Coniglio’s clients received $1.2 million from the state, politically connected lawyer allegedly a perv, Corzine touts Milgram’s prosecution of human traffickers, Jerramiah Healy’s trial starts this week, budget pork amount varies depending on who you listen to, state prohibits transgender discrimination
“Two for-profit biotechnology companies — both run by a top Hackensack University Medical Center physician with political connections — received nearly $1.2 million in tax money while the hospital was paying a state senator as a consultant.
The money came in different forms: Lawmakers inserted a line item in the state budget funneling money to one company; a state commission awarded the other a $300,000 stem cell grant.
These companies, based in Hackensack, secured the money not long after their chief executive hired lobbyists and cultivated contacts with politicians — including state Sen. Joseph Coniglio, who earned $60,000 a year in part to promote the hospital’s biotechnology development. The funds were awarded in 2005, the same year the medical center itself received a number of special state grants………..
Coniglio’s relationship with the medical center lies at the heart of a federal criminal probe. U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie is trying to determine whether the Paramus Democrat improperly used his office to steer state grants to the hospital while working as its consultant from May 2004 to February 2006.” (Maddux, Herald News)
“When New Jersey awarded its first taxpayer funding for stem cell research, only one of 17 applicants that won grants was a for-profit company. And that was a firm headed by a politically connected physician at Hackensack University Medical Center.
That private company, however, didn’t have legal permission to conduct business in New Jersey — a violation of rules governing eligibility for the $300,000 state grant, according to officials and agency records………..
The episode raises questions about safeguards in New Jersey’s stem cell funding process at a time when federal prosecutors are investigating grants steered through the Legislature by certain lawmakers. It also comes as investigators review work done by state Sen. Joseph Coniglio, a Paramus Democrat who was earning $60,000 as a consultant at the Hackensack hospital.” (Maddux, Herald News)
PEE-WEE HERMAN ON THE DELAWARE
“The politically connected lawyer allegedly seen masturbating in the nude at a Flemington bus stop faces a precarious political and legal future, officials said yesterday.
If convicted of a crime, Daul could lose his license to practice law in New Jersey, state bar association officials said. If he is not convicted, he still could face disciplinary proceedings with the New Jersey Supreme Court………
The lewdness and disorderly conduct charges against Christopher L. Daul — a 49-year-old Hunterdon County lawyer who has held a variety of state posts, including an unpaid stint on Gov. Jon Corzine’s transition team — will be reviewed by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, a spokesman said…………….
“People are innocent until proven guilty, but you have to take a line against behavior that’s just not acceptable,” said county Democratic Chairman David DelVecchio, who also is the mayor of Lambertville. “I’m just stunned.”
It was a familiar refrain among Daul’s associates yesterday, as word spread that their diligent, married colleague had been spotted near a leafy, brick-paved outlet mall Friday afternoon wearing nothing but glasses, dark socks and a hands-free headset.
He allegedly stood in front of a parked van with two women in the front seat, masturbating for 30 to 45 seconds before climbing into his own van and driving away from the Liberty Village Premium Outlets, one of the women said.” (Heininger and Rothman, Star-Ledger)
MILGRAM TOUGH ON TRAFFICKERS
“The cases were both heartbreaking and infuriating. They also were among the toughest to prosecute because they targeted the most vulnerable members of society.
Groups of young Mexican girls smuggled into the country and forced to be sex slaves, in Plainfield and in New York. Jamaican men tricked into moving to New Hampshire with promises of riches, then put to forced labor. A Wisconsin couple run off the road simply because they are Asian.
The three cases all ended in convictions and prison terms, the criminals brought to justice by teams of federal prosecutors that included Anne Milgram. In her four-year stint with the Justice Department she became the nation’s top federal prosecutor on human trafficking issues.
Gov. Jon Corzine pointed to those experiences as one of the chief reasons he tapped Milgram to become New Jersey’s next attorney general.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
HEALY TRIAL ABOUT TO START
“A year after his altercation with police outside a local bar, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy will try to defend his actions when he goes on trial this week.
The mayor says he was arrested and roughed up by police for intervening in an argument between a couple outside a Bradley Beach bar. Police say Healy tried to throw his weight around as a mayor, refused orders to leave, and became verbally abusive.………
Healy, mayor of the state’s second-largest city, is charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstructing justice. If convicted, the charges carry less than a year in jail and $2,500 in fines.” (AP)
WHERE THERE ARE LEGISLATORS, THERE’S PORK
“Federal investigators, public scrutiny and the governor himself were supposed to dissuade state legislators from slipping their favorite parochial causes into the state budget this year.
But the $33.5 billion spending plan up for a public hearing today still features a menagerie of pet causes ranging from oysters to Bears. After the Legislature’s Democratic leaders finished changing the governor’s proposed budget last week, the tasty little invertebrates had an extra $150,000 to help them grow in the Delaware Bay……..
Democrats say the result is a lean budget that limits so-called legislative initiatives, known to critics as pork-barrel or Christmas-tree spending, to $12 million.
“We’re very limited in what we can do this year,” said Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, who sponsored the subsidy for South Jersey’s oyster beds. “It was definitely slimmer pickings than we’ve seen in the past. And that’s good.”
But Republicans say this budget is one more Democratic pork-a-palooza, citing the nearly $190 million difference between the governor’s proposed budget and the latest version. Assemblyman Joseph Malone, R-Burlington, estimated the total amount of “specifically earmarked items that are not going generally statewide” at $250 million to $300 million.” (Gohlke and Lu, Bergen Record)
THE BUDGET HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS
“YMCAs got their wish. Hospitals got most of theirs, and so did New Jersey’s cancer treatment centers. Charter schools and nine struggling school districts saw a boost in state aid.
Meanwhile, an affordable housing program faces cuts, and groups that treat the mentally ill and disabled said their share of state aid will ultimately come up short.
And, of course, there were millions of dollars for causes close to lawmakers’ hearts, including funding for civic groups, cultural centers, museums and mentoring programs……….
The item likely to spark the sharpest exchanges in coming days is spending on political earmarks. The tally for how much money is set aside for political projects and how much is for policy choices largely depends on your point of view and political party. Estimates on the cost of the earmarks range from $12 million (by Democrats) to $312 million (by Republicans) and a wide range in between (by news organizations).” (Tamari, Gannett)
NO MORE CHRISTMAS TREE GRANTS
“New sidewalks for Wood-Ridge, a new garbage truck for Union City, fresh paint for Perth Amboy City Hall — all paid for with state tax dollars.
For the past few years, June was a month of pleasant surprises for the 10 municipalities whose Democratic mayors also serve in the state Senate or Assembly. While helping craft the state budget, they made sure to include some goodies for the folks back home.
Not this time.
Those mayor-legislators, who won their towns a total of $13.3 million in so-called “Christmas tree” grants from the past three budgets, are getting nothing this year.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
GET READY FOR A DAY OF CONFUSION
“Lawmakers face a full day of confusion and controversy at the Statehouse today as they gather for a series of committee meetings scheduled to include preliminary votes on the $33.4 billion state budget, funding for stem cell research and initiatives aimed at curbing global warming.
With legislators hoping to wrap up work by the end of the week to make way for a summer and fall of election campaigning, committee dockets and the scheduled full Senate session are thick with last- minute priorities.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
THIS IS A BLUE STATE, AFTER ALL
“When Jillian T. Weiss made the change from male to female back in 1998, she found it hard to get a job as a lawyer.
“People were unwilling to have me work with them when they could tell when I was transitioning,” Weiss said.
Only able to get a job as a legal secretary, Weiss had to “go back” and work her way up. After getting a doctorate, Weiss now is an assistant professor of law and society at Ramapo College. Weiss says how she expresses her gender is a nonfactor with her students and co-workers.
Weiss said her experience beginning nearly a decade ago is similar to what many transgender people deal with in the work force. The state, however, is looking to end this type of workplace discrimination.
On Sunday, New Jersey became the sixth state to explicitly prohibit transgender discrimination. The change to the state’s Law Against Discrimination adds “gender identity and expression” to the list of categories already protected against discrimination involving employment, along with public accommodation, contracts, housing, credit and union membership.” (Rispoli, Gannett)
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE
“More than 30 day laborers gathered Sunday at the Morristown train station demanding raids on illegal immigrants cease, and that any national legislation include a provision for family reunification.
“We, the day laborers, are working people,” Morristown resident Erick Carreto, 26, a community organizer for the Wind of the Spirit immigrant resource center, said through an interpreter………
Sunday’s brief news conference was part of the third annual New York/New Jersey conference of day laborers, sponsored by the National Day Labor Organizing Network.
Day laborers from municipalities in New York and Connecticut gathered to voice their requests for pending immigration legislation being discussed in congress.” (Manochio, Daily Record)
“Standing in front of the Morristown train station is a daily ritual for construction worker Milton Mejir, but yesterday was different.
Instead of waiting for a contractor to swing by and pick him up, Mejir, 36, was one of about 25 day laborers and organizers who stood on the station steps for a news conference…………..
“There’s a lot of repression,” Mejir said in Spanish.
“They don’t pay you what’s necessary” to live, he said. Like other laborers, Mejir, who arrived in Morristown a year ago, works long days in construction to send money home. He has a 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter in Honduras.” (O’Connor, Star-Ledger)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“(Fort Monmouth) – Although they went along with the vast majority of base consolidation recommendations made by the Department of Defense, the nine-member panel charged with evaluating those decisions was very critical of the process.
So critical, in fact, that members of the Base Realignment and Closure commission wrote a report addressing their concerns and went so far as to suggest new legislation to guide future base closing rounds.” (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
”A report asserting that moving most of Fort Monmouth’s research mission to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland will not impair the country’s war on terrorism should be submitted to Congress by the end of the year.
That’s the word from Jeff Sagnip, spokesman for Rep. H. James Saxton, R-N.J. The letter was a requirement set by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission when it voted to close the fort.
The commission required the Secretary of the Army to submit the letter to relevant congressional committees. Saxton, a senior member of the House of Representatives, sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
“We were told they would have it to us by the end of the year,” Sagnip said. “My expectation is after the appropriations process is closed in October.” (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
“A measure getting a lot of praise in Trenton, which would order the state’s high-risk sex offenders to wear a GPS tracking device, has become a campaign issue in the 3rd Legislative District race for state Senate.
One of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-3, of West Deptford, said the plan has already “proven to be both necessary and successful.
It would make permanent the provisions of a 2005 pilot program that uses the technology to track “Tier 3” sex offenders, who are those considered most likely to offend again.
“It’s another layer of comfort to know where these people are at all times,” Sweeney said. “If you get the bracelet put on, it’s for life.” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)
POLICE WANT MORE NON-LETHAL OPTIONS
“When Willingboro police faced a troubled teenager armed with two pairs of scissors June 7, they took the only action they’re allowed when threatened: shoot to kill, officials said.
Now, with the teenager in a hospital, the incident has led to questions and frustration that gunfire remains the police’s only alternative.
“Allowing only lethal force with those who do not fit the mold of what we consider normal is horrific,” said Steven Morse, director of Garfield Park Academy, a school for emotionally and behaviorally troubled students the teenager attended.
The shooting happened on school grounds.
Less than lethal weapon systems were legalized for New Jersey police more than a year and a half ago, yet systems that could incapacitate an opponent while leaving the person alive have yet to reach the hands of the state’s officers.
“It’s way too slow, and how many lost lives as a result of it?” asked Sen. Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, who in January 2006 as acting governor signed a bill that opened the door for police to carry Tasers, projectile bean bags and other alternatives to hand guns.” (Strupczweski and Laughlin, Courier-Post)
“THE MYSTERY OF MICHAEL THEOKAS”
“HIGHTSTOWN — The mystery of Michael Theokas has not been solved since the primary election.
Officials last week did not seem to know how a Republican candi date who was not a registered voter appeared on the ballot in the primary election earlier this month………..
“I don’t blame anybody but my self,” Theokas said. “Ultimately, I should have checked. After I filed it, I heard my name was on the bal lot and had no reason to believe there was a problem.” (Stein, Trenton Times)
STUDENTS TAKE ON SCHOOL
“The longtime adviser to Ocean County College’s Viking News said she is “very proud” of her students following the settlement of a lawsuit the students filed against the college.
In the lawsuit, student editors charged college administration officials violated their First Amendment rights………….
Viking News editors alleged that the administration was trying to coerce them after negative stories were printed in the paper. Bosley and her supporters said her adviser’s job was taken as payback for the dispute, a charge the college denied.
Bosley will be reassigned to the post she lost in December 2005, but regained last July after a federal judge in the case issued a preliminary injunction that allowed her to serve while the lawsuit continued.” (Kidd, Asbury Park Press)
TAXES FOR QUARTER ACRE OF LAND IN NJ: $6,000. ELEVEN ACRES OF LAND IN VA: $933
“Life is good in Montgomery County, Va., according to one of its newest residents, Thomas Mazza.
But Mazza, 63, is reluctant to compare his adopted community to his old hometown of Farmingdale, where he served on the borough council and a land-use and school board.
“I like Farmingdale. But now I’m on 11 acres, and I have a tax bill of $933, and I get a quality of life where you can see the birds and the bees and see the mountains. In Farmingdale, I paid about $6,000 in taxes for a home on a quarter-acre,” Mazza said in a telephone interview.
“In New Jersey, the political machine has taken over and made it too expensive to live there. The wages are better in New Jersey, but you know what? The more money you make, the more stress you give yourself and the more you give to the government,” he added.” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
“After more than 20 years of operation, the borough’s environmental commission could be disbanded under an ordinance introduced at last week’s council meeting.
Officials say the commission, which is composed of volunteers and advises the borough on local environmental issues and the environmental impact of future projects, does not currently have enough members to effectively conduct business.” (Counihan, Gloucester County Times)
“The Township Committee on Wednesday named its new prosecutor, after the Governor’s Office announced Manalapan’s former municipal prosecutor would be nominated as a state Superior Court judge in Freehold.
Nicole Sonnenblick will replace Teresa Kondrup-Coyle, whom Gov. Corzine on June 7 announced he would nominate for a judgeship.” (Williams, Asbury Park Press)
“The committee charged with deciding the next leader of the city police department met behind closed doors with representatives of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police for nearly two hours at city hall Friday afternoon.
The city still is considering whether to hire a chief or a civilian director to head the department in the wake of Chief Jeff Wentz’s March 27 announcement that he was retiring, Mayor Jim Begley said Friday following the meeting.” (McCullen, Bridgeton News)
IN EAST WINDSOR
“Township residents may see a slight tax increase this year of about 2 cents for every $100 of assessed property, according to Mayor Janice Mironov.” (Castelli, Trenton Times)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
CHRIS CHRISTIE’S BULLY PULPIT
“The Republican called state lawmakers cowardly and petty. He called for courageous leadership in the state Capitol. He demanded New Jerseyans oust crooked politicians.
To many observers, it sounded like U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, long rumored a future candidate for New Jersey governor, was delivering a campaign speech………..
“It’s not about politics,” Christie said.
Some observers weren’t so sure.
“I think this, to me, sounded like a speech that was in the realm of politics,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.
“It (the speech) was a defining moment for Chris Christie,” said David Rebovich, a Rider University political scientist.” (Hester, AP)
HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATION
“A high-ranking state counter-terrorism official has been suspended amid an investigation into finances and payroll at the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, according to five state law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the probe.
Investigators arrived unannounced at the office of Anita Bogdan, the agency’s chief administrative officer, on June 6 and told her to accompany them to the state justice complex in Trenton, the law enforcement officials said. After five hours of questioning, Bogdan was placed on paid leave and barred from work until further notice, said the officials, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the case………..
Bogdan declined to comment to a Star-Ledger reporter who went to her home to ask about the investigation. Her attorney, Sidney Lehmann, said: “Ms. Bogdan has done absolutely nothing wrong and there is no basis for any investigation. This woman has done absolutely nothing wrong…………
The top bureaucrat at the homeland security agency, Bogdan, 49, is in charge of facilities, budgets and personnel for the office, which coordinates the state’s counter-terror functions and emergency response efforts for manmade and natural catastrophes.
Bogdan has been in her current position since November 2002 and earns $114,787 a year. She has more than 19 years of service with the state. Bogdan has an MBA from Rider University and is listed on state government documents as her agency’s liaison to the State Ethics Commission and the officer in charge of her office’s affirmative action program.” (Margolin and Hepp, Star-Ledger)
CORZINE “BACKS AWAY”
“Just three months after signing off on a landmark state worker contract that traded generous pay hikes for increased employee payments toward health benefits, Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration is backing away from one key feature of the new pact.
According to union and state officials familiar with ongoing negotiations, the Corzine administration has agreed to scrap a requirement that future retirees contribute 1.5 percent of their pensions toward the cost of their health benefits.
Legislation to impose that and other pension and benefit changes on public employees and teachers was introduced Friday and is scheduled to be considered by two legislative committees tomorrow. But the sources said the bill will be amended to drop the co-payment for retired employees who agree to join a “wellness” program.
That would alter the contract negotiated earlier this year for state workers and bring it in line with a separate deal the administration struck with the New Jersey Education Association on pensions and benefits for public school teachers.
The teachers’ agreement included continued free health care for retirees, while the contract negotiated with the Communications Workers of America and other unions on behalf of 53,000 state government workers imposed the new 1.5 percent contribution on both active employees and those who retire after July 1.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
WEINBERG EXERCISES SENATORIAL COURTESY
“State Sen. Loretta Weinberg has placed a hold on the vote to confirm the reappointment of Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.
“I have some questions which need some answers, which I am sure he’s going to be able to provide, and that’s all that’s going on,” Weinberg said Saturday, nine days after Governor Corzine nominated the 49-year-old Molinelli to a second five-year term
“There are a lot of things he has done quite well,” the Teaneck Democrat said of Molinelli.
She added that she had some concerns about how the Prosecutor’s Office operates, but declined to be more specific……
When Corzine announced the prosecutor’s nomination on June 7, the Legislature’s approval seemed all but certain.
“We have work that is left to be done, so I am looking forward to another five years.” Molinelli said at the time.
But Weinberg has invoked a tradition called senatorial courtesy, under which a senator from a nominee’s home county can block an appointment………….
Although Weinberg has had a well-publicized feud with Bergen Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero, she insisted that her hold on Molinelli’s reappointment as the county’s top law enforcement official had “absolutely nothing to do with party politics.”
“The prosecutor is the prosecutor, and is not a political operative in any way, shape or form,” she said.” (Wright, Bergen Record)
SOAP OPERA DIGEST
“The public and bitter divorce battle between former Gov. James E. McGreevey and his estranged wife continues.
Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy, the Family Court judge handling the divorce case, ruled Friday that Dina Matos McGreevey can continue with her libel case against her husband.
Matos McGreevey claims the former governor called her homophobic and said she knew he was gay when they married. She wants the court to award her damages, saying in court papers that McGreevey’s remarks soured the gay community against her, weakening sales of her recently released memoir “Silent Partner: A Memoir of My Marriage.” (AP)
MAYORS BEHAVING BADLY
“Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s long-awaited disorderly persons case stemming from an incident that took place in Bradley Beach is scheduled to begin Monday, a year and a day after the incident occurred.
Healy’s attorneys have spent the past few weeks trying to have the court case postponed on the grounds that an appeal on a related matter should be resolved first.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
LANDAU DID NOT USE THE “JERSEY DEFENSE”
“VINELAND — Silvana Landau pleaded guilty Friday to a bad check charge, admitting in Atlantic County Superior Court that she directed money from a Somers Point nonprofit medical clinic to cover her personal expenses.
The plea also resolves the charge pending against Landau in Vineland Municipal Court for trying to obtain a prescription by deceptive means as a favor to state Sen. Nicholas Asselta.
In May 2005, Landau was arrested after police said she called the Chestnut Avenue CVS on a dedicated physician’s line to order an anti-inflammatory steroid medication to soothe the senator’s poison ivy outbreak.
At the time, Asselta said he was acquainted with the 44-year-old Landau, who was then executive director of Access 1, a private nonprofit agency that provides medical services to indigent clients.
Asselta, who was not charged in the incident, didn’t return calls for comment Friday evening.” (Marco, Daily Journal)
PAY TO PLAY
“Most North Jersey towns have failed to take advantage of an 18-month-old state law that lets them deal a powerful blow to pay-to-play at the local level.
Only in a handful of municipalities have local governing bodies passed tough campaign finance regulations under the law, which was intended to let them add teeth to statewide pay-to-play regulations, often criticized as rife with loopholes.
As a result, taxpayer dollars continue to go to lawyers, auditors, engineers and other professionals who may have won favor by helping to fill the campaign coffers of mayors, council members and county political organizations.” (Fallon and Ax, Herald News)
WHAT IS IT WITH CORRUPT PARKING AUTHORITIES?
“The state Attorney General’s Office, Division of Criminal Justice, has subpoenaed records from the Bayonne Parking Authority in connection with an apparent investigation.
City Law Director John Coffey II confirmed yesterday that a representative of the division appeared Thursday at the City Hall offices of the Parking Authority with an order to produce certain documents by July 9. “We have no idea what this involves,” Coffey said. “The subpoena request was fairly general in nature.” (Leir, Jersey Journal)
IS VOLUNTEERING DOUBLE DIPPING?
“SECAUCUS — State ethics officials are examining the issue of whether Councilman Michael Gonnelli also can serve as the town’s deputy fire chief — a volunteer position the council is expected to oversee.
The Department of Community Affairs opened an investigation into the issue in April after receiving a complaint.”
“HAMILTON — The local GOP has fired back at township Democrats who earlier this month accused the Republican council candidates of violating state campaign finance reporting laws.
Republican mayoral candidate John Bencivengo responded to the Democrats’ accusation that council candidates Kelly Yaede and Kevin Meara violated campaign finance laws when they did not report their contributions before the state deadline, saying that it was an oversight by the candidates that has been remedied.
Bencivengo then accused the Democrats of a violation, saying that balloons and signs displayed on Memorial Day by Democratic candidates John Kroschwitz and John Cimino were not reflected on their state Election Law Enforcement Commission reports.” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
“The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has taken over Local 331 for the third time in two decades after uncovering alleged financial malfeasance and possible fraud.
Among those removed from office was President Joseph Yeoman, who vowed when elected in 1992 to ensure that the local would never come under trusteeship again. For nearly three years before his election, Yeoman served as assistant trustee running the Pleasantville-based local during its second international union takeover. The first lasted from 1986 to 1988.
The international union’s president reported in a letter to more than 1,700 members Wednesday that Local 331 was in “dire financial straits” and that it would impose an emergency trusteeship immediately. A hearing will be held within 30 days to determine whether the trusteeship should continue………
Yeoman disputed the charges, saying they are not based on facts.
“What am I going to do? Fight,” he said. “I have a treasured reputation and I’m not giving that up to nobody. … I’ve been a clean, honest, hardworking union official for all my working life.” (Rao, Press of Atlantic City)
“New Jersey has joined a growing number of states with laws that ban discrimination against transgender people.
The law, which sailed through the Legislature in December and takes effect today, has received little attention in a state gaining a reputation for being welcoming to lesbian, gay and transgender people. This year, New Jersey began allowing same-sex couples to unite in civil unions…………..
The New Jersey law makes it illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant because of gender status, and companies cannot refuse to hire people because they are transsexual, cross-dressers, asexual, of ambiguous gender, or simply not traditionally feminine or masculine. The law also bans discrimination in credit, business contracts, and public accommodations such as stores or restaurants.
Violators could be subject to up to 90 days in jail or fines up to $500.” (Mulvihill, Philadelphia Inquirer)
GOVS WANT PORT AUTHORITY TRANSPARENCY
“The governors of both states are demanding that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conduct its multibillion-dollar operations in a far more open and ethical fashion, after decades of conducting most of its business behind closed doors.
In a letter made public yesterday, Govs. Jon Corzine and Eliot Spitzer told the bistate agency to change some of its bylaws to adhere to disclosure and accountability rules that apply to most state and federal agencies…………
“Public confidence in government rests on governing bodies and officials conducting their af fairs in a way that is fair, transparent, efficient and ethical,” Corzine and his New York counterpart wrote in a letter to the agency’s board of commissioners.” (Marisco, Star-Ledger)
The 86-year-old authority runs major airports, bridges and tunnels in the New York City region. It has a $5 billion annual budget.
But it faces no requirement to hold public meetings.
Corzine and Spitzer want the agency to follow the open-meetings laws of both states, provide public notice of meetings, allow public comment at meetings, publicly detail why it must meet in secret when it does so, and hold meetings throughout the region to give the public more chances to participate.
“The port authority has a direct impact on the lives of millions of New Jerseyans and New Yorkers, and the public deserves to be a full partner in its decision-making process,” Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said..” (Hester, AP)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“The cost of closing Fort Monmouth has ballooned from $780 million to nearly $1.5 billion in the two years since a federal commission voted to shutter the 90-year-old Army post, according to the Army’s fiscal year 2008 budget request.
The rise in cost is driven by a 571 percent jump in the price of moving the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School to West Point, N.Y., and an 85 percent increase in the price of military construction at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, according to Army budget figures.” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
“The “thank yous” outnumbered the “pleases” yesterday at the first public hearing ever held after the introduction of a state budget bill.
A large number of the more than 100 people who turned out for the hearing before the Assembly Budget Committee praised lawmakers for including money to help autism victims, prevent co-payments for Medicaid recipients and to reduce business taxes. A representative of the New Jersey Association of Realtors even saluted the panel for not raising realty transfer taxes
But there were also requests for help. Pharmacy owners and their lobbyists called for lawmakers to remove bureaucratic rules they say are threatening to drive pharmacists out of state. A representative of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities urged lawmakers to exempt libraries from a recently enacted law capping property tax increases.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
“There just is not enough funding to pay for the services that the state wants us to deliver,” said Debra L. Wentz, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies Inc.
Of the more than $100 million in additions to Gov. Jon Corzine’s spending plan, Wentz’ organization received a $14 million increase, which equated to 3 percent over the amount she was dealt last year. She requested a 4 percent bump.” (Graber, Bridgeton News)
GOODBYE JAMES ZAZZALI
“The day after he was nominated to be chief justice of New Jersey, James Zazzali went to the doctor.
He had already served six years on the high court, but he wanted to make sure he was strong enough to head up the state judiciary for the next eight months. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health.
It’s a good thing: Since taking over in October, Zazzali has been in a sprint trying to make the most of his limited time at the top.
“I regret that there was not more time — more time in the day, not so much more time in the position,” Zazzali said. “I knew full well that this was not a long-term effort, but it would have been nice to have 20 hours in the day.”
Today (James) Zazzali’s whirlwind tenure ends as he turns 70, the mandatory retirement age for state judges, but not without a hefty list of accomplishments that belie the brief amount of time he spent in the role.
During his short tenure, he has zigzagged from one end of the state to the other, talking about the judiciary to judges and anyone who would listen. He hit the Statehouse to lobby for judicial pay raises. He started efforts to help the children who come in contact with the courts. All that was in addition to overseeing the court’s handling of cases on some of the most pressing legal issues of the day from students who are discriminated against to eminent domain.” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
SANDRA CUNNINGHAM WILL TAKE THEM
“After days of wrestling with Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration, top legislators were unable to have $8 million pulled from the $33.5 billion budget to ensure that civilly committed sex offenders would not be moved to a facility in South Jersey.
The Department of Corrections has proposed moving civilly committed sex offenders from two North Jersey facilities, and local legislators believe they are headed to South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, Cumberland County.” (Graber, Today’s Sunbeam)
VOTE FRAUD IN ROSELLE?
“State prosecutors are investigating allegations of voter fraud in last year’s Democratic primary in Roselle, Union County officials confirmed Thursday.
Corruption investigators with the state Division of Criminal Justice have served two subpoenas on the county Board of Elections in recent weeks, with the more recent one being delivered a week ago by two state troopers, said Dennis Scott Kobitz, deputy elections administrator.
“They want to know who works in my office, who touched the absentee ballots, who accepted and rejected the ballots,” Kobitz said.” (Rothman, Star-Ledger)
“YOU CAN’T TAKE A STICKUP BOY AND PUT HIM BACK ON THE STREET. YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE.”
“With layoffs in Newark imminent, city employees faced with the decision to take a voluntary buyout expressed a range of emotions, from anger to confusion to resignation.
Employees are in a quandary, unsure of whether to accept the city’s one-time offer of between 30 and 60 percent of their salary or take their chances and risk being laid off in a few months because of what Mayor Cory Booker is calling a $180 million budget gap…………..
Tensions are running so high that workers from the sanitation department leveled threats at human resources workers during one information session last week, describing what actions they might take if laid off.
“You have a lot of stickup boys and ex-cons in my department who did their time and (former mayor) Sharpe James gave them jobs,” said one sanitation employee named Daryl who declined to give his last name for fear of retaliation. “You can’t take a stickup boy and put him back on the street. You have to look at the big picture.” (Mays, Star-Ledger)
PERTH AMBOY CORRUPTION
“The former director of Perth Amboy’s parking authority was led away in handcuffs yesterday to begin serving a three-year prison term for using a city-issued debit card to pay nearly $5,000 in personal and family expenses.
Charles Vargas, 34, of Perth Amboy, was also ordered to repay the city the $4,745 he stole while working as the director. In addition, he was banned from ever again holding a public job……
Authorities said Vargas used the debit card to pay for personal and family expenses, including purchases of gasoline and a family trip, and failed to reimburse the parking authority. Charges also are pending against four of his employees, who were accused of helping themselves to quarters collected from parking meters.”(O’Neill, Star-Ledger)
IN WARREN COUNTY
“In Warren County, public access to information comes with a price tag.
In response to an Open Public Records Act request by The Express-Times, Warren County’s administration has drafted a policy outlining public access to freeholder board correspondence. Anyone interested in looking at such material will have to a pay a copying fee, regardless of whether that person wants the copy.
An OPRA request to view a week’s worth of correspondence yielded 89 pages of material at a cost of $29.75.” (Satullo, Express-Times)
“The police union pressed the city about two months ago to quickly wrap up a probe into a complaint that four Millville officers mistreated a colleague because he is gay.
The Police Benevolent Association 213 sent a letter on behalf of four ranking administrators who are the subject of the probe.
Lt. Edward Zadroga, one of the four administrators, said Friday the PBA approached the city at the request of the affiliated Millville Police Supervisors Association. “And they have not responded,” Zadroga said, of the city.” (Smith, Daily Journal)
FISH AND GAME COUNCIL
“A bill that could radically alter the makeup of the state Fish and Game Council has advanced in the state Assembly.
The bill proposes to shrink the Fish and Game Council from its 11 members to seven. More importantly, it removes the requirement that a majority of the panel’s members be hunters.” (Cowen, Bergen Record)
IN MONMOUTH COUNTY
“Standing in this sea of voting machines in the Monmouth County Special Services Complex on Halls Mill Road, James Siciliano hears the ring of one of the massive room’s telephones. “Voting Machines,” Siciliano answers. Kathy Matullo, an elections clerk elsewhere in the complex, laughs warmly at Siciliano’s greeting. “He doesn’t have too many more times to say that,” Matullo says. Only until the end of the month. Because, after 25 years in the Voting Machines section, with 23 years as director, Siciliano is retiring. His last day to report to work is June 29………..After 25 years in the Voting Machines section, with 23 years as director, (James) Siciliano is retiring. His last day to report to work is June 29.” (Sapia, Asbury Park Press)