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.

March 24, 2008

Focusing on the wrong machines

I’ve worked the polls in Union County for a number of elections and I am not all concerned about the voting machines. However, I have always been amazed that the system of hiring poll workers is so dysfunctional. Given to what I know about the people running Union County this past decade I have to wonder if this is orchestrated by the power brokers.

It certainly worked in their favor in Elizabeth in 2006. When a contentious primary election didn’t go their way and the only independent Democrat on the city council won re-election they had the money to challenge it in court. If you look close enough at any election you will find poll worker errors. In this case poll workers allowed 40 registered Republicans to vote Democrat. A judge threw out the election results and ordered a second primary and the machine won that one. "There is nothing to be done except policing," said Michael Moussallem, director of information systems for the county elections board in a Star-Ledger article. "This could be happening every time."

I get my conspiracy theory from the fact that every county will tell you it is hard to find enough people to work the polls. Yet I don’t see enough of an effort on Union County’s part to hire poll workers and on any given election in places like Elizabeth you will see county and city workers being used as challengers alongside poll workers and as campaign workers handing out literature outside of the polls. With such a shortage of poll workers, why doesn’t the Democrat machine encourage these employees to be poll workers instead?

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi is an educated and professional woman, yet when she raised alarms about voting machines recently, however justified her concerns may be, the fact that she chooses to ignore the process by which poll workers are hired to work these machines makes her motive’s suspect to me. Why didn’t she demand an overhaul of the system that hires poll workers after the Elizabeth fiasco when she called the special election "unprecedented (in Union County) from my historical knowledge". The redo election required the services of 103 poll workers and cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Ditto for State Senator Nicholas Scutari who plans to introduce legislation to create a Voting Machine Integrity Unit within the state Division of Gaming Enforcement to thoroughly test and certify all new voting technologies before they are implemented. Sequoia already submits their machines to a federal certification process.

“It’s an embarrassment that we have a far more rigorous and thorough approach to ensuring the fidelity of our slot machines than voting machines” Scutari said in a March 29, 2008 Star-Ledger article.

Yet Scutari isn’t embarrassed that a poll worker who operates the voting machines could be hired by simply providing their name and social security number. The gaming workers that are in charge of the slot machines are required to have a license issued by a regulatory agency, such as a state casino control board or commission. Applicants for a license must provide photo identification. Poll workers are never looked at face to face, never mind interviewed. Poll workers do not have to submit work experience or references.

To be a poll worker you fill out a form which gives your basic information: name, address, Social Security number. The only requirement for employment, besides showing up for work, is you have to attend a mandatory training class every two years.

To most of us, including, the definition of mandatory is: Law, permitting no option; not to be disregarded or modified. Yet the definition of mandatory to the Union County Board of Elections is: It is mandatory for all poll workers, to attend a training class at least once every (2) two years….The payment (for working the polls) will be $200, and if you do not attend the mandatory class, you will be paid less.

When you attend the training class you sign your name on a list and sit down without anyone speaking to you. You could easily walk out. You could just as easily have someone sign you in. Attendance isn’t called and a test isn’t given. And Senator Scutari isn’t embarrassed that we have a far more rigorous and thorough approach to ensuring the fidelity of our slot machine operators than our election poll workers? Hell Nicky, we have a far more thorough approach to ensuring the fidelity of our fast food workers. Little wonder to me that this is the same senator that introduced legislation to legalize marijuana.

When Sequoia voting machines showed a discrepancy in the last primary election, the company maintained the errors were caused by poll workers who inadvertently pressed buttons on the control panels.

During a primary election a voter is signed in at the table and given a pink slip if they are a registered democrat and a blue slip if they are a registered republican. The voter then gives this slip to the poll worker manning the machine. The poll worker then has to push (1) one button which sets the machine for either party. Yet time and again it is found that poll workers have a difficult time performing this task.

I can tell you from experience, the person manning the machine is usually determined early on in the day. It will be the person least capable of signing voters into the book which simply requires knowledge of the alphabet.

Along with a better screening process for poll workers, another piece of legislation someone truly concerned about the integrity of our elections should introduce would be that Board of Elections Deputy Administrators shouldn’t be involved in partisan politics. Union County’s Dennis Kobitz, while seemingly to be competent at his job, has been a Democrat municipal chair in Hillside for a number of years. Why aren’t the Rajoppi’s and Scutari’s concerned about this potential conflict of interest?

People are focusing on the wrong machines. Sequoia may have quirks, and perhaps a certain amount of human error will just have to be dealt with as needed, but it’s an embarrassment that no one in New Jersey has the political will power to address the fact that it is more likely that the election process is being compromised by man made political machines.

Union County Board of Elections Poll Worker Application

Elizabeth Democrats Revote
Tougher tests sought for Jersey's voting machines

March 18, 2008

Lesniak: Greed, Arrogance and Abuse of Power

Submitted by Bruce Paterson

Here is a Paul Harvey “The rest of the story” moment. But instead of something inspirational or uplifting, this unfortunately reveals greed, arrogance and abuse of power.

As you may be aware, the NJ state legislature is considering cutting state aid to small towns under 10,000 population of which my Garwood is among one of them. This in order to address our state’s fiscal crisis problems. An elected Garwood boro official expressing concern for Garwood’s constituents reached out to the local senators and assemblymen covering this area. The assemblymen showed compassion. However, one senator, Senator Lesniak, decided to write an editorial in the March 6 edition of the Star Ledger New Jersey section. Although the town wasn't mentioned by name he noted our .8 square mile size and the loss of $350,000 in aid and used our concerned “boro official” and our Garwood as a example of how small towns don't want to help themselves. He said we had a large development proposed that would bring in large ratables but our planning board had turned it down, with Senator Lesniak stating, “this town chose higher property taxes because development proposals weren't quite what it wanted”.

And now “the rest of the story”. The development which Senator Lesniak claimed was beneficial to Garwood was located on a back neighborhood off the main streets. Where 9 houses are allowed the developer proposed to put 47 apartment units in a 3 story building with underground parking for 95 automobiles. Indeed, Garwood would have garnered $400,000 in ratables, but at what cost? The neighborhood is zoned for two family homes and is mostly cape cods. But the real dirt lies beneath this project. This developer was using a local legal firm as his application attorney. Three months before the application was to be heard, the applicant changed his law firm to a firm by the name of “Weiner Lesniak”. Senator Lesniak is the principle. Two months before the hearing, a $7,500 donation was given by the project applicant to Senator Lesniak’s political committee. It appeared to Garwood that Senator Lesniak was possibly strong-arming himself into this application to make good money off of the applicant and Garwood. He then sent his best lawyer to the hearing but alas, Garwood planning board turned it down.

A few years ago, Senator Lesniak bragged to the Star Ledger that he is the “political boss” of the area. He “controls” elections, political appointments and which developments are for the towns in his so-called kingdom. He has become quite good at his destruction on the residents all to his financial gain. He has wrested control of our Rahway valley Sewerage Authority over the years. His Weiner Lesniak legal billings went from $80,000 to $500,000 in 10 years, all paid by tax monies. He was able to manipulate his nephew into the Union County Manager job, now paying $155,000/year. This fellow had no experience or education for this position 12 years ago and still doesn't. The nephew’s incompetence has allowed the county taxes to skyrocket 70% since year 2000 as pay to play, cronyism, lawsuits and nepotism run rampant at the county. And collateral damage occurs as the county manager’s wife had a good paying county job and even his mother was on the county payroll, where another hard pressed senior could have had that job.

Senator Lesniak has feathered his nest lucratively for himself, his law firm and his relatives, thanks to his corrupting the system and the abuse of his Senatorial powers. How many other “small towns” are the subject of his greed and manipulation? How many towns have refused his self-serving greed and now have his wrath for their resistance, going so far as him using Garwood as some kind of example? And now you have the rest of the story.

Their wish isn't our command
Posted by Ray Lesniak March 06, 2008 10:22AM
Categories: Policy Watch, Politics
A famous philosopher once sang, "The times they are a-changin'." Another sang, "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need."

Those profound words came to mind recently in the aftermath of Gov. Jon Corzine's budget proposed cuts.

There's no question that gov­ernment is too big and the cost of government has made living in
New Jersey too expensive.

But to ease that burden, we have to start looking at local gov­ernments, not just state expenditures.

Willie Sutton wouldn't be plan­ning a heist at a 7-Eleven. He would go where the money is -- in
this case, school boards and local governments.

The state's operating budget is $4.4 billion. Another $23 billion, or about 73 percent of the budget, is spent at the local level, primarily for schools, local governments, hos­pitals and property tax relief in the form of rebate checks.

Add to that the $21 billion spent and raised at the local level and you quickly see where the best op­portunities are for cutting spend­ing.

Oversight of local spending, along with restructuring of small municipalities and school districts
to eliminate unnecessary adminis­trative and capital expenditures, is required if we are serious about making New Jersey a more afforda­ble place to live.

The state should continue to provide local governments and boards of education what they
need. But what about what they want? Case in point:

A local official complained to me about losing $350,000 from Cor­zine's proposed budget cuts.

I pointed out that the town turned down a development pro­posal for age-restricted housing --
i.e., no school-age children -- which would have brought $400,000 yearly tax revenues to the community.

The proposal was too dense, the official responded. We wanted fewer units.

Don't expect the taxpayers of the state to pay for what you want, I explained.

The official countered: The four-story buildings proposed would have required the purchase of a
bigger firetruck, which we can't af­ford.

What? I asked. Your town is 0.8 square miles and you have your own fire department? An agree­
ment for fire protection with sur­rounding communities would save money, lower response time and potentially save lives and proper­ties.

It's a volunteer department; they're all residents, voters and very vocal. They would complain,
the official said, so we need the $350,000 from the state.

This town chose higher prop­erty taxes because development proposals weren't quite what it
wanted. The town also chose higher property taxes and less pro­tection from fire hazards because it didn't want to give up its own fire department.

When I told this story to others, they all thought I was speaking about their town.

The option of having state tax­payers pay for what local residents want, rather than what they need, is gone -- and not coming back.

"You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need."

Thank you, Sir Mick.

"The times, they are a-chan­gin'." Thank you, Mr. Dylan.

March 17, 2008

Correction...Local Finance Board Resignation

for June 18, 2007
Office of Legislative Services -- Office of Public Information

Honorable Susan Bass Levin, of Cherry Hill, to replace Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo, resigned

Correction of blog UCDCSNA below........It appears that Charlotte resigned her position with the Local Finance Board in June 2007.......

March 15, 2008

The Democratic County Connection Network – Social Network Analysis or UCDCSNA

"SNA can be defined as the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organizations, computers, or other information- or knowledge-processing entities."

Kudos are in order for Charlotte DeFilippo, the Chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee, (she prefers to be referred to as Chairman as opposed to Chairwoman, ........whatever). Ms DeFilippo also happens to be the Chair of the Hillside Township Democratic Committee and she has done an absolutely outstanding job of keeping her committee people busy and off the streets least they get themselves into trouble. We all know what they say about idle hands.

What is curious about Hillside is that they have non-partisan elections, meaning that the political parties, Democrat, Republican, and Green Party etc. don’t get involved in municipal elections. There are no primaries and the municipal elections are held in May which is intended to reduce the influence of partisan identification and loyalties this is the intention with school board elections as well. (Click here to learn more about party politics in NJ…. )

Just recently those interested in running for posts on the Board of Education submitted their petitions to be on the ballot in early April. It is no secret that in some Union County municipalities the political parties field full slates of candidates and provide backing in various ways from producing campaign literature and signs to running full scale GOTV operations for their preferred candidates.

This year it is said that the Hillside Democratic Chair Charlotte DeFilippo is backing a slate of three candidates and what makes this especially interesting is that all three candidates are county employees, two of which were hired in the first half of 2007, Jamar Cherry and Salonia Saxton-Tompson. And two, Salonia Saxton-Tompson and Richard Samiec where given appointments by the all Democratic Freeholder Board as delegates to the Motion Picture and TV Advisory Board in January of 2006 till December of 2008. And further, one of those, Richard Samiec, also has a four year term on the Hillside Board of Adjustment. And Salonia Saxton-Tompson represents Ward 2 Dist. 2 on the Hillside Democratic Committee. This information was gleaned simply by going to a couple of internet search engines and putting in the names.

The Hillside Democratic Committee currently has 25 persons listed as committee members…. just click on Hillside on the Union County map ….Sixteen of those committee people, including Charlotte herself either have been appointed to one or more boards or authorities by the Freeholders, are county employees or in some cases are both employees and appointees to county or Hillside Municipal positions.. To her credit this arrangement allows Charlotte to keep on top of what is going on with County and Hillside Government inside and out.

This leaves one to ponder what level of influence the Union County Democratic Chair has in other Union County Municipalities under Democratic control.

Page Down for Charlotte's Hillside SNA.........whoops.....the Hillside Democratic Committee

The following links were among those accessed to prepare this blog.

Union Couty Employee Lists 2007 and 2008

Union County Advisory Boards Sept 2007

New Jersey by the Numbers- Data base of public information – find info on public employees past and present -

Hillside Democratic Committee - SNA

Ward 1, Dist 1
Peter Krill
Hillside Twsp emp.

Teresa Hale
Commissioner UC Board of Elections paid position $13,013 9/95 to present
Appointment…UC Advisory Council on Aging 1/07-1/09
Appointment …Commission on the Status of Women in UC 1/07-1/09

Ward 1,Dist 2
Charles Watts
Appointment …UC Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse 1/07 – 12/09
Retired Newark Public Schools
Gwendolyn Watts
Retired Newark Public Schools

Ward 2, Dist 3
Dr. Frank Deo (it is unclear where Deo’s legal residence is, some entries indicate Hillside other entries show Scotch Plains)
Councilman Township of Hillside w/committee assignments
Director of Special Services Hillside HS
Appointment: UC Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund Advisory Committee
Appointnent: Union County College – Board of Trustees

Helen Marie Troiano
Retired Township of Hillside

Ward 2, Dist 1
Cristian Pardo – No information available

Marie Pardo
Retired Township of Hillside
Appointment - UC Advisory Board Status of Minorities 1/07-12/09

Ward 2, Dist 2
Keith D. Burroughs
Employee - UC Runnells Hospital 5/73 to present…Bldg Maintenance

Salonia Saxton-Tompson
Employee – UC Clerk of the Board 2/07 to present Clerk …$49,000
Appointment –UC Motion Picture & TV Planning Board 1/07 -1/08
Hillside Board of Education Candidate – 2008

Ward 2, Dist 3
Samuel T. McGhee – Former Hillside Mayor
Exec.Dir. Joint Meeting of Essex & Union Counties (water treatment facility) $145,728
Appointment - UC Improvement Authority 1/03 -1/13
Appointment - Board of Trustees – Hillside Public Library

Nancy Maloney Smith – no information available

Ward 3, Dist 1
Ralph N. Milteer – former Hillside Mayor
Appointment – Union County College Board of Trustees
Hillside LibraryBoard of Trustees – President
Retired East Orange Board of Ed

Shirley E. Milteer – no information available

Ward 3, Dist 2
Joseph W. Miskiewicz
Employee – Union County 1/04 to present Clerk $48,155
Appointment – Union County Improvement Authority1/06 -1/07 & 2/07 to1/12

Rosemary D. McClave
Appointment – Union County Citizens Insurance Review Board 1/07-12/07 & 1/08 – 12/08
Appointment – Union County Planning Board 1/05- 12/07 & 2/08- 12/10
Former Treasurer Hillside Township

Ward 3, Dist 3

Julia A. Krajcech – no information available

Ward 4, Dist 1
Richard Johnson,Jr. – no information available

Georgette Corvelli
Employee – Union County 9/99 to present Housing Dev Analyst……$72,048
Appointment – Hillside Board of Health exp June 2008

Ward 4, Dist 2
Robert Varady - Attorney w/various muni and county contracts

Gina Varady – no information available

Ward 4, Dist 3
Dennis Scott Kobitz
UC Board of Elections Dep. Admin. 3/16/85 to present $80,149
Appointment – Hillside Board of Adjustment 4 yr term

Charlotte DeFilippo – Chair Hillside Dem. Committee
Chair Union County Dem Committee
Employee Union County Mgmt Speclst 2/98 to present Dept of Finance (Director UC Improvement Authority) $143,420 yr.
Appointment Hillside Public Library Board – Mayor’s Representative
Legislative Aid – Assemblyman Neil Cohen $10,000 yr.
Appointment – State of NJ Local Finance Board resigned 6/07

Ward 4, Dist 4
Jerome Jewell, Jr. Former Hillside BOE
Councilman Hillside w/committee & board assignments
Appointment UC Parks and Recreation Advisory Board 1/07 – 12/09

Kimberly Mollett – no information available

March 11, 2008

Destination Union County-Through the Back Door

Beautiful - A Must See

Be sure to include this in Your Travel Itinerary

Though I have lived in Union County all of my life I never realized that I had grown up and than raised my own family in the middle of one of the East coast’s hottest tourist destinations, but apparently I have been wrong. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Union County and if weren’t for the state of New Jersey’s financial affairs and cost of living I would never even consider living elsewhere. But that is a story for another day.

I have many fond memories of Union County during what are considered to be kinder gentler times when the county was less developed and there were fewer restrictions on where we could go and what we could do.

My late father would take my sisters and me to Rahway Park on Sundays to feed the ducks on the lake and there would be miniature boat enthusiasts sailing their radio controlled watercraft. I learned how to ice skate on Mill Lake in Rahway, played tennis on the clay courts in Warnaico Park, went tobogganing at Galloping Hill, played miniature golf at O’Keefe's on St. Georges Ave. followed by hot dogs at Walt’s 42nd Street Bar and Grill. From Clark we would hop the #54 bus on Westfield Ave. and shop in downtown Rahway or Westfield and if we had a few more bucks go to Broad Street in Elizabeth. And though I am dating myself I admit to remembering the Wheatena Box water tower and the smell of the coffee roasting in Linden. As teenagers when we started to drive Sunday’s were spent in the Watchung Reservation exploring the trails or admittedly parking with my first husband on a Saturday night steaming up the cars windows in Echo Lake Park. Union County was farms and fields and plenty of open space and a good place to raise a family and I am still proud to say I am and will always be a Union County Gal.

Union County holds a proud place in our nation’s history with many revolutionary buildings, we have parks, challenging golf courses and quiet residential tree-lined streets, but we also have highways, oil refineries, manufacturing facilities and half of a major international airport within our boundaries as well as some wetlands that when the tide goes out are less than aromatically pleasing. So when the Board of Chosen Freeholders talks about attracting tourism to the county as a means to generate revenue I have to chuckle to myself. Click here to view the Freeholders press release regarding tourism in the county

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently spent $5,000 for a professional to study the county and prepare a report called the Union County Tourism Master Plan – “Defining Union County’s Tourism Industry”.

I must confess after reading the first 13 pages I was scratching my head in amazement that the board actually paid good money for this and found myself wondering why.

The report really didn’t contain anything new that couldn’t already be found on the county website and used figures for NJ tourism from 2006, which of course was before the economy tanked last year. The final pages of the report contained recommendations on steps to be taken to develop tourism into a revenue generating industry for Union County and truth be told it didn’t say anything that the average citizen couldn’t have come up with after a high school marketing course. My initial thought was – What a waste of taxpayer’s money and what do we have a county Department of Economic Development for if not to develop plans of this nature. And, if they aren’t capable of developing this light weight report than we have the wrong people working for us.

Click the link to review the 22 page report and decide for yourself if the $5,000 could have been put to a better use

March 08, 2008

Denial for public records leads to complaint


Contact: Tina Renna, President
Union County Watchdog Association
908-709-0530 Email:

Walter M. Luers, Esq.
Law Offices of Walter M. Luers, LLC
105 Belvidere Ave., Oxford, New Jersey 07863
Phone: 908.453.2147 Email:

Union County - Attorney Walter Luers has filed a complaint with the state’s Government Records Council on behalf of the Union County Watchdog Association in response to the county’s refusal to turn over documents responsive to the UCWA’s request seeking records that would show what individuals donated to a county sponsored fund-raiser in which the county manager was personally involved in and profited from and politicians used as a campaign whistle stop free from Election Law Enforcement reporting guidelines.

(l-r) Assemblywoman Linda Stender, Governor Jon Corzine, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, Freeholder Chester Holmes, Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, Freeholders Daniel Sullivan and Angel Estrada

• Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, who is the appointed Union County manager, used the 2007 Musicfest as a backdrop to raise money for his friend’s organization. “Over a couple of beers in Wales, we put together a structure to make Musicfest ’07 a pilot music festival in which the Love Hope Strength Foundation would be a part.” Stated George Devanney in a blog on the LHSF website.

(l-r) Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski, Senator Raymond Lesniak's newphew-Appointed Union County Manager George Devanney, Freeholder Alexander Mirabella

• The Co-Chairs of the event were Assemblyman Neil Cohen, Assemblywoman Linda Stender and Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jean Kowalski.

• The county manager’s wife listed on her website that she was the treasurer of the Love, Hope Strength Organization.

• County resources, including the website and employees, were used to organize, facilitate and raise the money for the event.

• For raising in excess of $25,000 the county manager got to go on the organizations free trip to Mt. Everest in Nepal.

• For donating certain amounts of money contributors, including county employee's and county vendors, got to rub elbows with elected officials while attending a private party at the county manager's home in which county vendors performed.

• Politicians connected to the Union County Democrat machine got to use the fund raiser as a campaign whistle stop free from Election Law Enforcement Commission rules on campaign spending and contribution reporting.

“The fact that Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew is now trying to keep the details of this publicly funded and facilitated event out of public view after being so intimately involved and had personally gained from is despicable beyond words," stated Tina Renna, president of the Union County Watchdog Association.

“This was a shameless exploitation of what may very well be a worthy cause, for personal gain and political grandstanding,” continued Renna. “County concerts have been used as campaign whistle stops for the one-party ruled county government since their inception. Vendors have been donating to these supposed “free concerts” in which campaigning pols are given top billing over the acts who are paid by the taxpayers to perform. The addition of a fund raiser at this year’s Musicfest was turned into more backroom dealings that cross the line between public resources and the practice of Union County Democrat Committee politicians campaigning at the taxpayer’s expense. The UCWA has vowed to shine a light on this abuse of the public trust wherever it rears its ugly head.”

The complaint and exhibits can be viewed in its entirety HERE.

"It's all about getting elected baby!" Senator Raymond Lesniak's nephew, appointed Union County Manager, George Devanney - 2007 MusicFest

March 05, 2008

Why Are Freeholders Wasting Public Funds to Benefit M&E Railroad?

Submitted by James Neville
Coalition to Stop the Train

Over the last several months, five municipalities in Union County have passed resolutions citing breaches of contract in agreements made between the M&E Railroad and the Freeholders of Union County — and between the freeholders and the NJ State Department of Transportation.

These resolutions cite the opposition of each town’s elected officials to the state and county continuing to honor contracts, which must be voided due to non-performance
and third-party injury to the taxpayers of New Jersey.

Over six years ago, the board of freeholders assured local communities that deactivated, abandoned rail lines in Union County would never carry rail freight without full agreement of affected communities. In fact, a letter signed by then-Freeholder Senator Scutari was sent out to assure mayors, town councils and citizens that the century-old tracks would never be returned to service.

The freeholders reneged on their commitment, signed a 10-year agreement with the M&E, leasing the 22-mile right-of-way for 17 cents a month. Additionally, the M&E was awarded a no-bid contract to restore the railbed. To date, $14.6 million in public funds have been appropriated in support of this private railroad’s enterprise. There have been heated public hearings where the voice of the people was ignored. Protests, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns and lawsuits have not brought about change.

The breach of contract cited in the resolutions has to do with M&E’s failure to supply a “detailed written Business and Operating Plan” as required by the 2002 contract. Imagine embarking upon a project that to date has cost the taxpayers almost $15 million without any plan in place to justify the expenditures. These expenditures cover only a quarter of the freight trackage through Union County.

Considering the contract breaches and the depletion of public funds during this current budget crisis, why would the freeholders want to waste additional public funds for the benefit of the M&E freight railroad? For six years, M&E has not lived up to their part of the deal. It is now time for the freeholders to stop the waste and put an end to this reactivation once and for all.

March 01, 2008

Who is going to be next?

Submitted by Kathy Figgs

On October 13, 2007 my brother, Johnathan Dawkins, who was an inmate in the Union County jail, was pepper sprayed and restrained by jail personnel. He was then transported to a hospital where he was placed on life support and remains to this day. He was not breathing and unconscious. He had two black-eyes, bruising on his neck, and a swollen face.

Who is going to be next? That is my question to you. Maybe your friend, husband, father, brother, son, sister, or even mother will wind up behind bars. No one is exempt, situations happen and people make mistakes. People are sent to jail short term and long term.

Who is to say that the law enforcement officers in the jails that are there to assure that the facility that is housing your loved ones runs smoothly on a daily bases, won’t decide that your family member, like they did with my loved one, is displaying abnormal behavior, and it is necessary for them to remove them, or as they so pleasantly use the term “send in a specially trained team of officers” to exact the inmate. And they inflict to much force in removing the inmate, that now someone else’s loved one is laying in the hospital fighting for their life or maybe dead.

Then will society see the importance of standing up and saying: “We will not allow the system to abuse in anyway anybody that is institutionalized anymore and if it does happen, we will hold the State, County, City, and the Administration accountable for the actions of their employees. We the tax payers pay their salaries and just because our loved one, for what ever reason, is now in jail this does not mean that you have the right to abuse him or her. The penalty for the crime should be what was set by the law for that crime and not a death sentence.

Well what I’m saying is we as the family members have to step- up and make sure justice for these inmates is ensured and not just swept under the rug and forgotten about.

The media will not address the issue. I’ve tried that route and all I got was “we can’t print that of which we have no proof”. Well I say you haven’t tried to even look into to what I’m saying to find the proof. Humm think about it.. But let some inmates escape and it’s all over the news but anything about how inmates are being abused, the news media doesn’t want to report about that... “We have no proof”, “we can’t substantiate these allegations”, that’s what I’ve been told. They hold up reforming the system and it’s wrong.

The media will not attempt to do what Geraldo Rivera used to do, you know, “investigative reporting” to expose the illegalities and human abuses of the prison system and instead will print statistics that lie to the people stating that incidents of police abuse and brutality are down.

The incidents of police brutality and the abuses by law enforcement and correction officers are not down, they are simply being ignored by said system and the media in an attempt to make people believe that incidents like Michael Bell in New York, my brother Johnathan Dawkins, my nephew whose mother is a police officer who was shot by another police officer in the back for being young and in the wrong place at the wrong time...this same young man, fifteen years old and already being considered as a hopeful track star for the next Olympics... Go back twenty or so years... names like Eleanor Bumpers, an elderly black woman, shot and killed by an officer… it doesn’t make a difference what the ethnic background of the person is or what crime was allegedly committed, it is not right that they are caused harm by the system and ignored by the media.