Posts Tagged ‘Uncategorized’

Top 10 list of things taxpayers can do without

On June 8 the Union County freeholders will be adopting a budget which will once again raise property taxes without quitting spending more money. In the past freeholders have ominously threatened “If you want us to cut spending, then tell us where we should cut, senior services, safety services?”
Here’s the Union County Watchdog Association’s top 10 list of things freeholders can cut in 2006 and residents won’t miss a bit.

1) Pay to play – adopt a resolution banning it

Countless dollars could be saved if ‘extraordinary and unspecifiable service contracts’ were sent out to bid instead of being given to campaign contributors.

2) Pension padding – adopt a resolution banning it

In 2005 the county hired Gov. Richard Codey’s brother. Although they could have had Robert Codey for free with the state picking up his salary, Union County supplemented his pay by $46,731 putting his total salary at $140,000. This boosted his pension to about $33,000 dollars more than what he would have been eligible for had he retired a year earlier. After working a short time in the prosecutor’s office, Codey retired at the age of 55 with an annual pension of $98,000, automatic annual cost of living adjustments and health insurance throughout his retirement.

3) County vehicles – sell them.

There are approximately 163 employees with 24-hour car privileges with gas, insurance and maintenance provided by taxpayers. There are very few county employees that need a car to get them to work in an emergency. The county manager isn’t one of them. George Devanney is not certified in any emergency management techniques. There is no good reason why he and most other county workers can’t drive their own vehicles to and from work, during lunch time and especially after hours.

4) Gas pumps – close them

The county spent approximately $182,000 on gas in 2005. The county claim’s that there is no paper trail for a citizen to inquire about employee’s individual gas consumption. With taxpayers paying about $3.00 a gallon for their own gas, the county needs to adopt a system where gas fill-ups can be accounted for – or better yet – stop the perk.

5) Blackberry’s

Most executives in major corporations aren’t given blackberry’s at company expense. In 2005 the taxpayers paid $61,656.42 for county ‘public servants’ to have this gadget.

6) Cell Phones and Pagers – hang them up

In 2005 over 7-million tax dollars were spent on Union County phone services. Divide that by 2,981 county employees and it comes to $2,349.86 per employee. Privileges are clearly being abused with $249,346.92 being spent for employee cell phones and $25,578.00 on pagers.

7) Home Internet Service – unplug it

In 2005 $60,469.11 was spent on internet service. Many county employees have their home internet service paid for by the taxpayers.

8) Creative consulting services

The county has been awarding the same $72,000 annual contract for creative consulting services for at least nine years, as well as paid millions of dollars for the actual work which was produced in the form of marketing pieces and commercials which are released mostly during the campaign season (see #9). MediaSquared, Inc. also does work for the Union County Democratic Committee for freeholder campaigns. We have to wonder if the freeholders are getting their campaign work produced at a reduced fee by this firm because the taxpayers are paying them $6,000 a month for undocumented consulting work.

9) Mailings and commercials at election time

Freeholders spent over $375,000 on mailings and commercials in 2005. Most featured freeholders who were up for reelection and resulted in ELEC complaints which are still pending. As if this wasn’t humiliation enough for taxpayers the freeholders continued this practice into 2006.

10) Raises & nepotism & cronyism – oh my!

In 2000, 868 employees made over $50,000. Today that number has almost doubled to 1,530 employees. In 2000, 29 employees made over $100,000. Today that number has almost tripled to 74. We find it to be no small coincidence that there are 542 employees who have the same surnames as elected Democrat officials. We can’t say for sure that all these people are related, but we can say for sure that we have no way of knowing how many cousins, in-laws, etc. with different surnames are on the payroll. An example of this is the appointed county manager, George Devanney. He is the nephew of State Senator Raymond Lesniak. Devanney’s mother-in-law is on the county payroll. All three have different surnames.

“Walk the Walk and not just Talk the Talk”

The Number 1 issue in last years gubernatorial campaign was property taxes, and according to the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute the lack of any forth coming relief is a key factor in our governor’s slumping approval ratings. It seems that eighty-four percent of voters polled said that property tax reform proposals during last year’s campaign season proved to be “more talk than action.”

New Jersey residents have been pushed to the limit of their pocketbook’s endurance and in some cases are considering selling their homes and moving out of state to escape the highest property taxes in the county.

Though I try not to give too much credence to polls, there was one earlier this year that bears paying attention to. A Quinnipiac University poll’s results released in January of this year showed that some 92 percent of New Jersey voters say that state is facing a serious budget problem this year and a majority say they would rather cut services than raise taxes to reduce the projected budget deficit. It would seem that folks would rather be able to stay in the old homestead with less help and interference from government, this makes sense, but is anybody listening?

Here in Union County our Board Chosen of Freeholders is getting ready to approve this year’s budget of over $410 million, which will increase the tax levy on real estate owned by the residents to 50% since the year 2000. I came to the realization reviewing county spending over the years that part of the problem is that county government is attempting to be all things to all people. What has gotten lost somewhere along the line is the purpose that county government is meant to serve, and that is to ensure the health, welfare and safety of the residents.

Somehow they have managed to insinuate themselves into our lives in areas that quite honestly they do not need to be and we are paying for it dearly.

A starting point to manage revenues would be to seriously consider Zero Based Budgeting, a system that simply provides for necessary services first and the frills later, much like one would do at home. Providing a means to see where the money is actually going would probably be an eye opener to those who insist that there is no wasteful spending on the part of county government. For example, telecommunications has been brought to light this week as the Freeholders enter into an agreement to provide internet service between county offices via a fiber optic network. I can only hope that this maneuver will save some money as the total cost of telecommunications to include cell phones, pagers, Blackberrys and telephone service was over $7 million in 2005, or an average of $2,349 per employee. Looks like someone went over their minutes.

I challenge the tax payers to look around and think hard about just what do they get from a county government which spends over $1million dollars a day? Where does all the money go? Your tax dollars are being wasted on high salaries for administrators, that there are too many chiefs getting cars, cell phones and Blackberrys and that is taking away from fulfilling the needs of the residents such as making much needed and timely repairs to county roads, thus ensuring your safety. It is time that these Freeholders start to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”.

Everyone and their mothers’-in-law are on the county payroll

Rubbing the nepotism in our faces

During the Union County budget hearings recently it was announced that county run Runnells Specialized Hospital is expected to run a half million dollars in the red this year. This didn’t keep the all-Democrat controlled freeholder board from adding the county manager’s mother-in-law to the Runnells payroll with a salary of $40,430 in the new year.

Glenna Bowen is the new Assistant to the Foundation Director. Assemblywoman Linda Stender is the Foundation Director with a salary of $72,858 up from $66,083 in 2005 when her title was Director of Volunteer Services. Stender is now running for Congress where as I’d presume getting paid to supervise people who are working for free doesn’t look as good on the campaign trail as being a Foundation Director.

Tina Renna

President

Union County Watchdog Association, Inc.

http://www.unioncountynj.org/news/0604easter.htm

2006

Bowen
Glenna
Clerk/ Asst To Foundation Director
40,430
HOSPITAL

Stender
Linda
Fund Raiser / Foundation Dir
72,858
HOSPITAL

2005

Press release totals as of May 1, 2006: Mirabella, Scanlon and Holmes are up for reelection.

Number of Releases; Number of Photo Captions

Mirabella: 5; 33

Scanlon: 1: 23

Holmes: 4; 18

Proctor: 2; 1

Devanney: 3; 0

Kowalski: 25; 26

Froelich: 1; 12

Rajoppi: 2; 1

Lacort: 0; 1

Estrada: 2; 4

Sullivan: 1; 3

Map: 0; 3

Ward: 0; 5

Stender: 0; 1

Press release totals as of October 1, 2005: Freeholders Proctor, Estrada, Ward and
County Clerk Rajoppi are up for reelection.

Number of Releases; Number of Photo Captions
Rojappi: 47; 21
Proctor: 69; 38
Estrada: 7; 29
Ward: 6; 20
Sullivan: 15; 8
Mirabella: 14; 28
Mapp: 9; 4
Holmes: 16; 23
Scanlon: 3; 14
Kowalski: 31; 39
Devanney: 1

Everyone and their mothers'-in-law are on the county payroll

Rubbing the nepotism in our faces

During the Union County budget hearings recently it was announced that county run Runnells Specialized Hospital is expected to run a half million dollars in the red this year. This didn’t keep the all-Democrat controlled freeholder board from adding the county manager’s mother-in-law to the Runnells payroll with a salary of $40,430 in the new year.

Glenna Bowen is the new Assistant to the Foundation Director. Assemblywoman Linda Stender is the Foundation Director with a salary of $72,858 up from $66,083 in 2005 when her title was Director of Volunteer Services. Stender is now running for Congress where as I’d presume getting paid to supervise people who are working for free doesn’t look as good on the campaign trail as being a Foundation Director.

Tina Renna

President

Union County Watchdog Association, Inc.

http://www.unioncountynj.org/news/0604easter.htm

2006

Bowen
Glenna
Clerk/ Asst To Foundation Director
40,430
HOSPITAL

Stender
Linda
Fund Raiser / Foundation Dir
72,858
HOSPITAL

2005

Press release totals as of May 1, 2006: Mirabella, Scanlon and Holmes are up for reelection.

Number of Releases; Number of Photo Captions

Mirabella: 5; 33

Scanlon: 1: 23

Holmes: 4; 18

Proctor: 2; 1

Devanney: 3; 0

Kowalski: 25; 26

Froelich: 1; 12

Rajoppi: 2; 1

Lacort: 0; 1

Estrada: 2; 4

Sullivan: 1; 3

Map: 0; 3

Ward: 0; 5

Stender: 0; 1

Press release totals as of October 1, 2005: Freeholders Proctor, Estrada, Ward and
County Clerk Rajoppi are up for reelection.

Number of Releases; Number of Photo Captions
Rojappi: 47; 21
Proctor: 69; 38
Estrada: 7; 29
Ward: 6; 20
Sullivan: 15; 8
Mirabella: 14; 28
Mapp: 9; 4
Holmes: 16; 23
Scanlon: 3; 14
Kowalski: 31; 39
Devanney: 1

$100 Million Dollar Man

During a pre Election Day interview with the Westfield Leader in October of 2000, then UC Freeholder Vice Chairman Alexander Mirabella was quoted as saying “We are looking at ways to control the budget and keep costs down.” At that time the County budget was a tad over $300 million. Within the next few weeks the UC Board of Chosen Freeholders is expected to approve a budget which is a tad over $400 million. Freeholder Mirabella, now Chairman of the board, can truly be referred to as Union County’s very own “$100 Million Dollar Man”.

Taxes increased 50% since Y2K

The all Democratic Freeholder board will argue that under their guidance taxes have not increased 50% since the year 2000, for anyone can see that the budget has increased only 33.3%. Well let’s get real here, there is a difference between the words taxes and budget and herein lies the truth. County government arrives at a figure that they say is necessary to run the county, which includes payroll (this year making up a whooping 39% of the budget), insurance, building maintenance costs, debt service (loan payments), county cars, utilities, concerts in the park etc, etc.

The issue now becomes, “How are we going to pay for all of this?”

The answer is anticipated revenues which is made up of monies the county takes in through fees charged to use the parks or play a round of golf, grant monies received from the state and federal governments, income from investments and of course the tax levied on real estate appearing on the back of your tax bill and paid through your municipality. The county will also throw in some of its own money that it has sitting around in the surplus, which is by the way rapidly dwindling.

In the year 2000 after evaluating the anticipated revenues versus the proposed spending it was determined that the tax payers would have to kick-in $151 million thru the tax levy. Now, in 2006 it has been determined that the tax levied directly on the residents must be $226.6 million, an increase of $75.6 million clearly a 50% increase over 2000.

“Fun with numbers”

The figures do not lie; county taxes have increased 50% in 6 years. The Freeholders can have fun with numbers and spin the story all they want but 50% is still 50% and 50% in 6 years is unacceptable.

When comparing the 2005 budget to the 2006 budget nothing has changed, they appear to have started with what was spent last year and just added on more, than put out a press release in January that there would be cuts and every department would have to reduce expenditures.

WELL?????

Well, what happened? What was cut? Where is the belt tightening? We have been waiting since the year 2000 for the Board of Freeholders to control the budget and keep costs down, they have failed miserably.

It is time for the residents of Union County to send a message to the “$100 Million Dollar Man” that they do not have “Bionic” wallets.

County employee harassment will cost upwards of 2.5 million $$

A law suit against the County of Union which was brought by a former decorated Union County sheriff’s officer is about to be settled. The legal bills alone, stemming from this arrogant and petty case of employee harassment, will cost a total of $2,463,753.82.

Virginia Fanelli’s lawyer is applying for $,1523,452.34 ($1,487,078.80 for fees and $36,373.54 in cost and disbursements). The county will be paying her $1,340,000 ($500K now an $70K a year for 7 years, subject to reduction if she gets disability) PLUS $6K a year for her individual health care until plaintiff is eligible for retirement health coverage or other group health insurance.

As for the County’s legal fees – We’ll wait a few months for all the bills to be submitted and then we’ll get the adding machine tape out! All the usual gang of county pay to play attorney’s made out big time. To view preliminary settlement document click here. To view county resolutions pertaining to this case click here.

Fanelli’s suit was tied to one brought by sheriff’s officer James MacDonald. This suit was settled in 2001 for $70,000. The county attorney’s fees alone for this were approximately $128,000. The Union County Watchdog Association has filed several OPRA requests and is waiting for documents that will show MacDonald’s legal fees and settlement.

The county sued their insurance company because they refused to cover this claim. Apparently the county didn’t report it properly. The UCWA is also waiting for documents that would show the attorney’s fees stemming from what appears to have been a pathetic attempt at a cover-up.
.
The county managed to keep this out of the press since 2001, since then the legal bill meter has been tick, tick, ticking out of the public view….Maybe, just maybe, if the media had kept some light on this the county would have stopped harassing Fanelli and settled this case before the legal bills mounted to over (3) THREE MILLION DOLLARS.

It’s a shame that Fanelli didn’t get a bigger settlement. She deserved that and more for what these arrogant bastards did to her.

Virginia Fanelli is still listed on the county payroll with a salary of $67,700. William Malcolm currently has a salary of $77,960. James MacDonald is no longer employed by the County of Union. Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who is the longest serving law enforcement official in the U.S., still enjoys a stellar reputation.

By MARYANN SPOTO
STAR-LEDGER STAFF
December 12, 2001
A highly decorated Union County sheriff’s officer who was once considered a rising star in the department is suing five of her bosses over her involvement in a colleague’s lawsuit against the office.
Touted by Sheriff Ralph Froehlich as one of his department’s outstanding officers, Virginia Fanelli went from the fast track of moving up the ranks to being the victim of a campaign to fire her, according to the lawsuit she filed last month.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court in Elizabeth, are Froehlich, Undersheriff William Malcolm Sr., Lt. Anna Buckley and Capts. Vincent DiTrolio and Barry Migliore.
Fanelli, a 14-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, claims the effort to oust her was the result of her refusal to back her bosses’ allegations against a fellow officer who was accused in 1998 of falsifying an overtime report.
County officials, however, insist their actions against the former detective came from her failure to follow department rules.
Fanelli’s suit is tied to one brought by sheriff’s officer James MacDonald, who was charged with falsifying a report that showed he was working overtime when he was actually at Fanelli’s house in Roselle Park on June 7, 1998.
During the investigation, Fanelli insisted that MacDonald showed up at her house after he had finished his overtime duty. She supplied MacDonald’s attorney with a copy of a credit card receipt indicating she was not even home at the time Malcolm alleged MacDonald was visiting her, according to court papers.
According to the lawsuit, DiTrolio told Fanelli not to give the information to MacDonald’s attorney. It also claims that DiTrolio, Malcolm, Migliore and Buckley, a good friend of Fanelli’s, tried to get her to change her statement. The suit, filed by attorney Bruce P. McMoran of Tinton Falls, alleged that when Fanelli refused, her superiors had employees concoct stories that she was having an affair with MacDonald.
“They pulled out all the stops here,” McMoran said. “In our view, they expected her to support the statements they made about MacDonald, and when she didn’t do that, they went after her. She knows what the truth was and told them up front from the first day. Nevertheless, they went forward with the action.”
According to court papers, Fanelli was barred from going into the administrative area of the sheriff’s office. She was demoted from her job as a detective who had worked undercover narcotics investigations to an officer who provided security at the front doors of the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth. Her service weapon was confiscated and she was ordered to undergo psychological counseling, the court papers said.
Initially, she was charged with conduct unbecoming a public employee, insubordination and neglect of duty for filing a false report. She eventually pleaded guilty to conduct unbecoming and received a 30-day suspension in return for the rest of the charges being dropped. She did not admit to filing a false report.
However, the rest of the charges were not dropped, her attorney said. In July, she was charged with similar offenses. The outcome of her disciplinary hearing is pending. She has been out on medical leave since around October, McMoran said.
Froehlich said there was no campaign to oust her. He said she violated the rules and regulations of his office by failing to inform him that she was providing information to MacDonald’s attorney.
“Our rules and regulations specify certain procedures that an officer’s supposed to go through,” Froehlich said. “She did not do that.”
He declined to discuss details of the case, but said he has worked hard to be fair with all his employees.
“I have a reputation with the men and women in uniform and civilians that will withstand any of these allegations,” he said. “I do the best I can to see that everyone is treated fairly and impartially.”
He initially was named as a defendant in MacDonald’s suit but the allegations were dismissed against him. In May, MacDonald accepted a $70,000 settlement after a jury found Malcolm defamed him by bringing those allegations. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ MaryAnn Spoto covers the Union County Courthouse. She can be reached at mspoto@starledger.com or (908) 527- 4011.

Union County gets another pass in the press

Press coverage this week of the contaminated soil dumped in a Union County owned quarry fails to answer any questions that would be important to the health and safety of the community. As usual the reporter wrote what the county spokesperson tells him as if he’s a reliable source. Whenever a serious issue arises the County Manager or the Freeholders never go on record and never answer questions. Their response this time, as always, is to tell the press to “refer all questions to county spokesman Sebastian D’Elia”. The only problem with the press contacting D’Elia is that he’s a paid employee who answers to the freeholders not the taxpayers who pay his salary.

In this case, as always, D’Elia hands the reporter a prepared written statement which is vague and does not offer any useful information. For example the article states that “engineers contend the soil does not pose an imminent health threat.” What engineers? What is the level of contamination found? Is the F.B.I. investigating? The D.E.P.? If not than why? Why can’t the reporter ask questions of the director in charge of overseeing the site? Why can’t the reporter ask the County Manager or the Freeholders? They’re given Blackberry’s and cell phones at taxpayers expense why can’t they be reached to be held accountable?

Reporters must be more diligent in dealing with our county officials. There are very few New Jersey politicians that can be trusted. None of them are Union County freeholders. Information is the only thing that can keep people healthy and safe. People need the facts and names of experts and officials to be held accountable for those facts, not unsubstantiated opinions of a county spokesperson whose allegiance is to politicians.

D’Elia’s quote in the article made absolutely no sense, “Its contamination level is comparable to dirt taken from an excavated home heating oil tank.” Really? Oh O.K. Mr. D’Elia we should believe you just like we should believe that you didn’t harass those women.

Ooops Devine gets caught $liming taxpayers again!!!

As reported in Worrall Community Newspapers
Linden overcharged for advertisement

By Dan Burns, Staff Writer

LINDEN, NJ – The city of Linden was overcharged more than $1,600 to run a legal advertisement in a local newspaper in March, calculations by The Progress show.

Devine Media Enterprises Inc., which publishes three Rahway-based newspapers, charged Linden $4,503.60 to run notice of a tax sale in four separate issues of the News Record in March. The company should have charged Linden $2,866.50 to publish the ad four times, according to state law.

Government bodies are required by law to advertise notices of public meetings — and items such as budgets and ordinances — in a newspaper so the public is informed about the actions its public officials are taking. The rates for public notice advertising are determined by New Jersey state law and are calculated based on a newspaper’s paid circulation.

Devine Media submitted statements to the New Jersey Press Association that the paid circulation of the News Record for 2005 was 13,388. Figures for 2006 are not available because Devine Media is no longer a member of the NJPA.

Adding the number of lines in the Linden ad and dividing that number by the amount charged shows that Devine charged an equivalent of 55 cents per line.

Based on the News Record’s 2005 paid circulation numbers, Devine Media should have charged Linden only 35 cents per line to run the ad. Even if the News Record’s paid circulation tripled to 40,000, in the last year it would legally only be able to charge one cent more per line, according to the law.

News Record Publisher James Devine declined comment on how his company calculated the amount it billed Linden for the ad. He also declined an opportunity to go over the calculations of The Progress with a reporter.

Devine did say he plans to sue multiple parties at Worrall Newspapers for the content of its article “District overpays for advertisement,” which appeared in the April 20 edition of The Progress.

The story claimed the Rahway Board of Education paid $297.38 more than it should have to legally advertise its proposed school budget in the March 23 edition of Devine’s News Record.

Devine would not comment on whether the information that appeared in The Progress was correct. He would only state that he is suing Worrall Community Newspapers, its Publishers Raymond and David Worrall individually, and Managing Editor Kitty Wilder, who wrote the story.

“I was libeled twice by an economic competitor for the malicious purpose of depriving me of an economic advantage, which is actionable in this state,” Devine said.

The Progress story stated the Rahway Board of Education paid $730.02 to advertise its school budget in the March 23 edition of the News Record, when it should have, by law, paid $432.64.

Rahway Board of Education Attorney Mark Tabakin confirmed at the board’s April 24 meeting that Devine Media had “exceeded the rate” it was supposed to charge for the ad. The board then voted to stop use of the News Record for legal advertising while rates are investigated.

The Rahway City Council stopped publishing public notices in the News Record in 2004, when the council determined Devine Media had overcharged the municipality.

Most legal advertisements — with exceptions such as sheriff sales and zoning-related hearings — are paid with taxpayer dollars. A legal advertisement is a public notice advertisement.

State law establishes specific criteria that must be used by paid circulation newspapers in determining the space they charge to publish a public notice. That criteria describes the size of type that must be used, as well as the length of a line.

The font Devine Media used in the ad in question is larger than the criteria set forth by the law. That is legal as long as the company charges based on the legal definition of a line, not on the total area of the ad, according to New Jersey Press Association Attorney Tom Cafferty.

Publishers can print the lines of their legal ads in as large of a font as they wish, but they can not charge more for it, according to Cafferty. Costs must be determined prior to the inflation of the lines, Cafferty said.

In the 1971 case of S. Gamrin et al vs. Palisades Newspapers, Superior Court Judges Goldmann, Collester and Mintz ruled the “newspaper was required to charge city for official advertisements on basis of agate line count rather than on basis of agate rule measurement of space occupied.” Palisades newspapers had allegedly been using a larger font than state law set forth and was charging the Bergen County city of Englewood for the space its inflated ads occupied.

Devine declined comment on whether he is familiar with the law.

“I’m sure my attorney would advise me not to say anything at all,” Devine said.

Lynn Maguire of the Linden City Clerk’s Office said Linden usually sends legal ads to its official newspapers on a Thursday or a Friday after a council meeting and is usually billed at a later date. They find out what the charge is at a later date.

Maguire said she isn’t aware of any system Linden uses to ensure a newspaper has not overcharged the city.

Linden Council President Robert Bunk said this is the first he has heard of Devine’s company potentially overcharging the city.

“It’s never come up before in council. As far as I know, we’ve never had a problem with him,” Bunk said.

Devine Media also does public relations work for Linden. The city pays the company an annual salary of $35,000 to inform local newspapers, including his own, of positive happenings within the city.

Hello taxpayers?….

In 2005 over 7-million tax dollars were spent on Union County phone services. So why is it you can never get a freeholder on the phone to answer questions about tax expenditures?

The $7,004,949 spent on phone services in 2005 divided by 2,981 county employees comes to: $2,349.86 per employee

A quarter million dollars for cell phones is a bit outrageous don’t you think? $61,656.42 for Blackberrys? Does your company give you a Blackberry? And pagers too! $25,578.00 worth OH MY!!

You can view all expenditers by cliking here. Just a few of my favorites are:

Phone Service:
$1,430,660.10

Cell Phones:
$249,346.93

Blackberrys:
$61,645.42

Pagers:
$25,578.00

It seems that the county installed a new phone system which began back in 2004. I searched back to 2002 and couldn’t find a resolution authorizing the contract. Hmmmm

Consultedge phone system replacement (only the 2005 expenditure is included in the total 2005 figure):
Total spent to date: $1,324,206.20:
2006: 116,740.00
2005: 358,927.14
2004: 848,539.06

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at what county employee’s internet service is costing the taxpayers.

“They were sent there to harass us.”

Union County spokeman, Sebastian D’Elia, denied taking pictures of women while harassing them at a polling station this past election day. The above is a picture of D’Elia taken by one of the women while he was taking pictures of them.

Thursday, April 27, 2006
BY JASON JETT
Star-Ledger Staff
……..In a lingering issue from last week’s school election, Nathalie Yafet has filed a police report about an incident that allegedly occurred outside a polling place at A. P. Morris School.
Yafet, whose husband, Steve, finished fourth with 629 votes in the school board race, charged she and former mayor Barbara Rowen were harassed by county employees supporting the rival Democratic slate of Daniels, Smith and Katina Ginyard.
She charged communications director Sebastian D’Elia confronted her and Rowen as they were handing out fliers and persisted at taunting them.
“Had they just come there and handed out their flyers, nothing would have happened,” said Yafet. “They were sent there to harass us.” Yafet said D’Elia accosted her and Rowen, and took pictures without consent of them with an unidentified voter. D’Elia, who denied the allegations ………Hillside Democratic Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo defended D’Elia.
“He is a friend who I sent out to help with a campaign,” she said,…….

_____________________
April 27, 2006………I am submitting for the public record testimonials from county residents regarding the behavior of your PI department. Some of which accuse this department of outright harassment. I myself have been a victim of this harassment on 2 occasions. Both were witnessed. The head of this department has a salary and benefits package of well over one hundred thousand dollars. This is an executive’s salary and would be considered conduct unbecoming of an officer in the private sector.

We have a county government that has a public information machine that apparently exists to keep information away from the public and disengage them from the democratic process. This department appears to be an in-house campaign staff.

Tina Renna, Cranford
_____________________

To the Editor:On Tuesday, April 18, 2006 I was handing out flyers for Yafet, Menza & Simmons for Board of Education at the A. P. Morris School polling place on Coe Avenue in Hillside. There were two other people there passing out materials for the opposition candidates. Late in the afternoon, they were joined by two county workers – James Pellettiere and Sebastian D’Elia. Mr. Pellettiere raised his voice to me several times, particularly after I had just spoken with a voter, but he did not threaten me nor did I feel threatened.

However, Mr. D’Elia began by taking an unsolicited photo of me and two other women. I told him that I did not want my picture taken and he replied, “Now I have all I need.” Then he continued harassing me and taunting me even going so far as to hint that he might try to get a friend of mine fired.

One of the women with me asked who he was and – since I had seen him last year at the same polling place bothering one of the mayoral candidates I knew who he was – I told her that he was Sebastian D’Elia. At this point, I was also extremely tired from having been there all afternoon in the sun and upset because Mr. D’Elia would not leave me alone, so in my response to my friend I added that he was, “The Lord High Minister of MIsinformation for Union County,” but that was the only “name” that I called him.

After this exchange, he followed after me when I went to speak to a voter, reached across to me while jabbing his hand towards me and said, “I ain’t through with you yet,” which I perceived as a direct threat especially in connection with the unsolicited photo.

I asked the other county worker for his name and he would not give it to me so my friend photographed this worker as well as Mr. D’Elia for identification purposes. He took additional unsolicited pictures of us as long as he remained at the polling place.

Mr. D’Elia went on a tirade, at one point, and called me an “idiot” and then remarked that he “loved lunatics like you because you help my people get elected.” He refused to stop the harassment, although we kept walking away from him and I asked him several times to leave us alone. Eventually, he got in his car and left but he yelled out the window at us as he drove away.

On Thursday, April 20 I made a report to the Hillside Police Department on Sebastian D’Elia’s harassment of me and his threats.

Election days do tend to bring out heightened behavior in people and I certainly understand that. However, there can be no excuse for D’Elia’s actions and his threats. And why are county workers sent to polling places to harass residents and voters? Are they being paid by taxpayer money to do this? If so, I am in the ironic position of reimbursing Mr. D’Elia for harassing me during the last school board election.

Nathalie Yafet, Hillside
_____________________

Open Letter to the Union County Freeholders,
In the Fall of 2002, Freeholder Nicholas Scutari sent the residents of Roselle a letter assuring them that the county had no intention of reactivating the defunct Staten Island Line. County Manager Devaney, and Chairwoman Scanlon are quoted in newspaper articles assuring residents that the County would not go against the will of the governing bodies of the 8 affected municipalities regarding the M & E Freight taking over the line. During that period of time, Sebastian D’Elia was also quoted in newspapers denying any intention of the freight line reactivation. All these people publicly contradicted the fact that the contract with M & E Freight line was signed by the Board of Freeholders in May, 2002. I question how D’Elia let all the newspaper articles quote these people promoting lies regarding the M & E freight line. Is D’Elia the problem or has D’Elia become a problem because of the nature of what is required of his office by his superiors?

The mayors of the towns began to realize that the county was not telling them the truth about their dealings with Gordon Fuller of the Morristown & Eire Railine. Mayor Croteau of Roselle called me and asked if I would serve as the Roselle member of the Coalition formed by citizens of the towns to STOP this freight line. I agreed to serve.

As part of the effort to stop this freight reactivation, the Coalition began getting signatures on petitions against this county contract which paid M & E more than 10 million dollars to use the 23 acres of right of way in Roselle alone. The borough provided a booth at the street fair in Roselle that Spring to inform citizens what was happening and to have them sign the petition. Sebastian D’Elia made his rounds at the Fair, observing the large number of residents at our booth. He began screaming at me saying, “Why don’t you go back to Kenilworth where you belong! These people aren’t against the train!” His tirade continued as he ran from our booth. I tried to tell him that I am where I belong. I have lived in Roselle for 30 years. There was no dialogue, just his shouting me down. We, the citizens of Roselle, were obviously doing something unacceptable.

This is very bizarre and intimidating behavior for a county employee, especially since he is on the payroll for disseminating correct information to the people of Union County. He is not supposed to be paid for promoting the party line, right or wrong. His public behavior is unacceptable.

Arlene Murphy, Roselle
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The Westfield Leader November 3, 2005

Letter to the editor:

I sat in awe (at the Union County Candidates Forum) as I watched some terrible behavior, not from the candidates, but from the audience. One guy kept coughing and making some very rude comments with others about other people who were there. Then after the debate was over, these same people went to speak with the Democrats, and I saw them speaking with them in the parking lot outside.

Why do the Democrats have to stage the audience?

Did you have someone covering this debate? Did they see the same thing?

Kurt Mueller, Cranford

Publisher’s Note: Our reporter noted harassment of Mrs. Tina Renna at the forum by those believed working for the DEM Campaign. Her husband Joe Renna chased these individuals to their car after the event without further incident.
_____________________

A chronicle of harassment:
While attending the freeholder debate held in Cranford in 2005 I was harassed by county public information department employees.

One employee sat directly behind me and insistently made comments about myself and my family and other things that were incoherent. A reporter who was sitting right in front of me heard the whole encounter and this was reported in the Westfield Leader. I wondered why a public information department employee would behave so badly right in front of the press.

At the end of the debate several of these employees posed for pictures while standing behind me and making faces and comments. The harassment only stopped when my husband entered the room. This was also witnessed by a reporter and an Editor from Worrall Community Newspapers. The public information department apparently had no fear of the media exposing their bad behavior nor did they care that there were approximately 200 people in the room including 4 freeholders.

Harassment while recently obtaining OPRA records in the county administration building:
When viewing public records in the county administration building recently Seb D’Elia made several passes through the freeholder room where I was seated. When I was paying for the records Seb passed by Clerk Marlena Russo’s desk and said “Hang in their Marlena” as if to imply I was causing a problem. When I was waiting for the elevator D’Elia came into the hallway and said to me “Who are you going to sue next?”.

This was all witnessed by a friend who accompanied me that day.

Tina Renna, Cranford
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Dear Editor,
An article by Joe Ryan about Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) president, Tina Renna, and the county rule which violates the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) did not substantiate the facts. County spokesman, Sebastian D’Elia is not the person to call to verify information about County problems. The Ledger has to back up what D’Elia claims with pertinent records. Ryan took D’Elia’s word in preparing this article. This is unfortunate since D’Elia is the PR person the County uses for all kinds of political promos. Do reporters skirt getting Open Public Records concerning facts in their stories because the Union County information office makes it difficult and expensive to obtain them?

The County is actually saving time and money because of the UCWA. Instead of many citizens requesting the documents from the county, they can become informed, free of charge, harassment, and aggravation, by clicking on the UCWA Website (unioncountywatchdog.org). Anyone wanting to know who is wasting County money should check the salaries of D’Elia and his large staff on the UCWA Website. Tina Renna, by requesting information from the county information office makes the staff work for the UC citizens, not for county political campaigns, preparing fliers, press releases, mailings, etc. During the last election year, my family received 32 lbs. of campaign mail.

In the past I requested OPRA records concerning the County contract with the M & E freight line running through 8 UC towns. Sebastian D’Elia called me at work asking me a number of questions, including why I wanted these records. Thank you, Tina Renna and the UCWA for challenging these OPRA policies as applied here in Union County.

Richard Lenihan, Roselle
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Hi Tina,
Please note the following PR message that I received from Union County in response to my request for copies of their 2005 financial statements and 2006 budget. A simple request– but a long-winded B.S. response that now requires me to submit an OPRA request. Now I see what you have been going through!

Stay well, and keep up the great work!

John Marquardt, Fanwood
—– Original Message —–
From: Sebastian Delia
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2006 11:47 AM
Subject: RE: Union County 2005 Financial Reports and 2006 Budget

Dear Mr. Marquardt:
Thanks for writing with your concerns about government. The documents you are seeking are available through the Clerk of the Board’s Office by filing an OPRA form. The Clerk’s number is 908-527-4140
We agree with the fact that New Jersey’s over-reliance on property taxes continues to hit homeowners hardest.
During the past five years, the inequities and inadequacies of this regressive system have been exacerbated by an enormous increase in mandated governmental costs. At the same time, State and Federal aid to local governments has remained flat or in some instances decreased. As a result, all County and Municipal governments across New Jersey have struggled with balancing their budgets, and homeowners, regardless of their situations, have borne the brunt of an unfortunate set of consequences.
Governor Jon Corzine has said he wants to hold a special legislative session and a constitutional convention to finally address the property tax problem in our state. We have pledged to work as partners in any effort to reform the property tax system, and over the past year, have asked Union County taxpayers to support a constitutional convention. Meanwhile, structural budgetary problems persist.
Unfortunately, this has become an all too common problem at all levels of government throughout the state: we are facing down a $23 million increase in appropriations mostly due to uncontrollable mandated costs.
Our increases include:
 A $6 million increase in health insurance.
 A more than $3 million increase in pensions.
 A $4.2 million increase in contractual salaries.
 A $1.8 million increase in public safety and correctional services.
 A $1.2 million increase in the Welfare program.
 A more than $2 million increase in operational costs, including utility, lease and energy costs.
While the problems have become common, our plan to address this year’s budget is not.
This will not be a budget without pain and hard choices. We asked every department to put all options on the table during our budget hearings.
The way to address this budget will have to be with an eye toward sacrifices across the board coupled with innovative revenue enhancers.
Thus far, the following steps have been taken administratively:
We started by continuing many of the reforms we have initiated during the past few years including the vacation buy back program, and a re-implementation of the employee furlough program. Under the employee furlough program, we will ask employees to take two days without pay—Department Directors and Freeholders have also agreed to participate.
Upon consultation with the Freeholder Chairman and the Fiscal Committee, we implemented a hiring freeze effective for positions funded by County tax dollars, with the exception of essential and emergency positions. The freeze will be ongoing throughout the budgetary process.
Working with our Department Directors, we will identify $6 million in annualized program cuts. During the budget hearings, we will look at each and every program with a goal of minimizing any potential layoffs. Many tough decisions will be made, and we look forward to active budget hearings and presenting the Freeholder Board with as many cost-saving options as possible.
Additionally, We’ve spoken with our state legislators to work on legislation that would allow counties to once again offer an early retirement program. In order for any early retirement program to have a long-lasting financial impact on government, it will have to be coupled with the elimination of positions.
While working to save tax dollars, we also will examine ways that would enhance our revenues, including sponsorships and private partnerships. Some revenue-raising ideas we will explore include the sale of several County-owned properties, sponsorship opportunities involving our parks facilities and vehicles, advertising, and vending machines as a way to provide service to people using our facilities and generate revenues.
We are also re-examining all of our fee structures throughout the County to realize additional revenues.
We will continue to use economic development as a tool to build an increased tax base. We have worked to jumpstart more than $5 billion in private investments over the past decade in Union County. For most of us, our most significant investment is in our homes.
The good news is we have succeeded in doubling our ratable base over the past decade, and this has led to a 77 percent increase in home values over the past five years alone. This has enabled us to once again reduce the tax rate from .36 cents per $100 to .34 cents per $100. However, as homeowner property values increase, so does the burden of property taxes.