Renna is a Journalist – Prosecutor Romankow’s political vendetta fails

By Tina Renna | April 12, 2013

Since 2005 I’ve been reporting on Union County government on this blog. I rely heavily on sources who trust me to protect their identities. One way Union County government could shut this blog down would be to force our bloggers to reveal their sources. The Union County Prosecutor tried recently, and failed. Judge Karen Cassidy released her opinion today. I am the first blooger in New Jersey history to be deemed protected by the New Jersey Newspersons Shield Law and an important precedent has been set which may protect and inspire other citizen journalists to watchdog their government in place of traditional journalism which hasn’t been able to keep up their government coverage in New Jersey which has 21 county’s, 566 municipalities, over 600 School districts and countless independent authorities.

In the case of my coverage of Generatorgate, which this challenge arose out of, it’s unfortunate that my sources fear Union County law enforcement, therefore they came to me with information as is often the case. The issue wasn’t that I had 16 names of county employees who took home generators during the Superstorm Sandy emergency. The issue was the prosecutor was protecting favored employees, and he still is. Just as he did with missing cash from Musicfest and stolen chainsaws.

It isn’t my job to be an arm of law enforcement. I did my job as a journalist and reported what I knew, the prosecutor has known of at least 4 employees who took home generators during Superstorm Sandy, and has done nothing to date to charge these offenders with a crime or to even reprimand them. While he spent countless resources harassing me.

It has been a privilege to expose our justice system for being an extension of the Union County Democratic committee, which I have done time and again on this blog. And the Prosecutor’s office proved me right again in the way they handled this case. They even went so far to say in their closing comments that the County Watchers doesn’t have much original content. Is it any wonder no one familiar with Union County government could ever trust Prosecutor Theodore Romankow’s integrity and independence from political bosses? This case has also exposed the failure of our justice system as a whole. Romankow answers to know one.

I am a strong individual. And the Union County Watchdog Association is blessed with many supporters. It wasn’t easy to stand up to the top law enforcement official in Union County with all the resources the taxpayers afford them. At one point there were 9 prosecutor investigators in the courtroom. There were no less than 4 present at all times during the 4 day court proceeding in which I was on the stand for 2 days being questioned by the prosecutor’s attorney’s. Were there no murders, rapists or thieves to attend to?  Their line of questioning amounted to not much more than personal attacks. They went out of their way to punish me for critical writings, such as my coverage of Charlotte DeFilippo working from home – they defended her stating that she has a respiratory problem and why didn’t I report that? They also took exception to my referring to Freeholder Daniel Sullivan as a Bastard when I wrote about his using Homeland Security money on his political campaign. My attorney, Bruce Rosen, reminded them to read the New York Post and Daily News for acceptable language in media.  I will write about their line of questioning at length.

Today let’s celebrate the victory this is for all citizen bloggers, and the sources who trust us, even above the people who are sworn to uphold the law.

The Decision.

16 Responses to “Renna is a Journalist – Prosecutor Romankow’s political vendetta fails”

  1. R Fortunato says:

    Congratulations Tina. Good for you. What a waste of time and money. Please keep up the good work of keeping all your readers informed of all that is going on at the County! We wouldn’t know what the Freeholders were doing without you and this blog.

  2. Mark Boehme says:

    Congrads Tina!!! I know you and your family have been down a long path. This is a tribute to never giving up. You stood up for good against evil and won! I and many others are proud of you for being tougher than many would have been. Best, Mark

  3. Daniel Shays says:

    A very big congratulations to you, the Union County watchdog, and for all other real journalists who are true guardians of of our liberty.

  4. Jeff Arnold says:

    Congratulations Tina, hope to see Romankow and UC Freeholders do the perp walk one day. Job well done.

  5. Dan Damon says:

    Congratulations on this important victory for citizen journalist bloggers everywhere in the Garden State. Judge Cassidy’s well-reasoned opinion should be crucial in protecting bloggers from harassment by officials unhappy over being held up to public scrutiny.

  6. Trochilus says:

    Nice work, Tina and Bruce.

    To me, the most interesting comment in the coverage of the story in the Star Ledger by Tom Haydon, was the frustrated reaction to the ruling by the prosecutor, Theodore Romankow, when he claimed he thought you fabricated the blog post, and that you really didn’t know of any such generator use.

    As quoted in that story, he said, “Personally, I believe she was caught in a lie and chose to waste time and money by hiding.”

    Well, if that’s the case, it looks to me like the prosecutor may have just lost any legitimate basis for his appeal as well!

    That comment undermines the basis on which he sought to subpoena you in the first place — his claim to be uncovering criminal or quasi-criminal activity on the part of the county public workers, for which he had to have said you had knowledge!

    Now, Romankow would have to cook up some new basis to go after you because if, as he says, he actually doesn’t believe you knew of any such illicit use of county equipment and/or property, then on what possible grounds on appeal could he justify having attempted to subpoena you in the first place?

    Obviously, based on his comment, he seems to be saying it was not to uncover any improper activity being engaged in by county workers. It sounds much more like he was instead aiming at trying to destroy your credibility as a purveyor of news.

    And, if he keeps it up, who is to say he is not setting himself up for some form of abuse of process charge?

    The man is supposed to a prosecutor, not a personal persecutor!

  7. Jeff Arnold says:

    We should not let Tina fight on her own. I urge everyone to contact Tom Kean and Assemblyman Bramnick and push them to have a special prosecutor appointed. To date, I have received NO response. We must ALL put pressure on them or vote against them. What issue could be more important than corruptionn in Union County.

  8. Taylor says:

    A great victory. Looks like the courts are watching their step after the Cryan disaster ….cover up ………I am sure Cassidy was going to follow the standard instructions but became a bit nervous after the published Cryan emails.

    Judge Cassidy lets Judge Lisa Crystal and Judge John F Malone commit fraud up the court in the Matthew Taylor Guardianship case and Romankow and the Freeholders have not allowed for a Special Grand Jury investigation into the matter.

  9. bpaterson says:

    This is indeed welcome news, although collectively we knew we were in the right. Hopefully the advocacy letter writing campaign to honnorable judge Cassidy helped in some small way. (a copy of letter i had installed on my TREE blog back then for those to use as an example)

    The sad part is maybe they have lost, but in observation of their past actions from the many, many times they were losers, they simply reorganize and readjust, maybe continue into appeal since they reside over half a billion dollars of tax money and they have legions of soldiered legal firms (whose integrity was bought by that money) to do their biding. We have seen this pathetic action time and time again, and as residents have actually learned about this rampant corrupted system from the same countywatchers blog herein.

    So they go off for now, saying curses foiled again under their breath, but in no way have they disappeared or been discouraged. They only retreated behind closed doors to conspire again against transparency, integrity and the citizens who find out about their corrupted system.

    We still have disease of the cryans, the defilippos, the romankows, the sullivans, even the scanlons and hudaks, plus the their myriad operatives and hacks, their pay to play political donors all unjustly and unethically self enriching themselves at the county residents and taxpayers expense. They have not gone away. One good thing going for the residents and watchdogs is that these slugs really are not that competent or intelligent, and continually trip themselves up. Freeholder Hudak even mistakenly revealed that his family was corrupted by Charlotte Defillipo, the union county political boss, way back when he was 15 year old. As a freeholder his integrity and leadership is proven completely neutralized, and even proven so with at least 3-4 others, estrada, mirabella, sullivan, jollah……. Money is a powerful aphrodesiac for sure, eslpecially when you have a weak conscience and low self esteem.

    We know from the focus of their actions, this is not a county government, there has been no democracy found for years, we know from their actions they are not even democrats. As a democrat I recognize this fact. They are self serving leeches that enable their machine to dig deep in our pockets without us being able to stop it. But little by little there is a win and progress like now.

    This is only one battle in the war to bring light to county government. I for one wholly support the watchdogs in their constant quest. We collectively as residents and observers must be ever vigilant against this alleged criminal enterprise that Tina and the watchdogs have exposed. We must continue our collective efforts. One action I advocate for all of us is to get your mayor and councils to hold back sending of the county taxdollars since there is no real county govt to send it to. Towns need to get together to form a coalition to do this if they are afraid of being picked off one by one. Strength in numbers thru a coalition!

    Thank you, Tina, JB1 who lead and to the many involved others, financially, verbally and morally, I applaud you all.

  10. Ira Geiger says:

    As one of the Republican Candidates for Freeholder, I assure you that I will address the waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption in our county. If I am fortunate to be elected to serve, I will work for the citizens of our county and will not be beholden to any party or special interest group whatsoever.

  11. Chris says:

    This type of ‘citizen journalism’ is a great service to our community – IF it’s focused on bots sides of the aisle. Picking and choosing who to report on (or shame) does not make you a part of the solution, it makes you a part of the problem. Politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle can be corrupt, especially if their power goes unchecked by the people.

    The enemy is not the Democratic party, not the Republican party. The enemy is hyper-partisanship and closed-minded citizens.

  12. kurt says:

    well done.

  13. bpaterson says:

    I reread the judges opinion. On page 17 where the deliberation is on a point of whether the watchdogs are connected to a news media outlet, the judge came to the conclusion that THE COUNTYWATCHERS ARE ACTUALLY CONSIDERED A NEWS MEDIA OUTLET and not need be connected to one. Now that’s a major victory.

  14. Jesse says:

    Good job Tina. I would like to make one correction there are now 565 municipalities in New Jersey. Princeton Township and Princeton Borough merged and became one at the start of 2013.

  15. Dan Ritter says:

    Congrats Tina!
    The challenge seems still to be, educating both sides on what the right thing is. Unfortunately it costs us to educate them.
    Tina keep up the good work.

  16. Michael Pierone says:

    Tina is a hero. We need more people like her. It’s a shame that the Prosecutor wasted all that time and taxpayer money trying to root out whistle-blowers instead of corruption. But what can you expect from a lapdog of the powers that be?

    Go track down the people serving themselves and their buddies instead of the county!

    Corruption should be his first concern. Not trying to shut up the whistle blowers.