After facing questions about accepting trips paid for by banking industry lobbyists at Tuesday night’s district 39 legislative candidate debate, state Sen. Gerald Cardinale ran out of time before he could bring up an issue about his opponent, Joe Ariyan.
Ariyan, Cardinale said the next day, had billed $150 for travel from his Hackensack Office to New Milford during one day in his role as the county’s Public Advocate for Land Use, in addition to being paid $375 with a meeting at a Senior Citizen center about a proposed juvenile detention facility in Paramus.
“I think that is kind of disingenuous when he is criticizing me (for the trips),” said Cardinale, who said the money came from taxpayers. “I don’t know how you spend $150 in travel expenses from anywhere in Bergen County to New Milford.”
Cardinale further insinuated that the Public Advocate for Land Use was a job with few responsibilities that “could be little more than a helpful credential for an aspiring machine politician,” according to a document he showed PoliticsNJ.com. The document cites quotes from former Republican Freeholder Lisa Randall saying at a Freeholder Board meeting that she was concerned that Ariyan did not have the ability to advocate for Bergen County interests on the Xanadu Project in the Meadowlands.
Cardinale said that he was unsure that attending meetings like the one in New Milford was within the scope of Ariyan’s contract.
“It seems to me as I read the minutes of the board of freeholders that most of these billings are questionable in terms of the scope of the work that he was engaged to do. I may be misreading it, but I don’t think so,” said Cardinale.
But according to Ariyan spokesman Brian Hague, the $150 in question was not strictly for a travel reimbursement, but rather for an hour of work that included travel and reviewing a letter between County Executive Dennis McNerney and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Moreover, Hague said, Ariyan’s position is not paid with taxpayer money, but from a fund made up of application fees that developers pay to the county planning board.
“Maybe Gerry didn’t want to point out that this was set up specifically so that the taxpayers would be protected by the attorney, but would not have to pay the attorney,” said Hague.