If the recent correspondence between Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan and County Executive Dennis McNerney’s administration is any indication, then Bergen County is in for a particularly nasty battle for county executive this fall.
As reported in The Record this morning, the recently appointed county administrator, Timothy Dacey, wrote to Donovan on Feb. 19 that he found it “troubling and worrisome” that the county’s auditing firm was unable to audit Donovan’s office for fiscal years 2007 and 2008 because “your office has not reconciled numerous bank accounts since 2006.” Dacey wrote that the auditing firm, Ferraioli, Wielkotz, Cerullo & Cuva, had “attempted on numerous occasions to get the necessary information, but has been told as recently as two weeks ago, that the required information is still not available.”
The audits of Donovan’s office, however, are subcontracted out to a different auditing firm, which has been working with the county clerk’s office since 1989.
McNerney, a Democrat, is seeking reelection in November, and Donovan is the Republican favored to run against him.
Dacey, who was vice president of Bergen County Community College before being reappointed as administrator – a post he previously held — was former Gov. Jim McGreevey’s chief of staff when McGreevey was mayor of Woodbridge.
Donovan responded to Dacey’s notice with a toughly-worded letter to McNerney, calling it “obviously political” and writing that “one might wonder if [Dacey] is functioning as the County Administrator as part of your re-election campaign.”
“Contrary to Mr. Dacey’s false allegations, at no time has anyone from this audit team complained that they could not complete their assignment.”
Donovan also wrote that the auditors told her they were auditing for 2007, 2008 and 2009 because they had gotten “a little behind.”
“As you and Mr. Dacey should know, your failure to arrange for annual, timely audits is contrary to state policy and raises the obvious question of why audits of the County Clerk’s office were not properly authorized and performed by your office in prior years when I was not challenging you in the General Election,” she wrote.
In a phone interview, Donovan said that when the auditor asked for files, they were supplied immediately. She said that county executive spokesman Brian Hague’s statement to The Record that the administration has sought the information for years was “absolutely untrue.”
“The letter from Dacey was throwing down the gauntlet, as far as I’m concerned,” said Donovan.
Hague held that there were no political intentions behind the original letter, noting that nobody in the county executive’s office leaked it to the press.
“I don’t know how to counter her statements except with facts. The facts are that she hasn’t done her work, and she’s the only one,” he said. “Obviously, she’s trying to make it political. She’s sending it to reporters. This doesn’t come from us. It was done internally.”
Donovan acknowledged that she did, in fact, first bring the letter to the attention of the press, but said the fact that McNerney did not publicize it immediately did not mean he would not bring it up closer to November.
“It was just as if they were setting it up for headlines in a campaign piece down the road,” she said. “I did let the press know, absolutely. Because I’m not going to let someone smear my name because their record isn’t any good.”