Minutes of Freeholder meetings not posted since Jan.2nd

County Administrator John Eskilson also holds the job of Clerk of the Freeholder Board.  It is an unusual arrangement, but one that will no doubt benefit him when he goes to collect his pension.  It certainly benefits him now, as it consolidates his choke hold over Sussex County. 

John Eskilson runs Sussex County like an elected County Executive, even though he is only an appointed County Administrator.  Of course, this is the political philosophy of two-time Freeholder Director Richard Vohden, who maintains that the elected Freeholder Board is only there to ratify the decisions of the county's unelected bureaucracy, led by Eskilson.  Yes, it is a very Central European theory of government, favoring a bureaucratic authoritarianism over representative democracy.     

It should come as no surprise then that public access to the Minutes of the Freeholder Board meetings has been less than open.  Eskilson is in charge, so the people who pay for his salary, perks, and benefits with their taxes don't get to know.  A lot has been happening since the Freeholders were sworn in on January 2nd, but if you wanted to read about it on the county website designed for that purpose you would be shat out of luck.  Because it isn't there.  See for yourself.


While in Texas, Bilik attacks Parker Space in New Jersey

Washington, DC lobbyist/ Virginia resident/ New Jersey Assembly candidate Marie Bilik attacked Assemblyman Parker Space on the pages of a blog run by a former Sparta school board member and liberal activist.  On the same day Bilik's attack came out on Space, whose family has owned and operated Space Farms since the 1920's, it was reported on the Texas website, Your Houston News, that Bilik was in Texas to give a school there an award on behalf of the lobby group she works for.

Here is a picture of Bilik taken in Texas and published in the Houston media, while she was attacking Assemblyman Parker Space here in Sussex County.  Weird, isn't it?


Did Marie Bilik lie just to try to get elected?

Marie Bilik doesn't like to be called a "lobbyist", but according to the annual tax return (IRS Form 990) her group files with the IRS, they told the IRS that they were a lobby organization.  It is right there, plain as day, in black and white on the group's tax return.  Did her organization lie to the IRS or is she trying to mislead people now?

Bilik told the Herald or led them to believe that she is only "working in Virginia, though maintaining her residency in Green (township)."  Aside from it being a 250 mile, 4 1/2 hour commute, each way -- a few months ago when she wasn't running for office in New Jersey she was happy to tell anyone who asked that she lived in Virginia.  That's right, here is a Facebook post she did herself saying exactly that.



Which begs the questions. .  .  Did Marie Bilik lie to her friend then?  Or would she lie now so that voters don't know she wants to get elected to represent them without living in the same community they do?



While Crabb makes excuses, Morris County gets resignations

Last evening we had the opportunity to watch Freeholder Director Phil Crabb try to pass the blame and make excuses for a solar project that he, Rich Vohden, and Dennis Mudrick voted to bail out with millions of taxpayers' money.  Crabb made his statement on Vernon Vibes, a public service cable program.  

To make matters worse, at about the same time in Frankford, Mayor Gary Larson was leading the charge against even investigating the solar mess -- that's like sending the police away after a bank has been robbed.  But isn't that just like Sussex County?

Meanwhile, over in Morris County, they were acting like grown-ups and making sure that their taxpayers wouldn't be robbed again.  The Star-Ledger reported that two consultants connected with the deal had been asked to resign and their resignations accepted. 

Morris County consultants resign, in wake of solar project bailout

A month after investing more millions on a three-county solar project that fizzled amid an industry downturn, the Morris County freeholders and the county's improvement authority have accepted the resignation of two experts who advised on both the initial deal - and the bailout.

Morris County is now "looking for a possible exit strategy from the solar business," the county said in a release.

Stephen Pearlman, the Morris County Improvement Authority's attorney, and Steve Gabel, the head of energy consultant Gabel Associates, both submitted letters of resignation on Wednesday, which were accepted.

Pearlman was the attorney who advised on the project's setup, according to public documents. As the attorney for the improvement authority, he helped convince Sussex County to join with Somerset and Morris counties in the project.

Gabel advised on solar-energy prices, which plummeted just as the project was being built, according to those documents.

The three-county project was based on the "Morris model," a public-private way of financing that intermingles tax subsidies, private investment, and taxpayer money. The electricity produced would help pay off the public debt. Sussex, Somerset and Morris counties collectively borrowed $88 million to finance the project, which began in 2011.

But tumbling solar subsidy prices and litigation between the contractor and developer derailed the project, leaving roughly half the work in Morris and Sussex counties unfinished. Arbitrators awarded $66.3 million to the contractor, Power Partners MasTec, against developer SunLight General Capital LLC, according to court documents. SunLight then hired a bankruptcy law firm, using some $700,000 of the public money.

The counties then borrowed an additional $21 million last month to end all the litigation and to try and get the projects back on track - and limit losses. Critics, most notably Assemblyman Parker Space and Sussex County freeholders Gail Phoebus and George Graham, have requested an outside investigation into where the money went. A series of Sussex County municipalities have also requested the resignations of multiple county officials.

Pearlman and Gabel both did not comment on the reason for their resignation in their letters. Pearlman, reached by phone, declined comment. Their resignations take effect June 1.

Seth Augenstein can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SethAugenstein. Find on Facebook.



Energy Lobbyist to lead Bilik campaign

A local politician who works with Wendy Molner as an energy lobbyist has been chosen by Assembly candidate Marie Bilik to lead her effort against Assemblyman Parker Space and Freeholder Gail Phoebus.

According to the official minutes of several New Jersey municipalities, Molly Whilesmith has lobbied local governments on energy issues for Concord Engineering, the corporation where Wendy Molner is listed as Vice President of Government Relations.  Here she is, at a meeting of the Watchung Borough Council in November of last year:

Jersey Energy Group – Somerset County Energy Aggregation Program

Wendy  Muller (Molner?)  and  Molly  Whilesmith,  representatives  from  Concord  Energy Services  (CES),  were  invited  forward  by  Mayor  Pote  to  proceed  with  a presentation  regarding  a  County  approved  Energy  Aggregate  Program.  Councilman  Gibbs  requested  consent  from  Mayor  Pote  to  recuse  himself  from this  presentation.    Ms.  Whilesmith  explained  that  Concord  Energy  Services  and Jersey  Energy  Group  were  appointed  by  the  Freeholders,  via  Resolution  in October,  to  form  the  newly  established  Somerset  County  Energy  Cooperative.

Wendy Kuser Molner is an experienced lobbyist.  According to her bio, she has over 15 years of experience.  She worked in "legislative relations" as a member of the Corzine administration. 

As a member of the administration of Governor Jon Corzine, Molner helped sell projects cooked up by NJ Transit and the NJ Department of Transportation.  You know, those people who want to raise the tax on gasoline to pay for those projects that cost, per mile, twelve times what the rest of the country pays.

Molner is listed as the Vice President of Government Relations on the website of Concord Engineering, an energy engineering company from southern New Jersey that sells to county and local governments.  Concord is affiliated with the NJ Clean Energy Program, which promotes  "renewable sources of energy including solar." 

Concord is also affiliated with the U.S. Green Building Council, among other organizations that promote the use of taxpayer subsidized solar energy.  So let's be clear about who Molner lobbies for.

Molner is the author of letters to the editor that have defended the county bureaucrats and their handling of the Sussex solar mess.  These are officials who have pocketed nearly $2 million of taxpayers' money since this solar scam was sold by them to the Freeholders. 

With the addition of a second energy lobbyist to her campaign team, it becomes even more important for candidate Bilik to answer these basic questions:

(1) Do you support the non-disparagement (aka "gag order") clause that protects the solar scammers from public comment? 

(2) If elected to the state Assembly, would you propose similar non-disparagement clauses between the Legislature and failed corporate vendors?