For the second time in as many years I turned to the county website for directions to the administration building where freeholder meetings are held. Despite telling the freeholders at a meeting that they had the wrong directions on their website, I found the same wrong directions today. We spend about a half million dollars on public information department salaries, and you can’t get directions to the administration building on the county website.
That pretty much sums up Union County government’s rampant incompetence and utter contempt for the public.
The Union County Watchdog Association endeavors to provide citizens with tools to do their own research into county government and about 2,500 visitors hit our website monthly. We also field several requests for documents monthly. The Countywatchers blog endeavors to pick-up where the media left off, the Star-Ledger hasn't had a reporter on county government since last August, and inform the public as issues come up and unfortunately, we never run out of things to report on.
It is evident that the all democrat controlled freeholder board is a visible tumor of the powerbroker cancer infecting county government. Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew being appointed the county manager has proven to be a disaster and the final stages of this government disease that is afflicting the entire state of New Jersey has been set in place. Many believe it is now hopeless. Spending has already straddeled future generations with impossible debt and societal problems have been set in place by government which is not for the people, its by and for the powerbrokers.
Some costs and affects when machine politics run government
In 2000 there were 24 employee’s earning over 100,000
In 2008 there are 127 employee’s earning over 100,000
Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, is the appointed county manager - George Devanney
In 2000 the County Manager’s salary was $132,498 today it is $163,831. George Devanney’s arrogance is raging on. It's always been outrageous from when he jointed the county payroll when two part-time positions were created for him, to this current year in which he had his office remodeled and will be issued, after this budget is signed, a brand new Chevy Tahoe for which no purchase orders have been provided to date – to his yearly retroactive pay raises, to his wife’s mother-in-law being put on the county payroll – to his wife being the Open Space Trust Fund Administrator and giving a children’s museum $500,000 with nothing to show for it - to selling government land without an auction to a group that was listed on his wife’s website as a client - to the taxpayer funded Union County Directions Newsletter where recently his Uncle Ray Lesniak promoted his book and Devanney promoted his juvenile fantasy to climb a mountain because he thought he had cancer - to the Music Fest which is Devanney's birthday party. Any sane government that is accountable to their constituents would cut back on a music fest in these hard financial times but our county government has doubled it to two days to fulfill Senator Lesniak’s nephew's fantasy of being a music promoter. The county also created a department and staff to oversee the musicfest and promoted Freeholder Sullivan’s niece to be the department head.
George, take a good look at this picture. You’re middle aged, fat, doppey looking and untalented – get over the music promotion thing and off our tax backs.
Union County Democrat Chairman and Executive Director of the Improvement Authority Charlotte DeFilippo
In 1999 the democrats took control of the freeholder board and replaced a part-time Union County Improvement Authority director position with a salary of $40,000. Since then this salary has gone up $103,409. Charlotte DeFilippo’s salary in 2000 was set at $104,000. Charlotte’s current 2008 salary is $143, 409. This year the county added 6 new captain positions to the sheriff’s department, most likely because DeFilippo’s daughter-in-law scored 7th on the Lieutenant’s exam and she needed a spot to move up to. The promotions waiting list was replaced with a new one. In 2000 Melissa’s salary was $37,213 today her salary is $94,503, Charlottes son is also on the Sheriffs payroll he currently makes $86,089. It would have been so much more cheaper for taxpayers had we simply hired a tutor for Melissa to improve her test score. Her scoring 7th caused an approximate added annual cost to payroll: $300,000. Cost to future pension payments – priceless.
Lawsuits and investigations
This past week DeFilippo was scheduled to give a deposition in a lawsuit in which a county employee is charging her with political interference in eliminating his job. She’s accused of running county government operations from her dining room table in Hillside. I can’t wait to read all the depositions stemming from the Robert Travisano lawsuit. It’s expensive entertainment. It cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to date with no end in site. Charlotte is also under investigation by the State’s AG’s office, there is no official word on what she is being investigated for but chances are that one issue is that she also runs the Union County Improvement Authority from her dining room table. Taxpayers are also paying the legal bills in connection with this investigation.
Freeholders and campaiging
Summit recently passed a resolution calling for a more equitable way to have representation on the freeholder board. Freeholder Adrian Mapp who fell out of favor with the Democrat machine last year and lost the line went on to serve several more months on the board. In that short time he proved how even one outsider on the freeholder board could make a huge difference in not only saving tax dollars, but keeping things under control. It was Adrian Mapp who introduced an ordinance that lowered the cost of copies for public records to 10 cents a page (down from .75). When Mapp was in office the county canned it’s taxpayer funded election season kick-off by not producing and airing a TV commercial and following up with a 4 page glossy color mailer. This campaign initiative historically cost taxpayers $200,000, I fully expect this cancer symptom to reoccur this August. The county manager’s furniture was built by the county carpenters, but not installed until after Mapp left the building. I imagine if Mapp was elected to another 3 years Ray Lesniak’s nephew would not have had his office remodeled, nor would he be getting a brand new Chevy Tahoe, ahh the possibilities for more competent government are endless…and gone as I do not see any relief from powerbroker controlled county government in the near future.
The 2008 Budget
I didn’t get a copy of the 2008 proposed budget until the Star-Ledger ran the county’s press release on it. The UCWA has filed a complaint with the States Government Records Council, because budgets are supposed to be made available upon request. This goes to further prove that the county has so much to hide and they fear public scrutiny.
They lost 500,000 last year.
The county feigned outrage over prisoner fugitives and praised the prosecutor’s office for a quick capture, even though, it took them 26 days to recapture the prisioners. It was George Devanney who squashed a plan to install camera’s. Where is the freeholders outrage over Devanney’s incompetence? Instead he was rewarded with a renovated office, a Chevy Tahoe and a 2 day musicfest birthday party.
Some of the measures the county has taken after this international embarrassment and destroying a young family because of the county’s handling of the escape: Hired 51 new corrections officers to help improve the operations at the facility and cut down on overtime; A phase I installation of additional cameras (Budget doesn’t mention how many more phases are in store) cost $800,000; Razor wire around the jail’s perimeter and sub-roofs $56,000; Hired a new jail director who used to be in charge of transportation at Rikers Island, he lives approximately 2 hours away in Atlantic County and drives a county vehicle with free gas too and from work, and wherever else he damn well pleases just as the county manager does.
Created a new Department of Corrections. Given the complex issues that include overtime, physical structure, and manpower that have historically plagued this facility, the freeholders now believe that should have the same access and accountability to the county manager’s office and freeholder board as a Department Director. This will serve to simplify communication, provide better oversight, and response to all situations. What this doesn’t say is what the freeholders used to believe, that although the jail is a basic service of county government, and pretty much all we need county government to do, the freeholders never believed the jail was something they needed to fret about in order to get reelected.
Vo Tech Schools
They are bonding $20 million dollars to add a performing arts high school. They are also spening $150,00 for fitness center upgrades and $170,000 for new furniture – the county manager’s sister-in-law is a furniture saleswoman.
Runnells Specialized Hospital
Lost 500,000 last year and is projected to lose 2-million this year. The Runnell’s Director retired and is now receiving his pension and was hired back as a consultant. The county manager’s mother-in-law was added to the Runnells payroll where she joined an illustrious long line of cronies as the hospital is a patronage pit. She originally worked for Assemblywoman Linda Stender who became a Runnells employee when she left the freeholder board to be an Assemblywoman, Stender left the Runnells payroll when she announced her run for Congress and hasn’t returned yet, she’s still running for Congress.
The Overall County Budget Spin
The county maintains their commitment to funding popular county services, what they don't mention is that these services are mostly funded by the state, such as meals on wheels (State grant funded), road repaving (state grant funded) and infrastructure improvements (state grant funded), VoTech Schools, Homeland Security (Federal grant funded), the Sheriff’s Office (6 new captains $300,000; Union County is one of only 2 counties that have both a Sheriff’s and Police Department. Neither patrol the jail, the public safety department does that), the Prosecutor’s office (will be getting 50 new personal computers), our county parks system (Lenape Park Bike Trail is State grant funded), and child safety seat inspections (State grant funded and cost only $37,250.00. This "service" is used annualy in campaign literature).
Keep in mind the salary increases mentioned above and read what the county wrote in their budget introduction: “We cannot ignore the steady rise of mandated salary, pension and health insurance costs continuing to eat at revenue”. So they are implementing fiscal measures to provide budget relief in these areas where they have had “traditional” shortfalls. First they have delayed salary increases for all exclusionary county employees until July 1st of this year, but this didn’t include the county manager. George Devanney got his retroactive pay raise check on time. Why bother to read the rest of the spin?