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.