Katz files brief that says she did email Corzine about contract negotiations, investigation of Somerset County Parks Commission widens, pay to play in South Jersey, possible “cozy deal” between loan company and Rutgers athletic department.
KATZ CONTRADICTS CORZINE
“Gov. Jon Corzine has insisted publicly that all negotiations over a new state worker contract were done at the bargaining table, not through his personal e-mail ex changes with his former girlfriend, union leader Carla Katz.
But Katz, in a legal brief filed yesterday in Mercer County, appeared to directly refute that assertion and acknowledged she had e-mailed Corzine directly with her concerns about the contract negotiations in what Corzine's ethics advisers called an "end run" around the state's team of negotiators.
Katz lobbied Corzine on several points, the brief said, including complaints about the slow pace of negotiations and to address several issues specific to her local. The brief said none of her e-mails changed the outcome of the talks, but that they still should remain private as part of the negotiating process.
"It is an axiomatic principle of collective negotiations that meetings and discussions which do not result in an agreement are no less part of the collective negotiations process then are the meetings and discussions that do result in an agreement," the brief said………….
In March, after several requests were made to make public their e- mail exchanges, Corzine said no negotiations with Katz or any other union official — took place outside of scheduled negotiating sessions. "I know the bargaining was done at the bargaining table, pure and simple," he said.
Katz's filing comes just two days before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Paul Innes is scheduled to hear the state's mo tion to dismiss Wilson's lawsuit.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAY RENT IN JAIL
“The state attorney general's investigation into the Somerset County Park Commission is far wider than was initially acknowledged, and includes all minutes, documents and contracts relating to park businesses going back to at least 1999.
Among the records given to the attorney general were contracts and change orders for the Neshanic Valley Golf Course, which opened in 2004 and cost double its original estimate of $8.5 million.
When the park commission received the state's subpoena on July16, it released a statement say ing the state sought records relat ing to the reimbursement of ex penses by commission staff, records relating to the leasing of county homes to employees and records pertaining to no-bid work done by Complete Electric for the commission since 1998.
Yesterday, Somerset Park Director Ray Brown said the subpoena "covers essentially everything…………….
The Attorney General's Office would not provide any information on the park commission probe, stating it does not comment on current investigations. Park officials said Monday they had met the subpoena deadline and provided all the requested records to the attor ney general.
The Neshanic Valley Golf Course was originally estimated to cost $8.5 million, although that estimate did not include a clubhouse. The final price tag was around $18 million…………
Commission attorney Terry O'Connor, who is on vacation in the Caribbean, instructed parks officials not to release any further records. Brown said the commission is bound to follow his advice. The commission is hiring a separate special counsel tomorrow, who will reconsider the request for records, Brown said.
Park officials are scheduled to review proposals this morning for the additional attorney to assist O'Connor, who runs a one-man law firm.
The refusal to release the records is in violation of the state's open public records law, said Thomas Cafferty, attorney for the New Jersey Press Association. "The law specifically says documents continue to be available to the public during an investigation."
Asked about the apparent OPRA violation, Brown said, "as far as I'm concerned, you can have anything you want," but he said he would not ignore the advice of his paid counsel.” (McCarron and Tyrell, Star-Ledger)
TO THE VICTOR BELONG THE SPOILS
“When Democrats took over the GOP stronghold of Evesham, the largest town in Burlington County, last month, the new Township Council immediately booted the old township engineers and lawyers and hired new ones, sparking a series of pay-to-play attacks and counterattacks.
Most of Evesham's former professionals had political ties to the old Republican regime, campaign-finance reports show. They included a law firm that employed a former county Republican Party chair and an engineering firm that had reliably given money to campaigns of the former mayor and the town's Republican Party.
Similarly, records show that most of the new professionals volunteered on Democratic campaigns or gave money to Democrats or political committees supporting them.
Evesham's legal and engineering contracts could be worth about $1.4 million, based on past spending.
While changing engineers and lawyers is routine in political takeovers, Evesham's changes feature a few twists.
Democrats are sewing up their control of South Jersey, looking to create a solid southern block to match the clout of North Jersey's Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Middlesex County powerhouses. Burlington County and its local governments – with their millions of dollars in contracts and potential sources of campaign donations – are key to the plan.
Republicans, who have long ruled Burlington County and enjoyed the benefits of campaign contributions from professional contractors, are fighting back. They contend that Evesham's new government is just redistributing the spoils to its friends.” (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)
COLLEGE LOAN SCANDAL TOUCHES RUTGERS
“Investigators looking into cozy deals between colleges and student loan companies are scrutinizing the relationship between the Rutgers University Athletic Department and a private loan consolidator.
Rutgers was one of 40 schools, including Georgetown and Ohio State, contacted yesterday in connection with a broadening national probe into the student loan industry. No other New Jersey schools were contacted.
New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether the athletic departments at the schools agreed to promote University Financial Services, a private loan company, to students in exchange for kickbacks. Deals that allowed the lender to use school team names, mascots, colors and logos on its advertising implied UFS was the school's official lender, Cuomo said.
Rutgers signed a deal with UFS last year that allowed the company to advertise on the athletic department's Web site, using the Scarlet Knights name and colors. In exchange, the Rutgers athletic department was to be paid $15,000 plus $75 for every loan UFS made after the first 200 loans, said Greg Trevor, a university spokesman……….
New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, working in conjunction with Cuomo, is examining the "specifics" of Rutgers' relationship with the lender, said her spokesman, David Wald.
At issue is whether Rutgers or any of the athletic departments under scrutiny evaluated UFS interest rates before steering students to them, or if their endorsement of UFS was based purely on payments from the lender. Such an arrangement, known as revenue sharing, is a violation of New York state consumer protection laws, as well as federal law, Cuomo said.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)
CRESITELLO GETS ON CHRISTIE’S CASE
“The anti-war movement has a local champion who unequivocally opposed American entry into Iraq back in 2002, loves Hillary, and who isn’t afraid to crumple up the script and say what’s on his mind. The trouble is this politician’s name is Donald Cresitello, mayor of Morristown, who upped the ante today in his anti illegal immigration crusade, calling on U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie to wake up and get to work and enforce federal immigration laws.
A blunt, to hell with the consequences 1982 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who switched to the GOP and then back to the Democrats, who now backs Hillary Clinton for president and raised $25,000 for Sen. Robert Menendez in his last campaign, Cresitello is waiting for the federal government to decide whether or not to use ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents to train local law enforcement officers in Morristown. If the feds move ahead, some officers in Cresitello’s hometown would in effect become federal arms of the law, specially equipped to crack down on illegal immigrants suspected of felony crimes.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
DENNISON TAKES THE FIGHT TO ALLEN, AGAIN
“State Senate candidate Richard Dennison has taken the fight to Diane Allen quite a few times. In fact, by Dennison’s own count, today was the fourth time that he has held a press conference in front of Allen’s Burlington legislative office.
“I’m choosing here because it’s symbolic that I’m taking this race to her, that I’m not intimidated by her in the least,” said Dennison.
Today, the lawyer/undertaker returned to his favorite campaign spot to attack Allen on the issue he said was most near and dear to him: property tax relief. Why, he asked, did Sen. Allen vote in favor of the establishment of homestead tax credits — which devoted the recent one cent sales tax increase to property tax relief – only to vote against the state budget that ultimately funded it?………….
Dennison, who turned 30 last week, is running an energetic, if long-shot campaign in the Seventh District. And at first glance, the numbers are on his side. Registered Democrats in that district outnumber Republicans nearly two to one, and Kerry got 13,000 more votes there than Bush………….
But Allen, who was elected to the Senate in 1997 after two years in the Assembly, has a reputation as a moderate Republican, despite her support for President Bush and her role as an elector at the 2000 and 2004 Republican National Conventions. Allen’s years as a Philadelphia TV anchorwoman has made her a recognizable face in the district. She has never had much difficulty winning elections……………
Allen said that she voted for homestead credits only after meeting with Gov. Corzine to ask him to include provisions for senior citizens that never materialized. But once it came time to vote for the budget, she couldn’t look past what she saw as a deeply flawed bill. Chief among those problems was that ever-present Republican campaign issue of asset monetization.
“If all that bill did was fund [property tax relief], that would be one thing. But the bill did eight million different things, and some of them were repugnant” said Allen.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
STILL A MYSTERY
“Having undergone shoulder surgery at the Jersey City Medical Center a week ago, state Sen. Bernard Kenny is due to be transferred to a rehabilitation facility any day now, his law partner said yesterday.
Hoboken police officials also confirmed they interviewed Kenny in the hospital on July 24 about the incident that left him crumpled on Bloomfield Street two blocks from his home on the morning of July 18, with multiple fractures and bruises to his body.
"He (Kenny) doesn't remember much other than he 'probably slipped' on a manhole cover or slipped in a pothole," Hoboken Police Capt. Anthony Falco said yesterday.
After Kenny, 60, was taken to the hospital, doctors told police they found his injuries – four fractures to the pelvis, a dislocated right shoulder, a fractured right fibula, a fractured nose and multiple bruises – consistent with being struck by a vehicle.
Police have interviewed "five or six" persons in the block in Hoboken where Kenny was found and have reviewed surveillance tapes, but so far there is no evidence to prove or disprove either the trip-and-fall or the hit-and-run theory, Falco said.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
“THE VOTING SYSTEM IS BROKEN”
“Voter rights activists will be back in court today to renew their call to replace electronic voting machines used statewide with devices that scan manual ballots.
In papers filed this week with Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg in Trenton, the activists cite a pair of new studies critical of electronic voting.
"The Legislature has acknowledged that the voting system is broken. The court is in the unique position to order the state to fix it, properly," Penny Venetis, a Rutgers law professor representing the activists, writes in the papers.
By January, e-voting machines are required by state law to include a printer so voters can verify — but not keep — a paper record of their electronic votes. The printers would debut for the Feb. 5 primary.
But the New Jersey Institute of Technology last month detailed 33 problems, from paper jams to privacy issues, with three printers it tested.” (Coughlin, Star-Ledger)
WILL BUSH VETO?
“Nine of New Jersey's 13 congressmen voted for legislation the House approved late Wednesday to dramatically ramp up funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, despite a veto threat from President Bush.
The Democrat-led House voted 225-204 to approve the measure.
Democratic Reps. Rob Andrews, Albio Sires, Rush Holt, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne and Steve Rothman voted yes. Joining them were GOP Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Mike Ferguson.
Republican Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Scott Garrett, Jim Saxton and Chris Smith voted no.
SCHIP provides health insurance for 6.6 million children nationwide. NJ FamilyCare, which receives SCHIP grants, covers 127,000 kids and 83,000 adults.
Bush and his GOP allies said states should no longer have the option of covering adults, but New Jersey Democrats said they've found enrolling adults is the best way to expand the number of kids in the program.
SCHIP's strongest New Jersey advocate in the House was Pallone, who heads a health subcommittee and helped write the bill. The Long Branch Democrat blasted Republicans, accusing them of seeking to kill SCHIP.” (Chebium, Gannett)
“Governor Corzine traveled to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to lobby his former colleagues to extend and expand the 10-year-old program, which expires at the end of September. He also urged defeat of Republican amendments that would reduce the federal money New Jersey would get.” (Jackson, Bergen Record)
REBATE CHECKS = VOTE BRIBE
“A fair warning: Reading this column might take some of the fun out of your next state-of-New-Jersey-financed shopping spree.
Those so-called property tax relief checks arriving in your mailboxes will do nothing to lower your property tax bills.
The checks are the legally sanctioned stepcousin of an old New Jersey Election Day tradition — a vote bribe. Frank Hague, the corrupt Hudson County boss of lore, would call it good public policy…………
Property taxes will continue to soar. Billions have been sent out in checks over the past eight years, and not a dime of it has kept rates from rising. In fact, the amount of money we have paid in property taxes has climbed by 55 percent over that time…………..
The state can't afford the $2.2 billion in rebates that are being handed out this year…………
Rebates are campaign season handouts………..
Here's my suggestion to the politicians who have the power to give and the power to take away: Get rid of the rebates. It's not such a radical idea. Senate President Dick Codey, in his stint as acting governor in 2005, proposed doing just that. He called them a costly gimmick.
So enjoy the shopping spree. You'll pay the tab someday.” (Stile, Bergen Record)
“EnCap says it will fight a $1 million fine for venting noxious gases from a Meadowlands trash dump where the developer wants to build homes and golf courses.
The state Department of Environmental Protection issued notice of the fine earlier this week, claiming that EnCap switched off a system designed to suck up and burn potentially deadly methane emanating from the old Kingsland landfill.
But in a statement issued Wednesday, the developer blamed the DEP itself for allowing a continuous stream of landfill gas emissions dating back to October 2006………..
"It is important to underscore that there is no public health or safety concern associated with the EnCap project — to characterize the naturally occurring methane emissions otherwise is irresponsible at best and purposely misleading at worst," Dausch said.
In an interview Tuesday, DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson said that methane gas is explosive and a major contributor to global warming. She did not say that it posed an immediate health or public safety threat.” (Pillets, Bergen Record)
THE TOUGHEST CRITICS
“The poetry of the mayor’s phrasing leaves young audiences whispering that Barack Obama has nothing on Cory Booker, but the gruffest old time Newarker-naysayers found – or dragged – some youthful allies here Wednesday to join their baleful chants about managerial mayhem in the city.
The fact that almost half of the children participating in Newark Works’ summer employment program didn’t receive their paychecks on time enabled the anti-Booker forces to fit another generation – and another rack of feathers into their war bonnets as they descended on City Hall to berate a likewise chagrined Newark City Council.
Faced with the onslaught, the council took the opportunity to evade the frontal assaults they’ve been receiving because of their alliance with the mayor, and join the crowd for a Booker beat down…………….
But the T-shirted "Recall Booker" faction under baseball caps bearing the same slogan and shepherding aggrieved children into the chamber were not about to let Booker in the form of Bruton escape without weathering a good old fashioned hard time.
"That’s a lie," some of the children shouted in the face of his explanation. "That’s a lie."
"You’re criminalizing these kids," came a man’s voice.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
Council members, however, said this explanation did not make sense. Councilman-at-large Donald Payne, Jr., asked why Newark Works assigned the teenagers to jobs if they did not have their paperwork together.
Central Ward councilwoman Dana Rone said the teenagers have a right to be angry.
"Cory takes every opportunity to have a press conference for everything good," she said. "He should've taken the same opportunity to have a press conference to talk about the staff not paying them. There is no justification for them not getting paid." (Wang, Star-Ledger)
THE PERILS OF CYBERSPACE
“Gov. Jon Corzine moved yesterday to expand Internet safety programs in New Jersey, prompting praise from experts who said the initiative was overdue in an era of nearly universal Web access.
In a letter, Corzine called on Attorney General Anne Milgram and Education Commissioner Lucille Davy to help strengthen training for teachers and school administrators by the start of the new school year.
School officials would be expected to better educate students, parents and community groups about ways to recognize and avoid Internet threats from pedophiles and other predators.
"With all of the benefits that evolving technologies provide us, too many unfortunate opportunities exist for adults to exploit children through the use of the Internet or for children to otherwise experience dangerous situations as a result of the doors that technology has opened," Corzine wrote……….
The governor cited a study that found 71 percent of teens reported receiving messages online from someone they don't know, and 14 percent met with people they first encountered online. State investigators so far have found that at least 248 New Jersey sex offenders were registered on MySpace.com, a Beverly Hills-based social networking Web site used widely by youngsters older than 13…………
Will Richardson, a former Flemington teacher and author of "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms," said the state initiative may be an improvement over current "piecemeal" programs. But while the safety of children is highly important, he said, the response should not be so hysterical that schools end up stifling access to the World Wide Web.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
“People who take buyouts so co-workers can keep their jobs cannot collect unemployment benefits, a state appellate court ruled Wednesday.
The 3-0 decision scrapped a 2003 state regulation that was challenged by Verizon New Jersey Inc., the state's dominant provider of local telephone service.
The panel said the regulation is invalid because it contradicts a state law and a state Supreme Court ruling on that law.
The regulation was crafted by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. It was reviewing the decision and would have no comment Wednesday, spokeswoman Marcela Ospina said………….
Verizon spokesman Richard J. Young said, "The court confirmed that individuals who voluntarily leave their employment are not entitled to unemployment benefits. This decision is clearly consistent with the statutory framework for the granting of unemployment benefits in the state of New Jersey.” (Gold, AP)
FORT DIX PLOT
“Some of the government's evidence in the case against six men accused of plotting an attack on Fort Dix needs special treatment because it may raise national security concerns, government lawyers said in a legal filing.
Federal prosecutors are asking for a chance to discuss the matter with the judge — out of the view of the public and the defense lawyers in the case.
In a brief filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Camden, Deputy U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick writes, "the United States anticipates that issues relating to classified information will arise in connection with this case."
He does not disclose details, but says the federal Classified Information Procedures Act should apply. That law could allow the government to redact sensitive parts of documents before sharing them with defenselawyers — or even provide summaries of evidence rather than the evidence itself.” (AP)
THE HISTORY OF OPERATION BID RIG
“Though his name is rarely associated with Operation Bid Rig, one public official snared by the FBI investigation is Louis Gartz.
Gartz, 72, is the former Ocean Township auditor who pleaded guilty in 2005 to making cash payments to former township Mayor Terrance Weldon.
He admitted giving Weldon $5,000 in cash during a round of golf at Deal Golf and Country Club in 2000. The payoff was to ensure Gartz maintained his township auditing work…………
In August 2005, Gartz was sentenced to 26 months in jail.
But FBI Special Agent Bill Waldie says the auditor could have avoided prosecution altogether.
"Lou Gartz is a guy who didn't do the right thing," Waldie said. "And now he's sitting in jail."” (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)
GRASSROOTS PAY TO PLAY REFORM
“LODI — Frank Bieniek's ears perked up at the Borough Council's reorganization meeting when he heard Councilman Marc Schrieks take a stance against pay-to-play practices — when campaign contributions are made in the hopes of getting public contracts. Bieniek, 46, a borough resident and a sales representative for a major cookie company, doesn't consider himself to be a political rabble-rouser…………….
Bieniek is curious about whether Lodi will join a growing minority of New Jersey communities that are adopting ordinances that go beyond the state's restrictions on campaign contributors getting public contracts. Of the state's 566 municipalities, 83 have approved tighter regulations, according to the latest tally by Citizens' Campaign, a nonpartisan group pushing for tighter pay-to-play controls at the community level.
But as Lodi's new Borough Council completed its first month in office this week, there was no indication that a homespun pay-to-play ordinance was in the works.
"We're adhering to the state law's requirements," Schrieks said Tuesday. "If we go by what the state is requiring of us, we are doing more than what we have done in the past."
But Paul Eisenman, chairman of Bergen Grassroots, said New Jersey's regulations are ineffective and that combating pay-to-play has become one of the organization's top issues.
"What exists is watered-down state law," he said.
On Tuesday, Bergen Grassroots and Citizens' Campaign submitted 1,750 signatures to the Teaneck municipal clerk in order to put a pay-to-play ordinance on the ballot in November………….
Ingrid Reed, a policy analyst at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics, credited grassroots activists for pushing pay-to-play legislation. While she agreed that state laws weren't strong enough, Reed cautioned against having varying regulations in different communities.
"It's now even gotten difficult for vendors to know what the rules are and make sure they don't get into trouble because they (the laws) aren't consistent. The lack of consistency undermines the good intentions of reforms," Reed said.” (Brubaker, Herald News)
GOOD LUCK GETTING MONEY OUT OF ENCAP
“NORTH ARLINGTON – Tuesday's disappointing announcement about state aid has forced the borough to consider some tough options about its finances, officials say.
Among the options to make up for the aid shortfall is suing EnCap Golf Holdings to release funds the developer has in escrow.
"Our revenue options have been vastly reduced," council President Steven Tanelli said Wednesday. "We may seek to have litigation dollars that are in escrow released. We may have some expenditure cuts. We may be forced to make some hard cuts from day to day."
The Department of Community Affairs announced that the borough would receive $500,000 in extraordinary aid, rather than the $1.5 million it requested.” (Gavin, Bergen Record)
“The Board of Education did not exhibit nepotism by hiring its boss’s sister, the state School Ethics Commission found.
Woodine parent James Thomas filed a complaint alleging it was improper for the board to hire Lynda Anderson-Towns as its superintendent last year, since several board members — five by his count, seven by the commission’s — worked under the direction of her brother, Clifton Anderson, at the Woodbine Developmental Center.
Board President Melissa Rodriguez reported directly to Anderson and the center’s CEO, Robert Armstrong, the commission found.
The board conducted an $8,000 superintendent search with the help of the New Jersey School Boards Association.” (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)
“DUMONT — The $500,000 that the borough received in state extraordinary aid will satisfy Dumont's remaining debt, officials said.
Calling the aid "the best-case scenario," council President Ellen Zamechansky said the money will go toward the final $400,000 repayment to the state.
"I'm absolutely amazed that we got this much money," she said. "After this … we will be in the clear financially."
Dumont was one of three towns in North Jersey that received the biggest grants. The state Department of Community Affairs distributed a total of $17.7 million to cash-strapped towns to prevent dramatic rises in local tax bills.
Borough officials inherited a debt of $1.2 million two years ago due to overspending and mishandling of taxpayer funds by members of the previous administration.” (Park, Bergen Record)
“With stinging accusations creating what-next drama, the Hillside Township Council meeting Tues day night had all the makings of good television.
But after weeks of broadcasting a Windows screen saver, municipal access cable Channel 35 carried only video text messages on a community bulletin board. Hillside is one of the few municipalities in Union County that does not broadcast government meetings live or on tape replay.
"For weeks there was only a Windows logo bouncing on the screen," resident Sip Whitaker told the council in one of many heated exchanges during the three-hour meeting.
"During the election, you promised something was going to happen to Channel 35," Whitaker said. "As a former school board member, we were promised several years ago. In today's technological era, why is it taking so long to address this issue?" (Jett, Star-Ledger)
“Township council members yesterday jumped to the defense of embattled former finance officer Phil Del Turco, who was blamed by the administration Tuesday for a $4 million budget gaffe.
The council pledged to investigate nearly $5 million in sewer repairs that were flagged by the township's auditor, who refused to certify the township's finances as a result of the budget over-expenditure. The bulk of the money was spent without council authorization, the audit said, and was taken from accounts that were not approved for emergency repairs.
"Council and the public would like to know if any intentional fraud was perpetrated," said Councilman Tom Goodwin. "Phil Del Turco doesn't prepare the purchase orders and he is not the one who dic tates where to draw the money from. We want to know who decided what accounts to draw from. That person should be brought be fore council to see if the errors were unintentional or if they were acting on orders from above."
Meanwhile, Mayor Glen D. Gilmore continued to blame Del Turco for the error, saying the former finance officer failed to ensure that the funds were available be fore approving the repairs. Gilmore promised to push for his own state investigation of Del Turco's actions. ” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
IN WARREN COUNTY
“A Verizon Communications spokesman vowed Wednesday the company will work "double time" to make needed upgrades to the Warren County 911 system.
But the county's public safety director, David Gallant, said the company has not replied to his letter notifying Verizon of major 911 system problems, which he thinks jeopardize public safety.” (Satullo, Express-Times)
IN MORRIS COUNTY
Moshe Cohen, one of three Democrats running for Morris County freeholder in November, said he would change the board's meeting schedule to allow more county residents to attend.
The Morris freeholders meet on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Public work sessions are held at 9:30 a.m. and public meetings, at which residents can address the board, are held at 7:30 p.m. the same day.
"After attending a few of these meetngs, it becomes very clear why most of us know little about this one party group," Cohen said in a release.” (Daigle, Daily Record)