Report criticizes double dipping, Sen. Kenny's accident still a mystery, Alaskan congressman rants against Scott Garrett, Corzine lawyer denies GOP email request, tense night at Somerset County Parks Commission.
700 DOUBLE DIPPERS
“More than 700 elected officials are also on public-sector payrolls across the state, according to a new report that raises questions about the ability of dual job-holders to remain uncompromised and impartial.
The report, released yesterday by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a think tank that focuses on state issues, says it is time for New Jersey to stop ignoring potential conflicts posed by dual job-holding.
The group does not call for an outright ban, however. It recommends the governor form a commission to look into which elected offices pose conflicts with which paid public jobs.
"Clearly, New Jersey needs some general rules to be used in guiding the way through the wide range of incompatibilities and conflicts created by combining elected and non-elected positions," said the report's authors, Tom O'Neill and Bill Schluter, both former elected officials.
The authors see nothing wrong with a teacher serving on a township committee or in the Assembly, for example. However, when an employee has discretion or enforcement power over laws or ordinances he or she helped create, there is a clear conflict, O'Neill said.” (Delli Santi, AP)
“Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton declined comment, saying the administration hadn't finished reading the report. Stainton said Corzine expects to sign a ban on officials holding two or more elected positions this fall. That restriction will not affect unelected posts, nor officials already holding two offices by February.
The report concludes that 12 of the 40 state senators held at least one non-elected public job in 2006, as did 26 of the 80 members of the Assembly.
And 40 percent of the state's 137 county freeholders also held a public-sector job; 23 of them held another elected office.” (Tamari and Volpe, Gannett)
“While there is nothing wrong with a teacher holding an elected position, O'Neill said, there is "nothing right" about a school superintendent in Jersey City at a salary of $210,520 spending two days a week in Trenton.
"You have to draw that line," O'Neill said.” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)
“As an example (O’Neill) cited Louisiana, where a grid has been drawn up indicating what types of full-time public employment would conflict with various elected posts.” (Jacobs, New York Times)
“In North Jersey, prominent lawmakers who hold or have held public-sector jobs include state Sens. Nicholas Sacco, D-North Bergen, and Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge. Legislators collect salaries – and in most cases increased pension benefits – for each of those multiple jobs.” (Lu, Bergen Record)
WHAT HAPPENED TO SEN. KENNY?
“Doctors have told investigators that the injuries suffered by state Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny, D-Hoboken, are not consistent with a slip and fall, as he told police, authorities said yesterday.
The news intensified an ongoing investigation into the incident that left Kenny, 60, "heavily sedated" in the Jersey City Medical Center's Intensive Care Unit with multiple injuries, including a broken right fibula, four fractures in his pelvis, a fractured nose and a dislocated right shoulder.
Long-time Kenny family friend Michael Hayden said: "Sen. Kenny's injuries are orthopedic in nature and he anticipates surgery in the next week and a full recovery."…………
Police arrived and found Kenny sitting on a curb, bleeding from his forehead and knee. Kenny told officers that he tripped in a pothole during his morning jog, a statement that still serves as the leading rationale for the incident, law enforcement sources said.
"The doctors say the injuries are inconsistent with the fall, so, at this point, we are not dismissing the possibility that it was a hit and run," said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio, who also said Kenny was dressed appropriately for a morning walk or jog.
Hoboken police emphasized yesterday that they have yet to – or may never – conclude that Kenny was involved in a hit and run, adding that the most concrete evidence they have is the politician's statement at the scene……………….
"The lack of recollection is consistent with a traumatic event, and doctors tell us that he should begin to remember something soon. We hope to interview him as early as tomorrow," the police source said…………
"Some say they heard a screeching sound and a thump," a police source said. "Others say they saw (Kenny) crawling in the street."” (Renshaw, Jersey Journal)
GARRETT SHOULD HAVE THREATENED TO SIC THE JERSEY DEVIL ON YOUNG
“WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Don Young, an 18-term Republican best known for securing millions in spending for his home state of Alaska, verbally attacked and threatened New Jersey Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett over education funding for Alaska.
Young even demanded that Garden State voters replace Garrett (R-Warren) with someone more inclined to approve pork-barrel spending.
"If we continue this, we will be called biting one another, very much like the mink in my state that kill their own. There is always another day when those who bite will be killed, too, and I am very good at that," Young said, using something of a bizarre metaphor to threaten federal spending that might benefit Garrett personally or New Jersey overall.
The heated exchange erupted when Garrett proposed to eliminate $33.9 million for the Alaska Native Education Equity program. Garrett's proposal failed, 95-335, as an amendment to a bill that would provide a $5.5 billion increase, and $61.7 billion overall, for the U.S. Education Department and its programs next year.” (Cahir, Express-Times)
“I’ve heard of cat fights and dog fights, but mink fights? On Wednesday, a touch of mink descended on the House of Representatives.
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, tried to strip out an earmark for the education of indigenous people from a House education spending bill. That didn't go over too well with Alaska's only representative, Republican Don Young. Young wasn't just fighting mad; he was biting mad………………
When it comes to packaging pork, Young is a mobile Hormel factory.
The infamous "bridge to nowhere" happened on his watch. That project would link the Alaskan community of Ketchikan to Gravina Island. I've been to Ketchikan. It's a charming old mining town. But there are more people in Garden State Plaza than in Ketchikan. Yet it was set to get a bridge taller than that famous one in Brooklyn.
It's hard to sympathize with Young when he complains that he represents a new state that needs more federal help. Alaska is getting plenty of federal dollars……….
There are two issues here: One, no congressman should see the federal government as his or her personal ATM. On that score, Democrats and Republicans should respect Garrett's consistency when it comes to most budget pork.
The second issue is the need for all states to responsibly share the burden of being part of a 50-state union. New Jersey does pay more in federal dollars than it gets back. Pascrell proudly asserts one of the most important aspects of our society — Americans help raise other Americans from poverty, illiteracy and illness…………
Young questioned whether New Jersey should get rid of all its legislators. Maybe Alaskan voters should consider taking back their mink.” (Doblin, Bergen Record)
MORE EMAIL MADNESS
“A lawyer for Gov. Jon S. Corzine has denied a request for correspondence from the governor's private e-mail account.
In a letter received by the Republican State Committee yesterday, the lawyer, William C. Brown, dismissed the request from committee Chairman Tom Wilson as "overbroad and improper."
Wilson contends state open public records laws make any e-mails discussing government business public and has expressed concern Corzine communicated through a private e-mail account – his gubernatorial campaign e-mail.
Wilson had requested "any and all government records" from the votecorzine.org server.” (AP)
BREAK OUT THE CHAMPAGNE
“In response to accusations of free spending and lax management, Somerset County parks officials yesterday said they already have cooperated with investigators and agreed to tighter management controls.
In a tense meeting at their headquarters in Bridgewater, park commissioners formally accepted recommendations in a June 22 report to the Somerset freeholders from the Wolff & Samson law firm. The action effectively turned over some park functions to the county finance and engineering departments.
Commission President Fred Quick said the agency has longstanding policies governing which employees get county vehicles or houses. But "absolutely there will be a review" in the wake of Wolff & Samson's criticism of below-market rents and free cars and gas.
But members of the semiautonomous commission said the freeholders had not given them enough time to consider additional steps, such as resignations and a deeper probe of finances, They promised to hold a special meeting next week for further discussion.” (Tyrell, Star-Ledger)
MORAN: BUSH “ABOUT AS POPULAR AS A SKIN RASH”
“At some point, you have to wonder if President Bush has simply lost his bearings.
He is about as popular these days as a skin rash. And he keeps doing things to make it worse.
This week, his target was the nearly 9 million American kids who lack basic health insurance. Most of them are the children of the working poor, or near-poor — the janitors and cashiers and truck drivers who keep this country humming…………… .
He's presented a health budget that is so miserly it would force states like New Jersey to throw children off existing insurance programs.
Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from Monmouth County, is moving a bill through his subcommittee that would allocate $50 billion over five years to provide health insurance for about half of the children who lack it now. The Senate is moving in the same direction, with a slightly smaller $35 billion increase………….
But even this modest move is too much. The White House is threatening a veto.
"I mean, people have access to health care in America," Bush said recently. "After all, you just go to an emergency room."
Someone needs to install a clue phone in the Oval Office. Because the first thing any freshman learns in health policy class is that relying on hospital emergency rooms is the dumbest way to provide care. ” (Moran, Star-Ledger)
SCORE ONE FOR THE MACHINE
“In a surprise move last night, the Camden City Council introduced an ordinance that – if approved by voters – would change the city's nonpartisan elections to partisan races.
The measure – a "walk-on" that had not been noticed on the meeting agenda – was supported by all six Council members who owe their offices to the support of the Camden County Democratic Party. If adopted next week, a referendum would be place in the November ballot asking voters to approve the change.
Councilman Gilbert "Whip" Wilson, the only independent Democrat on the panel, was the sole Council member not listed as a sponsor.
If adopted by the voters, the ordinance could radically change the political landscape of this often-troubled city.
Critics, however, have argued that partisan elections would strengthen the power of the Democratic machine and the political bosses.” (Ott, Philadelphia Inquirer)
PENSIONS GET SOME HELP FROM WALL STREET
”Riding the bull market on Wall Street, the state funds that bankroll pensions for 700,000 working and retired government workers gained 17 percent over the last budget year, adding $9.1 billion to the cash-strapped retirement system.
The return is the funds' best performance since 1998, when the accounts posted a 22.7 percent gain amid the stock market's dot-com bubble.
Last year's performance, reported yesterday at the monthly meeting of the State Investment Council in New Brunswick, left the accounts with a balance of $82.2 billion when the state budget year closed June 30.
"It's a terrific performance on the division's part," Orin Kramer, chairman of the Investment Council, said. "They should be congratulated.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“Six members of New Jersey's congressional delegation introduced legislation yesterday that would require a General Accountability Office investigation into the decision to close Fort Monmouth in 2011.
Another piece of legislation would require the GAO — the investigative arm of congress — to audit an upcoming Department of Defense report that would certify that moving Fort Monmouth's communications research work to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland will not jeopardize troops deployed in combat zones. Some of the research includes work on de vices that counter roadside bombs.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) said the legislation introduced last night would expose shortcomings in the logic the Pentagon used in its recommendation two years ago to close Fort Monmouth as a cost- saving measure. The Pentagon initially estimated closing the 90-year-old installation would cost about $800 million. The independent Base Realignment and Clo sure Commission agreed with the Pentagon recommendation and voted to close the installation.
The true cost has turned out to be about $1.6 billion — the amount lawmakers and others opposed to closing Fort Monmouth originally predicted it would cost.
"We've known all along that the numbers the Pentagon used to jus tify closing Fort Monmouth were never based in reality, but now it's important to discover who came up with these faulty numbers and why they were used," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.).” (Woolley, Star-Ledger)
“The House versions of the bills were separately introduced by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., and Rush D. Holt, D-N.J. Signing on in support of both measures were Reps. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and Jim Saxton, R-N.J. The Senate versions were introduced by Lautenberg, with fellow Democrat Robert Menendez signing on.
Under Smith's bill, the GAO would be required to vet for misinformation the Pentagon report about how closing the fort wouldn't compromise the war on terrorism.” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
THE LEGACY OF SHARPE JAMES
“A New Jersey judge effectively killed an ambitious downtown redevelopment project in Newark yesterday, ruling that the city’s decision to condemn 14 acres of property on behalf of a private developer was ill-conceived and wrong. The project, the Mulberry Street Redevelopment Project, a proposed collection of 2,000 market-rate apartments and stores in the shadow of the city’s new hockey arena, would have been the largest development initiative here in decades.
In her decision, Judge Marie P. Simonelli of Superior Court said the administration of Mayor Sharpe James misused the state’s rules on condemnation when it declared 62 parcels “an area in need of redevelopment.” She said the row houses, mechanics’ shops and parking lots, while somewhat tattered, were not “blighted” and suggested that the decision to condemn the property was politically motivated….
Judge Simonelli mentioned the close links between the developers and the James administration, adding that large contributions had been made to the former mayor and the Municipal Council, whose approval was needed for the area’s condemnation.” (Jacobs, New York Times)
“SAY HELLO TO THE FEDERAL MONITOR”
“In one of his first meetings with faculty and staff, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's new president, William F. Owen Jr., didn't shy away from the school's recent scandals — even joking about it — and insisted the school is ready to remake itself.
Owen promised his audience that despite low morale, the restructuring efforts of the university over nearly two years have set it up to flourish once again……………
The 51-year-old former chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center offered a dose of humor with his sobering assessment of the university, drawing giggles from veteran professors and fresh-faced students alike.
At one point during the hour- and-a-half forum, Owen answered a ringing cell phone, pretending it was a call from a member of UMDNJ's board of trustees: "Say hello to the federal monitor," he said, jokingly, into the phone.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)
SUPREME COURT CHOOSES STRICTER CONFLICT OF INTEREST RULES
“When a former state government attorney joins a private law firm, the entire firm — not just the lawyer — may be barred from representing clients in matters the lawyer was involved in while working for the state, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
In a 5-1 decision, the majority said that when a former government attorney joins a private firm, the state conflicts-of-interest statute applies. It has more stringent post-employment restrictions than the legal profession's own rules of professional conduct.
"The conflicts-of-interests law attempts to maintain the public's confidence in government and its officers and employees by ensuring public officials and employees do not use their government positions to earn money unfairly, especially at the expense of the public," the majority said in an unsigned, 28-page opinion…………….
Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto dissented, saying the rules should be left unchanged and the court had no reason to take action.
John M. Van Dalen, a deputy at torney general for over two decades, raised the issue. He and his partner, Stephen Brower, who is also a former deputy attorney general, operate a law firm in the shadow of the Statehouse in Trenton. Van Dalen said he foresees the ruling raising concerns about potential conflicts at law firms when they consider hiring lawyers seeking to leave state government.” (Hester, AP)
"Nothing — absolutely nothing — has been presented to this court to justify reneging on the common-sense provisions of RPC," Rivera-Soto wrote.” (Lamb, Bergen Record)
“A state advisory board yesterday accepted amended regulations to help ensure New Jersey's continued participation in a national study looking at angioplasty outcomes at hospitals that don't perform cardiac surgery.
After listening to more than three hours of testimony from New Jersey hospital representatives who both supported and opposed the Johns Hopkins University-sponsored study, members of the Health Care Administration Board voted 6-1 to accept the department's rewritten regulations during a meeting in Ewing.” (Stewart, Star-Ledger)
“A consortium of 26 states took steps earlier this week to protect future homeowners from getting saddled with the risky mortgages that have left thousands of New Jersey residents on the brink of losing their properties.
But some housing experts say the guidelines provide too little, too late. That, and New Jersey wasn't among the states who initially signed on.
“I was disappointed," said James Bednar, of Clifton, who runs a real estate blog about North Jersey. "I had thoroughly expected New Jersey to be on that list."
State banking authorities say it's just a matter of time before New Jersey signs on. Regardless, housing advocates argue that no single set of recommendations can erase the damage done by loose lending standards to homeowners, pension holders and the economy.” (Haddon, Herald News)
MORE VOTES FOR STACK
“UNION CITY – With federal immigration and naturalization fees to increase at the end of the month, city officials are offering to help residents complete their immigration forms in time for them to avoid paying the higher rates, officials said.
Prices for filing forms with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are going up anywhere from $100 to $300, said Union City spokeswoman Wendy Martinez………….
Mayor Brian P. Stack and the city Board of Commissioners are holding the "citizenship drive" Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Jose Martí Middle School at 1800 Summit Avenue.” (Conte, Jersey Journal)
SHE’S GOT A LOT OF WORK AHEAD OF HER
“She admits she faces a tough task: turning around Camden's troubled school system.
But rookie Superintendent Bessie LeFra Young believes she is ready for the task and will produce results.
Young, a former Philadelphia regional school superintendent, began her duties on Monday as schools chief in Camden……………
Camden – South Jersey's largest public school district – has been rocked by scandal, including a continuing state criminal investigation into test-rigging and spending practices.
Plagued by low test scores and violence for years, Camden has been the focus of a state grand jury investigation since June 2006 into misspending and test-score cheating and remains under state oversight, a step away from a state takeover. The entire district has been classified as "needs improvement" because students in 2006 missed federal benchmarks in math and language arts proficiency…………..
Asked why she decided to take on Camden's problems, Young replied: "Someone has to step up. I don't think I've ever stepped away from a challenge."” (Burney, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“The city teacher who exposed the Sherman Avenue grading scandal has filed a complaint against a former state Department of Education employee who she said mismanaged documents pertaining to the tampered-records case.
Whistleblower Beverly Jones said yesterday the Sherman case may have been solved by now had a former DOE employee directed her complaints to the appropriate department in 2005.
In June 2005, Jones sent a letter to the DOE's School Ethics Commission alleging that 10th-grade students were placed in a ninth-grade repeater program at the Sherman Avenue annex of the high school and were forced to repeat classes they had already passed.
Jones said she decided to file a complaint now because she recently came across a letter she received from Lisa James-Beavers, the former head of the agency's School Ethics Commission, in response to those allegations.
In that letter, dated July 13, 2005, James-Beavers stated Jones' allegations would not go before the commission because they should be relayed to the Mercer County Office of Education.
"The complaint alleged criminal activity … did (James-Beavers) not have a responsibility to report it to the proper division?" Jones stated in her July 5 complaint to the DOE.” (Colon, Star-Ledger)
IN RED BANK
“West side citizen activist John Tyler Jr. has replaced Mary Ellen Bannon as one of two Republican candidates running for a three-year Borough Council term in November.
Bannon dropped out of the race for "personal reasons," said Jack Minton, borough GOP chairman, Thursday.
Tyler, 53, has lived in Red Bank for 49 years and has been one of several residents bringing quality-of-life issues on the west side to the council.
Tyler, a truck driver for Sacco's Transport in Tinton Falls, is looking to change how the council does business.
"I'm a little sick and tired of how things are done, how people are not able to voice their opinion at council meetings and how their representative is not in sight," he said.” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
“Parsippany Republicans decided last night against naming former Mayor Frank Priore the party's new vice chairman. In a 32-20 vote, GOP committee members chose attorney Tom Weisert over Priore.
The post had been thrown into play last month, when a faction re fused to hand it to departing chairman Mike Strumolo. Before last night's balloting, Strumolo withdrew from consideration and nominated Weisert for the No. 2 post behind Nicole Green.
Priore, forced from office in 1994 and jailed for official corruption, was nominated by Joseph Weisberg, a former councilman.” (Frank, Star-Ledger)
“At a township meeting this week, Mayor Jack Ball prepared residents for the "worst-case" tax scenario for the upcoming fiscal year — a whopping 42 cent increase on the tax rate.
While Ball and his administrators said they're doing "everything in their power" to avoid the staggering hike, the picture looks bleak.
Ball told residents the town needs about $3.6 million in state aid to whittle down the increase, but so far the state has not promised any funding.
"I hope the 42 cent increase will not become a reality," Ball said. "The reality is we'll have to convince the state that we need every bit of resources we can get."
At that rate, the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $127,100 would pay $533 more in municipal taxes during the upcoming 2007-08 fiscal year.” (Coryell, Star-Ledger)
“Police Chief Peter Demnitz, who will be suspended for five days next month without pay for mistreating a police officer in January, wants to make one thing clear: He did not talk about a patrolman's health in front of his colleagues.
Demnitz was responding to a complaint filed against him with the town council in January by a police officer who accused the chief of mistreatment.
The officer alleged the chief talked about his health in front of other officers, an allegation Demnitz denies.
"I did not discuss this officer's personal health issues in front of other officers," he said.
"I was addressing a performance issue.” (Hassan, Daily Record)
“City officials will meet today to discuss who will be named the police department's acting chief, Mayor Jim Begley said Thursday afternoon.
Begley indicated he may announce his decision as early as this afternoon.
He said today's meeting will be the first opportunity he and other city officials will have to discuss the acting chief's position at length since Tuesday night's city council meeting.
Until Tuesday's meeting, the city was planning to proceed without a police chief for the next two years.” (McCullen, Bridgeton News)
“When it comes to energy drinks, rock star Jon Bon Jovi thinks an East Brunswick man gives coffee a bad name.
The Jersey rocker wants the owner of the Mijovi energy drink to change its name, arguing it is too similar to his famous moniker. But Marcos Carrington says his coffee-based energy drink is named after his girlfriend, whose name is Jovita…………
"It is just unfair," Carrington, 37, said in a published report. "It is unfair because Mijovi has nothing to do with Bon Jovi."
A spokeswoman for Bon Jovi declined comment when contacted by a state newspaper.” (AP)