NJVOTERS SAY LAUTENBERG IS TOO OLD
The majority of New Jersey’s registered voters think that Frank Lautenberg is too old to serve another term as Senator, according to a poll released today.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 54 percent of New Jersey voters say the 83-year-old senior Senator is “too old to effectively serve another six-year term as U.S. Senator.” And while the Lautenberg’s approval remains favorable, 41 to 32 percent, only 31 percent of voters said that he “deserves to be reelected,” while 42% said he does not. (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)http://www.politicsnj.com/new-jersey-voters-say-lautenberg-too-old-10160
NEW JERSEY VOTERS CAN’T SEEM TO MAKE UP THEIR MINDS ABOUT LAUTENBERG
Lautenberg’s potential Republican opponents see the poll as further evidence of the elder statesman’s vulnerability. But if Democrats have any misgiving about the numbers – either those of the poll or the accumulated years in Lautenberg’s age — they’re hiding it well. After all, New Jersey voters have not elected a Republican Senator since Clifford Case won his 1972 re-election bid. Only two other states – West Virginia and Hawaii – have gone longer without electing a Republican Senator.
“It certainly looks like there’s an opportunity that Frank Lautenberg can be beat,” said Assemblyman Michael Doherty, who has formed an exploratory committee to run next year. “If I’m an incumbent and I’ve been in office for 25 years and only 31% of people think I deserve to be reelected, I’d be scratching my head and saying ‘maybe I’m going to get beat,” said Doherty, one of the legislature’s most conservative members.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
LEASING TALK TAKES TOLL ON CORZINE
Gov. Jon Corzine’s approval rating took a dip in the latest Quinnipiac University poll released this morning, and Republicans are saying it’s hard not to pinpoint the governor’s ideas on asset monetization as the chief reason.
According to the poll, New Jersey voters approve 48 – 39 % of the job Corzine is doing, compared to 51 – 36 % April 18. In this latest survey, Republicans disapprove of the Governor 60 – 28 %, while Democrats approve 64 – 22 % and independent voters approve 45 – 41 %.
“Support for leasing the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway (asset monetization) is slim, dropping to 31 percent in the latest poll while 54 percent disapprove,” pollster Clay Richards added.
Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson quickly made the link.
“The two things are tied together,” Wilson said. “People expected Jon Corzine to be up front and honest. He hasn’t been up front about his dealings with (union president) Carla Katz, and he hasn’t been up front and honest about leasing of state assets. People know they can’t sell their own house to themselves and walk away with cash. They know this is the latest in a long string of one-shot gimmicks.” (Pizarro, PoltiicsNJ.com)
“Gov. Jon Corzine asserted in a Mercer County court filing yesterday his e-mail exchanges with labor leader and one-time paramour Carla Katz during recent state worker contract negotiations are not subject to disclosure under the state’s open records law. “The contents of the requested e-mail exchanges are either entirely private,” according to papers submitted by the Attorney General’s office, “or contain exchanges of information … that are protected from disclosure by the long-standing executive privilege.”
Corzine has previously acknowledged there were e-mail exchanges, but has denied they involved state business. The court filing late yesterday was a formal response to the lawsuit filed last month by Tom Wilson, the state Republican committee chairman. Wilson filed suit after the Corzine administration denied requests by Wilson and several media outlets to release the e-mail records under the state’s Open Public Records Act.
In his “answer” to Wilson’s lawsuit, Corzine acknowledged he and chief of staff Tom Shea had exchanged e-mail with Katz on private campaign e-mail accounts as well as on state of New Jersey e-mail accounts. The e-mails in question were exchanged during the period when the state was negotiating a new contract with 40,000 state workers. Katz is a local president of one of the three unions involved in those talks.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
LAUTENBERG FACING KING LEAR QUESTION
”First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1982 after hinting that 72-year-old Rep. Millicent Fenwick was too old to serve effectively, Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg is now facing some of the same skepticism in his 2008 re-election bid. More than half of New Jersey voters — 54 percent — said the 83-year-old may be too old to serve a fifth six-year term, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. And 42 percent of those surveyed said Lautenberg doesn’t deserve to be re-elected.
Obviously if the Republicans got a strong candidate into the race, Lautenberg could be in real trouble,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. But Richards added that “a strong challenger has yet to appear.”
Assemblyman Michael Doherty (R-Warren) and millionaire real estate developer Anne Evans Eastabrook are said to be considering runs, but have not yet formally declared their candidacy. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this poll stirs a few people up,” state Republican committee chairman Tom Wilson said.
Lautenberg already has announced he will seek re-election and has begun putting together a campaign staff. His campaign launched its official Web site (www.lautenbergfornj.com) yesterday, but campaign staff said Lautenberg was unavailable to speak with a reporter. “The issue is effectiveness, not age,” said Steve DeMicco, the political consultant whom Lautenberg’s campaign has hired. DeMicco cited Lautenberg’s vocal opposition to President Bush’s veto of embryonic stem cell research legislation, his opposition to oil drilling off the Atlantic coast and his demand to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
AND ON DECK: THE GOP
“WASHINGTON Three Republicans have emerged as potential challengers to U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg next year. But the four-term Democrat has raised more than $1.1 million for his reelection in the past three months, and Lautenberg has more than $2.9 million in cash on hand, according to his campaign.”
Assemblyman Michael R. Doherty, a lawyer and West Point graduate from Warren County, is weighing a bid for the GOP nomination. If Doherty runs, he said he would call for tougher border enforcement, push for the development of domestic energy resources and oppose the deployment of U.S. military personnel into nation-building missions.
“If Iraq is truly a national security threat to the United States, then maybe action should have been taken. But it has gone woefully wrong now in this nation-building exercise,” Doherty said Monday.
“I don’t care, and I don’t think most Americans care, what kind of government Iraq has, whether it’s a democracy or a dictatorship,” added Doherty, a 44-year-old lawyer who has three sons serving in the U.S. military. “It’s not our role to establish governments around the world. People in those countries have to take over and establish their own governments.” Doherty is seeking reelection to his Assembly seat this year. If he were to enter the U.S. Senate race in 2008, he would do so without giving up his state job in Trenton.
Anne Evans Estabrook, former president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and first woman to hold that job, has retained Larry Weitzner, president of Jamestown Associates, to explore whether she could mount a credible bid for the Republican nomination. Estabrook, 62, has never sought public office. Her personal wealth may encourage Republicans to back her campaign.
New Jersey Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio, a 52-year-old dentist from Morris County, is running for a seat in the New Jersey state Senate. But Pennacchio, R-Morris, may also run for Lautenberg’s job next year. Pennacchio says he would push for Iraqi officials and Arab leaders to assume responsibility for securing Iraq, target additional homeland security funding towards New Jersey, and develop domestic energy resources. He also would seek health insurance coverage for all children in the United States.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)
JUROR SAYS SENATOR PLAYED NO SPECIAL ROLE
“A sixth juror on a slip-and-fall trial last year told a judge on Monday that she has no memory of jury foreman state Sen. Robert Martin explaining legal concepts or playing a special role in deliberations, except as foreman. Former juror Nidia Baltodano was the last of six jurors to be called before state Superior Court Judge W. Hunt Dumont for questioning on what influence, if any, that Martin, R-Morris Plains, had on deliberations that ended in an $876,000 award in June 2006 to a woman who fell at the ShopRite in Wharton in 2002.
Martin testified last week, along with four other jurors, and conceded that he may have overstated his importance when he described himself in a legal article as being “extremely influential” and called on to explain abstract legal concepts in the jury room. Martin is an attorney and a Seton Hall University School of Law professor. Martin’s article about his jury service appeared in the Dec. 4 edition of the New Jersey Law Journal, while the jury award to Joyce Barber, who now uses her maiden name of Reynolds, was under appeal.
ShopRite lawyer Robert Gold brought Martin’s article to the attention of the state appellate division, which ordered Dumont to examine Martin and jurors to see whether any misconduct occurred. Jurors are supposed to receive legal instructions only from the judge, not from each other.” (Wright, Daily Record)
“Bergen County did not have to look far to find its new voices in Trenton and Washington, recently awarding a $120,000 lobbying contract to a firm headed by the former executive director of NJ Transit. Several months ago, George Warrington announced he would leave his job to form a company with the state’s former transportation commissioner, Jamie Fox. As expected, the close friends are now trading on their long careers in public service. Bergen County became their first public-sector client when the county approved its no-bid contract with them on June 20.
We have a pretty unique footprint in the area of transportation policy,” said Eric Shuffler, the firm’s third partner and a former top gubernatorial aide. If the arrangement works as planned, Bergen County will get a return on its investment. Lobbying for state and federal dollars will be a priority, Shuffler said.“Clearly, there are federal dollars we can go after,” said Shuffler, a former top aide to New Jersey governors, who grew up in Ramsey.
“There is no lack of funding issues and funding opportunities.”Farouk Ahmad, the county’s director of planning and economic development, said he was “thrilled” that the firm responded to the county’s request for consultants. County officials were disappointed with their previous attempts to secure federal money, Ahmad said, adding that Warrington and Fox are “the best. …The more you squeak, the more you get grease,” Ahmad added.” (Michaels and Carmiel, Bergen Record)
PAY TO SAY
“A small South Jersey city trampled the free-speech rights of a farmworkers group by charging it $1,500 for holding an immigrant-rights rally, parties allege in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday in Camden. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the Farmworkers Support Committee contend that Bridgeton, Cumberland County, unjustly charged the farmworkers for the May 1 march.
This fee amounts to a user’s tax on free speech and that is unconstitutional,” said ACLU-NJ attorney Frank Corrado, who also is representing the Farmworkers’ Support Committee.
Bridgeton is responsible for providing police and other government services for all uses of its public streets, including marches and parades, he said of the city of 23,000. “Imposition of these fees will mean that only the wealthy will be afforded the right to speak out on issues, and our Constitution thankfully forbids that,” Corrado said.
The group, which advocates human rights for migrant and immigrant workers, rallied in Bridgeton this year and last year. The city didn’t charge the group in 2006, according to the suit. The city initially demanded $2,000 up front from the group for the rally this year, according to the suit, but dropped that requirement after negotiations with the group. The city sent a bill for $1,500 several weeks after the march. The group asked for the bill to be withdrawn, but the city declined in a June 12 letter.” (Hester, AP)
ELVIS IMPERSONATOR “ALL SHOOK UP”
“A Bayonne man known as an Elvis Presley impersonator is due in Municipal Court Aug. 27 to explain to a judge why he alleged to city police that his then-employer, Councilman Anthony Chiappone, had forged his name on a $200 check, and then later retracted the claim. Michael Albanese said he was mistaken after Bayonne police questioned him further about contradictory statements he made about the incident.
Albanese, 67, of Avenue C, was due in court yesterday to answer a disorderly person charge of hindering apprehension, but the case was postponed to next month, court staffers said. Albanese was originally charged with filing a false report but that was apparently administratively downgraded to a disorderly person offense.
Albanese’s attorney, William Ware, reached at his Morristown law office, said, “the entire situation got blown out of proportion,” referring to a columnist’s May 14 account of the episode that quoted Chiappone’s wife, Diane, as saying she’d mistakenly deposited the check in her husband’s account and accused Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr. of putting Albanese up to filing a false claim against her husband, who had employed Albanese as an aide when Chiappone was serving in the Assembly. Doria has denied the accusation.” (Leir, Jersey Journal)
JUST GIMMEE MONEY!
“Voters in New Jersey support by a more than 2 to 1 margin using last year’s increase in the sales tax to offset property taxes, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. Support for dedicating the sales tax totaled 66 percent and crossed party, demographic and geographic lines. The issue ultimately will be decided in a referendum on the November ballot.
“Voters have gotten a taste of property tax relief and are clearly saying they want more by dedicating all of last year’s (1-cent) state sales tax hike to sweeten the pot,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
LATINOS TARGET AMBOY CHIEF
“Members from nine local and state organizations plan to march through downtown Perth Amboy tomorrow night to call for the resignation of Police Chief Michael Kohut after a jury awarded a Mexican-American officer $1.9 million in damages for racial harassment he suffered while on duty.
The civil trial verdict in May in favor of Guadalupe Munoz, the city’s first Mexican-American officer, highlighted remarks Kohut made in 2005 during a police department training session suggesting Mexicans were thieves and members of a notorious street gang. The city has appealed the verdict.
Hispanic leaders took to the streets in protest, calling for Ko hut’s resignation when his comments were first made public in 2005. The police chief later apologized to Munoz, the department and the community. The recent trial, however, brought a renewed focus on the incident, leaders of to morrow’s protest said.
Felix Flores Jr., director of the Middlesex County chapter of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, said Kohut should be held accountable following the $1.9 million verdict. Perth Amboy Council President Peter Jimenez has called for a review of the police department based on testimony given during the trial.
The protest is slated to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Perth Amboy train station on Elm Street, then move down Smith Street toward High Street. The procession will stop in front of city hall, at which point leaders of the various groups, many of which are Hispanic, will take turns speaking. Organizers said they are expecting at least 100 people.” (Steele, Star-Ledger)
THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED?
“A documentary examining the 1967 disturbances in Newark airs tonight on PBS, but the film’s debut is not without some controversy in the state’s largest city. While “Revolution’67” has been screened at various venues in Newark without concerns raised, including a sold-out show at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, it was at a recent showing at the Newark Museum that some audience members were critical of filmmakers Jerome Bongiorno and Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno relying heavily on interviews with white activists.
The sticking point comes with commentary from Tom Hayden, former president of the Students for a Democratic Society, which organized protests in the city with the Newark Community Union Project.
“The way the film is structured in the beginning gives way too much prominence to Tom Hayden and his group as though the black masses were waiting for these white saviors,” said Richard Cammarieri, director of special projects for a community development corporation in Newark. Cammarieri, however, said that flaw should not overshadow the historical context of the film, which he feels captures the causes leading up to the civil unrest. “Nineteen sixty-seven was not the cause of Newark’s deterioration,” he said. “It was the result of years of disinvestment that was all racially targeted.”” (Carter, Star-Ledger)
THE WALK FOR UNDERSTANDING
“They were the first marchers to reach the corner of Springfield Avenue and Bergen Street, and they did so side by side. Hugh Addonizio, Newark’s embattled mayor, and Willie Wright, president of the United Afro-American Association, were leaders who had seldom found a commonality of purpose until that day. What followed them was no less remarkable: a column of humanity — part white, part black — stretching through the ghettos of Newark for a mile and a half. Estimates put the crowd at 25,000.
It took 45 minutes for the marchers, moving 10 abreast, to file through the intersection of Springfield and Bergen. It was Palm Sunday 1968, three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King. In other cities, that tragedy provoked looting and violence. In Newark, it led to the “Walk for Understanding,” a peace march that profoundly contrasted with what happened the summer before, when rioting led to 26 deaths and $10 million in damage.
“In 1967, it just seemed like there was no real leadership in the community,” said Claude Coleman, then a Newark police officer, now a Superior Court judge. “In 1968, it was different. There were leaders who stepped up. Everyone had learned something from 1967, and they weren’t going to let it happen again.” The effort began in the hours immediately following King’s death, as talk of rioting reverberated around a nervous city.
Police Director Dominick Spina convened an emergency meeting between black and white community leaders, men like radical playwright Amiri Baraka (the former LeRoi Jones) and North Ward vigilante patrol boss Tony Imperiale, men who had never before shared a room. The results surprised everyone. “It was kind of strained at the beginning,” Spina told The Star-Ledger at the time. “At the end we were all calling each other by first names.”
Addonizio, whose reaction to reports of trouble in 1967 had been to downplay and demur, also reacted quickly. He declared a day of mourning, took a walking tour of the Central Ward, then plunged himself into a series of meetings with the black leaders of the United Community Corporation, Newark’s anti-poverty agency.” (Parks, Star-Ledger)
DEFRAUDER GOES POSTAL
“A former supervisor of more than 75 post offices in New Jersey yesterday admitted steering contracts to private businesses in return for cash and other favors and also to getting an employee to do work at his home. John F. Balliro, 51, of Hamburg entered his plea to a count of conspiracy to defraud before U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler in Newark, also noting he agreed to cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation of the case.
A onetime postmaster in Newton and Elizabeth, Balliro faces up to five years in prison and a fine ranging to $250,000. He also could be ordered to make restitution. The extent of his cooperation could be a factor in his punishment. In pleading guilty, Balliro acknowledged steering plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work at various postal facilities to an unnamed HVAC business in Pennsylvania between 1998 and 2004, getting payoffs of between $100 and $400 for each job.
He told Chesler he also steered contracts for cleaning and maintaining Postal Service vehicles to an unidentified car wash and repair business between 1998 and 2003. In court papers, the work was valued at $600,000 or more, and the beneficiary was listed as operating in Newton. In return, Balliro said he accepted free auto repairs for himself and his family, a free car for his son and $2,500 in cash that was put toward his daughter’s wedding. Balliro also admitted having a postal employee do carpentry at his “personal residences” between 1996 and 2002 while the worker was on Postal Service time. The specifics of the work were not given, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joyce Malliet declined to comment after the hearing,” (Sterling, Star-Ledger)
CAPTIONS NOT PICTURES
“A person or group calling itself the Committee to Save Miss America was behind an alleged blackmail threat demanding Miss New Jersey relinquish her crown, a spokesman for the pageant said Monday.
Mark Soifer, public relations director for Miss New Jersey and a member of its board of directors, said private photographs of Amy Polumbo at the center of the controversy did not show “anything terrible” and appear to have been taken out of context. “From what I’ve seen of the pictures, (Polumbo and her friends) were having some fun,” Soifer said. “It’s like a typical school party, nothing out of the ordinary. She’s completely clothed, there’s no nudity.
What bothered Soifer was not the content of the pictures, he said, but rather the accompanying captions — added by the alleged blackmailer who retrieved the photos from Polumbo’s page on the social-networking Web site Facebook.
Soifer said the captions were nothing more than “deliberate attempts to make them look worse than they were.”” (Van Embden, Press of Atlantic City)
MOUNT LAUREL JUDGE RETIRES
“When Assignment Judge Eugene Serpentelli recently packed up his gavel carved from 400-year-old cedar, he was storing away more than his nearly three decades of memories on the bench in Ocean County. The longest-serving assignment judge in New Jersey’s judiciary, Serpentelli was bundling up years of affordable housing decisions, divorces, naturalizations and adoptions that came to define a career built on a series of accidents. Reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges in New Jersey, Serpentelli stepped down last Tuesday from a job he entered through a series of happy coincidences.
In his last year of law school, he happened to meet then-New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Weintraub, who offered him a year-long clerkship. Serpentelli’s landlord introduced him to the Point Pleasant attorney who gave him his first job. After 15 years of private practice, then-Democratic state Sen. John Russo offered Serpentelli, who didn’t travel in political circles, a Superior Court judgeship in 1978. Seven years later, then the newest judge on the bench in Ocean County, Serpentelli was made assignment judge, a position he has held ever since.
If Serpentelli, a Brick Township resident who is joining a mediation firm, fell into some of his jobs, he was deliberate about how he did them. He’s best known for helping implement the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions concerning affordable housing. One of three judges selected statewide to oversee local housing plans, Serpentelli played a powerful role in court-generated land-use policy — one that he says has largely been a failure.” (Spoto, Star-Ledger)
HARD-BOILED JUDGE TENDER IN RETIREMENT
“His legendary style on the bench can be described as energetic, demanding and direct — balanced with compassion, fairness and dedication to the law. But another side of Superior Court Judge Alexander D. Lehrer emerged during a recent interview about his retirement: teary-eyed.
It happened when Lehrer, the presiding judge of the chancery division, recalled a conversation about a month ago with a man who visited his courtroom and asked to speak to him. Years ago, Lehrer had interviewed his visitor as a 5-year-old as part of his family’s court case. The man said Lehrer had changed his life because he had restored stability to the family.
“He came back and thanked me,” said Lehrer, his eyes momentarily welling up.
At 62, Lehrer, who has served as a Superior Court judge in Monmouth County for 23 years, is moving on. His retirement is official on Aug. 1, when he will assume a new position as a senior vice president and chief risk officer for Meridian Health, a nonprofit health care provider. There, he’ll oversee risk management and insurance policy, direct safety initiatives and manage insurance and liability problems, he said.” (Sudol, Asbury Park Press)
VICTIMS OF INCOMPETENCE
“In the past six years, the New Jersey prison system has failed to deliver nearly $1 million to the victims of criminal offenders because they had moved and the department could not find them, a state audit released yesterday found. Instead, the money collected from inmates as part of their court- ordered sentences remained in a Department of Corrections ac count, State Auditor Richard Fair wrote. He said $178,000 from the account was used for an unauthorized computer upgrade.
The audit does not explain how the unauthorized tap of the victim restitution fund occurred two years ago, nor why it was not uncovered by prison officials. But once auditors brought it to the department’s attention, Corrections repaid the money and promised to review transactions monthly to ensure it doesn’t happen again, the audit noted.
Corrections also sent the entire $996,000 it had collected from in mates to the state treasury in January as unclaimed property, as mandated by state law when funds remain undeliverable for more than a year. The department plans to work with the courts and criminal prosecutors to do a better job lo cating victims or their kin, the audit said.
Victims’ advocate Richard Pompelio said the audit shows the state needs to do a much better job of lo cating the victims of crimes and should explore whether the money would be better spent by sending it to the state Victims of Crime Compensation Board or to victims’ groups. But, he said, the sad reality is that it can be a difficult job.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
IN THE WAITING ROOM
“The deadline to complete a report on a proposal to merge Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has been delayed until December. State lawmakers who have been studying the potential benefits of restructuring the state’s research universities have a four-month extension to issue recommendations on the complex proposal.
Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, and Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, announced they gave a legislative task force more time to complete a report due by August. “There’s no reason to rush an issue of this magnitude,” Codey said in a prepared statement. Lawmakers sought the extension, citing the recent arrival of UMDNJ President Dr. William Owen and the diversity of financial, technical and administrative issues in a reorganization.” (Greenblatt, Courier-Post)
CASE JOLTS NEW AG
“When Maplewood police shot a knife-wielding schizophrenic outside his home late last month, the incident raised questions about whether officers answering a medical call could have found other ways to subdue the man short of using deadly force. One choice the officers did not have was the use of a stun gun or Taser because New Jersey is the only state that prohibits police from using such “less-lethal” weapons. They might have used other less-lethal weapons, such as beanbag shotguns or rubber bullets, but the department does not have that equipment……………… The Legislature passed a bill in 2006 that empowered the state Attorney General’s Office to study the use of less-lethal weapons. But Sklar and others say the study never materialized because of the frequent turnover in attorneys general.
Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the office, said the new attorney general, Anne Milgram, planned to move ahead with the study and would get input from outside law enforcement and mental health personnel. He said the office is also studying issues not covered in the bill, such as the ban on police use of Tasers. “The new attorney general has made this a priority,” he said.
The office disclosed its intention to study such weapons after the Willingboro shooting, but Aseltine said no particular incident had influenced Milgram’s thinking on the issue. In every other state, police have one or more less-lethal weapons in their arsenal. Most are permitted to use Tasers, which are small guns that fire electric darts attached to wires that reach up to 35 feet. The electric jolt immobilizes the suspect.” (Kleinknecht, Star-Ledger)
“New Jersey Highlands Council officials said Monday that the departure of Steven Balzano as the council’s director of science and planning will not hamper the effort to create a master plan for the vast region.
Highlands Council Executive Director Eileen Swan, in response to a question about Balzano’s status, said Monday, “Is Steve Balzano on the staff? The answer is no.” Swan said it is the policy of the council not to discuss personnel issues. She said the residents of the state should be assured that the council will continue its mission to deliver a comprehensive master plan for the 860,000-acre Highlands region which includes large sections of Morris, Sussex and Warren counties.
Balzano came to the council staff in 2003 with 22 years of experience in natural resource management, environmental regulation and land-use planning, according to biographical information posted on the Highland Council Web site. His departure follows by four months the exit of Dante DiPerro, the council’s second executive director, who resigned in March. DiPerro was in the post about a year, having replaced the agency’s initial executive director Adam Zellner. Swan was appointed executive director in April.” (Daigle, Daily Record)
MAYOR IRKED BY CATCALLS
“A borough man who invited Mayor Kenneth E. Pringle for a drink after mistaking him for a woman, and got a summons for disorderly behavior instead, will have to wait for his day in court. Just before the close of business Monday, Monmouth County and Lake Como court officials announced that the case would be rescheduled for 9 a.m. July 24. The hearing was postponed from Monday morning after Lake Como Prosecutor Kimberley Casten recused herself from the case, citing a conflict of interest in the matter, according to officials.
The hearing had been moved to Lake Como in order to avoid a conflict. As mayor, Pringle, 49, a Democrat, nominated Belmar’s judge, its prosecutor and public defender. Court officials did not specify the nature of Casten’s conflict; however, the former Brick councilwoman is a Democratic appointee. An alternate prosecutor will be selected.
Pringle and his wife, Kathleen T. Ellis, who served as former Gov. James E. McGreevey’s communications director, were riding their bicycles through town about 10:30 p.m. on June 2 when a voice from the darkness called out, “Hey girls, stop and have a drink!” The voice belonged to Peter Bogdanowicz, 29, an electrical engineer at Fort Monmouth, who was seated with a friend on the front porch of the house he shares year-round with three roommates on A Street.
Pringle, who was not amused, circled about and pulled up in front of Bogdanowicz’s stoop to admonish him about making such “catcalls.” Bogdanowicz, who did not recognize the mayor and said he had genuinely mistaken Pringle for a woman, was unapologetic at the time. After Bogdanowicz asked Pringle to leave, a verbal altercation ensued in which Pringle called borough police, who then charged Bogdanowicz with disorderly behavior, a violation that carries a $250 to $350 fine.” (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)
“New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families is instructing agencies linked to the state’s child welfare system to come to the aid of children whose parents are targeted in immigration raids. In a recent letter to agencies that work with the department, Commissioner Kevin Ryan said: “I am disturbed by stories presented to me about families being torn apart and children who are being left behind, sometimes on their own, due to surprise raids where parents are being detained and perhaps deported.”
Immigration officials wouldn’t comment specifically on Ryan’s letter, but said they take special care in cases involving children.
“Detainees are given numerous opportunities to advise officials of unattended dependents or any other family concerns,” officials with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement in Newark said in a statement Monday.
Officers then have the discretion to release an immigrant identified as a child’s sole caregiver, the statement said. Frequently, officials said, immigration officers do not take both parents; often, the mother stays with the children.
Mary Helen Cervantes, a spokeswoman for DCF, said her agency — formerly called DYFS — hasn’t had direct experience with children involved in an immigration raid. But she said the letter was prompted by concerns voiced by school officials, immigration advocates and others and was meant to set policy.New Jersey has an estimated half-million undocumented immigrants — one of the highest such populations in the United States.
Immigration arrests in the state have more than doubled in the last two years. From May 2006 to this May, immigration agents arrested 1,772 people living in New Jersey illegally. The year before, federal agents arrested 860 in New Jersey. Of ICE’s 24 field offices, only one in Los Angeles and another in Miami surpassed the Newark district in the number of arrests.” (Llorente, Bergen Record)
BABY WE WERE BORN TO BE PUT UP ON BLOCKS
“Off-road vehicle riders who break the law by driving on public land could have their vehicles impounded and their licenses suspended under a bill proposed by a Mercer County legislator and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, Washington Township.
The proposal, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, comes a few months after the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and at least 70 New Jersey mayors signed a letter urging legislators to develop new laws against the illegal use of all-terrain vehicles, known as ATVs or ORVs. The bill, A-4172, would also require that ATVs display registration tags a crucial element of enforcement, said Carlton Montgomery, executive director the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “One of the big problems is that off-road vehicle riders are very hard to catch, so a policeman has to physically stop them to know who it is,” Montgomery said.
The Preservation Alliance members believe that the legislation would deter riders from illegal free-wheeling and decrease the damage that has been done in the Pine Barrens an illegal but popular spot for riders, Montgomery said.” (Beym, Gloucester County Times)
“MADISON — A rousing session of theorizing and crystal ball gazing on America’s role in global politics was held at the Madison Public Library on Monday afternoon…………Douglas Simon, professor emeritus of political science at Drew University, spoke with the authority and fluency lent by a lifetime spent at the lectern.
“The United States has to learn she has peers,” he said early, as he described shifting global power. America would continue to be the strongest country in the world for another decade or so, but China and India were looming large, and Russia may soon be roaring back, he said.
The blistering pace of booms in China and India, coupled with hostile neighbors, may affect their political stability in unexpected ways, posing a potential threat that the United States may have to contend with in the future, Simon said. A nuclear-proliferated environment posed further threat — there now are eight nuclear states in the world, with more showing the inclination to acquire a nuclear arsenal, he said.” (Padmanabhan, Daily Record)
COUNCILWOMAN SURRENDERS LEGAL BATTLE
“WASHINGTON TWP. — Township Councilwoman Michelle Martin dropped her appeal of an ethics complaint after more than three years of waiting for an administrative hearing. Martin dropped the appeal on June 28, one day before the matter was to be heard by state Office of Administrative Law Judge Jeff S. Masin in Trenton.”At this point, it has been three years,” Martin said. “What’s the point in continuing to fight a battle?”
Martin requested a hearing before one of the state’s administrative law judges in 2005 after the state’s Local Finance Board determined she violated New Jersey’s Local Government Ethics Law by voting in support of appointing Charles Billing-ham as chief of the township police department.
The board claimed Martin should have abstained from voting in the matter because her husband, Paul, is a township officer and president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 318, one of the department’s two unions.” (Huelsman, Courier-Post)
“An administrative law judge ruled yesterday that Middletown Township’s suspended school superintendent should be deprived of six months’ pay, but not be fired, for conduct unbecoming his office. The decision is the latest development in a long-running battle between the Middletown Board of Education and its ousted schools chief, David L. Witmer. It is considered a recommendation, and now goes to state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy for a final order.
Witmer, 69, a former superintendent in the East Windsor Regional School district, was midway through his employment contract when the Middletown school board suspended him, with pay, on Feb. 1, 2006. The board charged him with improperly padding the personal and vacation leave that went with his $176,000 job. It also charged him with deceiving the board.
Witmer was replaced with an interim superintendent, but continues to get paid. His employment contract runs through June 2008.
Both sides claimed yesterday’s ruling dealt them partial victories.” (Patterson, Star-Ledger)
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
“BARNEGAT — The state commissioner of education has been given a 20-day extension by the state administrative law division to make a final decision on the future of Board of Education member Robert Houser…………….Judge John R. Tassini ruled May 23 that Houser must be removed from his position on the board because of a conflict of interest that arose when his wife filed a workman’s compensation suit May 25, 2005, against the district. After the ruling, Davy had 45 days to either adopt, modify or reject the ruling.
“Consistent with the statutes and the circumstances of this case, the respondent was not qualified for election, his election must be declared null and void, and he must be removed from BOE membership,” Tassini said in the ruling.
During 2005, Houser’s wife, a licensed practical nurse in the district, had filed a workman’s compensation claim against the school board. This claim went to workers’ compensation court. The claim has since been withdrawn, according to the judge’s ruling.
Thomas C. McMahon, superintendent of the district, said that he was disappointed by the postponement of the final ruling. “I thought that a ruling today from the state would close the book on this latest chapter of irregularities on this board of education,” McMahon said. “The 20-day extension, it seems, will allow this disarray to further intrude upon the work of this board.”” (Huba, Gannett)
“After little more than a year on the job, the Kinnelon borough administrator has resigned and will receive nearly $45,000 as part of an agreement with the borough. John Pavlik, 55, left the administrator’s post in late June but will continue to receive his $116,000 annual salary through Sept. 30, Borough Clerk Beth Sebrowski said yesterday.
Pavlik also will be paid for 36 days of vacation, sick and personal time accrued as if he worked through the end of the year, according to his agreement with the borough. Pavlik started in May 2006, be coming Kinnelon’s first administrator in about 30 years. He was charged with running day-to-day operations in the borough of about 9,300 people.
But the mayor and the six- member council had a tough time adjusting to the new administrator position, Pavlik and Sebrowski said.” (Alloway, Star-Ledger)
THE OLD STUMBLING BLOCK
“ATLANTIC CITY — The same school board Cornell Davis once ran may be obstructing his chances of winning his retrial on state bribery charges. The board seems unwilling to pay potential private-attorney fees Davis would incur if he wins his retrial, despite district statutes that require otherwise.
After enduring a mistrial last spring alongside his public defender, Eileen LaBarre, Davis had hopes of retaining city attorney James Leonard to retry his case, which includes two bribery charges, one attempt and one successful solicitation. Davis was indicted on both charges while president of the board.
“It wasn’t a victory, but I got a hung jury and I did that with the public defender’s office,” said Davis, reached on his cell phone Monday. “It doesn’t mean that she’s not qualified, but there’s only so much to put into my case.” Davis’ hopes of hiring Leonard hinge on a statute that allows the reimbursement of legal fees to exonerated school officials. But a letter to Leonard from board Solicitor John Comegno advised that the board was unable to provide a commitment to pay fees and expenses.” (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
“CHESTER TWP. — The effort to fill an unexpired term on the township council has been put on hold, pending a July 30 hearing in Superior Court. Judge B. Theodore Bozonelis, sitting in Morristown, issued a temporary restraining order Friday that holds in place the Township Council’s right to pick from three Republican nominees to replace Mayor Bill Cogger.
Cogger was picked by his fellow council members on June to complete the term of former Mayor Benjamin Spinelli, who left the post in May when he was appointed director of the state Office of Smart Growth. Cogger’s term as mayor ends in December. By law, the Chester Township Republican Committee can submit three names for consideration by the council to fill Cogger’s council term, which ends in December 2009.” (Daigle, Daily Record)http://www.dailyrecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070710/COMMUNITIES11/707100352/1203/NEWS01