Corzine ready to unveil monetization plan, U.S. Attorney warns officials against taking bribes, Corzine may shelve construction of stem cell research labs, Dawn Lacy speaks, Politico.com talks about Allen/Paulsen feud.
HERE IT COMES. FINALLY.
“Gov. Jon Corzine's long-awaited plan to put the state's finances back in order will be designed to cut the state's massive, $32 billion debt by at least half, The Star-Ledger has learned.
Corzine plans to unveil that particular piece of his still-unfinished "asset monetization" plan in a speech today at the New Jersey League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City.
The 20-minute speech, excerpts of which were obtained by The Star-Ledger, will be less about the nuts and bolts of his plan than about the obligation of the state's elected leaders to take a hard look at the state's finances, especially in light of voter rejection of the stem cell ballot measure last week.
Corzine is expected to call on lawmakers to make difficult choices, even if it's politically painful.
"We can't decide public policy based on the level of controversy a proposal does or does not generate. The Meadowlands was controversial, Atlantic City was really controversial," Corzine will tell the local officials. ” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
After maintaining a low profile during the recent legislative elections, Gov. Jon Corzine is getting back into public view in a big way as he enters a critical stage of his administration.
The governor will address hundreds of municipal leaders at the New Jersey League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City today, then field questions for an hour on a live call-in show tonight on public television and The Star- Ledger's Internet home (www.nj.com).” (Star-Ledger)
BRIBES ARE BAD, MMMKAY?
“U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie had some helpful advice Wednesday for New Jersey's municipal officials.
Don't take any bribes.
While that might seem like an obvious tip, this is New Jersey, where Christie's office has convicted more than 100 public officials on corruption charges in the past six years.
"If you take an envelope of cash in return for official action that you take as a government official, that is a problem," Christie told a convention of municipal officials Wednesday in Atlantic City.”
The annual gathering is sponsored by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, and Wednesday's session with Christie was meant, according to the program of events, to "explore ways to create an ethical culture in New Jersey municipal government."
Christie, who was appointed by President Bush, has been New Jersey's U.S. Attorney since January 2002, and is often cited as a potential 2009 Republican gubernatorial candidate. The prosecutor seemed bemused by the session's premise. "I'm not here to educate you about what you can and can't do as an elected official," Christie said. "You know the difference between right and wrong, and ignorance is not an excuse."
The meeting Christie was attending itself has a history of corruption.
It was at the 1999 League convention that FBI agents caught then-Hudson County Executive Robert C. Janiszewski taking a bribe. (AP)
Christie and Attorney General Anne Milgram led a seminar called the "Ethical Pitfalls in Public Service," which more than 200 municipal officials attended.
Christie began by telling public officials that he was not about to preach to them about right and wrong, they should already know the difference.
But he did offer a tip to them while in Atlantic City:
"If over the next couple of days someone approaches you with an envelope of cash looking for some kind of favor from you turn and run for the ocean, it's probably us."
SHELVING THE STEM CELL LABS
“Gov. Jon Corzine may shelve construction of four of the five stem cell research labs lawmakers authorized last year, according to a senior administration official.
With the state's stem cell ambitions cooled by last week's defeat of a $450 million bond question to fund the research, Corzine himself would only say he is "reviewing" the lab construction program the Legislature approved separately.
Under legislation passed last year, the state is authorized to borrow up to $270 million to build five stem cell research labs across the state.
The centerpiece, a $150 million Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, is still on track to move forward. But Corzine is considering suspending plans to build four smaller labs in Newark, Camden, Belleville and Allendale, said the administration source.
Corzine is also exploring the prospect of using the $120 million earmarked for the construction of the smaller labs to fund the research that was to have been paid for by last week's defeated referendum, according to the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no final decision has been made.
"I will review the overall structure and see what kind of recommendations we should be making," Corzine said in an interview late Tuesday evening. "I'm going to review this very carefully." ” (Margolin and McNichol, Star-Ledger)
INSIDE THE HEAD OF DAWN LACY
“Dawn Lacy served as a captain in the Air Forceand was in charge of the securitydetail thatdefends a basefrom attack.
Now the 36-year old acting chair of the Burlington County Republican Partybelieves her organization is under siege, not from a foreign invader, but from a local culture of bossism and fear.
When the New Jersey native fulfilled her five yearsof active dutyin the military,sheand her husband moved to Burlington,whereshe headed up the Young Republicans Club beginning in 2003. To this day she receives cautious praise from boss Glenn Paulsen forher recruitment efforts.
"She was good at GOTV," said Paulsen. "She felt that was something she could grow beyond."
In December of 2004, the energetic Lacy became vice chair of the party, and when Mike Warner resigned earlier this year under pressure from the party, she assumed the position of acting chair. She was quiet during the general election because she did not wanttodo anything to hinderthe victory ofthose Republican candidates running for office.
But after the electionlast week the Mount LaurelRepublicanwent public with her belief that theBurlington GOP is an organizationthathas been systematically bullied by Paulsen and his surrogates, and stated her d
esireas chairwoman toreview the party's finances from top to bottom.
"People over the last two years have been saying the Camden County politicians and bosses are after our county," Lacy said. "But what they don't understand is that Camden and Burlington are part of the same machine. Only people's indifference allows the bosses to emerge."” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
POLITICO TAKES A LOOK AT THE “BYZANTINE WORLD OF NEW JERSEY POLITICS.”
“It sounds like a storyline out of “The Sopranos,” but it could have real-life implications for national Republicans’ chances of holding on to a swing House seat in New Jersey.
A bubbling feud between a leading New Jersey Republican congressional recruit and a powerful county political kingpin could endanger the GOP’s chances of holding on to the seat held by retiring Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.).
National Republicans have identified state Sen. Diane Allen, 59, as one of their strongest prospective candidates. A moderate on social issues such as abortion and the death penalty, Allen’s longtime tenure as a popular news anchor in Philadelphia gives her high name identification — and, in the view of national party leaders, a better chance to win in the tossup district.
But despite her strong résumé, Allen may have endangered her chances of winning the GOP nomination to fill the Saxton vacancy after she recently picked a fight with the Burlington County Republican machine, headed by the influential county boss Glenn Paulsen, a former county chairman.
In the Byzantine world of Jersey politics, Paulsen is a force to be reckoned with. As a former county official who plays an outsized role behind the scenes, Paulsen could direct donors away from Allen’s campaign, work to give her low placement on the primary ballot or recruit other local candidates to run.
“Unless they make a deal with the devil, I could almost see her not running, because she sees the writing on the wall,” said a Hill staffer who has run campaigns in New Jersey and requested anonymity.” (Kraushaar, Politico.com)
WHO CAN POSSIBLY LIVE ON $149K?
“New Jersey's Supreme Court chief justice yesterday lobbied for a nearly 11 percent pay increase for judges.
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner's request comes after judges received a 5.7 percent salary increase last year, and with the state facing a $3 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
But Rabner told a special state commission that New Jersey judges should get paid the same as federal judges.
Federal judges get paid $165,000 per year; New Jersey trial court judges get $149,000 after last year's increase, the first since 2000.
"We want to get the best and the brightest and retain those people over the long haul," Rabner told the Public Officers Salary Review Commission that meets every four years and must submit salary recommendations to the governor and Legislature by Dec. 1. ” (Hester, AP)
“Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman has filed a criminal complaint against a borough police sergeant accusing the officer of threatening to kill him during an argument at an election-night reception last week.
Reiman filed the charge Nov. 8 against Sgt. Andrew Tarrant two days after they had a confrontation at the Catholic War Veterans Hall where the local Democrats were holding a victory party.
"The threat of physical harm is always a serious charge, especially when coming from someone who has sworn to protect the public safety," Reiman said in a statement yesterday. "No one, and no police officer, is above the law. Someone who carries a gun and badge needs to be held to a higher standard."
Tarrant, a 24-year veteran of the police department, has been suspended with pay from his $92,700-a-year job pending the outcome of the charge. He referred questions to his attorney when reached at home yesterday.
"We vigorously deny any allegations made by the mayor," said Tarrant's lawyer Eric Marcy, of the Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer firm in Woodbridge. "I fully expect Andy to be vindicated." ” (Epstein, Star-Ledger)
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A TOOTHLESS COMMITTEE
“Remember all those ethics complaints during the campaigns? Wonder what happens to them?
We’ll see tomorrow, when the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards meets to rule on the five complaints that have been filed since the committee last met. But if history is any guide, they’ll mostly be dismissed.
While legislators who sit on the committee say that complaints occasionally have at least some level of validity, some say they’re filed more to get a headline in the heat of a campaign rather than pointing out a real, troubling ethical infraction. They also say they’ve noticed it happening more often in recently, with candidates taking advantage of a committee – one with a reputation for being toothless and ineffective — for their political ends.
Indeed, 2007 was the year of the ethics complaint, with 10 filed so far- the most of any year on record, going back to 1972. Five have been settled, all of which were dismissed.
“Most of them are campaign ploys – gotcha type things,” said state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, who sits on the committee that will consider a complaint filed against him tomorrow (Cardinale will recuse himself). “They fly all over the place at election time, and it’s much more this time than I ever remember.”” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
STAYING OUT OF IT
“Both Democrats who want to challenge Scott Garrett for Congress in 2008 come from Bergen County, and neither wants to take sides in the war raging there between state Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero.
Dennis Shulman, a rabbi and psychologist who's blind, officially announced his long shot candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the fifth district congressional seat today. Rather than pick a side in the Democratic war in Bergen, he said that his candidacy may be able to help mend it.
"I'm not coming down on either side," said Shulman during a conference call with reporters. "…As a psychologist who works with families and as a rabbi, I have a lot of experience trying to repair splits in families and people, and I'm hoping that this election will be an opportunity to repair some of the split not only between Democrats and Republicans but within the county as well as w
ithin the party."………..
Shulman's likely opponent for the Democratic nomination, Camille Abate, who lost the 2006 primary against Paul Staurt Aronsohn, said that she hasn't kept close tabs on the county fight because the Bergen County Democratic Organization, which focuses mainly on municipal, county and legislative races, won't have much of a role in her congressional campaign.
"I know that Joe is the head of the Bergen county organization, and I know Loretta is a respected member of the party," said Abate. "I'm sure that they all have on good faith a situation where they believe in different things, which happens between decent people sometimes.. I don't really have a stance on that. My focus has really been to beat Scott Garrett."” (Friedman PoliticsNJ.com)
STILE ON JOE ROBERTS
“I would not be shocked to see Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts on tour next year, promoting a how-to book on New Jersey government. Here's a good bet for the title: "How to Be a Liberal and Activist Government on $40 a Day."
Seizing the empty stage in the State House during the post-election lull this week, the Camden Democrat rolled out a bold strategy to restock the state's woeful supply of affordable housing — with no new money.
For housing and community activists shunned on the sideline over the last decade, Roberts' 12-point plan struck all the right chords. He deliberately did not oversell it with unsustainable pledges, like promising 100,000 new units in 10 years.
Instead, it's an assortment of do-more-with-less strategies, such as requiring 20 percent of state-funded projects, like transit villages, to include low- and moderate-income housing and stopping affluent towns from ducking their obligations by paying poorer towns to build the homes. The plan also was bolstered by a few bold strokes, such as a proposal to increase school aid in towns that are building more affordable housing units.
And it had a combative streak. On the eve of attending the annual tribute to parochial self-rule — better known as the New Jersey League of Municipalities Convention in Atlantic City — Roberts' plan includes a warning to local officials sitting on stockpiles of unused housing funds:
"Use it or lose it.''………….
The affordable housing initiative underscores the paradox facing Roberts, 55, one of Trenton's most skilled political leaders.
The 20-year veteran of the Legislature has finally arrived at the pinnacle of his power with secure Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate and a Democrat in the governor's office — but with no money to carry out an activist agenda. The state is staring at a $3 billion deficit (again) for the next fiscal year.
Voters are also not happy about the state of New Jersey's finances, a sentiment reflected in their stunning rejection of ballot questions on stem cell funding ” (Stile, Bergen Record)
PICTURING JOE CONIGLIO DANCING TO “SEXUAL HEALING.” THANKS FOR THAT IMAGE, BERGEN RECORD
“It was Studio 54 for New Jersey's political class: an exclusive club party with velvet ropes and a door policy favoring the powerful, if not the most stylish.
Picking up the open-bar tab at the Borgata hotel Wednesday night during the annual League of Municipalities conference was the Bergen County Democratic Organization, whose finances rely heavily on donations from firms that do business with local government.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts was there, as was outgoing state Sen. Joseph Coniglio. Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes showed up, and so did Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire.
Carla Katz, president of Local 1034 of the Communications Workers of America — and Governor Corzine's onetime girlfriend — was whisked off the main line outside and hustled through the VIP entrance with a male companion just before 11 p.m.
The party at the nightclub mur.mur kicked off an hour earlier, when a DJ queued up Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." Cocktails flowed freely as politicians and county employees, who had stood in a line about 70 deep, were allowed in. Scantily clad waitresses flitted around with platters of mini-burgers as the action spilled onto the dance floor. Before long, it was nearly impossible to move.
Even Assemblyman Gordon Johnson — despite his rocky relationship with county Democratic chairman Joseph Ferriero — boogied to "Upside Down," by Diana Ross” (Carmiel, Henry, Fallon, Bergen Record)
WILL A NAME BE ENOUGH TO SAVE THIS MESS?
“Donald Trump is putting his name on the troubled EnCap development in the Meadowlands, but not his money.
In fact, Trump will be paid $15 million over three years for overhauling the project's design and trying to rescue plans to transform nearly 800 polluted acres in Bergen County into a luxurious development of homes and a golf course, according to a signed agreement released yesterday.
This is a typical strategy for Trump, who often lends his name to projects and promotes them aggressively without actually putting up his own cash.
"Trump is the master of self-branding, he's never been afraid to put his name in big gold-leaf letters everywhere," said Joe Weinert, a consultant for the gaming industry who has advised Trump. "He's done an excellent job of promoting the brand but not putting — relatively speaking — significant sums at risk."
Trump saw EnCap as a "challenge," when he learned of the project's faltering finances and its environmental problems from a front-page Star-Ledger article several weeks ago, said Michael Cohen, executive vice president for the Trump Organization.
"This thing needs my touch," was his comment, Cohen said……..
Don Eisen, a longtime player in the northern New Jersey commercial real estate industry, said the Trump name generates excitement despite the company's troubled Atlantic City casino and failed mortgage business.
"The name still carries some panache. It brings value because people know that brand," Eisen said. "Everything he touches does not turn to gold. But the residential side of his businesses have all done well." ” (McDermott and Jordan, Star-Ledger)
“OVERBLOWN TRUMP TALK”
“Donald Trump has a strange habit of bringing out the weird in some people.
Consider Gary Schaer.
He's a Democratic assemblyman from Passaic. Last week he was reelected. He should feel lucky to be politically alive. He
should also remember his past. So far, he seems far too forgetful.
Schaer heard Trump wanted to take over the bankrupt EnCap project to turn Meadowlands garbage dumps into a golf course. Before you could say "You're fired," Schaer proposed that The Donald "agree to host" a series of public hearings.
Yes, there ought to be public hearings, but not with Trump as the host.
How many times do we need to hear that Trump has a "spectacular" plan and that his golf course "would be the finest of its kind anywhere in the world"?
We heard that once — when The Donald announced his plan to The Record's John Brennan last week. And we knew those phrases were overblown Trump-talk.
How can any golf course within a half-mile of the New Jersey Turnpike be considered "spectacular"? And the "finest of its kind"? Perhaps if you compare a Meadowlands golf course to others built on garbage dumps near highways jammed with snorting trucks, maybe Trump is right.” (Kelly, Bergen Record)
“A Bergen County real estate magnate who for years exploited unsuspecting Paterson homebuyers while bribing low-level city employees, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Michael Eliasof, of Mahwah, agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court for overseeing a wide-ranging, house-flipping scheme between 2002 and 2005 that undermined an already shaky Paterson housing market.
Eliasof, who at one time was a major operator in Paterson's Section 8 program, was charged with taking between $1 million and $2.5 million in illegal proceeds from the sale of overvalued properties to buyers not qualified to purchase them.”
The circle of professionals Eliasof worked with included Garfield Municipal Judge William C. Colacino Jr., who was the closing attorney for dozens of deals Eliasof lined up with inexperienced buyers. Colacino was not in court Wednesday and has not been indicted. He declined to comment Wednesday.
Eliasof and 10 co-conspirators, including mortgage brokers, loan officers and appraisers, artificially inflated the values of properties throughout Paterson. They then falsified loan applications and income levels for those buyers whom Eliasof lured in with "no money-down" deals, according to the federal charges. (MacInness, Herald News)
“On the heels of two defeated ballot questions involving state finances, legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle Tuesday hashed out ways to resolve the state's fiscal woes.
Already on the table is a new school funding formula and Gov. Jon S. Corzine's plans to make money off state assets, but more aggressive efforts to consolidate and a property tax convention could also be part of the solution.
State officials discussed their 2008 priorities Wednesday at the New Jersey League of Municipalities' annual conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
The discussion comes after voters rejected referendums on Election Day, one to bond $450 million for stem cell research over 10 years and another to dedicate the other half-cent from last year's sales tax increase to property tax relief.
"They sent a message that the state of New Jersey is borrowing too much," said Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce. "And they're tired of it."” (Graber, Express-Times)
ATLANTIC CITY MAYORAL MESS CONTINUES
But an appeal is likely, said acting Mayor William Marsh, who said a conference on the matter is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today with Armstrong.
Armstrong in her decision sided with the Atlantic City Democratic Committee's arguments that it was improper for the court to interfere in the nominations of Business Administrator Cappella, committee Chairman Evans and former City Councilwoman Hudgins to replace former Mayor Bob Levy.
Levy resigned Oct. 10, and the city party met Oct. 17 to choose three nominees to replace him.
The state Democratic Committee and committeeman John Devlin filed suit after charges of unfairness marred the voting. Complaints centered on the fact that Evans had the party vote on the three people city Ethics Board member Howard Barsky nominated without considering other nominations.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
OPERATION BID RIG
“Robert "Duke" Steffer, the undercover FBI informant who played a pivotal role in the investigation culminating in arrests of more than a dozen public officials in Operation Bid Rig, took the witness stand for the first time Tuesday at a trial of one of those officials.
The trial is for former Asbury Park Councilman John J. Hamilton Jr., who is charged with conspiracy, extortion, bribery, making false statements and witness tampering.
Authorities had Steffer pose as a corrupt contractor in dealings with officials in Monmouth County and several towns between 2001 and 2004. Hamilton is accused of bartering to get a paved driveway installed at his home in 2001; in exchange, authorities say, Hamilton was to steer municipal contracts to Steffer's fictitious demolition company.
"John Hamilton sold his office for $2,000 and a driveway," Thomas J. Eicher, deputy chief of the spe
cial prosecution division for the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said in his opening statements.
Hamilton's attorney, Michael Baldassare, countered that the state's case hangs solely on the testimony of Steffer. In his opening statement, Baldassare called Steffer's credibility into question, saying, "Steffer lies."
"Why does he lie?" Baldassare asked. "That's what Bobby Steffer does."” (Webster, Asbury Park Press)
SOMERSET COUNTY PARKS COMMISSION
Jurors are to start deliberating today about the fate of a Somerset County Park Commission employee accused of taking kickbacks from contractors.
Joseph Lucas Jr., 40, is charged with second-degree official misconduct, bribery and acceptance of unlawful benefits by a public servant for official behavior, and a fourth-degree charge of falsifying records. The construction manager has been suspended from his job without pay.
Yesterday, attorneys spent the afternoon summing up their cases, with the defense attacking the testimony of a contractor who allegedly gave Lucas a $3,000 payoff to get more work after underbidding a demolition project.
Thomas Riccardo, 63, previously pleaded guilty to leaving the bribe in a brown paper bag, beneath a tree at the scene of the work, not far from Torpey Field in Bridgewater. Riccardo said he realized he'd underbid the job and first contacted Frank Taddeo, a construction inspector, to say he would make a payoff in exchange for more work. Taddeo, according to testimony, referred Riccardo to his boss, Lucas, for any talk of extras.
But Riccardo couldn't remember the construction manager's last name — calling him Koluka or variations thereof — his face or the denomination of bills he left behind, whether they were $20s or $100s.
"When people lie about these things, they try to be as specific as they can, but they always get tripped up," defense attorney Michael Rogers said. ” (Golson, Star-Ledger)
”DAMN RIGHT I DID”
“When former longtime Republican Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina sent a letter two weeks ago to more than 12,000 residents endorsing the two Democrats running for Township Committee, neither of the candidates knew until after the letter arrived in local mailboxes.
To local Republicans and Democrats alike, it was no surprise that Azzolina issued the endorsement. After all, this would not be the first time Azzolina publicly stated his opposition to the local GOP regime.
But what did come as a surprise to some people in both parties was that Sean F. Byrnes, one of the Democrats, won — because up until this year, the party had not held a spot on the governing body since 1983.
Now, more than a week after the second consecutive election in which voters have elected a Democrat, the questions are surfacing. Did Azzolina really affect the outcome of the election?
"Damn right I did," Azzolina said Wednesday. "I would hope so. I think I got it out to enough people."
But even Byrnes himself, who said he was surprised to have been elected in a township that for so long was entrenched in the GOP, says he thinks it was a variety of factors, including his longtime involvement as a coach and parishioner in the Lincroft community, that helped him get elected.
"He never called me and told me he was sending out the letter," Byrnes said of Azzolina. "Honestly, when I saw it, I thought, "I don't know if this is going to help us, or hurt us.'” (Herget, Asbury Park Press)
THE MAYORAL RACE THAT WILL NEVER END
“A judge in Morristown has set a conference for this morning to decide a trial date for Parsippany Councilwoman Rosemarie Agostini's challenge to the 2005 mayoral election results.
Two years after Agostini, a Republican, lost by 39 votes on Nov. 8, 2005, to Democrat Michael Luther, the state Supreme Court last week said she is entitled to a trial on her claims of voting improprieties.
Superior Court Assignment Judge B. Theodore Bozonelis in January 2006 dismissed Agostini's challenge but a state appeals court reinstated her petition. Luther appealed, and the state's highest court ruled in Agostini's favor, saying her challenge was improperly dismissed at the trial level.
Bozonelis will conference today with lawyers for both Luther and Agostini to decide what discovery still needs to be exchanged and to set a trial date.
Vote tallies after the 2005 general election wavered as recounts were conducted and additional absentee ballots were located. Ultimately, it was determined that Luther beat Agostini by 39 votes. Agostini filed a challenge with Bozonelis, alleging that lawful votes were not accepted and that illegal votes were cast. In all, she objected to 129 votes, which, if subjected to scrutiny, might have altered the outcome of the election.” (Wright, Daily Record)
“Councilwoman Sheena Santiago may have narrowly avoided censure by a fellow councilwoman Tuesday night.
Councilwoman Barbara Sheftall drew attention Wednesday to her comment, made publicly at the previous night's council meeting, that Santiago should be censured. She made the call following remarks by Santiago about the city's municipally owned electric utility. In the discussion, Santiago openly questioned the reasons for an upcoming call for development proposals on the utility's plant, and made allegations that the wording of that request would benefit a particular bidder.
Those questions, Sheftall said later, veered into speculation.
But she said Wednesday that her move to censure Santiago – "to tell her she was out-of-order," Sheftall said – did not go as she expected because, contrary to the regulations, a motion to censu
re was not proposed.
"Normally there would be a motion and a vote," Sheftall explained Wednesday. But, she said of her council colleagues, "I don't think they were familiar with the procedure."” (Fletcher, Press of Atlantic City)
EVERY MAYOR NEEDS AN IPHONE
“SADDLE BROOK – Mayor Lou D'Arminio is facing criticism for spending more than $10,000 in taxpayer money on top-of-the-line computers and a cellular telephone for his own use — purchases that he partially reimbursed the township for after they came to light.
Since June of last year, records show D'Arminio bought a $6,179 iMac desktop, a $3,613 laptop and a $796 accessorized iPhone — all significantly more expensive than others bought for municipal employees and standard models currently on the market.
D'Arminio purchased the iPhone only a month after its high-profile release.
D'Arminio defended the purchases as necessities for his job as mayor and brushed aside allegations from council members that the purchases were extravagant.
"Everyone who knows me knows that I buy only the best equipment for my police, my office and my township," he said. "That's the way I operate, and I always have."
But some council members have accused the mayor of misspending — allegations that D'Arminio, a Democrat, say are politically motivated.
"That's a dangerous thing he did," Democratic Councilman Edward Kugler Jr. said of D'Arminio's purchases. "Now I've got people calling me up saying his hands are in the cookie jar."” (Akin, Bergen Record)
“DENVILLE — Nearly 31 percent of registered 2nd Ward voters signed petitions submitted to town hall on Wednesday morning in support of ousting Councilman James McCloskey — well beyond the required minimum of 25 percent, a recall supporter said.
McCloskey, a 12-year councilman whose term expires on Dec. 31, 2009, said he would seek to remain in office.
"It's disgraceful. These guys have done everything they can to misrepresent the facts," said McCloskey in accusing recall supporters of distorting the cost of a controversial sewer plan he supported.
Jim Schoner, a recall supporter, said the recall effort was prompted by several factors — from the sewer plan and lingering resentment over the new municipal building's cost to perceptions about a lack of responsiveness from McCloskey in regard to resident concerns.
"People are very frustrated with just the town," Schoner said.
Town clerk Donna Costello said she has 10 days to certify the 823 signatures and determine whether a recall election will be held.
For the recall to proceed, at least 667 signatures must be validated.” (Jennings, Daily Record)
IN UNION TOWNSHIP
“The Union Township Committee has fired a pre-emptive political shot at a citizen group's petition drive for a change in the form of local government.
Democratic committee members, whose decade-long grip on municipal government is under threat, gave preliminary approval Monday night for a charter-study commission question to be placed on the 2008 general election ballot.
"Shall a charter study commission be elected to study the charter of the township to consider a new charter or improvements in the present charter and to make recommendations thereon?" reads the proposed ballot question.
The committee's action stunned the leadership of the Citizens for a United Union in attendance at the meeting. Some called the move a diversionary tactic intended to derail the group's effort, while others defended the group from criticism made by committee members just before the session. ” (Jett, Star-Ledger)
“Municipal Court Judge George R. Korpita is set to make his first appearance on Nov. 27 before a Superior Court judge in Union County on charges of driving drunk and carelessly in Roxbury last week.
Korpita, 47, is the municipal court judge for Dover, Rockaway and Victory Gardens. He was charged Nov. 6 with DWI on Route 46 in Roxbury after a motorist called police to report that the driver of a black Chrysler sedan appeared to have fallen asleep because he didn't move his Chrysler from a traffic signal despite multiple light changes.” (Wright, Daily Record)
IN SOUTH RIVER
“Residents of South River have spent decades enduring washed- out streets, damp basements and the occasional evacuation when heavy rain sends the Raritan River over its banks.
Now the borough's long- awaited flood damage project may be poised to become reality. The U.S. Senate's vote last week to override President Bush's veto of a bill to provide federal funding for water resource projects around the country puts South River in line to receive $79.5 million for floodgates and levees. ” (Steele, Star-Ledger)