Why can't Phil Crabb tell the truth?

Once again, Freeholder Phil Crabb ends up looking a fool by trying to paint a picture of himself that isn't true.  Freeholder Crabb wants to look like an outsider, when in fact he is the consummate insider. 

Remember how he became Freeholder in the first place?  Crabb was an unknown, newly elected Franklin Councilman who was the childhood friend of former Franklin resident Hal Wirths.  It was 2007, and Franklin resident Freeholder Steve Oroho had just been elected to the Senate and to the Assembly was re-elected Franklin resident Alison McHose along with Freeholder Gary Chiusano.  Chiusano would be leaving the Freeholder Board, Wirths favored his old friend Crabb, so Crabb was plucked from Franklin Council after barely serving there and made a Freeholder.

As a Freeholder, Crabb became an embarrassment after breaking state election law for four years and failing to follow it most of the time since.  But Freeholder Crabb has been useful to certain county vendors, following the lead of Rich Zeoli when he was Freeholder.  Zeoli has a long relationship, including as a paid consultant, to the Mulvihill family of corporations.  It was Zeoli who handled the family's political operations in local elections in Sparta and Vernon and it was Zeoli, along with Crabb, who in June 2012 was at the center of an attempt to take control of Sussex County's waste disposal away from the County's 24 municipalities and turn it over to a committee of five insiders.

Freeholder's Crabb's latest whopper was delivered at last night's Sussex County Republican Committee meeting.  Crabb told county committee members that he was running his campaign without the assistance of a political consultant.  That's not true.  He has Zeoli.  The former Freeholder is now a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he works as a talk radio personality.  That hasn't stopped him from staying involved in Sussex County politics and practicing his old trade of political consulting.  Zeoli is the consultant-of-record on Crabb's media buys, according to official documents required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  It was Zeoli who shopped around and assembled Freeholder Crabb's re-election team.

We can already hear Freeholder Crabb trying to talk his way out of this one by insisting that Rich Zeoli isn't a political consultant.  He can try, but first he should read Zeoli's biography on the website of his current employer, CBS radio in Philadelphia:

Rich Zeoli represents a new generation of compelling talk radio. He grew up in New Jersey and spent his career advising candidates in New Jersey and Pennsylvania running for all levels of political office including Governor, US Senate, and Congress. He was the youngest chair of a political party in New Jersey history.

Rich is the founder of RZC Impact, a communications firm specializing in media training, public speaking, and strategy. His clients have included Fortune 500 Executives, national television personalities, and bestselling authors. He has personally trained individuals for high profile speaking engagements appearances on national programs including Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, Larry King Live, CBS Evening News, Hannity, Today Show, and many others.  

Rich is the author of “The Seven Principles of Public Speaking: Proven Methods of a PR Pro,” and a Visiting Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Let's say it together:  "Spent his career advising candidates in New Jersey and Pennsylvania running for all levels of political office including Governor, US Senate, and Congress."  Yes, that means he's a political consultant.

It is funny to think of the Crabb campaign being run by an out-of-state political consultant from Pennsylvania who, back when he lived in New Jersey, was an out-of-state political consultant working in Pennsylvania. 

Notice something missing from Rich Zeoli's professional biography?  It mentions his work as a political consultant first thing, and that he was "chair of a political party in New Jersey".  Does that mean the whole party?  Sure sounds like it, when it fact Zeoli was the chair of a county committee of a political party.  Sussex County, in fact.

Zeoli's biography mentions his business, his clients, his book -- but there's no mention of him being an elected Sussex County Freeholder and a Freeholder Director.  Why not?

Any ideas on why there's no mention of Sussex County?






Memo to Freeholder Director Rich Vohden and Deputy Director Dennis Mudrick

Gentlemen.  We all know that you are big supporters of your colleague, Phil Crabb.

You know him.  You vote with him.  You attend political cocktails and wine & cheese parties with him.  Talk to him.  Talk to him about following the law.

Get him to file his D-1 form.

As his leaders on the Freeholder Board, you are responsible for him.

Watchdog spoke with a very helpful state employee down in Trenton yesterday.  She works with the compliance section of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC).

She said that Freeholder Crabb had failed to file his D-1 form and was in violation of state election law.

The law isn't tough to understand.  It can be found on Page 10 of NJELEC's Compliance Manual for Candidates (published in 2013):

No later than ten days after establishing a candidate committee, the candidate shall file the “Single Candidate Committee Certificate of Organization and Designation of Campaign Treasurer and Depository” (Form D-1). If any of the information contained on Form D-1 changes, the candidate must file an amended Form D-1 no later than three days after the change. If the candidate appoints a deputy treasurer or designates an additional depository, the “Designation of Deputy Treasurer and/or Additional Depository” (Form DX) must be filed with the Commission within five days of the designation or appointment. If any information contained on Form DX changes, an amendment to Form DX must be filed within ten days of the occurrence of the change.

Freeholder Phil Crabb has been collecting money for his re-election campaign since his secret kick-off event down in the Mulvihill's wine cellar at Crystal Springs.  That was December of last year.  He should have filed his D-1 six months ago.

Allow Watchdog to make it easy for you.  You can print a D-1 from here:

One great benefit about filing his D-1 is that Freeholder Crabb's campaign treasurer could become certified by attending a free campaign treasurer certification program provided by NJELEC.  Maybe Freeholder Crabb wouldn't break the law so much if he complied with this.

So how about it Freeholder Director Vohden?  How about it Deputy Director Mudrick? 

And when or if Freeholder Crabb does file his D-1, remember that the law requires him to file a copy with the Sussex County Clerk's office in Newton.  That's so Sussex County residents won't have to travel down to Trenton.  It's a courtesy.  It's also the law.

Transparency is the start of the next American revolution.




Crabb: Sussex County doesn't deserve transparency

It's the law.  New Jersey election law is administered by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC).  On Page 38 of NJELEC's Compliance Manual for Candidates (published in 2013), every candidate for county office is given notice that he or she is mandated to do the following:

"File a copy of every election fund report (reports filed at the 29-day and 11-day period and 20-day post-election period, along with quarterly reports) with the county clerk in the county where the candidate(s) seek(s) office."

Unfortunately for the taxpayers and citizens of Sussex County, Freeholder Phil Crabb couldn't be bothered with filing with the county clerk. 

We've already seen that in 2011 Crabb was years behind filing his campaign finance reports and that since 2011 he has been consistently late in filing his reports.  But that only covers what he is obliged by law to file in Trenton, with NJELEC.  As far as following the law and filing with the county clerk in Sussex County, Crabb has pretty much ignored that.

And that's a problem, because Sussex County residents shouldn't have to drive two hours each way to Trenton to get a legal copy of what their elected representatives have been up to.  It should be available from their County Clerk, in Newton.  It should be available not only as a courtesy to the taxpayers of Sussex County, it should be available because that is the law.

Ever hear of the movie Casino Jack?  It is based on the true story of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

 It makes the case for citizens to be curious about who is giving their elected officials money and why.  That goes for Sussex County as it goes for the rest of America.

Since getting out of prison Jack Abramoff has cleaned up his act and now offers straight advice from someone who knows why business people, vendors, and other interest groups invest in political campaigns.

People need to know who is giving politicians money.  They should know.  It is their right to know.  It is the law.  But Phil Crabb doesn't think so.


The Party Bosses forgot to tie Crabb's shoelaces.

Every elected official in Sussex County places his or her hand on a bible and swears to uphold the laws of the State of New Jersey.  Election law is part of that.  After the wretched Watergate scandal, reforms were enacted to ensure that the taxpayers and citizens would have the right to know who gives money to the people they elect to office to work for them.  The politicians didn't ban the legal bribery of special interest money, but they at least promised to make sure that everyone would know where the money was coming from.  It's called "transparency".

But transparency only works if politicians follow the law. 

Freeholder Phil Crabb has made a career out of ignoring the law.  In 2011, it got so bad and became such an embarrassment that the other elected officials in Sussex County were going to toss him off their ticket.  Since then, those elected officials haven't done a very good job of keeping their boy on the straight and narrow. 

According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC ), Freeholder Crabb filed his October 15, 2013, report on January 21, 2014.  That was the same day he filed his January 15, 2014, report.  But Crabb didn't report what he was required to report until April 15, 2014.  Crabb's July 15, 2013, report was filed on July 18, 2013; April 15, 2013, was filed on April 26, 2013; January 15, 2013, on January 31, 2013; October 15, 2012, on October 19, 2012; July 15, 2012, on July 17, 2012; April 15, 2012, on April 23, 2012; and January 15, 2012, on April 23, 2012.

Hey, has anybody seen Crabb's April 15, 2014 report?

Looks like somebody needs to hold Freeholder Crabb's hand to make sure he follows the law.  

Freeholder Crabb's last re-election was held on November 8, 2011.  His 20-day Post Election report was filed on January 9, 2012.  You do the math.

Those elected officials who have put their oaths of office on the line by condoning this behavior with their words and their money should wise up before they face a big embarrassment.  Your boy acts like a dodo and just because he's a safe vote for the powers that be doesn't mean that he should get a pass on following the law.  It is incumbent upon you, his supporters, to make sure that his shoes are properly tied each and every report time. To date, you have not done your job very well. 

Taxpayers and citizens may have to put up with the legal bribery that goes on.  We shouldn't have to put up with a lack of transparency too.


The Coziness of a One-Party County

Last Thursday night there was a campaign fundraiser for Freeholder Phil Crabb, who has become a kind of cause célèbre for the network of insiders who run most of what happens in Sussex County.  We won't go as far as George Carlin and call them "the owners" but often, it appears that way.

Crabb's event was a packed house and he collected a lot of money.  It was a very different story three years ago when Crabb was up for re-election.  Then his fundraiser managed to attract less than two dozen people and his campaign finance reports were anemic.  Ah, Crabb's campaign finance reports.

Three years ago Phil Crabb was under a lot of pressure.  He was up for re-election and was relentlessly peppered by party officials, county officials, freeholders, legislators, and operatives to clean up his act and file campaign finance reports that were then four years overdue.  These officials met with Crabb and sent him written emails that demanded that he follow the law or else they would push him off the ticket.  After assuring them many times that he had filed, which turned out to be untrue, Crabb finally did file and has, on occasion, filed on time since.

Phil Crabb broke New Jersey election law again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again, well, you get the idea.  It is the one consistent thing that defines his career as a Sussex County politician.

Crabb has been extraordinarily lucky in that nobody has ever filed a complaint against him with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.  Others who have done what Crabb did, but on far fewer occasions, have faced fines and penalties of tens of thousands of dollars.  In neighboring Morris County we have this example:

The N.J. Election Law Enforcement Commission also has accused (Freeholder Hank) Lyon of four violations of campaign finance laws during the 2011 Republican primary. Each violation could result in a maximum $6,800 fine.

One alleged violation involves a $16,000 loan made to the campaign a week before the primary but not reported until July 8. The state says that because the contribution was more than $1,200, it should have been reported within 48 hours.

Another alleged violation occurred when Lyon and his father certified the information on the loan and campaign report was correct but that they changed it in a subsequent report. Initially, Lyons reported that he had made the loan but it was later changed to identify Robert Lyon as the contributor, the state said.

Additionally, the state claims the information about the contribution was submitted after the June 27 deadline.

Further, the complaint says that $16,795 in expenditures were listed on July 8 but were due on June 27. (

Last month, Freeholder Lyon was formally reprimanded by NJELEC and fined $8,100 for his late filing.  Lyon had only four violations, as opposed to the dozens Freeholder Crabb faces.

This leaves some people questioning why Crabb, who enjoyed only limited support in 2011, now has almost all the insiders supporting him in 2014.  Are they, with their words and their dollars, condoning behavior that they, as officials sworn to uphold the law, should have reported?  Why the radical turnabout?

Freeholder Crabb has proven to be useful to those with deep financial interests in the county and their allies.  In June 2012, Crabb was at the center of an attempt to take control of Sussex County's waste disposal away from the County's 24 municipalities and turn it over to a committee of five insiders.  Later the County dump's lifespan was magically extended just as it had once been magically foreshortened.  Blogger Rob Eichmann, who at age 48 died last October of cancer, extensively studied this and other issues.  His notes and papers have been preserved by his alma mater.

Since his current term as Freeholder began in January 2012, Crabb has been a point man for insider interests in Sussex County.  Last December, a dinner was hosted in his honor at the exclusive spot favored by those who run the County.  As a rule these events are priced just below the amount that triggers the state's disclosure laws.  Technically legal but morally suspect and ethically a no-go.  The spirit of transparency isn't flourishing here in Sussex County.

If Freeholder Crabb's problems do come to light and they end up reflecting badly on the County and on those elected officials who knew, but supported and funded him anyway, watch for the blame games to begin.