For the second annual issue of the UCWA newspaper, due out later this month, we are putting together a ‘where are they now’ piece on people and things who were, at one time, significant players in Union County politics.
It took only minimal effort to find some (former Assemblyman Neil Cohen; former freeholder Deborah Scanlon; Musicfest) but we have gotten conflicting reports as to the whereabouts of former County Manager George Devanney. So if you know, or think you know, pleased chime in:
Update: 2:36 pm – Grace Park will be Romankow’s replacement.
Sources have told the County Watchers that Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow’s last day in office will be June 17, 2013. The news is being widely discussed among employees of his office. An acting prosecutor will take the helm, a female from the State Attorney General’s office, I have not been able to confirm her name.
In March 2012, sources tipped off the County Watchers about a County Police investigation involving Freeholder Deborah Scanlon’s step-son, Patrick Scanlon Jr., and missing county chain saws. On March 30, 2012 I placed an OPRA request for records. The county responded that the records are criminal investigatory records that are not subject to disclosure under the OPRA. In April 2012 the Union County Watchdog Association filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking access to the records. Union County Superior court Judge Regina Caufield ruled that the records were not subject to the OPRA because it was an on-going investigation.
The UCWA then appealed the decision and today the Appellate Court released an unpublished decision (no one can site it, it will not affect the law), which upheld the Superior Court decision mainly because the UCWA subsequently obtained the documents.
The UCWA never gave up pursuit of the truth, and asked about the investigation’s progress many times during public comment at freeholder meetings. When county counsel admitted that the investigation was completed, the UCWA then placed a new OPRA request for the investigatory records and received them, even though they contained redactions. The county never issued a press release about the matter, it was the persistence of the UCWA that drew attention to the investigation and what followed.
In another matter separate from the OPRA lawsuit, according to the records obtained from the County Police, Lieutenant James Debbie stated he contacted Union Detective Bureau and the Elizabeth Detective Bureau, inquiring if they had any recent transactions involving chain saws. A subsequent records request to the Elizabeth Police Department was returned “My staff and I could not locate any records related to this matter”. The UCWA is not aware of any investigation involving the investigators and the way this matter was handled in-house.
Although the chainsaws were never accounted for, the investigation was closed with no one being charged with a crime. Since the UCWA shined a light on the missing county equiptment, as well as the fact that the county wasn’t keeping track of their equipment, nor did they have policies in place that would hold employees accountable, the county has undertaken a review of their employee procedures for “borrowing” county equipment. An extensive effort has been on-going involving the cost of outside counsel, and beginning in January 2013 every county employee has had to attend mandatory training centered around a new employee handbook that was issued. The county manager has also admitted that he is exploring software that would keep track of county equipment.
This spreadsheet compares the 2013 projected Appropriations under the two budgets along with a column on what Union County actually paid during 2012. On initial review I noted 21 line items where $50+ million could be cut with minimal impact on the majority of Union County taxpayers.
Today’s Star-Ledger editorial, (After IRS Targeting of Conservatives, A Need To Clean House), reminded me that the NJ State Treasury Department never came clean on who sent two office of criminal investigation agents to my home in January 2012 to inquire about the non-profit status of the Union County Watchdog Association.
Last I wrote about it, they apologized and assured me that their procedures had changed. I in turn wrote back demanding to know who sent them; Whether the visit was politically motivated; and was the Department of Taxation involved in political intimidation.
(pictured) Charlotte DeFilippo surrounded by her Regular Democratic Organization of Union County Committee, and Barbara Buono, at a meeting in February 2013.
The Star-Ledger reported today on the on-going drama surrounding Charlotte DeFilippo and her stay-at-home job.
Excerpt from Ryan Hutchins article:
Neff took aim at DeFilippo again at a finance board meeting today, questioning how she could have taken so few vacation days over such a long period of time. He said when DeFilippo sat on the finance board in the mid 2000s, she frequently missed monthly meetings but was still paid a $12,000 salary.
Neff provided records saying she attended one regular meeting over a 10-month stretch in 2005. During her stint on the board from early 2004 to May 2006, she attended 25 percent of regular finance board meetings and just 7 percent of regular ethics meetings, according to the records.
“She collected and cashed 100 percent of her paychecks for 25 percent of the work,” Neff said. “That’s the only thing the board members do — the meetings.”
DeFillipo said she intended to attend meetings when appointed but had trouble traveling to them and resigned when it was apparent she wasn’t able to make it regularly. “I resigned because I just couldn’t get there,” she said. “It was very, very difficult with my electric cart.”
Some people will never get it but the citizens of Union County are starting to see.
There was another story lurking in the room during Charlotte’s resignation. It lies in the statements made in her praise by her minions. There were many but this one stood out. Here is the soliloquy from James Lacorte, Union County Surrogate:
“I just want to say that it has always been my observation over the years that probably the most dangerous people to effective government are known as commentators. Commentators are those people that sit back and take pot shots and cherry pick and do things to make governmental officials look bad. I didn’t really realize that until I got into government because I in fact was in the private sector before that but Charlotte, on behalf of all government officials that are not just commentators but rather doers, I thank you for being the type of government official we would all like to be, strive to be, and in our wildest dreams will probably never accomplish. Thank you again Charlotte……L-A C-O-R-T-E”
We’re not making this up. That’s what he really said. See:
Mr. Lacorte, just listen to you, such contempt for the citizenry is shocking at best and sad on so many levels. First, the four Union County citizens that regularly exercise their civic duty to attend the freeholder meetings are only dangerous to government officials that have something to hide. Second, we do not sit back and take pot shots. We do the research that exposes the malfeasance. Third, if a government official should look bad it is the government official that the focus should be on not the speaker.
I won’t accept your assertion that the freeholders are the victims when in reality the citizens are the ones being victimized. The citizens of Union County did not write Charlotte’s outrageous employment contract or agree to allow her to work from home with NO accountability to anyone. It is not the citizens of Union County that took the money from Musicfest but could not get the prosecutor to do his job. It is not the citizens of Union County that were caught with their pants down having phone sex on the job but were not found to be breaking any county work rules. It was not the citizens of Union County that exchanged sexually explicit emails on county time but got the courts to quash their existence. As one freeholder stated: “that is a personal matter” and not an infraction to the workers manual. Come on, it is an obvious personnel problem that won’t be investigated due to party affiliations. It is not Union County citizens that quashed an investigation into a former freeholder’s son for pawning county property and then rewarded her with a cherry of a made-up job. It was not the citizens of Union County who took generators home for personal use during Hurricane Sandy but it’s a year and counting to see if whoever did will be held accountable.
As far as striving to be like Charlotte and fearing to fall short- I only say set your goals higher. The citizens of Union County deserve better.
Lastly, a government that shows such contempt for its constituents is a government without constituents but rather is an oligarchy that rules unchecked for their own pleasure and not the greater good of all. It is not the democracy that I thought I pledged my allegiance to and was not aware existed until I saw for my own eyes how Union County government comports itself.