March 30, 2008

Diamond George gets a new crib

The county has proven again that it is awash in disposable tax revenue and disinterested in their constituents needs during this dire budget climate when the Union County Manager had his office drastically renovated during the start of the 2008 budget season recently.

During public comment at the last freeholder meeting I had a good laugh when I asked about Senator Raymond Lesniak's newly renovated management wing and Freeholder Chairman Angel Estrada responded "I take exception to your use of the word renovation. This was done for security purposes". I asked if he bothered to walk back there recently.

The county put a 1.3 million dollar atrium addition on the administration building a few years ago, they claimed this was also for security purposes.

Despite the Star-Ledger occupying an office on the 3rd floor of the same building there was only a slight mention of the renovations in the Westfield Leader.

As long as Union County can enjoy operating out of site of the public our county taxes will continue to sky rocket so the politically connected can feed at the trough. What mayor in Union County could escape media scrutiny over these recent events?

On February 13, 2008 employees began clocking in overtime to complete a total renovation of Union County Manager George Devanney’s office. The center point being a new royal entranceway.

On February 14, 2008 Devanney proposed the 2008 county budget with a projected increase of 6.5% that would raise taxes in every municipality but Winfield.

On February 26, 2008 Gov. Corzine proposed the 2008 State budget which drastically reduced municipal aid.

On February 28, 2008 an email shows that a county employee promises the Deputy County Manager that renovations will be completed by Monday morning. The county manger was out of town at the time, he was allegedly in Colorado on a ski trip with county vendor USA Architects. Most likely in celebration of the Arts Center 1st phase renovation completion. USA was given 700,000 in contracts for the Arts Center alone.

Although some bills and costs are obviously missing, an OPRA request for the costs of this renovation revealed:

Materials cost: $7,975.61
Employee overtime labor costs: $2,637.39
Employee regular hours labor costs: ?

Total: $10,613

The documents obtained through OPRA do not show the labor and materials costs of the furniture that was made in the county carpenter shop in late Summer/early Fall and stored on the 6th floor of the county jail. It appears that county management didn’t want Devanney’s new office to become a campaign issue so they waited for Freeholder Adrian Mapp, who fell out of favor with the democrat machine and was running as an independent democrat in the general election, to leave the board before renovations commenced and the furniture was installed.

The documents also didn't show bills for the couch and chairs in the lounge area. These may have been old and not purchased recently from Devanney's sister-in-laws furniture company.

Although work hasn’t been completed yet and plans didn’t show up in my OPRA request, I’ve been told that a sink area in the county management wing is also slated to be renovated. This is needed because the present sink is too small to wash dishes. The new sink will eliminate the need to walk a few feet into the freeholders conference room where a full kitchen complete with a dishwasher is at their disposal. By the way, have I reminded you lately that freeholders cater their board meetings to the tune of $250 - $350 per?

The public isn’t barred from walking into the public area where the county manager’s wing is located, so I walked right on in before the start of the last freeholder meeting. The royal nephew scampered away while I took some photos. I didn’t venture into the interior of the office uninvited. That would have been rude.

I thought of making an appointment to see the updates to the interior offices, but what is the point? I doubt I would be shown the secret button that would cause the fully stocked bar to flip out of a wall and the caged go-go girls to drop out of the ceiling as it does in the Springfield Mayor’s office.

Devanney has always reminded me of Mayor "Diamond Joe" Quimby of the Simpsons. Aside from the physical resemblance, Mayor Quimby is known to be an "illiterate tax-cheating, wife-swapping, pot-smoking, spend-o-crat". In his defense Quimby maintains that he is no longer illiterate.

But seriously, this letter was sent to all Union County Mayors and council members today asking them to help raise awareness of Union County government's waste, mismanagement and corruption.