CWA Local 1081 wants to know how much money Essex County spent on their "Strut Your Mutt" event, an annual canine Halloween Costume Parade that will be held tomorrow at the South Mountain Reservation dog park. David Weiner, the union president, has filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request seeking "all documents delineating the cost, and source, of the prizes the administration will award dog owners who dress their canines in costumes."
"Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo has in many respects done a considerably commendable job within his nearly seven-year tenure," Weiner said. "However, he has also spent millions of taxpayers' dollars on unnecessary capital projects that that have enhanced his political legacy at the expense of the lives of many of the residents of Essex County as well as the lives of the county employees providing those residents much needed services."
According to Weiner, DiVincenzo has spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to create three dog parks, and has spent more than $18 million building new parks, even though Essex County is strapped for cash.
Weiner says the economic conditions have caused the Essex County Division of Welfare's caseload to increase by more than 20% last month, leaving the office without enough staff to handle the 30,000 monthly client visits. He says while DiVincenzo is spending $1.8 million on a gibbon ape exhibit at the county zoo, he canceled almost $4 million in funding for additional welfare office employees.
DiVincenzo defended the canine contest.
“In this tough economy people are searching for local, affordable activities. Our Strut Your Mutt parades are family-oriented events that bring people from all areas of the County together where they can share their love of dogs and make new friendships," said the two-term County Executive. "The fun everyone will have far outweighs the nominal cost of the prizes awarded to the winners.”
"The Canine Costume Parades are growing into a favorite Halloween celebration for everyone to enjoy. Whether you own a dog or not, I invite you to come see creative costumes worn by dogs of all breeds," DiVincenzo said in a statement earlier this month.