Archive for the ‘UC Utilities Authority’ Category

Ethically Challenged in NJ

You may be surprised to know that New Jersey has a Local Government Ethics Law. You may not be surprised that it is of little practical use as a deterrent for unethical behavior. Though it requires Financial Disclosure Statements when even the most obvious instances of malfeasance are uncovered it becomes more of an opportunity for soaking taxpayers and rewarding political insiders than punishing the guilty. For example, no matter how unethically you behave, there is this limit on penalties:

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UCCF 4/27/17: UCUA Lost Million

Here is the revenue page showing the Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA) item going from $2,000,000 in 2016 to $1,000,000 in 2017:

ucua revenue

That $2 million amount from the UCUA first appeared in the 2012 budget (page 30) as part of the debt-extension deal pushed through in 2011 and had been at $2 million through 2016. However, the UCUA has had trouble coming up with the tonnage they guaranteed so Covanta is squeezing them and, by extension, Union County taxpayers.

UCCF 3/9/17: Volunteering for UCUA Board

2017-231: Re-appointing James Kennedy as Commissioner to the Union County Utilities Authority for a term beginning February 1, 2017 through January 31,2022.

Pensions and UCIA PERS Refunds

P.L. 2007, c. 29, which became effective on January 1, 2008, was reform legislation “designed to ensure the system serves career public employees rather than political appointees” and to “cut out the entrenched core of abuse that has been corrupting our pension and benefits systems from within.” One of the components of the new law, N.J.S.A. 43:15A-7.2,  excluded professional services contractors, such as municipal lawyers, architects and engineers from enrolling in the state’s PERS pension system.

A lawyer in Cumberland County tried to get around this provision with the help of his employers and was caught which basically meant that the contributions he made into the New Jersey Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) were returned to him.  The attempt to game the system was deemed to be ethical by the Local Finance Board last month.

Which brings us to the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) check registry for 2016 with these intriguing entries:

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More From UCUA Check Registry – 2016

The Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA) check registry for 2016 contains its share of questionable items:

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UCIA/UCUA Check Registries – 2016

Check Registries for 2016 for both the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) and Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA) are out and among the expenses incurred by an organization that has cost Union County taxpayers tens of millions of dollars through dumb ideas, useless litigation benefiting connected lawyers primarily, and incompetence are these items:

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UCUA Raises and UCIA Subsidy

The Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA) held their last meeting of the year last month and the primary order of business:

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UCCF 7/21/16: UCIA Gets $70,000 For ?????

More stipends maybe?

Last September we had this resolution:

2015-800: Authorizing the County Manager to enter into a Shared Services Agreement by and between the County of Union and the Union County Improvement Authority for Strategic Facility Planning Services.

which was not supposed to cost anything but, as it turns out, last Thursday we got:

2016-620: Amending Resolution 2015-800, a Shared Services Agreement with the Union County Utilities Authority for Strategic Facility Planning Services, for additional services related to the Strategic Facility Planning Services at an amount not to exceed $70,000 for a total contract amount of not to exceed $70,000.

which was explained thusly:
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2016 Budget (2) Authority Shenanigans

The Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) and the Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA) operate independently of Union County (in theory) primarily to allow donors to county political campaigns to be repaid through contracts with those Authorities.  DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole, LLP (DeCotiis) has gotten over $12 million in fees from the UCIA since 2004 and about half of the $2.8 million in total legal fees from the UCUA since 2007*.

To get that money, individual lawyers from DeCotiis have made campaign donations totaling $186,000 since 2009 that went either directly or through intermediaries to freeholder campaigns. Over that time money has been going in and out of the county budget to and from those Authorities for the primary purpose of enriching those lawyers and other ‘professionals’ who have been serving themselves much more than county taxpayers.

This spreadsheet of items from county budgets going back to 2011 shows ‘Aid’ to the UCIA totaling $2,660,245.  Considering the overhead involved in getting a project done through the UCIA, only the county and controlled municipalities (once Linden and now Roselle) do projects through the UCIA so this ‘aid’ is necessary to pay the bills.  Plus there is that bond default from the solar panel fiasco that DeCotiis lawyers pushed and will be costing county taxpayers millions of dollars over the next few years..

The $2 million that the UCUA has been shifting to the county is part of a 2011 debt refinancing deal that Covanta snookered the UCUA into and which blew up this year leaving the UCUA scrambling for cash.  Their latest gambit, passed this month, is a Cooperative Pricing Agreement with the county which will wind up operating as a subsidy to the UCUA  without having to put an ‘Aid to UCUA’ line item in the budget.  Don’t be surprised if the first thing the county and the UCUA cooperate on is paying legal fees.

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* UCUA legal fees were taken from available Approved Bills listings downloaded from the UCUA website and there were several months either missing or with a bad pdf so the totals are understated.  For those who may be interested, these bills included the legal fees for the Sullivan Stipend Scandal which came to $120,380.49.

UCUA Garbage Deal (1) – Do You Know?

Another fiscal fiasco in Union County, this one involving garbage disposal, is costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

In the next few blogs we will examine the history of the Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA) which leases the Union County Resource Recovery Facility (UCRRF) in Rahway to Covanta Union, Inc. (Covanta) and the latest blowup which came to light this month.

But first, do you know….

What Union County municipalities are paying Covanta for garbage disposal

In 2011 it was reported that the 14 municipalities signed up by the UCUA would save millions of dollars as their rate-per-ton would drop from $68 to $56. That rate increased through the years to $66.97 in 2015.

What everyone else is paying Covanta for garbage disposal

For 2015 the UCRRF processed 547,466 tons of garbage with 318,170 coming from UCUA deliveries.  Of the remaining 229,296 tons that Covanta got on its own the most common rate (for 167,466 tons of that) was $49.93.

How Union County taxpayers are even subsidizing those lower rates that everyone else is paying

Since the UCUA did not come up with the 430,000 tonnage guaranteed per the 2011 lease agreement (delivering only those 318,170 tons) the difference of 111,830 tons is the shortfall that the UCUA is obligated to pay Covanta at rates ridiculously favorable to Covanta.

Backup on all these numbers comes from the latest Covanta demand letter looking for their 2015 shortfall payment ($2,109,467):

ucua 2015