How closely is Union County watching the UC Alliance

The Union County Alliance was set up as a non-profit organization by Union County government and Kean University and has been totally financed by Union County tax dollars and state assistance through Kean. Because it is not considered a public entity the public doesn’t have access to the Alliance meetings or records, we have to rely on Union County officials to watch over public funds to the tune of about a quarter million dollars a year. A recent report issued by the state Comptroller’s office tells us how that’s been working for us.

Despite having the County Manager and at least one freeholder sitting on as Board of Directors, Union County Alliance meeting minutes never turn up in blanket OPRA requests seeking Alliance documents from Union County government. In fact, not much shows up. If I were sitting on the Alliance board I surmise I would need a lot more information to know what was going on in order to feel comfortable approving expenditures.

As a board member at the very least I would expect to see a treasury report, the annual schedule of meetings, agendas of upcoming meetings, and draft meeting minutes to be approved. I am assuming meetings take place, minutes are kept, and are approved by the Board as is required by the IRS for non-profits. If not, why would I lend my name to this shady organization?

In response to a scathing report released in January 2015 by the State Comptroller’s questioning $1.5 million spent by Union County the Alliance County Manager Faella released a public statement assuring the public that the County has been paying attention, at least since 2012. An OPRA request shows the duty of care County Manager Al Faella is paying to the Alliance. It’s business as usual, and not good enough to know what is really going on with our tax dollars.

It surely isn’t enough information to find what the Comptroller’s office found. The last report for payment was dated October 20, 2014, and it looks like it was paid on December 10, 2014, however the report was for work performed in August and September 2014 which would leave the County’s oversight of the Alliance at 3 months behind.

The comptrollers report found among other things that Ed Zarnock as the Executive Director of the Alliance was getting a $2,000 monthly stipend, and Michael Murray as President was charging out of town travel expenses for who knows what business, and he even had the taxpayers pick up a tab for his ice cream down LBI. Zarnock died in April 2011 as did Murray in December 2013. At the last freeholder meeting Faella and Freeholder Carter despite being board members of the Alliance had no explanations or apologies for these expenditures.

In the real word Al Faella would be fired. Instead he’s left to keep the Alliance gravy train on track for the UC Democratic Committee patronage mill. Perhaps the IRS will sort it all out. Isn’t it a conflict of interest that Faella is both the County Manager and a Board Member of the Alliance? Wouldn’t he implicate himself if he found fault with the Alliance reporting to the freeholders? Actually, they are reporting to Faella. Didn’t the Board members have a legal duty to care, a duty to pay attention, to the Alliance? Never mind what they are doing now. What did they do then and who is being held responsible for these public funds? $2,000 stipends to longshoremen, ice cream down the shore, this is Dirty Jersey at its best.

Regarding vendor contracts and any potential conflicts of interest, in seemingly unrelated to his duties as the Union County Alliance president/executive director Geoffrey Perselay was given a no-bid contract by Union County under Resolutions 2012-646 and 2013-57 regarding a $30,000 management study to be prepared for the County jail. The study has not been released to the public to date.

According to the Comptroller’s report:

“UCA’s lack of recordkeeping made it impossible to accurately account for its finances, said OSC Investigations Division Director Noelle Maloney. The group did not have a functioning treasurer, even though its bylaws required a treasurer to cosign all of its checks, and it did not maintain any budgets.

“In order to conduct our investigation, we had to reconstruct financial details from UCA bank records and other sources,” Maloney said. “Even then, it was impossible to determine exactly how the UCA spent the county’s money.”

County officials said they are reexamining their financial commitment to the UCA in light of OSC’s findings. The UCA’s current president, hired in March 2013, said that steps are being taken to address OSC’s recommendations. For example, the UCA is now using a reimbursement process for expenses and, going forward, vendor contracts and any potential conflicts of interest will be disclosed to the UCA board.”

OSC has referred its findings to the Internal Revenue Service, the New Jersey Department of Treasury’s Division of Taxation and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.”

The County’s response to the report:

“The County of Union is currently in the process of reviewing the Comptroller’s report and its recommendations. As the report indicated, the County has already taken a number of steps addressing issues raised by the Comptroller’s Office, beginning in 2012. The Alliance, at the urging of the County, undertook corrective actions as per their financial book keeping, and activities. Coupled with these reforms, the County also cut about one third of its annual subsidy to the Alliance, and the organization is now focusing on generating outside income to subsidize its operations.”

The latest list of directors available to the public:

UNION COUNTY ALLIANCE 2013 BOARD OF DIRECTORS
George Devanney, Keywood Strategies (Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, former county manager, ex-husband of Audrey Kelly of Kean Univeristy)
Mauro Checchio, Chairman, Union County Alliance
Anthony Albanese, Alman Group (son of former county manager George Albanese)
Linda Carter, County of Union (Freeholder Chair, Ex-Officio)
Karen Conway, Valley National Bank
Elizabeth Ealie, Wachovia Bank
Dr. Dawood Farahi, Kean University
Alfred Faella, County of Union (UC Manager, Ex-officio)
Frank Lehr, Frank H. Lehr Assoc. (former freeholder)
Richard Malcolm, Ironworker Local 480
Margaret M. McMenamin, Union County College
Daniel Sullivan, Union County Utilities Authority (former freeholder)
Maureen Tinen, Union County Economic Development Corp

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Ray on February 16, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    I wonder if this “Alliance” is a way for county freeholders and other politicians to funnel money for their political endeavors.?

    Reply

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