of our tax bills, changing anytime soon. The watchdogs will have to stay on duty.

Freeholder Sulli stayed true to form and during his closing comments he didn’t address the fact that the county website gives the wrong directions, or that the public has no where close by to park despite there being empty county employee parking in abundance all around the building. Instead he ignored all the issues I raised and harassed me for making these comments. He ranted “I am highly offended by Mrs. Renna’s comments about Elizabeth isn’t safe! You are all safe here in Elizabeth!”.

Poor Sulli, he obviously doesn’t have the intelligence to be highly insulted by what I really said. His million-dollar public information department can’t even give the public correct driving directions.

April 15, 2007

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.

He is purported to have put on quite a show at the last Elizabeth City Council meeting by displaying the document in question so enlarged that it was displayed on an easel for all in attendance to view. An incomplete audit report of the Elizabeth Board of Education, the document has been reported to be “confidential early work from within the Federal Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General” or OIG.

Bollwage made no secret about the fact that he obtained the report from the Union County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Carmen M. Centuolo, whose office falls under the Union County government’s umbrella. Disclosing the contents of this report, which according to the OIG, may not be complete for another six months can only be viewed as a political maneuver to discredit the incumbent school board members who are on the ballot in the current school board elections.

Though supposedly nonpartisan Elizabeth’s BOE races are certainly anything but. With Mayor Bollwage publicly supporting his own ticket along with State Senator Ray Lesniak who called for investigations of the current BOE in a county government funded newspaper these elections reek of politics at its absolute worst.

Dr. Centuolo certainly didn’t behave in a nonpartisan manner by supplying the mayor with his ammunition in view of the fact that the Dr. has been a contributor to the Union County Democratic Committee and also gave at least $1,000 to the campaign of NJ’s newest senator, Democrat Robert Menendez. http://www.newsmeat.com/fec/bystate_detail.php?st=&zip=07092&last=Centuolo&first=Carmen

It is worth noting that the Doc was appointed Union County Superintendent in October of 2004 by the NJ State Board of Education, is paid a salary of $110,994.03 and is listed as among those taking an early retirement at the ripe old age of 55, effective July 1, 2003 after having worked for the Green Township, NJ BOE. Certainly looks like double dipping or perhaps some form of pension padding from here either way a six figure salary combined with a public pension is not exactly chump change at the taxpayers expense.

Mayor Bollwage’s behavior a scant week before school elections is atrocious and though he vehemently denies it even a novice can clearly see what his intentions were. But even worse is the behavior of the County Superintendent of Schools, what on earth was Dr. Centuolo thinking by handing over a confidential report? Shouldn’t the doctor have told the mayor to butt out of school territory? Or was the Doctor under instructions to leak certain tidbits of potentially damaging information at just the opportune time thus making it impossible for any damage control to be implemented and good names defended.

The situation in Elizabeth can only be termed as one big mess as the mayor and school board go at each other, the activities of the county superintendent definitely should be viewed as suspicious and definitely unethical and Senator Lesniak, well, that is another story all by itself.

From Newsmeat
Candidate or PAC
Centuolo, Carmen MMountainside, NJ 07092State of New Jersey/County Schools

New Jersey state government employee salaries and overtime for 2006
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Estimated total pay*

Bullet hits vehicle of freeholder

Reported in The Courier News- a Gannet Newspaper

Adrian Mapp's SUV was hit as he was leaving church in Plainfield.


PLAINFIELD -- Police are continuing forensics testing on a bullet that lodged into a window of Union County Freeholder Adrian Mapp's SUV earlier this week as he was driving home from church, authorities said.

Police said Mapp was pulling out of the parking lot of St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Park Avenue at 8:55 p.m. Wednesday when a bullet lodged in the rear passenger window of his SUV.
Mapp, who was alone at the time, immediately drove to police headquarters to report the incident and provide a statement to authorities, Plainfield Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said Friday. Mapp did not suffer any injuries, Hellwig said.

"We have no idea whether this was a targeted attack, whether someone shot a gun from an area and it landed there or struck there. We have no idea," said Hellwig, adding that police do not have any suspects in the shooting. "There's no other indications, and all options are open."
Through a spokesman, Mapp declined comment.

Hellwig said Plainfield police are continuing an active investigation into the incident, including trying to find out the trajectory of the bullet, its caliber and how far away from Mapp's vehicle the shot was fired. Hellwig said there were apparently no witnesses.

"It would be fruitless for me to speculate on anything like that now because it's under investigation and we don't know those things," Hellwig said.

Mapp, a Plainfield resident who served on City Council for seven years, was elected to a three-year term on the Union County freeholder board in 2004. Mapp, a Democrat, has two adult daughters with his wife, Amelia.

Brandon Lausch can be reached at (908) 707-3175 or blausch@c-n.com.

Statement from the New Jersey Green Party Chairman George DeCarlo:

** Freeholder Mapp while running for the office of Freeholder, I have been told, stated that he would look into the problems of the county not going along with the machine. Well, not much was heard from Mapp during his time in office as to being a maverick. Perhaps he did ruffle some in the machine and his thanks are no line and now what of this bullet. I would not be surprised given the attacks by the county government in what a detective called what seems like a case of kidnapping among the other many assaults launched against Toy-Ling Washington in Hillside. The county and the Democratic machine continue their assault on her which also included having her house attacked early in the process which now the departments of UC government are fully involved including the court. Judge Malone (former UC Democratic Machine Chair) had to recuse himself from her case. Early in the process to smash Toy-Ling due to growing popularity amongst voters, Judge Malone aka judicial tool of the machine oversaw the writing of the complaint Toy-Ling had made against the election in Hillside two years ago. He not only had her write the complaint in his own manner but judged it in court. Did those in court know this along with the media? No. Of course, I am only giving a very small snippet of the horror she has had to face at the hands of a political machine that controls Union County. -- George

April 11, 2007

Lesniak, Bollwage & Eliz. Board of Ed. - Are Not Perfect Together

A little less than a year ago, State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, appeared to go on the attack against the Elizabeth Board of Education in the taxpayer funded Union County Directions newspaper. “Directions” put out by the Union County Alliance two times per year is funded in large part by the Board of Chosen Freeholders and lands in the mailboxes of all county residents just a few days prior to the primary elections in June and the general election in November.
Senator Lesniak contributed an article that called for a state investigation of the Elizabeth School Board claiming that they hired their relatives after they got elected and that school employees were permitted to work on election fundraising actives using school equipment and facilities.
He went on to say that nepotism policies must be made mandatory in Elizabeth schools. When reading the article it was clear that the senator was doing the very same thing by using what was intended to be a vehicle to inform county residents about economic development in Union County as a vehicle to promote his desire to wrest control of the board away from those individuals that were dully elected by the people.

It is no secret that Senator Lesniak is allied with Elizabeth’s mayor, Chris Bollwage, who is very unhappy with the status quo, so unhappy in fact that the mayor has gone on record to not only voice but to demonstrate his support of an opposing slate of candidates to unseat the incumbents in next weeks school board elections.
Mayor Bollwage, for a number of years, has led the charge against a board that appears to want to act independent of his control and not be maneuvered away from their mission to do what is the best for the children, as they should be allowed to and are intended to in New Jersey.
Further, it has been illustrated in newspaper reports that the mayor has well heeled friends in high places and it stands to reason that he would be interested in pleasing them and supporting their business endeavors just as they have supported him and his political allies, even when the board of ed gets in the way.

It so happens, that the mayor is the host this evening of a fund raising event for school board candidates Hawkins, Casio and Alma at the City Tavern, to attend the minimum contribution is $250 and maximum contribution is $7,800. Judging by the cost of admission these guys mean business and are in the throes of an expensive campaign that would rival that of any politically oriented election.
And who says that Board of Education Elections are non-partisian??? Certainly not Chris Bollwage and friends.

April 09, 2007

Public needs to be educated about Lesniak's Fiefdom

American Heritage Dictionary:
fief·dom (fēf'dəm) Pronunciation Key n.
1. The estate or domain of a feudal lord.
2. Informal. anything, as an organization or real estate, owned or controlled by one dominant person or group.
The Union County Watchdog Association calls on Senator Raymond Lesniak to form a coalition against "nepotism, cronyism and pay to play".
After having to endure jokes at the hands of shock jocks "The Jersey Guys" on radio station 101.5 FM for what he labels "ethnic slurs, anti-gay comments and religious hate speech", State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) quickly acted to form the "Coalition Against Bigotry and Hate". The coalition plans to send the station's advertisers and investors transcripts containing comments made on the air, most of which were directed at the Senator. "Our goal today is to educate" said Lesniak at a press conference.

Now if only the media and/or the radio jocks who people chose to listen to for "entertainment" and not "news", could do their job of exposing the senator's ties to over billing school districts for legal services, his many, many family members who have public jobs starting with his nephew who is the appointed Union County manager in charge of a 413-million dollar budget, his voting record and influence peddling on everything from pension padding legislation to rail road reactivations, perhaps the powerful senator would be moved to defend himself again and will quickly form a coalition against "nepotism, cronyism and pay to play" and this state might finally see some "real" ethics reform legislation and property tax relief.
Tina Renna
Union County Watchdog Association, Inc.

April 04, 2007

Answering the over $400 Million Dollar Quetions? or Is Mum the Word???

Summit City Common Council president Diane Klaif is to be commended this week for not yielding to pressure to shut down residents who make inquiries at council meetings, even where decisions have already been made. She stated that, as long as she is council president, she “will not discourage discussion of issues that are concerns to citizens of Summit”. It is apparent that Ms Klaif not only is patient but is aware how rumors get started and that she is a proponent of transparency in government.

Freeholder Adrian Mapp is also to be given an A++. During freeholder reports/comments portion of this weeks meeting he recommended that the Freeholder Board adhere to a policy to answer any and all questions of all residents regardless of race, creed, color, political side of the fence or weather they prefer their ice cream with or without hot fudge sauce. In short, he made it clear that anyone who has a question should be answered. Board Chairwoman BJ Kowalski jumped in with “Freeholder Policy is to respond to all serious questions.”

Upon hearing that I instantly decided to check out just what is the policy and who decides which questions are serious enough to deserve answers. Generally the board announces that this portion of the meeting is for comments only and has been known to address questions with a response of “We don’t have to answer the public’s questions” but more often than not no response at all.

The Bylaws of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders- Speaks of questions????

The Board of Chosen Freeholders has bylaws containing the rules of procedure for conducting meetings and functions as well as rules of conduct and the path to follow when the public is allowed to speak during certain portions of the meetings.

Item 12 PUBLIC SESSION, At this time the public may address the board on any resolution on the agenda. A member of the public shall be limited to (1) appearance and shall speak for no more than five (5) minutes. All questions from the public shall be directed through the Chairman. …..Members (freeholders) will direct their questions or comments through the Chairman and shall limit their responses to the individual member of the public who is speaking to the board at that time.”

Item 15 SECOND PUBLIC SESSION. At this time the public may address the board on any subject over which the Board has the power to exercise its authority. The same rules for the first public session shall apply with regard to public participation.” The bylaws also indicate that if a situation arises not covered in the Freeholder document that Roberts Rules of Order, Revised, shall prevail.

Our all democrat freeholder board has interrupted these bylaws to suit themselves while not protecting the residents ability to have their concerns addressed. Clearly illustrated at the last meeting when the inquiries of only one out of three residents were addressed. Freeholder Mapp’s request speaks volumes when he referred to individuals on the opposite side of the political fence, are they not contributing to the “county pot of gold”?

What constitutes a serious question?

And as for serious questions are not those regarding the county jail and detention center or the use of county vehicles or the budget not serious? Perhaps Chairwoman Kowalski can expand on what she believes to be a “serious question” or comment. Does she not believe that the taxpayers’ finances are serious? Has there been a concerted effort to avoid the really hard questions as not only the opposition party but residents are now starting to hold their feet to the fire as well.

Who's questions get answered?

Did Mapp let the cat out of the proverbial bag and is willing to be a proponent of transparency in county government since up for reelection he has been denied the support of the UC Democratic Committee and replaced on the line by a “good soldier”? Has he been stifled since taking office and now has nothing to loose? Only time will tell but for now he deserves encouragement to continue on the path on which he seems to have embarked.