July 02, 2008

How Can the State Continue to Fund a "Breached Contract"?

Five Union County Towns Submit Resolutions to Stop the Funding of M&E Freight Railway

Submitted by: Richard Lenihan

The Coalition to Stop the Train has sent copies of Resolutions passed by five municipalities to 19 lawmakers and state officials, including the Governor, Attorney General, and the Union County Manager.

The main impetus for the municipalities' common demand to "terminate funding" is Union County Freeholders' failure to enforce definite and specific stipulations listed in the May, 2002, contract with the Morristown and Erie Railway. The Union County Freeholders thereby have breached their June, 2000, contract with the State Department of Transportation, which charged the County to "monitor and supervise all provisions" of the M&E contract.

All of the taxpayer funding, $14.6 million to date, for this freight railway has been squandered. Now in the seventh year of a ten year contract, there is no due compliance to each of the breached contracts.

All supporting documentation can be found HERE

Coalition to Stop the Train

Previosly posted:
Who really will benefit from the freight rail project?

YO!......Look Out for the Locomotive

Trucks, Trains and Union County

M and E Railway Taking UC for a Ride Back to the Future

June 28, 2008

UC Alliance Appears to be DOA - Dead on Arrival

Visit http://www.ucalliance.com/ and one will find an out of date website which appears to have remained untouched since 2005. On the left of the home page is what is said to be the latest edition of the Alliance’s Newspaper, UC Directions, the problem is that it is an edition from 2004, four years ago. It looks for all intents and purposes that the site is as dead as the Alliance itself, but the newspaper keeps appearing in county resident’s mailboxes just in time to promote political agendas of Democrats throughout the county.

NOTE: Among its priorities the Alliance lists the following on its website - Continue to Publish Countywide Newspaper. The newspaper is distributed to more than 200,000 Union County homes and businesses. It serves as a keepsake tool of valuable information, which contains various service and program directories, a calendar of events, and important municipal and county news. The Alliance will continue to provide advertising opportunities from organizations in various sectors in Union County.

Reviewing the latest edition of the Directions it is clear that it has veered far from the original intent.

The first and third pages have been hijacked by State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak sharing his spiritual beliefs and how they aided him in seemingly single handedly getting the death penalty abolished in New Jersey. But what is more annoying is that for the second consecutive year Lesniak has used the newspaper to bash the Elizabeth Board of Education. Not only did he bash the Board of Ed as a whole but he singled out its officials by name which was totally tasteless.

The Union County Alliance receives approximately 80% of its funding from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders which means that it is paid for with tax payer dollars. Though there is some advertising in the paper, it must be noted that those ads are mostly from public entities therefore these ads would be paid for with tax dollars as well. If this newspaper is to be a useful tool of information for the residents and paid for with their hard earned monies than Ray Lesniak’s opinion of the Elizabeth BOE has no place in the publication. Senator Lesniak can certainly well afford to self fund a mailing to every house in Union County as there are many county residents who would prefer to not be a part of his attacks paid for with their tax dollars.

What was once a worthy publication, years ago, has now transgressed into a publicly funded birdcage liner loaded with platitudes for the wonderful ways that the freeholders have developed to spend the taxpayers money without their approval. The front page article about the new Countywide Performing Arts High School at the Vo-Tech is proof positive that the freeholders could care less what the voters think. It would seem to be common sense that a borrowing scheme putting the county $20 million further in debt should really be subject to voter approval and not left to the total discretion of the gang of nine who are able to just quietly take what they want whenever they want passing the costs on to the taxpayers. Something is wrong with this picture especially since we learn about this additional debt by reading about how we all got screwed in this taxpayer funded political newspaper.

And where are the other members of the UC Alliance?

Conspicuously absent in this latest edition is the list of the Board of Directors as well as what companies comprise the coalition. Have they backed away and taken their funding with them preferring not to participate. And if they have good for them as it would certainly be long overdue.


June 27, 2008

Nervous? I’d say!

Photo of Chris Christie having some down time with States Attorney General Anne Milgram. Both offices are investigating Union County Government.

U.S. Attorney Chris Christie was interviewed by the publisher of Westfield/Scotch Plains Leader, Horace Corbin on June 19, 2008.

“Anyone who’s breaking the law in Union County has to be nervous – and beyond that, I will not be making any comment about any particular individuals,” Mr. Christie said.

Judging last night’s freeholder meeting and the behavior of the Union County Manager, George Devanney, and the freeholders and even county employees, that is an understatement.

Chris Christie asked anyone with a complaint of government or suspecting wrongdoing to call him in Newark at (973)645-2700; or if they prefer, call the FBI in Newark at (973) 792-3000. He said he has e-mail but prefers to talk to people directly. He said they need not be concerned and he doesn’t record his phone calls. “I’m here to serve you, the public.”

You can view the interview here:
goleader.com Video June 19, 2008
U.S. Attorney Chris Christie
Interview with Publisher Horace Corbin (40 minutes)

June 26, 2008

What About the Children?? - Shouldn't they be a TOP Priority????

In 2004 the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced that they were entering into an agreement to purchase and rehabilitate the Union County Arts Center in Rahway. Called a “living landmark” by than board chairman Angel Estrada the old Rahway movie theater was considered the cornerstone of that city’s downtown redevelopment effort.

When skeptics of the plan were cautioning that it was not in the best interest of the county residents to go into the entertainment business a smiling Estrada merely bobbled his head and ended any further discussions. The county managed to come up with $7.2 million to include money from the Open Space Trust Fund, to cover the costs of improvements and the Union County Performing Arts Center opened it‘s doors this past March. The line-up of performers appears as though it should appeal to enough patrons to keep the UCPAC’s head above water with ticket prices set at $100 for the likes of Neil Sedaka, Jay Black and Connie Francis, however only time will tell.

According to the minutes for the Board of Chosen Freeholders Executive Session for May 15, 2007, Dr. Thomas J. Biostocchi, Superintendent Union County Vocational Technical Schools, requested $20 Million in Capital funding to develop and construct a performing arts academy intentioned to provide students with career track training in dance, acting, stage management and stage technology. According to Chairman Estrada, the performing arts are becoming a vital part of Union County’s economic landscape and the academy will provide the opportunity for young residents to grow into careers.

Almost exactly a year to the day of receiving the request the board approved the $20 million in funding for Biostocchi’s new project. $15 million is slated for construction of a new 42,000 square foot high school facility on the Union County Vo-Tech campus in Scotch Plains. The remaining $5million will be used for classroom space at Kean University as well as studio space and other resources, the school will be opening in September 2008 with a freshman class of 55 students.

One has to hand it to the freeholder board they certainly have the ability to get their ducks in a row quickly when a project is one that is high profile, one that will make them look good. It took the all Democratic Freeholder Board over 8 years to bring the much needed Juvenile Detention Center to fruition, yet the UCPAC came together in less than four, a two day rock music event for thousands takes them less than a year to plan and execute; yet a simple foot bridge for school children languishes on the county drawing boards for months and months.

The most repugnant of crimes are those which are perpetrated upon innocent children. For more than 25 years the Union County Prosecutor’s Office has operated the Union County Child Advocacy Center which has been providing legal and counseling services to child victims of physical and sexual abuse and their families. Housed in a Victorian era house since 1995 the Child Abuse Unit has handled referrals of possible child abuse from police, hospitals, DYFS and schools with the number of cases growing to over 500 a year. The Child Advocacy Center or CAC has not been updated in the 13 years that it has been in service and currently houses eight detectives, two clerical staff, three assistant prosecutors and a coordinator.

It has been reported that Prosecutor Romankow has been working with an architect to create a state of the art Child Advocacy Center that would include space for attorneys, detectives and other staff of the prosecutor’s office but also space for DYFS workers, and on-site nurse examiner and counselors. The new CAC would also include child-friendly age-appropriate interview rooms with digital recording capability and a waiting room, Romankow said “We would like to be able to provide every service the children and their families need under one roof, and make sure that the victims receive the proper medical, psychological and legal services.”

Assistant Prosecutor John Esmerado authored a successful $500,000 grant request which was awarded by the state in April, and combining that amount with the value of the current house Romankow says that they have $1 million but will still need about $2 million to complete the project. A local businessman has created a non-profit corporation, The Friends of the Child Advocacy Center of Union County Inc., to raise the rest, $2-1/2 million, from private sources.


* Why is it necessary for the county prosecutor to turn to private sources of financing for such an important public service such as the Child Advocacy Center?

* Why haven’t the Freeholders stepped up to the plate and supplied the funds required to update this facility?

* Why is it that the Board of Chosen Freeholders can come up with over $7 million to rehabilitate an entertainment venue for the benefit of one politically connected municipality and not $2-1/2 million for the benefit of the county’s most vulnerable residents?

* Why is it that $20 million can be had for the asking for a high profile construction project which will benefit only 55 students its first year when a project requiring less than $3 million which would benefit approximately 500 per year has to go begging for private monies?

The purpose of county government is to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the residents but obviously here in Union County that is not the case. The long overdue Juvenile Detention Center, upgrades to our correctional facilities and projects which deal with crimes against children don’t make for upbeat snappy ribbon cutting ceremonies or photo ops for freeholders who are up for reelection but rather make us turn our thoughts to our short comings as a society. It is just plain wrong that the county can find money for those high cost extra frills projects, such as the UCPAC and the new performing arts high school but not for something as important as the health, safety and welfare of our children, our most precious asset.

June 22, 2008

437.7 million dollar budget - county is now spending $1,199,000 per day

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.

Golf courses

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?

June 17, 2008

Taxpayers are out another $377,499

Although an agreement to establish a children’s museum in Union County was entered into with much fanfare in 2003, recently the county very quietly terminated their agreement with the Children’s Museum of Central New Jersey (CMCNJ) after blowing through $377,499.

Of what was to be a $1,00,000 grant the CMCNJ had received an initial payment of $500,000 for seed money to better their fund raising capabilities. They spent $377,499 during the period of August 2003 through March 2007 on efforts to locate the museum in Union County with $181,052 spent to locate the museum at a Liberty Hall Museum site. The balance of the money $196,4456 was spent trying to locate the museum elsewhere in Union County. The CMCNJ has returned the unspent $122,501 of the $500,000 grant money.

The county and the CMCNJ have agreed that the Children’s Museum will return approximately $200,000 under terms and conditions that might as well state “When Pigs Fly”. The $377,499 is gone for good.

Although the county wasn’t recognized for blowing through $377,499 tax dollars, with little to no accountability, the termimation agreement incredulously states that if the CMCNJ “continues as an ongoing entity and should it succeed in locating and operating a children's museum anywhere else in New Jersey, the CMCNJ has agreed to recognize the Union County Freeholders as a founding donor and to undertake appropriate commemorative and programming recognition for the county’s contribution.”

All the freeholders contributed was the tax payer's money. Their is no evidence that they, or any employee of the county was overseeing the CMCNJ's efforts.

An Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request seeking all correspondence, including but not limited to reports, letters and emails for the period of January 2001 to present between the CMCNJ and any member of the Union County freeholder board, county manager, and Open Space Trust Fund administrators was returned NO DOCUMENTS TO PROVIDE.

According to the minutes of the monthly museum trustee meetings, no freeholder, nor the county manager ever attended a meeting. The meeting minutes show a one-time visit from the Open Space Trust Fund Administrator on January 23, 2006. The responsible parties for this $377,499 loss of tax dollars is the county manager George Devanney, his wife the former Open Space Trust Fund Administrator Angie Devanney, current administrator Victoria Drake Durbin and all nine Freeholders especially the ones that were named as trustees to the CMCNJ, namely freeholders Debora Scanlon, Alexander Mirabella, Angel Estrada and Daniel Sullivan.


The county freeholders unanimously passed Resolution #650-03 on June 19, 2003. The reso authorized the county manager, George Devanney, to enter into an agreement with the Children’s Museum of Central NJ (CMCNJ) of Westfield, NJ, to provide grant funding in the amount of $1,000,000, from the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. At the time the county manager’s wife, Angie Devanney, was the administrator of the trust fund. This was for preliminary support toward the development of a Children’s Museum. This $1,000,000 was seed money. In 2003, the project was projected to cost $12 million to complete.

Meeting minutes obtained through the OPRA shows the CMCNJ board of trustees met 9 times in 2004; 5 times in 2005 and 1 time in 2006. The minutes show that appeals were made to trustees to contribute to the cause. Excerpt from mintues: Only 9 trustees have made gifts this fiscal year…It is a requirement of the Trusteeship to contribute financially according to one’s ability to do so. If you haven’t contributed yet, please do so before the end of the fiscal year, June 30. It is very bad form to ask others to make contributions when our own Board does not do so…..

In a Worrall Community Newspaper article dated August 7, 2003 then editor Mark Hyrbna quoted Freeholder Mirabella, who was chairman of the trust fund committee, at the time said the county’s contribution will help the organization get started with serious fund-raising. “It’s not a concern because I don’t think they’ve rally started fund-raising,” Mirabella said of the group’s fund-raising to date. “I don’t think they got outta the blocks yet.” This is a group that has a good vision, it knows what it wants to do.”

At the time documents filed with the state, the CMCNJ had raised $17,615, with all but $4,000 in “direct public support,” while spending $11,958.80 for “management and general expenses, leaving a balance of $5,656.10. The CMCNJ was aiming to raise between $10 million and $12 million for the project, with an expected timeline of three to five years before a facility would be in operation.

“They seemed to have some pretty good ideas of where they’re getting money from,” Freeholder Mary Ruotolo, who was chairman of the Open Space Trust Fund Committee in 2002 said. “It’s much easier to fund-raise when you have seed money; then fund-raising becomes a better sell.” “It’s certainly not our intention to pay for the construction of a museum” Ruotolo said.

In a Worrall Community Newspaper article dated May 20, 2004, it was explained that representatives of the children’s museum report to the county on a quarterly basis. They must provide reports of what they spent so the county can see if the m money is being spent in a way that is consistent with the Open Space Trust fund. “If they haven’t totally pent the $250,000 yet, they’re not permitted to come back to us for the next round of funding,” said Open Space Trust Fund Administrator and wife of county manager Angie Devanney.

By early 2007 the CMCNJ exhausted its efforts to find a suitable location for the museum in Union County, event though its board and stakeholders remained committed to locating the museum somewhere in central or northern New Jersey. The CMCNJ notified the freeholders that it would discontinue its efforts to site the museum in Union County and provided the freeholders with an accounting of grant funds.

Design & Feasibility $358,599
Accounting Services $12,650
Legal Services $6,250
Total: $377,499 – not to be reimbursed to taxpayers

$196,466 was spent trying to locate the museum elsewhere in Union County. The CMCNJ has agreed to return the money under conditions that seem to be impossible. But rest assured if they do successfully open a museum our trusty freeholders will be on hand for a photo op. I don’t expect any public comment until the pigs fly.


Worrall Article 2003

Worrall Article 2005

Memo of Understanding

CMCNJ Termination of Memo of Understanding

CMCNJ Trustee and Committee names

CMCNJ 2004 Minutes

CMCNJ 2005 Minutes

CMCNJ 2006 Minutes

June 10, 2008

Summit calls for freeholders to be elected by district

On June 4, 2008 the Summit Town Council passed a resolution calling for certain Union County Freeholders to be Elected by District.

WHEREAS, all County residents deserve a greater voice in the manner by which they are governed; and

WHEREAS, if the County layer of government must remain existent here in New Jersey, then, as a matter of fundamental fairness, a more proportionate distribution of our County Freeholders should be derived so as to better reflect, and daily represent, our County’s diverse population, demographics and needs; and

WHEREAS, at least two of our peer Counties here in New Jersey have commendably already implemented some degree of Freeholder representation “by District” -- as opposed to having all of their Freeholders merely serving “At-Large”; and

WHEREAS, when a Union County Charter Study Commission recommended (and voters then approved) our current County Manager form of government, it did not specifically address the Freeholder selection process.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Common Council of the City of Summit, as follows:

That the current provision for choosing our Freeholders entirely at-large is fundamentally unfair, as it is not sufficiently representative of our County’s diverse population, demographics and needs.

That we hereby request that the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopt a resolution to better, i.e., more democratically, “seek the will of the people” by having eight (8) – or, at least four (4) – of our Freeholders henceforward elected by smaller geographic Districts instead of all nine (9) being “At-Large”.

That this Charter question be placed upon the November 2008 election ballot.

That a copy of this resolution be sent to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and all Union County Municipalities.

Dated: June 4, 2008

I, David L. Hughes, City Clerk of the City of Summit, do hereby certify that the foregoing resolution was duly adopted by the Common Council of said City at a regular meeting held on Wednesday evening, June 4, 2008.

Previously posted: The banana republic of Union County

June 08, 2008

Feeding Readers Better Information on County Government

Submitted by John Bury

Twenty years ago the Daily Journal of Elizabeth covered Union County politics. Many municipalities had their own weeklies. The Star-Ledger covered state and national issues but rarely bothered with this county. At least some things don't change.

After the Daily Journal folded in 1992 a gap developed in coverage of county issues. Some weeklies consolidated but focus remained on the towns, which is what their readers primarily cared about. So for the last few years the freeholders have essentially gotten a pass on coverage by the media and gotten fat. Maybe with the Local Source consolidating countywide there will be much-needed light shed on what the freeholders are doing.

Though most things thrive with sunlight when it comes to government budgets it's a lack of sunshine that induces growth. Since 2000 the county tax levy has risen 68% from $150.1 million to $251.7 million. Included in those are vanity projects like the restoration of the UCPAC, studies for a children's museum, and annual musicfests where the costs get passed on to taxpayers with only token debate and apparently little forethought. If the taxpayers don't care, why should the county? But taxayers would care if they were fed the information from a reliable source.

The internet was supposed to supplant newspapers for local coverage but it remains unreliable and sporadic often consisting of little more than rumor and innuendo. There are a lot of writers but not a lot of editors. You can easily get information out there but, without an effective filter, anyone with an internet connection can propagandize, sometimes under various aliases, about whatever would benefit them personally. Couldn't a job of a county public relations department be to go on websites anonymously and denigrate any critics of their policies?

A newspaper editor might get ten items to choose from for inclusion in a paper and pick three. On most internet forums all ten items would be viewed, with quantity trumping quality, leaving it to the reader to also adopt the role of editor. The problem comes when readers often have time to read only the three items and they gravitate to stories that feed their prejudices or taste for sensationalism.

It's as if your mother were to set out ten food items for dinner and you could only eat three. Too many people would be subsisting on diets of chocolate cake, jello, and pork rinds. The spinach and kidney beans that you need for sustenance would go to waste with their necessary nutrients. Hopefully, the new Local Source will lay out a balanced diet and we will all be stronger, wiser and richer for it.

June 05, 2008

Another Union County prisoner receives a death sentence

The Star-Ledger has posted that another Union County inmate, Addison Wilcox, 33, died at the Union County Jail. The post doesn’t mention what day the death occurred. The Ledger reported that Newark attorney Gerald Saluti, who represented Wilcox, said members of the family told him that Wilcox had been complaining since Monday of having shortness of breath and upper respiratory problems. "The family complained that nothing was done about it," Saluti said. "I saw him the day he went into the jail. He was as healthy as a horse. He had no respiratory problems whatsoever," the attorney said. "From speaking to the family, it sure doesn't look like he got the attention he needed."
Read More

Sadly Wilcox joins a growing list of dead and mistreated prisoners.

On May 22, 2008 Dexter Gelfand posted on the Countywatchers about his son. “On April 15, my son Geoffrey Gelfand passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He experienced much unnecessary and unfortunate suffering at the hands of the powers that be during his imprisonment in Union County Jail in 2004. He was frequently denied medication for his removed thyroid, to the point where he was debilitated mentally and physically as often as not, and as his disease returned to his throat, causing bleeding, and pain to the point where eating was so difficult that he'd lose as much as 30 pounds a month. His jailers denied proper medical examination and treatment despite his pain and suffering, which was quite alarming to his cell mates.”
Read More

On October 13, 2007 Kathy Figgs posted on the Countywatchers about her brother, Johnathan Dawkins, who was an inmate in the Union County jail. “He 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.”
Read More

In 2006 within just weeks of each other Union County inmates Aaron Pittman died of Crohns disease and Donald Davis from a stomach infection. According to family members, both were left untreated and their screams of pain were ignored. Both families have filed separate lawsuits against the county which are pending.
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The County of Union has recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit in the matter of Edward Sinclair, Jr., the 17 year old who died in their Juvenile Detention Center on May 10, 2003.
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Just after Eddie’s Death his family and friends visitied a freeholder meeting.
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Isn’t it ironic don’t you think that every postal patron in Union County received the taxpayer funded Union County Directions newsletter just before Primary Election Day on Tuesday which headlines the appointed county manager George Devanney’s uncle, Senator Raymond Lesniak, and his book, The Road to Abolition: How New Jersey Repealed the Death Penalty.

George Devanney is responsible for the running of the Union County jail and oversees the publishing of the Union County Directions Newsletter.