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Coniglio gets target letter, Somerset County Parks Commission officials resign, Passaic County Water Authority official pleads guilty to bribery, “porn lawyer” worked closely with McGettigan, Katz gets say in email lawsuit.


“Federal prosecutors have signaled to state Sen. Joseph Coniglio they have sufficient evidence to charge him with a crime in connection with his role as a paid consultant for Hackensack University Medical Center.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has sent the Paramus Democrat a "target letter," which indicates that he is the subject of a criminal investigation and invites him to meet with prosecutors as they prepare a corruption charge against him.

Gerald Krovatin, Coniglio's attorney, confirmed Coniglio had received the letter and said the senator will meet with prosecutors.

"We fully intend to do so because Senator Coniglio has done nothing wrong," he said.

Coniglio worked as a $5,500-a-month plumbing and construction consultant to the hospital from 2004 to 2006 while also serving in the Legislature. During that time, the hospital received more than $1 million in state grants.” (Carmiel, Bergen Record)

“A target letter typically outlines potential charges and offers individuals an 11th-hour opportunity to testify on their own behalf before a grand jury, or to negotiate a plea deal.

The U.S. attorney's move was the latest development in a widening inquiry that has shaken the Statehouse. At issue are millions in special state grants that went to many politically connected groups and local organizations — including some that put legislators or relatives on their payrolls — without public oversight.

Those grants, long a staple of Trenton's backroom budget process, are known as "Christmas tree" items because they show up like gifts under the tree, negotiated behind closed doors. Since the first subpoenas were issued looking into the grants, the Christmas tree appropriations have been slashed and the budget process overhauled.

Coniglio's attorney confirmed late yesterday that the senator was contacted by prosecutors.” (Margolin and Sherman, Star-Ledger)

“The news that State Sen. Joseph Coniglio received a target letter from federal prosecutors can’t hurt Republican Robert Colletti’s chances to win a state Senate seat, but Bergen GOP leaders are responding to the news cautiously.

“It's always sobering when there are serious accusations that an elected, official has violated the public trust, but we'll wait for the legal process to play out,” said Bergen County GOP Chairman Robert Ortiz, who was elected earlier this week.” (Friedman,



“The Somerset County freeholders last night accepted the resignation of four longtime parks commissioners, declaring the move a first step toward "cleaning house" at the embattled agency.

President Fred Quick and members Doyle Hunsinger, Rocque Dameo and Herman Simonse, who have a collective 80 years on the Somerset County Park Commission, offered to step down at a 7 a.m. meeting at park headquarters in Bridgewater. Thirteen hours later, the freeholders took them up on it at their own meeting.

"We're very happy to accept their resignations," Freeholder Denise Coyle said after emerging at 8 p.m. from a closed session at the county offices in Somerville. She called the action "cleaning house" at the commission, which has been the subject of investigations and a critical report.

Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli pressed for more action, saying county counsel Thomas Miller has identified legal "opportunities" to dissolve the commission.” (Tyrell, Star-Ledger)



“A former Passaic Valley Water Commission employee, whose job it was to turn water service on and off for tenants in Paterson, pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark yesterday to accepting bribes from a property manager.

Robert Schweidereick, 57, formerly of Pompton Lakes, faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced in November on a count of taking corrupt payments to influence his official action.

Authorities say Schweidereick accepted more than $800 between January and May of last year, after negotiating a fee for turning on or maintaining service at apartments supposedly supervised by the property manager, who was secretly helping the FBI. Schweidereick also had the power to stop service when bills were not paid on time.

Schweidereick retired in 2006 and moved to Port Charlotte, Fla. Arrested in March, he was allowed to remain free on $25,000 bond by U.S. District Judge Jose Linares pending sentencing.” (Star-Ledger)


“The “porn lawyer” that James McGettigan criticized Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson for hiring is actually McGettigan’s labor counsel.

Yesterday, Atlantic County Sheriff James McGettigan, who is Levinson’s Democratic challenger this fall, said he was “outraged” that the county hired a lawyer who advises the adult entertainment industry. But the lawyer, Eric Bernstein, said he was hired by the county to work primarily on McGettigan’s behalf.

"I cannot understand the Sheriffs issues with me as I have, and still serve him as his labor counsel. I personally advised him of my involvement in the adult entertainment industry years ago", said Bernstein.

McGettigan’s press release, which stated that “the public has a right to know why and how the Levinson Administration hired this porn lawyer, and whether he’s representing us on our dime, not pornographers” was just the latest salvo in what has become an especially nasty race…………

McGettigan acknowledged that Bernstein worked as his labor counsel, but denied that he had any knowledge of his work for in porn industry.

“That is a bold faced lie,” said McGettigan. “I, my Undersheriff, Jack Tuohy, and my chief sheriff’s officer Clinton Warren, will all swear that we were not made aware that Eric Bernstein represented the porn industry.” (Friedman,

The Atlantic City Housing Authority fired Bernstein as its general counsel Thursday night.

This came just 2½ months into his 12-month, $120,000 contract and came despite his contract requiring 30 days notice. The board subsequently named Linwood-based redevelopment attorney John H. Rosenberger as its acting general counsel.

This came just 2½ months into his 12-month, $120,000 contract and came despite his contract requiring 30 days notice. The board subsequently named Linwood-based redevelopment attorney John H. Rosenberger as its acting general counsel.

“I have a number of ideas” why he was fired, Bernstein said as he left the building, calling McGettigan’s news release false and misleading.


“A state workers union leader who once dated Gov. Corzine can participate in arguments on whether e-mail messages between the two can be made public, a judge ruled yesterday.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Paul Innes decided that Carla Katz's rights as a private citizen and union president will be considered in deciding whether to release the e-mails.

"She has a real privacy interest here," Innes said.

Tom Wilson, the head of the state Republican Party, wants to see whether the e-mails show the relationship between Corzine and Katz affected recent state contract talks. The resulting contract increased salaries but cut health and pension benefits for state workers. Katz opposed the deal………….

Wilson's attorney, Mark Sheridan, argued otherwise.

"When you communicate with a public official on public matters, you have no right of privacy to that," he said.

But the judge agreed that Katz can intervene in the lawsuit, which Wilson filed in May, seeking release of the e-mails.” (Hester, AP)



“Gov. Corzine and lawmakers yesterday urged voters to approve a November ballot measure that would allow the state to borrow $450 million over 10 years to fund stem-cell research.

"This is an investment that has a very clear payback," Corzine said before signing the measure seeking the bond issue………….

If approved, the spending would put New Jersey among the states competing to attract top scientists. New Jersey would fund research on adult and embryonic stem cells. President Bush has vetoed efforts to ease constraints he imposed on federally funded embryonic stem-cell research.

Corzine, a Democrat, signed the bill before more than 200 people at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. Among those on hand were the measure's legislative champions, Senate President Richard J. Codey (D., Essex) and Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D., Union)…….

In the audience was Barbara Johnson, mother of the late actor Christopher Reeve. He became an advocate for stem-cell research after being paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident.

"I'm thrilled that it's happening," said Johnson, 75, of Princeton, adding that other members of her family were afflicted by conditions that might be cured by stem-cell research, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's and diabetes………

Reeve died in 2004 at age 52. The largest of three stem-cell research facilities authorized in a $270 million bill signed by Corzine in December will be named for Reeve, Codey said.” (Gold, AP)

Codey, who made stem cell research a priority of his 14 months as governor, told the crowd: "On Election Day, I say to all of you, the first thing is vote 'yes' on stem cell research. And then vote Democratic."

Critics have opposed the state's stem cell research plans, saying they are immoral because the cells often are harvested from human embryos.

After the ceremony, Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, issued a statement, saying: "Our lawyers are looking very closely at possible deceptions in the ballot language, especially the fact that this is about taxpayer-funded human cloning. … This boondoggle will add $37 billion to our state debt." (Margolin, Star-Ledger)



“State officials, already grappling with $33.7 billion in long-term debt and a $25 billion tab for government pensions, were presented another barrel of red ink yesterday: an unfunded bill of about $69 billion for the health insurance they have promised to current and future public retirees.

"It should ring the alarm in the Statehouse, in the governor's office and in town halls that we have got to do a better job managing our medical expenses," William Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities said of the health insurance tab, of which about $11 billion will be shouldered by local governments. "I think it's a significant number that I am pleased has finally been made public."

Leaders of the unions that represent government workers agreed the insurance bill is eye-catching, but said it should prompt lawmakers to start banking funds to pay for the benefits they have promised their employees.

"The state should do what it had done for many, many years, which is plan for an obligation they know they have by prefunding," said Carla Katz, president of Local 1034 of the Communications Workers of America, the largest state workers' union.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)

Labor officials responded with dismay yesterday to a presentation about New Jersey’s huge shortfall in its financing of health care that it has promised to current and future retired public workers.

Some of the officials worried that the daunting numbers that were formally announced yesterday had been rolled out now as a political ploy, intended to whip up fears that retirees’ benefits were simply too expensive to keep paying.

The state’s total bill will be $58 billion, an outside actuary explained at the presentation before the State Health Benefits Commission, a governing body composed of state officials and labor representatives. Towns and other local units of government will have to pay an additional $10.7 billion in today’s dollars………….

In his report, Mr. Morfe showed that financing the retiree health plan in advance would save a lot of money over time, because it would allow some of the cost to be covered by investment income.

If New Jersey does not create a trust fund, he said, its annual retiree health expense would work out to about $5.8 billion a year, and continue rising. But with a fund, its yearly expense would work out to about $3.5 billion a year, and would rise much more slowly.” (Walsh, New York Times)

“Corzine described $58 billion as "a pretty heavy body blow."

Yesterday, his administration could not say whether the governor would consider pre-funding the obligation. Other states, like New York, pre-fund by investing money now to pay for the costs later.

In a statement, Treasurer Bradley Abelow said, "should future flexibility make pre-funding feasible again, New Jersey should consider, with the Legislature, whether it would be prudent to take that step, while weighing other priorities in the budget." (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)



“A New Jersey assemblyman said yesterday he has drafted a bill to change the law that threatens a Rahway police officer's widow, possibly forcing her to forfeit her home to the man acquitted of murdering her husband.

Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex) said his measure would not be able to assist Elizabeth Bernoskie but could prevent others from being in her situation, in which an appellate court has told her to repay the money awarded to her in a civil suit.

"There is no statute of limitations on the crime of murder; there should also be no statute of limitations on a civil claim for damages against a murderer," said Diegnan.

"It's so outrageous that this poor family should be put through this. It should never have happened once. It's something that needs to be taken care of. Now that we are aware of it, let's fix it."” (Star-Ledger)



“In a ruling that could have implications far beyond New Jersey, the State Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the right of homeowners’ associations to restrict the posting of political signs and other forms of constitutionally protected speech, as long as the restrictions are not “unreasonable or oppressive.”

“We conclude that in balancing plaintiffs’ expressional rights against the association’s private property rights, the association’s policies do not violate the free-speech and right-of-assembly clauses of the New Jersey Constitution,” the court ruled unanimously.

The case is rooted in the lawns of Twin Rivers, a planned unit development of apartments, condominiums, town houses and single-family houses that is home to about 10,000 people in the central New Jersey township of East Windsor. Margaret and Haim Bar-Akiva challenged whether the Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association could restrict their putting political signs on their lawn.

The homeowners’ association rules in Twin Rivers did not forbid all political signs, but allowed signs only in flower beds and windows.” (Jones, New York Times)

“Frank Askin, a Rutgers University law school professor who represented the homeowners, said the court was stepping away from a tradition of broadening protections for residents.

"They're pulling back from their stance in taking the lead in extending rights under the state constitution," he said.” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)

“Gail and Stephen Tuckman have lived in Twin Rivers for 33 years and loved every minute of it. Well, nearly every minute.

"A poor man's paradise," said Tuckman, sighing in a satisfied way as he lounged under a shady tree yesterday. The couple moved with their children to the private community in East Windsor from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn in 1974.

The Tuckmans said they were very happy to learn yesterday the New Jersey Supreme Court had decided the Twin Rivers Homeowners Association had the right to set rules for the people who live in the sprawling development.

"Good," Gail Tuckman said. "This group that challenged the rules are troublemakers. This is a wonderful place to live. There was never a rule that bothered me."…………

The court case decided yesterday arose from disputes between a handful of residents and the association's board over where political signs could be posted and residents' access to the community room and newsletter.

Twin Rivers is a huge place, and many of the residents who were stopped by a reporter yesterday said they were not familiar with the long-simmering case.” (Patterson, Star-Ledger)



“A National Guard pilot who dropped low-altitude practice flares into the tinder-dry brush and flagrant miscommunication caused May's wildfire that scorched more than 20 square miles of New Jersey's Pinelands, an Air Force accident investigation concluded.

Nobody told the New Jersey Air National Guard pilot before he dropped several practice flares from an F-16 fighter jet that the forest-fire danger rating had been raised to its highest level, according to the report, which says pilot error is the primary cause of the huge blaze………….

As residents of scorched neighborhoods moved back into their rehabilitated homes, politicians pointed to the accident report and repeated calls for safety improvements at the bombing range, which is one of the East Coast's few air training ranges.

"It's clear that there were errors at multiple levels in the chain of command and that's highly concerning for the safety of New Jersey residents," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).” (Dangremond, Philadelphia Inquirer)



“Federal environmental officials are launching trials in Monmouth and Ocean counties of a new water quality test that would speed detection of harmful bacteria in the ocean.

The 10-week pilot project, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, employs a relatively new technology that scientists and health officials hope will cut the time of knowing water quality results from one day to three hours.

"This is the first adverse opinion I have ever had to issue," said Morrison, who was hired by the township council.

At issue is $4.8 million the township spent to repair sewer lines on Independence and Emeline ave nues in 2006. In spending the money to deal with the emergency collapse of a line, the administration failed to get approval from the township council and over-expended the sewer utility's budget.” (Spoto, Star-Ledger)



”An unprecedented measure that could threaten to "blow up" the Pentagon's largest-ever military consolidation is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate today by New Jersey's two senators.

The bill would mandate a congressional review of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process — the Pentagon's military base restructuring effort aimed at streamlining the military and saving money. Sponsors are Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg, both D-N.J.

The bill aims to put a fiscal leash on the BRAC process, which in 2005 called for 871 separate actions affecting 222 bases nationwide and is now costing $8.4 billion more than estimated.” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)

“A Harford County, Md., government official was wrong to say that the Pentagon has a limited obligation to report to Congress that the closure of Fort Monmouth would not affect the ongoing war on terrorism, officials from two states said Thursday.

James Richardson, head of Harford County's economic development department, told the Baltimore Examiner in a story published Thursday that the Pentagon needed to issue a report to Congress only if the closing would negatively affect the war on terrorism. Richardson added that failure to deliver the report would be a default approval, according to the newspaper.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission voted to close the 90-year-old Army post, sending much of its mission to Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground, located in Harford County.” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)



“State psychiatric hospitals that treat the criminally insane would have to notify local chiefs of police when a patient is in their communities on an approved furlough, under legislation being proposed by state Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. and Assemblyman Sean T. Kean, both R-Monmouth.

The proposal was sparked by a Monmouth Beach couple who recently learned that a woman who had killed her parents in 2000 but was found innocent by reason of insanity had purchased the house next door.

The couple contacted Monmouth Beach Commissioner Kimberly Guadagno, who helped the legislators craft the bill.

"It's not like a Megan's Law," Guadagno said Thursday during a news conference with Kyrillos and Kean at the Monmouth Beach municipal building. "Right now the idea is to do something."” (Mullen, Asbury Park Press)



“HAMILTON — Township Auditor Bob Morrison accused the administration of manipulating the accounting system and failing to oversee basic spending in an ad verse opinion of the township's financial picture he issued this week.

Morrison made his comments in the annual audit, which will be presented to the township council Tuesday. By issuing the negative opinion, Morrison has refused to certify the township's annual financial statement.

"This is the first adverse opinion I have ever had to issue," said Morrison, who was hired by the township council.

At issue is $4.8 million the township spent to repair sewer lines on Independence and Emeline ave nues in 2006. In spending the money to deal with the emergency collapse of a line, the administration failed to get approval from the township council and over-expended the sewer utility's budget.” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)



“TRENTON — Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes expressed concern yesterday over state-mandated changes to county voting machines when state and federal officials haven't reached a consen sus on machine requirements. Hughes also called on machine- maker Sequoia to fulfill its commit ment to retrofit the machines with printers that will provide "paper trails."

Hughes also called on machine- maker Sequoia to fulfill its commit ment to retrofit the machines with printers that will provide "paper trails."

"We are still waiting for Sequoia to deliver on its stated intention to us several years ago that it would provide these voter-verified paper trails," Hughes said during testi mony in front of the New Jersey Voting Machine Examination Committee.” (Trenton Times)



“The state Department of Corrections has agreed to reimburse Monmouth County more than $5 million for nearly two decades of underpayment for housing state in mates at the county jail.

Settling 19 years of billing squabbles, the contract reached last week but announced yesterday also sets a higher daily rate for state inmates that is expected to yield another $2 million over the next three years, Monmouth County Freeholder Director William Barham said………….

In the 1990s, many county jails in New Jersey were housing more state inmates and for longer periods of time as the state Department of Corrections grappled with overcrowding and transportation problems. Most of the backlog was between the time an inmate was sentenced to a state prison and the time a bed became available.” (Spoto, Star-Ledger)



“The critical condition of Trenton schools has prompted Mayor Douglas H. Palmer to call for a complete overhaul of school operations only days after a state report revealed serious deficiencies in the district.

Outraged by the findings of an audit conducted by the state Department of Education, Palmer said Superintendent Rodney Lofton has no choice but to show strong leadership and real commitment to turn the district around.

"I'll give him all the support he needs but the status quo is unacceptable," Palmer said during an interview with The Times.

Lofton, who joined the district last August as a first-time superintendent, is vacationing and has not been available for comment since the state report was released Monday.

The DOE audit revealed 95 percent of the district's 14,500 pupils are not proficient in math and language arts and that there is a "tre mendous inconsistency" in what students are being taught in the classroom.” (Colon, Trenton Times)



“City residents, who in 2003 voted down a proposal for partisan municipal elections, could face the issue again this year.

City council gave initial approval Thursday to a measure that would ask voters to amend Camden's charter and scrap the current system of nonpartisan elections conducted in May.

If voters approved, municipal candidates would run on party tickets in November's general election.

Proponents of the change say May elections are too costly and draw too few voters. Critics say partisan races would increase the power of Camden County's Democratic machine.

Council voted 6-1 for an ordinance that would place the question on November's ballot, with Councilman Gilbert "Whip" Wilson dissenting.

"They're trying to knock out independent people," Wilson said.” (Walsh, Courier-Post)



“The hip-hop star known as Swizz Beatz rolled over to a city park in a black Cadillac Escalade Thursday night, wowed the thousands gathered with a mix of old-school beats and rhymes, and then used a bit of showmanship to address the controversy swirling around his appearance.

Just as Mayor Gwendolyn Faison had promised, the rapper avoided the violent, misogynistic lyrics that had prompted a public rebuke from the police department and a small protest outside city hall earlier in the day.

He flashed the peace sign, told the kids to pursue their goals and spoke of the problems with violence.

Then, he dared to do it: He rapped "It's Me Snitches," his new single and the very song that bothered some in the community because it seems to say that people who report crime to the police should be punished on the streets.

But Swizz Beatz did not rap the song's most offensive line: "I ain't gonna shoot ya/I could just choke ya." This time, he put his hand over his mouth instead of saying "snitches" in the chorus. At one point, he replaced "snitches" with "baby."” (Katz, Courier-Post)

"I know there has been a lot of negativity," Swizz, who has been accused of rapping about not being a snitch, told the crowd after his arrival in a Cadillac Escalade behind a phalanx of bodyguards.” (Ott, Philadelphia Inquirer)


A prominent Millville resident and citizens group leader is suing the city for failure to manage and track tax abatements and loans to businesses and landowners.

The suit stems from the city's designation as an Urban Enterprise Zone, a program that allows the use of a portion of sales tax revenues collected in the city for municipal projects, loans to businesses and tax abatements.” (Jackson, Daily Journal)



A high-profile court ruling on immigration and a radio advertising campaign are expected to draw more than 1,000 people to tomorrow's rally against illegal immigration in Morristown, event organizers said.

The town expects to play host to three events from noon to 2 p.m. tomorrow: the rally at town hall organized by the Mount Olive-based ProAmerica Society; a silent counter-protest across the street; and a prayer vigil in support of immigrants at a church a mile away…………..

“Cresitello said he will speak at the ProAmerica rally as long as the event does not take on a bigoted tone.

"If it does go in a direction I don't like, I might speak out against that and make it clear that's not what Morristown is about," said the mayor, who is seeking to get local police deputized as federal immigration agents. The town's application is under federal review. "I'm not against immigration. I'm just against illegal immigration."………..

Members of a white supremacist group called Stormfront plan to attend the Morristown rally as well, according to that group's Web site.

Pearson said he vehemently rejects Stormfront's message. About five Stormfront members attended the Hazleton rally last month, and they carried signs but did not cause problems, Smeriglio said.

"This is not a message of hate that's being put out, it's a message of, if anything, respecting the United States of America," Smeriglio said. "Regardless of race, color, religion, political affiliation, we are all American citizens." (McDermott, Star-Ledger)

Morristown has been in the national spotlight since its mayor, Donald Cresitello, applied for admission into the program, known as 287G, earlier this year.” (Llorente, Bergen Record)


“ELIZABETH: A longtime employee of the Union County Clerk's office is scheduled to be in court today to answer charges she stole $3,500 while on the job.

Cynthia D'Olivera-Rodrigues, 32, of Clark is charged with committing two counts of third-de gree theft between April 1, 2005, and April 30, 2007, according to Assistant Prosecutor Ann Rubin.” (Star-Ledger)



“Some residents will face higher insurance premiums and lower property values if two neighboring Passaic County municipalities adopt new floodplain maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The maps, issued to Little Falls and West Paterson earlier this month, now show streets near the Peckman River to be in the flood zone even though originally they were not.” (Cunningham, Herald News)



”Whether Mayor Paul Moriarty is eligible to use township gas in his personal car is under review by the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, according to Washington Township Police Chief Rafael Muniz.

An unnamed township employee filed a complaint with the police department and the police have notified the prosecutor's office, Muniz said Thursday.

"Anytime you have a situation like this, it's a conflict, so they should at least be notified," Muniz said.” (Beym, Gloucester County Times)



“Three's a crowd?

Perhaps not when it comes to leading a spacious county that has more than 110,000 residents and a budget of $103.5 million.

In Warren, the last remaining New Jersey county with just three freeholders, freeholders have agreed to let voters decide in November whether to increase the trio to five members.” (Frassinelli, Star-Ledger)



“State officials yesterday said they have no intention of bailing Ewing out of its financial crisis this year, casting a pall over Mayor Jack Ball's hopes of avoiding a 43-cent tax rate hike.

Ball said he's lobbying the state for $4 million in distressed cities aid to help close an $8 million gap in the upcoming 2007-2008 budget. The money would reduce the rate hike to 22 cents.” (Coryell, Trenton Times)


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