Friday
May012015

Bilik campaign attacks Alison McHose

In 2003, Alison Littell McHose gave up a full-time job to serve the people of the 24th Legislative District.  Legislators receive only a part-time salary of $49,000. 

During the 12 years she's held office, McHose has become known as an independent conservative voice for reform in Trenton -- crossing the aisle to work with reformers of both parties to pass legislation like the Party Democracy Act.  Time and again, reforms in Trenton began with McHose's lone voice.

 

In January, McHose announced that she would be stepping aside and would not be running for re-election.  The reason for her departure was that her two sons are approaching college age so she had decided to work full-time again as the administrator of Franklin Borough.  McHose and her husband, a U.S. Army Sergeant who served three tours in the war on terror and just returned home from Afghanistan, also have a young daughter.

Marie Bilik's campaign chairman is Molly Whilesmith, a Sparta councilwoman and former mayor.  Until recently, Whilesmith was a Democrat.  Now she claims to be a Republican, so we were surprised when she posted a link on her Facebook page to a letter to the editor by a leftist Democrat operative that attacks Alison McHose for seeking full-time work to stay close to home.

The writer takes a reform championed by Alison McHose and Parker Space and then lies about it.  McHose and Space successfully pushed legislation that ended the ability of an elected office holder from retiring and collecting a state pension while collecting a public salary.  It closed the loophole on double-dipping so that an elected official can no longer do both.

The writer is a clever liar who conflates this reform with an elected official having a second working income from a public source.  The loophole McHose and Space closed has to do with pension income and not holding a second source of public income.   That would take separate legislation and all such attempts have been blocked by the Democrats who control the Legislature.

In Alison McHose's case, she is not running for re-election and is temporarily holding two public positions, as full-time administrator and part-time legislator, only long enough for the people to choose her replacement at a primary held on June 2nd.  As was reported in the Herald and elsewhere, McHose had wanted to resign from the Assembly  immediately upon taking her new position.  However, with memories of the controversies surrounding Gary Chiusano's departure from the Assembly in 2013 and the opposition to county conventions voiced by the Herald and others, McHose decided to remain in office until the voters had their say in an election.

For this McHose is being attacked by Molly Whilesmith, the chairman of Marie Bilik's campaign.

Many elected officials do have a second working income from a public source.  Take the Bilik campaign's Molly Whilesmith as an example.  She has attended public meetings in municipality after municipality and lobbied on behalf of a corporation that sells its services to county and local governments.  In her work, Whilesmith is often accompanied by Wendy Molner, another Bilik campaign person and the Vice President for Government Relations of Concord Engineering/ Concord Energy.  Official government minutes are available off the Internet showing the role the two play.

Curiously however, while Molly Whilesmith's relationship with this energy vendor is demonstrable from local government documents, she failed to record it on her state mandated Financial Disclosure Statements for 2014 or 2015, covering her activities as Mayor, Member of Council, and Member of the Planning Board.

Looks like Mayor Whilesmith has some explaining to do.

Thursday
Apr302015

Bilik's photo-shop campaign

Assembly candidate Marie Bilik lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and is employed by a Washington, DC lobby group.  Bilik travels 4 1/2 hours back and forth to New Jersey on the weekends. 

This is an obvious problem for her political campaign for elected office in Sussex, Warren, and Morris counties.  She's not around and it shows.

Take a look at her campaign website.  Why would a candidate who lived in Sussex County need to photo-shop her image onto a background of High Point?  

Why would a candidate who lived in New Jersey need to photo-shop her image onto a background of the State House in Trenton?

If Bilik was around, she would do what everyone else who lives in Sussex County does when they want to take their photo at High Point -- drive to High Point and take a photograph. 

You can't find a single photograph taken in the 24th District on Bilik's website.

And it doesn't help matters that she's hired a Florida campaign consulting group to do her opposition research, design her website, and run her campaign.

For a campaign that complains about consultants so much the Bilik campaign is certainly loaded with them.  There's an opposition researcher from Florida, a web designer from Florida, a campaign consultant from Florida, and a couple energy company consultant/lobbyists from New Jersey.  And then there's the candidate herself,  who works for a Washington, DC area lobby group.

Sunday
Apr262015

Give us our money back, Bernie

Bernie Re is Sussex County's longtime, well paid Treasurer.  The finance officer of Sussex County.  Bernie Re pockets $148,060 every year, plus benefits, health care, and a nice fat pension when he retires, aged 62, this year.

The average property taxpayer, doesn't have a pension, or paid benefits, or free health care.  And if he or she retires before 66 on Social Security, it is subject to a penalty.  Oh, and the average family income (husband and wife together) in Sussex County is just $87,335. 

Bernie Re was one of three Sussex County bureaucrats who were part of the Sussex County Evaluation Team.  This is the committee that recommended to the Freeholder Board that they agree to the solar scheme.  These are the assurances, Bernie Re and the other bureaucrats made to the Board: 

"The SunLight/MasTec team possesses high quality management, installation capabilities, and sound solar development experience.  In addition, the SunLight/MasTec proposal provides Sussex benefits in the following key areas:

- It provides substantial direct energy cost savings;

- It provides the Local Units the potential for additional savings through the sharing of revenues from the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) and other environmental benefits;

- Due to SunLight/MasTec's proposed capital investment, which reduces the required size of the Authority bonds, it provides a strong level of protection for Sussex from financial risk;

- It provided additional financial protection for Sussex in the form of a debt service reserve fund; and,

- It includes a restoration security providing for additional Local Unit protection at the end of contract.

Back in 2011, Bernie Re and the other county bureaucrats gave their assurances as professionals, their word, as men of honor.  Apparently his word isn't worth much and his professional standards are simply nonexistent. 

In today's New Jersey Herald, Bernie Re -- a man who Sussex County taxpayers have paid handsomely year after year -- essentially laughed in their faces and said "let the buyer beware".

Here is Bernie Re's exact quote: 

Re, though, acknowledged that he had been upset by the political storm surrounding the solar issue. He said county officials provided thorough information and that decisions were always up to the freeholders.

“Elected officials have a job to do. Nobody put a gun to anybody's head,” Re said.

"Nobody put a gun to anybody's head."  Isn't that what scammer Bernie Madoff said about his victims?  Yes, and scammer Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street himself, said it too.  Isn't that what every scumbag scammer says?

Yes, elected officials do have a job to do.  They should have been better judges of character in selecting the county's top bureaucrats.

We've just been through tax time.  Imagine if something was really wrong and you got audited and the person who you trusted to advise you on preparing your taxes said, "Nobody put a gun to anybody's head." 

Of course, that wouldn't happen because the IRS holds the tax preparer to account.  Unfortunately, the majority on the Sussex County Freeholder Board of Crabb, Vohden, and Mudrick will not be holding Bernie Re to account.  If they did hold him to account, they would ask for their money back for the years 2011 through 2015.

Bernie Re will soon be retiring.  Laughing at the taxpayers.  Laughing all the way to the bank.  "My advice was crap," but they still paid me.  "The Freeholders should have never trusted a thing I wrote  or said, ha, ha... but they still paid me."

But there still is something we can do to make sure that a lesson is learned and that others with the same professional attitudes as Bernie Re holds are not allowed to prey on people who look at their credentials and forget to examine their character.  We can file a professional complaint against Bernie Re. 

Filing a complaint cannot undo what Bernie Re did to the taxpayers of Sussex County.  But it will stand as a rebuke to every financial officer who says of the people he is supposed to provide honest advice, "Nobody put a gun to anybody's head." 

Friday
Apr242015

How the whisper campaign costs taxpayers

County politics in Sussex County was once a village.  It was more than close knit, it was closed.  This presented a problem for reformers.  In closed societies, people tend to overlook the corrupt practices of others, so as not to rock the boat.  Go along to get along.

The problem with this is that corruption ends up costing everyone who pays taxes -- everyone that is except the people making money off the corruption.

In closed societies like this anyone who identifies or even talks about problems is considered "impolite".  Steve Oroho was impolite in 2004 and especially so in 2007.  Parker Space was impolite in 2010 and Gail Phoebus in 2012.  Space, Phoebus, and George Graham have been very impolite this year, because they asked that a deal that was sold to the Freeholder Board with false promises be investigated and that those who made money by ripping-off Sussex County taxpayers be held to account.

Reform is Rude in Sussex County.  At least as far as the county's political  class is concerned.  The fact that all of those mentioned above romped to victory (some by big upsets) indicates that most residents of Sussex County do not share the same opinions as the county's political class.

When he was United States Attorney, Chris Christie used to talk about the "corruption tax".  This was the extra-cost to taxpayers that came from the single-bid wired for a political insider or from hiring someone "connected" instead of someone competent.

Because it is such a closed society, county politics in Sussex County was once largely controlled by an exclusive group whose business was politics.  That is how they made their money.  Turnout at elections was low and campaigns were conducted mouth to mouth, whisper to whisper, for in politics here it is rare for people to be straight with you.  To your face it is all smiles, behind your back, it's the whispers.

And then along came Steve Oroho.  He hired a consultant who worked with him to expand the number of residents who participated in politics.  Turnout at elections went up and the mouth to mouth campaign counted for less.  No longer could you get over on someone by pretending to like him while helping his opponent, because it didn't matter as much.

Steve Oroho opened the door to allow new people to participate and voter turnout went up.  It also let the fresh air of reform in. It became safer to speak the truth and identify bad practices.

There are those who long for the days when they could ostracize anyone who dared blow the whistle on corruption, theft, or malfeasance.   Those days are gone and, though some may try, they will not come back. 

The voters will not allow the county political class to steal their government from them.  They will not be content to "shut up and pay" ever rising taxes so that this "wired" county politico can get a no-show job in order to qualify for a state pension.  They will not "shut up and pay" so that local elected officials can be a sales reps for vendors who demand government use a product that nobody asked for.  This is the past and those who benefitted from these corrupt practices had better get used to it.

Wednesday
Apr222015

Our very political County Administrator

Maybe you heard this already?  John Eskilson, the Sussex County Administrator, has gone into the opposition research business.  This isn't so much a change as an expansion for the very political Eskilson.  In 2012, Eskilson contacted the chairman of a campaign for Freeholder with the demand that the candidate for Freeholder not mention an issue Eskilson opposed:  A ban on county government borrowing without voter approval.

That's right.  The very reform that could have prevented the Sussex Solar scam in the first place, was the issue that Eskilson tried to deep-six through the back-door.

They have this reform in Warren County.  It is the law there due to the efforts of Warren County Freeholder Director Ed Smith.  But not in Sussex County.  Because in Warren County the elected Freeholders run the show, not the unelected County Administrator.  Warren County wouldn't stand for it because, for a start, it is unethical.  Professional government administrators like John Eskilson are supposed to abide by a Code of Ethics.  Part of that Code of Ethics reads:

Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators.  Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body

 So why is Sussex County Administrator John Eskilson gathering information on a sitting County Freeholder and using that information to undermine her campaign for public office?  Eskilson has been pushing this information to local reporters and to those who oppose the election of this Freeholder to higher office.

Watchdog will be filing a complaint and naming names, so those involved should expect to be contacted.  It is time to stop the politicization of county bureaucracy.  It is unethical and may be a misuse of taxpayers' money.