Union County Alliance is out of business

By Tina Renna | May 4, 2015

Alliance

Several sources within Union County have confirmed that as of Thursday, April 30, 2015, the Union County Alliance closed operations, and their office in Rahway. A drive by confirmed that the premises has been cleared out.

The County Watchers were the first to report on the abuses of tax dollars at the Alliance. This was followed-up with many investigative reports initiated by the County Watchers, and public comments, through the years leading up to an investigation by the State Comptroller’s Office who released a report in January 2015 questioning $1.5 million Union County taxdollars spent by the Alliance.

The Union County Alliance was set up as a non-profit organization by Union County government and Kean University and has been totally financed by Union County tax dollars and state assistance through Kean. Because it is not considered a public entity the public didn’t have access to the Alliance meetings or records. The taxpayers had to rely on Union County officials to watch over public funds to the tune of about a quarter million dollars a year.

Despite having the County Manager and at least one freeholder sitting on as Board of Directors, Union County Alliance meeting minutes never turned up in blanket OPRA requests seeking Alliance documents from Union County government. In fact, not much showed up if anything.

The comptrollers report found among other things that Ed Zarnock as the Executive Director of the Alliance was getting a $2,000 monthly stipend, and Michael Murray as President was charging out of town travel expenses for who knows what business, and he even had the taxpayers pick up a tab for his ice cream down LBI. Zarnock died in April 2011 as did Murray in December 2013. Mauro Checchio, a retired Union County employee, acted as Chairman until his death on April 1, 2015.

Current paid employees included Geoffrey Perselay, hired in March 2013 as president, and retired county employee Denise LaSpata was the manager.

According to the Comptroller’s report:

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

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

After the Comptroller’s Office released their report County officials said they were reexamining their financial commitment to the UCA in light of OSC’s findings. The UCA’s current president, hired in March 2013, said that steps were being taken to address OSC’s recommendations and in December 2014 he released a report in response to the investigation.

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

9 Responses to “Union County Alliance is out of business”

  1. MJ says:

    …..and we wonder why taxes are out of control and pensions payments can’t be made. At least they are out of business. Great investigative reporting!

  2. bpaterson says:

    we must wonder if they folded, what becomes of all their records and documents. Good chance it could give the authorities excellent leads to expose the corruption at union county govt. The OSC needs to get a hold of ALL the UCA documents right away before “someone” shreds them, possibly at the direction of senator lesniak, the head of this whole corrupted systema t the county. How do we contact the OSC?

  3. bpaterson says:

    one contact I found from the investigation is:

    Pete McAleer
    609-633-2377

    the formal press release from the OSC:

    http://www.nj.gov/comptroller/news/docs/uca_press_release.pdf

  4. Brian P Keane says:

    That looks like the same photo I taken back in 2003. Richard Stenders SVO Printing Office RT 46 Rockaway NJ. One deck one chair and no one working at the office.

  5. Brian P Keane says:

    It was a shame about Michael Murrays death. It seems everyone who gets involved with UC Inc., gets snuffed,..like Ex First lady
    Hillary Clintons 143 nemesis who all suddenly dropped dead..

  6. Mark Boehme says:

    Kudos to Tina and the UCWA for this news. Without a doubt no one would have ever lifted the rug to look at the Alliance if Tina and the UCWA didn’t publicize how badly this organization was run.

    Just as bad as the corruption, was that the board either unintentionally or purposely ignored their oversight responsibility. While that’s not shocking given that many were political cronies, there were one or two well respected people on the board. Every board member carried some responsibility for the shocking level of fraud uncovered by the State Comptroller. Serving on a non-profit board doesn’t mean that you can ignore your responsibilities. Hopefully people learned something from this.

  7. Bill C. says:

    The tip of the iceberg? After the Feds start digging Sen. Bob will be getting a cell mate or two…or three. Great work UCWA!

  8. Javagold says:

    Place looks like the last stop before death comes a calling. Think I will pass on working there. No matter how easy the money is.

  9. Ian Smith says:

    Congratulations to the Union County Watchdogs! The best county citizen watchdog group in the nation and a inspiration and guide for others who want to do the same around the country! I can’t wait for the day when the whole cabal of Union County government felons face criminal charges and are prosecuted.