Today’s News from PoliticsNJ.com

THE OLD BATTLER

“By the time Sen. Strom Thurmond retired from the Senate in 2003, he was 100 years old and could barely sit upright in his chair. New Jersey voters apparently don't want to see Sen. Frank Lautenberg follow that example. In a Quinnipiac poll released this week, 54 percent said it's time for him to hang it up and come home. But at age 83, Lautenberg is showing no sign of yielding. He says he is definitely running for re-election in 2008 for another six-year term, like it or not. That would make him 90 years old at the end of the term.

"My blood pressure this morning was 126 over 68," he says. "I can send you a copy of the colonoscopy I just took. It's really something to admire."
For now, let's take his word for it.
Lautenberg is having fun these days. Democrats are back in the majority, and that means he has some power again, just like old times. The Senate recently passed a bill he wrote providing tax credits for energy-efficient buildings. And a Senate subcommittee just approved an overhaul of Amtrak that he co-wrote, which is expected to pass.
"I've never been in a better position than I am now to make a difference," Lautenberg says. Still, there is no avoiding the question of age. Lautenberg may be on his game today, but he would be serving until age 90. A lot could go wrong.” (Moran, Star-Ledger)

WILSON IRATE OVER E-MAILS

“The chairman of the state Republican Party yesterday demanded that Gov. Jon Corzine ex plain why he and a top aide have been using campaign e-mail ac counts to conduct state business, and whether the public record is being properly preserved.

Corzine acknowledged in court documents filed late Monday in Mercer County that he and his chief of staff, Tom Shea, used private campaign e-mail accounts as well as public state e-mail accounts to communicate with labor leader Carla Katz during negotiations over a new state worker contract earlier this year.
"It's an amazing revelation," Republican state chairman Tom Wilson said of the private e-mail ac count. "I'm not aware of any other governor who set up such a parallel universe."
A similar issue arose in Washington in recent months as congressional investigators learned that President Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and dozens of other White House aides routinely used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts and that many of their messages were lost or destroyed. Democrats al leged the accounts were used to avoid oversight and accountability. Corzine has refused to make public any of his e-mail exchanges with Katz, his former girlfriend. In response to a lawsuit brought by Wilson, the governor filed papers Monday arguing that the messages on both accounts are either private or are protected from public disclo sure by executive privilege.
Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton yesterday insisted there was nothing nefarious in the use of the votecorzine.org campaign e- mail accounts. "We went out of our way to ensure taxpayers were not footing the bill for any e-mails that could remotely be construed as political," she said. (Howlett, Star-Ledger)

JAMES TENDS TO NEST EGG

“Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, the target of a federal corruption investigation, has withdrawn close to half of a $1.1 million nest egg built up in his retirement account at Essex County College, where he was athletic director more than two decades ago. James removed $500,000 from the public teacher's retirement account last Friday, taking a check for $402,479 and setting aside the rest to cover taxes on the withdrawal, state Treasury Department spokesman Tom Vincz said.
James, 71, has another $629,000 in the college's Alternate Benefits Program, a 401(k)-style plan that was filled up with contributions matched by Essex County College while James taught there between 1969 and 1986, state Treasury Department records show. He can apply to withdraw all or part of that balance at any time, Vincz said.

Before becoming mayor of Newark 21 years ago, James served as the college's athletic director. College officials kept a job open for him while he was mayor by voting every four years to extend an ongoing leave of absence to the mayor. James returned to the college last year to serve as head of a newly created Urban Affairs Institute. He retired from that post last month.
In addition to the teacher's retirement account, James is collecting a $124,654 annual pension from the City of Newark, where he was mayor from 1986 to 2006. He still earns $49,000 a year as a state senator, where he has served since 2000. James declined to seek re-election this year and is scheduled to leave the Senate seat, his last remaining public office, when his term expires in January. He would then be eligible for a special legislator's pension of about $12,000 a year, based on his eight years in office.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)

RIVERA-SOTO OPPONENT STILL FUMING


“The high school dispute that led to an embarrassing ethics complaint against New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto appears over. But the legal case winds on, as Rivera-Soto awaits whether his fellow justices will punish him over accusations that he improperly used his title to help his son in a dispute with the captain of the Haddonfield Memorial High School football team.

Meanwhile, the team captain, Conor Larkin, has notified Rivera-Soto that he may file a tort-claims lawsuit against him. In the notice, which the Supreme Court received June 26, Larkin says the high court justice "wrongfully filed and pursued criminal charges" against him "resulting in embarrassment, damage to his reputation and other injuries and damages."
Larkin accuses Rivera-Soto of "abuse of process, malicious prosecution, frivolous litigation, obstruction of justice, judicial conspiracy and use of position to advance private interests."
He says he may seek $500,000 and says the incident has caused him "emotional and psychological distress, damage to reputation" and resulted in lost opportunities for college scholarships and admissions.” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)

FULOP FOR CONGRESS?

The Hudson County Democratic Organization – as in Healy, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and North Bergen Mayor and Sen. Nick Sacco – is trawling the big congressional hook. They are hoping to reel in Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop out of the City Hall pool and at the same time, as far as Sacco is concerned, making good on a promise to make U.S. Rep. Albio Sires a one-term congressman.
Some Fulop followers say he would not mind being called congressman. And this is why there is a great deal of thought going into whether the councilman could win a fight in Sires's 13th Congressional District.
Fulop would have to take on a sitting Hispanic congressman in a gerrymandered district carved out of Spanish-speaking sections of Hudson, Essex, Union and Middlesex counties. It had been tailored for Union City's, and now Hoboken's, Robert Menendez. (Torres, Jersey Journal)

WEDDING BELLS AND PRISON CELLS


ATLANTIC CITY — Ramon Rosario is set to move from Liberty Court to federal prison today. The former Atlantic City councilman reports to begin serving his five-month federal prison sentence. Rosario, 48, pleaded guilty last year to taking $14,000 worth of bribes between August 2004 and August 2005 from Terry Jacobs in a bid to steer resort development to the former contractor.
When Rosario leaves prison in December, he will have to serve five months under house arrest. It is unclear where Rosario will report. He declined to say, other than out of state. A federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said a prisoner's assignment is not a public record until they enter prison. Jacobs became a key figure in the scandal after he was arrested with 12.4 pounds of cocaine in January 2004. Under the watchful eye of federal agents, he began recording his conversations while bribing officials. He could not be reached for comment.
The beginning of Rosario's sentence comes just four days after what he called one of the happiest days of his life: his wedding to former council aide Marisol Pabon in the yard behind her Liberty Court condominium.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)

ASSELTA KEEPS DRIVING TOLL ROADS COMPLAINT

If this year's local state Senate and Assembly races were a country western song, it might be called “Own the Road Again.” Gov. Jon S. Corzine's proposal to lease state roads led local Republican and Democratic candidates to base their platform's on opposing the idea. But in a tooth-and-nail race, the tone of the song is less wistful and more accusatory. State Sen. Nicholas Asselta, R-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, and Republican Assembly candidates Michael Donohue and R. Norris Clark held a news conference Tuesday criticizing a recent campaign flier of their Democratic opponents.
Republican candidates called the mailer of Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew and Nelson Albano misleading and disingenuous.
They cited the statement on the mailer that reads, “We have not and will not ever support the selling or leasing of our toll roads.” But the Republican ticket said Van Drew and Albano did support the idea when they voted to approve the state budget. That budget included a paragraph allowing Corzine's administration to spend what it needs to prepare for the leasing of state assets. Asselta said Democrats had their chance to oppose the proposal by voting against the budget in June and said their actions constituted “a blank check.”
“This particular language in the budget should have warranted a no vote,” said Asselta, speaking at the Ocean View Service Area on the Garden State Parkway. Van Drew is running against Asselta for state Senate.
In response, Van Drew said his opponent's argument is flawed. “If he wants to say that, what we would say is he (Asselta) is not supporting the funding of tourism, the funding of our municipalities, the funding of our schools … We needed to pass the budget. His notion is absurd,” Van Drew said. “If he's using that logic, then he did not support all of those and voted no to all of those.” (Ianieri, Press of Atlantic City)

LANDFILL PROJECT STUCK IN MUD


“EnCap Golf Holdings failed Tuesday to meet a deadline to supply $16 million in additional security to ensure full cleanup of Meadowlands landfills, a New Jersey Meadowlands Commission spokesman said………. The lack of response by the developer — after repeated promises to commit the money — could provide the impetus for the state to pull the plug on the beleaguered housing and golf project in Rutherford and Lyndhurst. It has been stuck in state-declared default since May 22.”
Three EnCap representatives did not return repeated requests for comment.
EnCap's May 2004 agreement with the commission required that the company set aside a performance bond of $148 million — essentially, an insurance policy valued at 125 percent of the estimated cost to complete the landfill cleanup at the project site near the New Jersey Turnpike. But EnCap advised the state last month that estimated remediation costs had soared to $185 million, with only $54 million of that amount already spent. That means that EnCap needed to put up an additional $16 million to maintain the 125 percent level that would ensure cleanup of the dumps if the project collapsed.
Deputy Attorney General Valerie Haynes set the Tuesday deadline on June 21 for the $16 million bond to be made available.” (Brennan, Bergen Record)

IMMIGRATION BATTLE

“Immigration advocates said Tuesday that they will push for state laws and policies allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, attend college at in-state tuition rates and collect unpaid wages from employers. The leaders — who included activists, lawyers and pastors — convened at Passaic County Community College in the first of a series of "Town Meetings" that the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ), an umbrella group of Hispanic organizations, plans to hold around the state.
However, at the same time, proponents of strict immigration measures are campaigning to get New Jersey towns to have their police deputized as federal immigration agents. Their so-called 287G program favors training and empowering local police to enforce immigration laws and lay the groundwork for deportation.

Both the advocates and those who favor a hard line against illegal immigrants attributed their efforts to push for local policies to the collapse two weeks ago of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate.” (Llorente, Bergen Record)

“I AM BRICK CITY”

“Forty years after the riots, Newark residents are deeply ambivalent about their city — at once encouraged by their future under a new mayor and disheartened by what they see as a growing crime problem, according to a new poll. New Jersey residents are similarly conflicted about the state's largest city. While only one in four rates Newark as "excellent" or "good," three in four are confident it can be revitalized.”

Still, to pollster Mickey Blum of Blum & Weprin Associates, which conducted the telephone survey for The Star-Ledger, the most remarkable aspect of the results was how little some of the answers changed since a similar was poll conducted for the paper a decade ago.
"You would not think 10 years had gone by with the similarity of some of these responses," said Blum, whose group called a random sample of 500 Newark residents and 803 New Jersey residents from June 22 to 29.
The margin of error for the Newark poll is 4.5 percentage points, with 3.5 percentage points on the statewide poll.” (Parks, Star-Ledger)

NEWARK STANDS ALONE

Things are different this year as the 40th anniversary of the Newark riots arrives. The entire city — including government, clergy, artists and the grassroots community — have come together to dissect a dark period in its history and use it as a catalyst to move forward.

"What's going on here is quite phenomenal," said Clement Price, a history professor at Rutgers-Newark. "I think the people of Newark believe the city has turned the corner and things are looking up and that it's now appropriate or safe to look at where we came from."
The same fervor and revelation, however, are not prevalent in other cities across the country. Milwaukee doesn't have anything planned. Neither do Durham, Memphis, Cambridge, Md., or Plainfield, where riots took place in 1967. Detroit has partnered with community groups, even though observers and critics, including longtime activist Grace Lee Boggs, thinks the city's recognition of the anniversary is not up to par.” (Carter, Star-Ledger)

NEWARK LAND DEAL NETS HOUSING

“Newark has reached a sweeping settlement with a prominent developer at the heart of a legal dispute that froze the sale of city land at heavily discounted prices under former Mayor Sharpe James. The settlement, which is pending council approval today, calls for Lilac Development Group to pay $995,000 for 16 parcels of land to construct about a dozen homes through swaths of the city's South and Central wards. The city was willing to part with that land for $268,573 under James' administration, which sold land for $4 per square foot to developers.
While the city scored concessions in landing jobs for Newark residents, women and minorities for this project, it did not fare as well when it came to a separate Broad Street property that Lilac wants to develop into a commercial retail complex called Lilac Square. Lilac is getting the land on Broad Street for $705,000, which is the same price that James' administration was offering for that land.

Mayor Cory Booker called the settlement a significant moment for Newark. After he was elected mayor last May, Booker, along with several other city residents, filed suit against the city over the sale of property to developers at discounted prices. The suit sought to stop the sales of land in James' waning days in office.” (Wang, Star-Ledger)

STRIKE!.. IMMINENT

“Workers represented by CWA Local 1032 at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Financing Agency voted yesterday to authorize a strike after more than a year of trying to negotiate their first contract. At a general membership meeting, employees voted unanimously to reject the agency's latest proposal on wages and health benefits and then voted "overwhelmingly" to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike at an appropriate time, union officials said.
"The agency has played games for over a year," Local 1032 President James Marketti said, "and this vote, coupled with other mobilization activities planned for the coming weeks, sends a clear message to the agency that employees are not going to stand by and be disrespected, or threatened and intimidated, any longer."

Union officials said HMFA Executive Director Marge Dellavecchia issued an e-mail earlier in the day to all employees telling them the agency has negotiated with the union in good faith and threatening disciplinary action — up to discharge — for any employee who participates in a strike.
"What Ms. Dellavecchia doesn't understand is that public employees have a First Amendment right to take a strike vote and communicate their collective displeasure with the employer's position," Marketti said.”(Reilly, Star-Ledger)

PUNISHING FILING

“HOBOKEN – A police sergeant says he was disciplined in retaliation for filing a federal lawsuit, for cooperating with federal and state law enforcement and for making complaints to the state Merit Board System. Sgt. Mark S. Competello lost wages, rank and benefits, and suffered emotional distress, he claims in a lawsuit filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Middlesex.

The city's legal representatives say his case is without merit. "Mr. Competello has filed yet another lawsuit against the city of Hoboken," said Hoboken Corporation Counsel Steven Kleinman. “Right now the city is reviewing the lawsuit in preparation for filing a vigorous defense to each and every one of Mr. Competello's allegations.”
Competello's attorney, Joseph R. Donahue, said that the lawsuit is detailed and speaks for itself.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)

FIELDS TO STREETS


“BRIDGETON — The city solicitor maintains a lawsuit charging the city government with trying to stifle free speech is "frivolous and totally baseless."
CATA, a farm workers support committee, filed suit in U.S. District Court Monday claiming the city's request for $1,587.43 in expenses incurred during the organization's May 1 parade and rally was unconstitutional.”

But City Solicitor Theodore Baker said the request for reimbursement for money paid for police overtime and other expenses was just that — "a request."
The city attempted to work out a fee before the parade and rally, Baker said, but CATA refused on the basis that the fee was an infringement on the organization's First Amendment Right to freedom of speech and expression. "We have made no attempt to collect the fee and will make no attempt," Baker said. "But the city feels it has the right to make a request for the money. That's the city's First Amendment right."
Because the city is labeled one of the most distressed municipalities in the state, Baker said it must ask organizations using city services in excess of normal day-to-day activities for reimbursement. The Bridgeton Triathlon, to be held next week, currently is negotiating a fee for use of the city's parks and streets for the all-day event, according to Baker and event organizers.” (Jackson, Daily Journal)

CORZINE TRIES TO TRIM DEBT

“State officials yesterday endorsed a plan to use motor vehicle fines paid by drivers over the next three decades to raise $150 million to build housing for those with special needs. The housing money will come through a $150 million bond issue scheduled to be repaid with the driving fees over the next 31 years. Members of the state Economic Development Authority approved the loan with little comment yesterday, even as Gov. Jon Corzine is considering ways to extract billions from the New Jersey Turnpike to trim the state's monumental debt load.

The new loan is the final installment of a $200 million plan lawmakers approved in 2005 to borrow against future motor vehicle fine revenues to develop apartments, condominiums and houses for individuals with special needs. To date, the program has supported construction of about 700 units of housing. A total of about 2,000 will be built with the full $200 million, Eileen Hawes, chief financial officer for the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency said yesterday.

 

The new bond issue is the first of several on tap for the state, which had slowed borrowing since Corzine took office last year.


Lawmakers last month passed proposals to seek voter approval in November for $650 million in borrowing for stem cell research and open space preservation. In addition, the state's school construction program is scheduled to borrow $500 million in September, and the state's highway construction and maintenance fund, the Transportation Trust Fund, is scheduled to issue $1.2 billion in bonds during the current state budget year to support its projects. The state also plans to issue $425 million in bonds to refinance portions of an earlier set of motor vehicle revenue bonds. Those bonds were issued to help balance the state budget three years ago.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)

JERSEY GIRL PREVAILING

“Directors of the Miss New Jersey pageant will meet tomorrow to decide whether Polumbo can continue to represent the state in the next Miss America pageant. At least two of the five board members said they see no big problem with the photos.
Mark Soifer, a spokesman for the Miss New Jersey pageant and one of its five board members, said the board will meet with Polumbo and her lawyer in Ocean City, then hold a news conference afterward to announce its decision. "To me it seems to be kids having a good time at a party," Soifer said of photos he has seen that someone anonymously sent to pageant officials, trying to force Polumbo to resign. "It didn't seem to be anything serious."
That view was echoed by Sally Johnston, the coexecutive director of the Miss New Jersey pageant. Soifer said the most recent photos were sent by someone claiming to be The Committee To Save Miss America, which threatened to send 24 more sets of photos of Polumbo to pageant officials at regular intervals.” (Parry, AP)

SPRINGFIELD RIFLED


“Hey Springfield, all together now: "D'oh!" The Union County town has lost its bid to host the premiere of "The Simpsons Movie," set in a fictional town of the same name, after online voters chose Springfield, Vt., as the winner of a national contest run by 20th Century Fox.

New Jersey's Springfield finished ninth out of the 14 Springfields that competed, producing original videos meant to show "Simpsons spirit" and due appreciation for the cartoon world inhabited by loutish Homer Simpson and his famously dysfunctional clan.


"They picked the wrong community!" former Springfield Mayor Clara Harelik, who played a bit part in the town's video, groused good-naturedly yesterday.” (Gelert and Mueller, Star-Ledger)

DOUGLASS REGROUPS


“At a time when women's colleges are disappearing, Douglass is reinventing itself following a bitter battle to save its identity as Rutgers reorganizes and streamlines its undergraduate colleges. Starting this fall, Douglass will no longer award academic degrees but will continue to offer single-sex dormitories and women-only classes — as part of a four-year, women-centered experience.

 

The program will include career mentoring, new academic programs, student organizations and leadership development.


Jordan Bucey, an aspiring missionary, said she was drawn to the diversity of students at Douglass and has embraced its sharpened focus on women's leadership. "Women have come a long way and it's getting better," Bucey said. Still, she said, she finds it frustrating that women in America "can get the same jobs men have but we're still expected to cook, clean and take care of the children."” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)

JAILHOUSE ROCKED

“Republican Mercer County executive candidate Janice Mitchell Mintz blasted Democratic incumbent County Executive Brian M. Hughes yesterday for his handling of the county jail and crime in the county. Mintz described Hughes' news conference to announce the capture of released inmate Dontay Brannon as "self-congratulatory." Brannon, charged with two murders, had been released from the Mercer County Correction Center because of a county clerical error, officials have said.

Brannon is being held in state prison.
"I'm glad to see that Mr. Hughes has taken my advice and is getting help from the state," Mintz said in a statement. "The Hughes administration has failed Mercer County badly, and I don't think the arrest of a criminal that should never have been released in the first place is anything to be proud of."
Mintz also expressed concern over a report of county sheriff's officers dropping off food at a fundraiser for state Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Lawrence. Turner has said the officers used poor judgment. "I find it mind-boggling that at the very same time children are being shot on our streets and our schools are being closed down by guns, on-duty law officers are doing the bidding of Democratic politicians," Mintz said.” (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)

DRIVER SAYS COPS STOPPED HIM BASED ON RACE

“A driver who was pulled over along the New Jersey Turnpike because of a supposed broken tail light filed a federal lawsuit yesterday saying there was nothing wrong with his van when state police stopped and searched it last year. The driver, Willie Nevius, 38, of North Carolina, alleges that he was pulled over because he is black, a practice called racial profiling, and a violation of his civil rights. The suit was filed in federal court in Camden.

The new racial profiling allegation comes as the state considers dissolving an agreement allowing federal monitors to assess state police stops of minority drivers. New Jersey agreed to the federal monitoring in 1999, more than a year after two troopers fired on a van carrying four unarmed men on the turnpike, wounding three.
"We have much reason to think racial profiling is an ongoing problem," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of New Jersey's American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the driver in the most recent case.” (Delli Santi, AP)

PLOWED UNDER

The former superintendent of Kinnelon's Department of Public Works pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing $3,926 by getting reimbursed for snowplow blades he pretended to buy and taking borough-owned sump pumps home with him. Jeffrey LaPooh, 43, of Millstone Township in Monmouth County, admitted to one count of theft that he said covered two incidences of stealing from the borough between Nov. 1, 2005, and April 30, 2006.”
LaPooh, who was paid $96,000 annually after six years as DPW superintendent, left the job in April 2006 to take a post as superintendent of the Plainsboro Township Department of Public Works. He has since resigned from Plainsboro.
LaPooh's plea agreement with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office calls for him to be sentenced on Aug. 17 to a period of probation, full restitution, and up to 180 days in the county jail, though defense lawyer Brian Neary will argue for community service or a work-in-lieu-of-jail program.” (Wright, Daily Record)

CHARITY THIEF GETS PROBATION

The former treasurer of Parsippany's Police Athletic League admitted in court Tuesday that he stole $8,665 from the charitable organization. However, he will have his criminal record erased if he successfully completes three years of probation.
Ex-PAL Treasurer Kenneth Kohler, 44, of Lake Hiawatha, gave a "conditional" guilty plea to theft from the nonprofit organization between 2000 and April 2005, and was admitted by Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto into Morris County's Pre-Trial Intervention program for first-time offenders.
Kohler's PTI enrollment — approved by new Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi — is a turnaround in philosophy for the office. In May, then-Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio was adamant that Kohler be barred from PTI and the plea offers extended to Kohler ranged from 180 days in the county jail to three years in state prison. Ahto commented Tuesday on the change of heart, and Assistant Prosecutor Maggie Calderwood said that Bianchi reviewed the case and decided that PTI, with the conditional guilty plea, was a fair resolution.”(Wright, Daily Record)

COP INDICTED IN PORNO CASE

“A Pennsauken police officer who maintained the department's computer systems has been indicted in federal court in Tennessee on two child pornography counts. John Schenberger Jr., 41, of Winslow Township, was arrested at work yesterday and held in federal custody in Philadelphia, authorities said.
Schenberger, a 17-year veteran of the Pennsauken police, was charged with two counts of shipping child pornography to Tennessee "by means of a computer," which typically means through e-mail.
In one case, Schenberger was accused of sending 373 pictures and six movie files. Each file depicted "a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct," according to the indictment, which was unsealed yesterday. In the second count, Schenberger was accused of sending 426 pictures and three movie files.” (Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer)

BLUE SNOOZE

“TRENTON — A former city police internal affairs commander charges that the police captain shown napping at his station in a photo posted on the Internet this week was never disciplined for a similar incident that happened four years ago. The police department is investigating the photo that allegedly shows Capt. Paul Messina asleep in a chair. The picture comes just months after a 4-year-old video of then Lt. Messina, asleep in a chair with his feet propped up on a desk, was posted on the YouTube Web site.
The former commander, who declined to have his named published, said Messina's first sleeping offense, in 2003, did not result in any punishment that he knew of by Police Director Joseph Santiago. He said the report was delivered to Santiago but never sent back to internal affairs with any action to be taken. "I never saw it again," the now retired commander said.” (Loayza, Trenton Times)


HARASSMENT STAND-OFF

“Perth Amboy officials have filed an appeal of a $1.9 million verdict awarded to a city police officer who argued he suffered harassment from other officers and the police chief about his Mexican-American heritage. The appeal filed by City Law Director Frank Capece seeks a new trial in the case brought by Officer Guadelupe Munoz, contending that the jury's decision in May was not supported by the evidence and should be overturned.
During the civil trial, Munoz testified that he suffered from anxiety attacks and had to be medicated because of harassment by his fellow officers. Munoz, the city's first Mexican-American officers, said his physical problems became worse after Chief Michael Kohut made disparaging remarks about Mexicans during a March 2005 training session.

Kohut later apologized to the department and the community after Hispanic leaders led a protest calling for his resignation. A similar protest has been planned for tonight in Perth Amboy as a result of the renewed focus on the incident after the $1.9 million verdict.” (Haydon, Star-Ledger)

RETIRED SCHOOL OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT

“TRENTON — After 34 years of working in the city school system, Al "Punchy" Williams knows when it's time to keep quiet. But in an interview with The Times, the retired administrator broke his silence about the grade-reporting scandal at the Sherman Avenue campus, blaming former Superintendent James Lytle for failing to rectify problems that have clouded the academic records of at least 126 students from the 2004-05 school year.

He also said Lytle stopped him from informing the school board about the problems. In April, a state Department of Education inquiry sharply criticized the district, saying students were passed through the system without earning credits in state-approved courses. Williams, who was brought in to run the Sherman campus after the problems occurred, said he informed Lytle in May 2005 that students were forced to unnecessarily repeat ninth-grade classes instead of taking courses they needed.
"Two years went by and he did nothing," Williams said. "I'm not going to let him get away with ignoring this problem although he knew it existed for a number of years."
"It's unconscionable what happened to those kids," Williams said.” (Colon, Trenton Times)

GOP OFFICIAL TARGETS BENEFITS

“TOMS RIVER — The Democratic slate for Township Council wants the current, all-Republican governing body to implement a tax cut in the next budget……….. Asked for specific ideas on how the council could cut taxes, Strada called for public health benefit eligibility to be taken away from "thirteen specific individuals," including council members, the mayor and MUA commissioners. Strada contended that could add up to a savings of a quarter million dollars per year.
But Strada could not say whether those individuals take the offered public health benefits.
"Maybe they have and maybe they haven't," he said.
Council President and mayoral candidate Gregory P. McGuckin, a Republican, called the Democrat's campaign "long on rhetoric and short on facts" and took issue with the 48 percent tax increase allegation. McGuckin said he does not take township health benefits, and believes "one or two" council members do. He said the township does not control the MUA budget.” (Kidd, Asbury Park Press)

DONE BUT NOT PAID

“A class-action lawsuit filed Monday against a Union Township contractor alleges the company did not pay employees prevailing wages for work on a dozen area public projects. Jason D. Martin of Oxford Township and Don Leeper of Plainfield Township filed the lawsuit on behalf of more than 30 other employees who they say have not been paid prevailing wages by Schaible's Plumbing and Heating for work on public projects since 2001.

The state Prevailing Wage Act allows public work employees to seek unpaid prevailing wages through civil actions, according to the lawsuit. The state law provides for a set standard wage on public works projects, a rate that generally varies by county. The plaintiffs are also seeking unpaid overtime wages and supplemental benefits.
The work includes projects at Phillipsburg High School, Voorhees State Park, NORWESCAP's medical facility in Phillipsburg, Hunterdon County Senior Center, Warren County Technical School, Califon Public School, Union Township schools and both school and public works projects in Kingwood and Mansfield townships.” (Olanoff, Express-Times)

THE DEPTFORD DRIVES

“DEPTFORD – The township clerk has rejected about two-thirds of the 915 signatures submitted in June to have a pay-to-play ban placed on the November ballot. Ronald "Mickey" Walker, the organizer of a two-year project to institute a township ordinance that would prohibit giving municipal contracts to those who donate money to local campaigns, said Tuesday that he expects legal action.

However, "legal counsel has advised me not to speak publicly of the matter at this time," he said.
Petitioner Charles "Chuck" Mancini said he was "extremely disappointed."
"We worked for three months to collect nearly 1,000 signatures," he said.
The petition was rejected on June 29, township clerk Dina L. Zawadski said. The petitioners were then given 10 days to collect 450 more signatures before the matter could be pursued, a deadline that passed on Monday.” (Huelsman, Courier-Post)

DESERABLE BATTLES

PLEASANTVILLE — John Deserable's first Board of Education meeting as fiscal monitor was relatively calm Tuesday — until the public comment portion of the meeting. Then came accusations and alleged revelations of dirty practices and ethics violations from members of the public as well as from board President James Pressley, who responded to his detractors in what appeared to be a prepared statement.”
Resident Rick Norris asked Pressley why he hadn't resigned in light of his recent legal issues. When Pressley replied that he had not violated any laws regarding the conduct of a school board member, Norris retorted that if Pressley were a teacher, administrator or district staff member, he would have been fired.
Norris again called for Pressley's resignation, which apparently sent the school board president into attack mode.” (Hardie, Press of Atlantic City)
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