Posts Tagged ‘elections’

Personally, I’d Rather Get the Chocolates

Any day now Union County residents will be getting a special Valentine from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The Valentine will not be arriving in a red satin heart shaped box filled with Russell Stover’s Little Ambassadors nor delivered by the House of Flowers in Linden, one of the freeholders favorite vendors. Rather landing in mailboxes across the county will be the Spring edition of the renowned Union County Alliance’s publication “Directions”.

NOTE: In most past years the news letter would arrive just prior to the primary election and be jammed with the faces of incumbent Democratic elected officials who were seeking reelection. . Mysteriously last year the Spring ’07 edition was rather late and we can only speculate the reasons why the Freeholders would suddenly pass up a free drop of campaign literature. However, judging by their past performance that won’t be happening again this year.

On Valentine’s Day 2008 the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the annual contract with the UC Alliance for the contract period of January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008 in the amount of $332,125 to provide comprehensive research and communications services.

The contract appears to overlap the preceding one year contract by six months which covered the period of July 1, 2007 through June 20, 2008 in the amount of $265,125. There does not appear to be any resolutions which account for the overlap in coverage or an adjustment of the contract costs. However it should be mentioned that the board also approved $29,000 (resolution 2007-797) for advertising in ’07.

In three years time, since January 2005 the Freeholder Board has forked over One Million, Two Hundred Seventy Eight Thousand, Eight Hundred and Seventy Five Dollars, $1,278,875, of taxpayer hard earned money.

And for what? One might ask.

Answer: who knows!!

The Freeholders provide approximately 80% of the Alliance’s funding so one could think that they would be some type of an extension of government and thus subject to OPRA. The Alliance claims they are not and are unwilling to release requested documents regarding their activities and associated expenditures. (That is another story for another day and can be read about here in a previous blog or two or three.)

Curious as to what they have been up to lately and how they have been spending our money we decided to check it out. A visit to their website, just click here, http://www.ucalliance.com/index.htm provided absolutely no clues at all. Except for a change in their address, and advertising rates for the “ upcoming” Spring 2005 edition, the site has remained unchanged since 2004.

It is unbelievable that the UC Alliance has taken over $1.2 million of the taxpayers’ money in the course of the last three years and all that can be shown for that investment is two over blown newsletters annually in time for Election Days and an outdated website.

Happy Valentines Day from the Freeholders to the Residents of Union County……personally, I would rather get the chocolates.

Personally, I'd Rather Get the Chocolates

Any day now Union County residents will be getting a special Valentine from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The Valentine will not be arriving in a red satin heart shaped box filled with Russell Stover’s Little Ambassadors nor delivered by the House of Flowers in Linden, one of the freeholders favorite vendors. Rather landing in mailboxes across the county will be the Spring edition of the renowned Union County Alliance’s publication “Directions”.

NOTE: In most past years the news letter would arrive just prior to the primary election and be jammed with the faces of incumbent Democratic elected officials who were seeking reelection. . Mysteriously last year the Spring ’07 edition was rather late and we can only speculate the reasons why the Freeholders would suddenly pass up a free drop of campaign literature. However, judging by their past performance that won’t be happening again this year.

On Valentine’s Day 2008 the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the annual contract with the UC Alliance for the contract period of January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008 in the amount of $332,125 to provide comprehensive research and communications services.

The contract appears to overlap the preceding one year contract by six months which covered the period of July 1, 2007 through June 20, 2008 in the amount of $265,125. There does not appear to be any resolutions which account for the overlap in coverage or an adjustment of the contract costs. However it should be mentioned that the board also approved $29,000 (resolution 2007-797) for advertising in ’07.

In three years time, since January 2005 the Freeholder Board has forked over One Million, Two Hundred Seventy Eight Thousand, Eight Hundred and Seventy Five Dollars, $1,278,875, of taxpayer hard earned money.

And for what? One might ask.

Answer: who knows!!

The Freeholders provide approximately 80% of the Alliance’s funding so one could think that they would be some type of an extension of government and thus subject to OPRA. The Alliance claims they are not and are unwilling to release requested documents regarding their activities and associated expenditures. (That is another story for another day and can be read about here in a previous blog or two or three.)

Curious as to what they have been up to lately and how they have been spending our money we decided to check it out. A visit to their website, just click here, http://www.ucalliance.com/index.htm provided absolutely no clues at all. Except for a change in their address, and advertising rates for the “ upcoming” Spring 2005 edition, the site has remained unchanged since 2004.

It is unbelievable that the UC Alliance has taken over $1.2 million of the taxpayers’ money in the course of the last three years and all that can be shown for that investment is two over blown newsletters annually in time for Election Days and an outdated website.

Happy Valentines Day from the Freeholders to the Residents of Union County……personally, I would rather get the chocolates.

nonpartisan, nonpartizan (free from party affiliation or bias)

When are nonpartisan elections really nonpartisan?

About 85 of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities have what is known as the nonpartisan system of local government and most hold their elections in the spring rather than in November. The municipalities range in size from large like the City of Newark to small as is the case of Hillside here in Union County. What makes their elections nonpartisan is that the candidates do not declare or do not formally have a political party affiliation. Though one can say that traditional party politics has been officially banded from the electoral process in these communities the reality of the situation is that partisan politics is actually alive and quite well.

In some towns it is not a secret which candidates are members of and supported by which party; these are “shadow organizations” of Democrats, Republicans and independents who support opposing candidates or slates of candidates. Sometimes coalition slates of candidates come together when there is a specific hot issue that is polarizing the community however even without Democratic and Republican Party lines on the ballot the level of squabbling can still be excessive. Dr. Ray Bodner, professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers, said in a 1993 NY Times article that nonpartisan elections were the byproduct of a political reform movement that appeared on the national scene in about 1900 as a response to rampant political corruption. Further, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were among those who sought ways to make the electoral process more “open and honest”, terms we still hear frequently today.

A definite point of interest regarding nonpartisan towns is that Republican and Democratic county organizations may not contribute to those local races however individual political clubs can make such contributions. And in Union County’s own “nonpartisan” Hillside Township contribute they do based on filings with NJ Elec.

The 2007 elections in nonpartisan Hillside had no less than 14 residents filing to be on the ballot competing for council seats representing various wards. Three incumbents formed a Joint Candidate Committee shown as – CTE Brewer Stroud & Kulish with the treasurer being one Rosemary McClave. Though the Hillside Council has been under Democratic control for a number of years, one name on the slate of incumbents jumped out, John G. Kulish.

The following is taken directly from a 2006 newspaper article quoting Councilman John Kulish regarding the discord between Hillside’s mayor and the council: Kulish stressed that residents are not complaining about the mayor, but that the criticism is coming from people in town hall.”A recall is normal when there’s friction between the mayor and departments, or when a mayor is performing what she feels are her duties and rights and someone disagrees,” said Kulish, the only member of the GOP on the council. “The only option is, don’t vote her in or have a recall.””But they don’t tell me anything,” Kulish added. “I’m a Republican.”Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, February 12, 2006, page 39.

Kulish and his running mates showed total receipts of $25,717.80 of both “In-Kind” and Monetary Contributions coming from the Hillside Democratic Campaign Committee and the 20th Legislative District Committee, both by the way show the same Virginia Street address. The address is also listed for the CTE Brewer Stroud & Kulish committee and unsurprisingly Rosemary McClave is also listed as the treasurer of the Hillside Democratic Committee.

Mr. Kulish has what appears to be a distinguished career in public service; the following is taken directly from the Hillside Township website:

3rd Ward Council

John G. Kulish

John has been a resident of Hillside for 53 years. John has been a former Hillside Township Mayor in addition in being a former municipal clerk. He has been a past president of both the Hillside Board of Education and the Hillside Board of Health. John has served Hillside as Commissioner of the Police, Fire, Recreation, and Finance Departments. Additionally he has been a commissioner of the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties; he presently serves as a commissioner of the Union County Utilities Authority

However the following appointment from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has been omitted from that bio:

60-2004 FREEHOLDER SULLIVAN, appointing the following individuals as
Members
to serve on the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic
Preservation
Trust Fund Public Advisory Committee:
John Kulish, Elected Official
(Republican)

George Jorn, Elected Official (Democrat)
effective
1/1/05 to 12/31/07.

And most recently:

2008-47 CHAIRMAN ESTRADA, appointing the following as members to the Open
Space,
Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund Public Advisory
Committee:
January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2008: Environmental: James
Lynch;
Environmental: Joseph Spatola; Historic: Michael Yesenko; Labor: John
Malcolm;
Business: Ralph Salermo; Education: Dr. Frank Deo; and January 1,
2008 through
December 31, 2010: Elected Republican Official: John Kulish;
Elected Democrat
Official: Brenda Restivo; Public Member: Clarence
Cunningham; Public Member:
Oscar Ocasio; Public Member: Ruby Green; Public
Member: Pete Corvelli, Jr.

Click here for freeholder minutes
http://www.ucnj.org/freeholders/agendas/Minutes%20-%20Reorganization%20Meeting%20-%201-6-2008.pdf

What a Sham!!!!

nonpartisan, nonpartizan (free from party affiliation or bias)

Mr. Kulish’s appointment by the Freeholders to the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund Committee is outrageous, he is a NOT an Elected Republican Official, he is an elected official to a nonpartisan governing body, so it would appear that he does NOT fill the bill even if his voter registration is Republican.

Further, he was elected on a slate whose campaign has been totally funded by Union County Democrats to include state legislators and coincidently the Hillside Democratic Committee just so happens to have one vacancy and it is not at all a surprise that it is for a male committee member in his, Kulish’s, ward/district.

It would seem that Mr. Kulish being a Republican is an absolute joke.

Focusing on the wrong machines

I’ve worked the polls in Union County for a number of elections and I am not all concerned about the voting machines. However, I have always been amazed that the system of hiring poll workers is so dysfunctional. Given to what I know about the people running Union County this past decade I have to wonder if this is orchestrated by the power brokers.

It certainly worked in their favor in Elizabeth in 2006. When a contentious primary election didn’t go their way and the only independent Democrat on the city council won re-election they had the money to challenge it in court. If you look close enough at any election you will find poll worker errors. In this case poll workers allowed 40 registered Republicans to vote Democrat. A judge threw out the election results and ordered a second primary and the machine won that one. “There is nothing to be done except policing,” said Michael Moussallem, director of information systems for the county elections board in a Star-Ledger article. “This could be happening every time.”

I get my conspiracy theory from the fact that every county will tell you it is hard to find enough people to work the polls. Yet I don’t see enough of an effort on Union County’s part to hire poll workers and on any given election in places like Elizabeth you will see county and city workers being used as challengers alongside poll workers and as campaign workers handing out literature outside of the polls. With such a shortage of poll workers, why doesn’t the Democrat machine encourage these employees to be poll workers instead?

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi is an educated and professional woman, yet when she raised alarms about voting machines recently, however justified her concerns may be, the fact that she chooses to ignore the process by which poll workers are hired to work these machines makes her motive’s suspect to me. Why didn’t she demand an overhaul of the system that hires poll workers after the Elizabeth fiasco when she called the special election “unprecedented (in Union County) from my historical knowledge”. The redo election required the services of 103 poll workers and cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Ditto for State Senator Nicholas Scutari who plans to introduce legislation to create a Voting Machine Integrity Unit within the state Division of Gaming Enforcement to thoroughly test and certify all new voting technologies before they are implemented. Sequoia already submits their machines to a federal certification process.

“It’s an embarrassment that we have a far more rigorous and thorough approach to ensuring the fidelity of our slot machines than voting machines” Scutari said in a March 29, 2008 Star-Ledger article.

Yet Scutari isn’t embarrassed that a poll worker who operates the voting machines could be hired by simply providing their name and social security number. The gaming workers that are in charge of the slot machines are required to have a license issued by a regulatory agency, such as a state casino control board or commission. Applicants for a license must provide photo identification. Poll workers are never looked at face to face, never mind interviewed. Poll workers do not have to submit work experience or references.

To be a poll worker you fill out a form which gives your basic information: name, address, Social Security number. The only requirement for employment, besides showing up for work, is you have to attend a mandatory training class every two years.

To most of us, including Dictionary.com, the definition of mandatory is: Law, permitting no option; not to be disregarded or modified. Yet the definition of mandatory to the Union County Board of Elections is: It is mandatory for all poll workers, to attend a training class at least once every (2) two years….The payment (for working the polls) will be $200, and if you do not attend the mandatory class, you will be paid less.

When you attend the training class you sign your name on a list and sit down without anyone speaking to you. You could easily walk out. You could just as easily have someone sign you in. Attendance isn’t called and a test isn’t given. And Senator Scutari isn’t embarrassed that we have a far more rigorous and thorough approach to ensuring the fidelity of our slot machine operators than our election poll workers? Hell Nicky, we have a far more thorough approach to ensuring the fidelity of our fast food workers. Little wonder to me that this is the same senator that introduced legislation to legalize marijuana.

When Sequoia voting machines showed a discrepancy in the last primary election, the company maintained the errors were caused by poll workers who inadvertently pressed buttons on the control panels.

During a primary election a voter is signed in at the table and given a pink slip if they are a registered democrat and a blue slip if they are a registered republican. The voter then gives this slip to the poll worker manning the machine. The poll worker then has to push (1) one button which sets the machine for either party. Yet time and again it is found that poll workers have a difficult time performing this task.

I can tell you from experience, the person manning the machine is usually determined early on in the day. It will be the person least capable of signing voters into the book which simply requires knowledge of the alphabet.

Along with a better screening process for poll workers, another piece of legislation someone truly concerned about the integrity of our elections should introduce would be that Board of Elections Deputy Administrators shouldn’t be involved in partisan politics. Union County’s Dennis Kobitz, while seemingly to be competent at his job, has been a Democrat municipal chair in Hillside for a number of years. Why aren’t the Rajoppi’s and Scutari’s concerned about this potential conflict of interest?

People are focusing on the wrong machines. Sequoia may have quirks, and perhaps a certain amount of human error will just have to be dealt with as needed, but it’s an embarrassment that no one in New Jersey has the political will power to address the fact that it is more likely that the election process is being compromised by man made political machines.

Union County Board of Elections Poll Worker Application

Articles:
Elizabeth Democrats Revote
Tougher tests sought for Jersey’s voting machines

A Victory for Democracy

Ballots that were signed by Roselle Councilman Jamel Holey


APPELLATE DIVISION UPHOLDS DANSEREAU VICTORY IN ROSELLE ELECTION! Cites “rampant statutory violations” of the handling of absentee ballots by Roselle Councilman Jamel Holley and other members of the Bullock campaign

The players:

Judge John Malone former Democrat Chairman, whose wife works for Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage was originally assigned to the case and threw it out. He claimed Dansereau’s argument was “convoluted, contradictory and confusing.” A Superior Court appellate panel, reversed Judge Malone’s decision to dismiss the case. They ruled that Malone was too narrow and restrictive in his view of the law in dismissing the matter.

Jamel Holley admitted there were “minor procedural issues” with the way some of the ballots were collected, but at the time, contended they should not have been invalidated. “In some instances, people left it for me to pick up. You don’t invalidate someone’s vote because of something minor like that,” Holley said. Worrall Community Newspapers 1/9/08

“I won fair and square,” “Sometimes disappointment hurts. She (Dansereau) needs to do something positive for the community.” Said Rosemary Bullock immediately after the election. The Star-Ledger

“This is a victory less for me, and more for the people,” says Councilwoman Christine Dansereau. “It is a victory for democracy.” 1/8/08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2008
Contact: Renée Steinhagen, Executive Director, New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, 973-735-0523/ Diana H. Jeffrey, Esq. Director of Government Accountability Program, 973-981-5862

Roselle, NJ – The Appellate Division issued an opinion today affirming a lower court’s ruling that “improprieties” on the part of Rosemarie Bullock’s campaign workers necessitated the invalidation of 31 absentee ballots cast for Bullock in the 2006 primary for the Borough of Roselle’s 5th Ward council seat. Those invalidated ballots voided Bullock’s victory, resulting in Christine Dansereau emerging as the winner of the primary. After Bullock filed an unsuccessful emergent appeal of that decision, Dansereau went on to win in the general election. Bullock then appealed the lower court’s decision, asking the court to reverse the lower court’s ruling, install her as the winner and/or invalidate the election results and hold a special election.

The appellate court upheld the trial court’s finding that there was extensive mishandling of absentee ballots by Bullock campaign workers. Stating that “It is clear the statutory requirements for voting a valid absentee ballot were not followed here, and the deficiencies were more than the technical violations,” the court went on to describe the various ways in which Bullock campaign workers’ activities violated election laws. “The record is rampant as to the statutory violations,” writes the court, pointing to evidence of Bullock campaign workers in some instances appearing to have cast the ballot for the voter; and in many other instances, carrying unsealed voter materials outside of the voter’s presence. Testimony of the “haphazard manner of delivery of the absentee ballots pervaded the trial,” says the court, describing for instance how some voters testified that they had never met Roselle Councilman Jamal Holley or did not know who he was, but his name appeared as the bearer of their absentee ballots. “The majority of the voters had no idea how their ballots ultimately got to the Election Board. . .somehow, their ballots ended up at the Board, twenty-three of them signed by Holley.”

The court rejected Bullock’s argument that the trial court lacked sufficient evidence to rule that the invalidated absentee ballots had been cast for Bullock. Citing the “extensive testimony of the direct involvement of other Bullock campaign workers throughout the voting process of these invalidated absentee ballots,” the court ruled that “The circumstantial evidence was overwhelming that the absentee voters whose ballots were invalidated by the court cast ballots for Bullock. Given the evidence of the vigorous pursuit of absentee voters by the Bullock campaign and the skewed numbers in the overall absentee count in favor of Bullock, that most likely was a valid conclusion.”

“This is a victory less for me, and more for the people,” says Councilwoman Christine Dansereau. “It is a victory for democracy.”

“This ruling serves as an unambiguous shot across the bow to campaign workers everywhere. Illegal election schemes like this one undermine our guarantee of free and fair elections.” says NJ Appleseed’s Director of Government Accountability Programs Diana H. Jeffrey, Esq., “The clear victors today are the people of Roselle.”

For more information, contact Renée Steinhagen, Executive Director of New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center at: New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, 973-735-0523, rsteinhagen@lawsuites.net, http://www.njappleseed.net, or Diana H. Jeffrey, Esq., Director of Government Accountability Program, 973-981-5862, DHJeffreypilc@aol.com.

Election time grant distribution show now available

At the October 11th freeholder meeting the annual election time ritual of the Open Space Trust Fund Grant distributions to municipalities was performed. Officials from 18 towns traversed to Elizabeth and paid homage to the freeholders for giving them back a fraction of the money their taxpayers paid into the fund. You can view the spectacle on our Veotag account HERE.

Although the county performs the grant distribution ceremony with lots of photo ops and press releases sent to the local media, they never mention how much towns have paid into the fund. Since the fund’s inception in 2001 municipalities have paid $58,565,562.02 into the fund and have collectively received back $10,165,402.84 in grants. You can view our spreadsheet HERE.

You can’t miss where this money has gone in your town. Municipalities have to sign an agreement with the county which includes agreeing to hang a “We’re connected to you!” sign pictured above. There is no stipulation in the agreement which states when you can take the sign down but you do have to agree to have the county install it “for you!” exactly where “they want it to hang!” You can view a agreement template HERE.

I wouldn’t mind the spectacle so much, if once in a while the freeholders would come down from their thrones and show a little humility. They should acknowledge that they get their money from the towns. If they want ceremonies like the annual Open Space Trust Fund ritual, to be fair, why not have all 21 mayors present the freeholders with blown up prop checks in the amount the towns sent the county that year? The freeholders would have to say thank you and give an explanation as to what they are spending your money on.

I’d purchase a ticket to see that show.

Previously reported:
Rocks in our heads
Trust fund grants show signs of propaganda

Taxpayers get some respect

Cranford Commissioner, George Jorn, who told a resident “I don’t respect you so why would I give you any respect” after being asked to recall what he did to earn $4,500 county tax-dollars, lost a re-election bid yesterday by 19 votes at this moment. There are 19 provisional ballots still to be counted.

Cranford Commissioner, George McDonough also lost a re-election bid yesterday, by a WHOLE LOT of votes. McDonough ranted on at a recent Township Committee meeting regarding being caught on the following video of last years Music Fest VIP Tent which cost tax-payers $5,500 for the food alone. Said McDonough in defense of his VIP treatment “…I went to a concert, along with 10,000 other people! I was in a tent for elected officials and there was beer and wine!….” ” “I think this is a slur to the Irish!”.

Wrong again George, it was a slap in the face to taxpayers, and for this and your general disrespect for them and your obnoxious absurdity, they slapped you back yesterday.

The sun is rising in Union County…..

Yesterday’s election didn’t put any watchdogs on the freeholder board; because all freeholders seats are at large, all three selected puppets were elected by the cities. But there were many victories in town races across the county. A lot of good people were elected and a lot of machine puppets were sent packing.

I’d say it’s dawn in Union County and with the looming investigations into county machine politics and their business with our tax dollars, the rooster is on the verge to welcome a new day. But don’t expect the rooster to be quoted in the Star-Ledger in your morning paper. The Ledger has been suppressing news regarding the investigations for 2 weeks now so as not to have an effect on county elections. Sources have said that the Governor all the way UP the power chain to Ray Lesniak put pressure on the Ledger to keep their dirty business from their readers.

The Ledger has proven themselves to be Lesniak’s bitch and it becomes more irrelevant by the day.

Click HERE to view video footage of George McDonough, who was tossed out of office yesterday, driking and eating at tax payers expense in the V.I.P. tent for cronies connected to the Democrat machine.

Peek into Union County machine politics

The Westfield Leader taped interviews with all freeholder candidates. I highly recommend you view the interview with Freeholder Mapp. Mapp was thrown off the Democrat party line and is running as an independent.

Many freeholders have been ‘fired’ by the Democrat machine in recent years. For the past decade anyone on the Democrat line is automatically elected. Mapp replaced Freeholder Louis Mingo who fell out of favor with the machine.

Mapp’s interview gives some behind the scenes insight into many issues the Countywatchers blog has written about as well as the workings of county government and the control the Democrat machine has on the freeholders, although you have to squint to see it at times.

This is not a candidate endorsement. The Mapp interview along with all Union County Freeholder candidate videos can be viewed on the Westfield Leader/Scotch Plains Fanwood Times website HERE

SHAME – SHAME – SHAME


“Shame on You Ralph Froehlich”

A Message to Sheriff Froehlich: Take Down Those Illegal Pole Signs

We realize that old habits die hard and that this guy is an old time politician but come on already!

One would think that since he is among the highest ranking law enforcement officials in the county and probably the longest serving sheriff in the country he would simply comply with the law instead of thumbing his nose at it.

Sheriff Ralph Froehlich currently has hundreds of campaign signs illegally posted on public utility poles from one end of Union County to the other including the one pictured above which is posted right outside of the building bearing his name. Besides being an unsightly blight on the landscape of Union County, the pole signs represent a slap in the face to the very residents who have repeatedly entrusted him to uphold the law. These signs are not only in violation of state law but local ordinances in some of our municipalities as well.

We would like to point out that Sheriff Froehlich rarely misses an opportunity to publicly commend himself for running his department in what he believes to be an up-to-the-minute cutting edge style frequently bragging that he is always looking to institute new, inventive programs and technologies. That being the case one would think he would step into the 21st century when it came to campaigning and expect that he would not feign innocence again this year by blaming others for this unsightly barrage against good taste.

Why than does he continue to campaign in an old fashioned manner plastering the county with these ugly and illegal signs reminiscent of the days of Boss Tweed and high button shoes?

· Is it because he has been in office for so long that he has forgotten who pays his salary and what they expect.
· Is it because he does not take his oath of office seriously especially where he promised to uphold the laws of the state and county.
· Is it because he thinks he is above the law.

Whatever the reason it is time that he stopped being a hypocrite and showed some respect for the taxpayers by respecting the laws that he vowed to enforce.

Paying a hell of a lot more for less


Ocean County maintains a kiosk at the Ocean County Mall, yet Union County taxpayers are shelling out $131,745 more for what the freeholder’s consider “public information”.

The County of Union is spending more on public information department salaries than any other county in the state. A hell of a lot more. From sightings on the campaign trail, a video on you-tube, the ELEC site, and in offices of local newspapers, citizen watchdogs and the local media can’t deny the fact that these employees are involved in campaigns.

Listed in the Laws of Union County is a code that requires that every full-time employee “shall devote his entire time during business hours” to the job.

That means when a public information department employee calls a local newspaper editor to make a campaign interview appointment –they are not devoting their entire time during business hours to their job. When a public information department employee accompanies campaigning freeholders on media interviews involving their campaign – they are not devoting their entire time during business hours to their job. Unless their job description encompasses working on freeholder re-election campaigns.

The head of this department, who is quoted often in the press as the “Union County Spokesperson” has been said to be on call 24 hours to disseminate information to the public. In a 2005 memo in which the county manager recommends this department head for a raise he acknowledges that “Seb works around the clock, and handles major issues and hostile inquires on a daily basis”.

Then when can it be appropriate for this tax-payer funded “round-the-clock spokesperson” to be working on freeholder campaigns? And why is the local media, who by the way folks are supposed to be the government watchdogs, not exposing this abuse of the public trust?

Westfield homeowners pay more property taxes to the County of Union then they do to their town. If the Mayor of Westfield had a town employee arrange a campaign meeting during business hours, would the local media wink and nod at this as well? Most likely it would be reported on the next few published editorial pages.

It is illegal
At the time of this posting, former Essex County Executive James Treffinger couldn’t be reached for comment on the legalities of this campaign staff/public employee issue. Treffinger was convicted, and was sent to prison, for having county employees working on his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Outside information
In addition to spending $445,173 on public information department salaries the county maintains a $232,000 yearly contract with Strategic Media for the purposes of providing media consulting and marketing services. They also have a separate firm “All Access Marketing and Media” which they pay $15,000 to market the Musicfest. Yet another firm provides management services for the Musicfest. Strategic Media, which has changed its name several times also does work for the all-Democrat freeholder campaigns.

What counties are spending on Public Information staff salaries:

$445,173__Union
$313,428__Ocean- Maintains a kiosk at Ocean County Mall
$311,717__Somerset
$243,462__Burlington- Head of PI is also Custodian of Records
$238,389__Cape May
$204,200__Atlantic
$187,437__Monmouth
$184,425__Bergen
$154,066__Essex
$128,912__Warren- Confidential Assistant also takes meeting minutes
$105,192__Passaic
$ 83,590__Morris
$ 82,410__Hudson
$ 79,826__Cumberland- PI Officer is also the Director Dept. of Planning
$ 43,577__Gloucher- PI Director is also the Clerk of the Board
$ 41,560__Salem- PI Officer is also Head of Human Resources

Counties with no Public Information Departments:
Camden
Hunterdon
Mercer
Middlesex
Sussex

Research is based on Open Public Records Act requests for 2006 public salary information.