Entries in Freeholder Carl Lazzaro (19)


Failing to lower property taxes, Freeholders take up foreign policy 

Talk about being desperate.   

They’ve raised property taxes every year they’ve been in office, increased county debt, failed to start litigation to get our money back from the solar scammers, but spent a half million dollars to “study” the problem, re-hired the lawyers responsible for allowing the scam in the first place, and handed out no-bid contracts to people involved in the scam.  Now, after screwing up all that, the three-member majority who run the Sussex County Freeholder Board – Jonathan Rose, Carl Lazzaro, and Boss George Graham – have decided to involve the Board in international affairs.   

Yes, they are putting Sussex County on record as siding with Islamist dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.  

Freeholder Jonathan Rose, who runs the Skylands blog , put out a statement on behalf of himself and Freeholders Lazzaro and Graham, that attacked Franklin Borough Councilwoman Dawn Fantasia. For the record, Councilwoman Dawn Fantasia is a Roman Catholic.  According to Rose and company, the inner-city charter school at which she is currently employed, is affiliated with an Muslim religious leader named Fethullah Gulen who finds himself the target of the Islamist regime of Erdogan. 

There is some debate over just how affiliated the school is with the religious leader, but that did not stop Freeholder Rose and company from labeling Gulen… and by extension Councilwoman Fantasia… terrorists. Unfortunately for Freeholders Rose, Lazzaro, and Graham (and, by extension, Sussex County government), most of the West – the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the European Union, etc. – consider the religious leader Gulen to be a Muslim moderate. 

That is why the religious leader Gulen lives under the PROTECTION of the government of the United States of America– in Pennsylvania, as a matter of fact.  And if that isn’t enough, no less than the Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, has shown his support for the religious leader Gulen and has called him a moderate.  That’s right, the Pope says Gulen is a good guy.

But according to Freeholder Rose (and Lazzaro and Graham) anyone who has anything to do with the religious leader Gulen is a “terrorist”.  Hey, that’s three Freeholders of the five… does this mean that Sussex County is on record as declaring the Pope a terrorist – along with Gulen and Fantasia?  If so, that is some foreign policy statement!

And Gulen’s moderation isn’t something new.  In the 1990’s Gulen began working with Pope John Paul II of the Roman Catholic Church, Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Head Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron of the Sephardic Hebrew congregation.  All of these faiths would be shocked to learn of the condemnation by a majority on the Sussex County Freeholder Board.

Freeholder Rose’s assertion that the religious leader Gulen is a “terrorist” is nothing more than a parroting of Islamist dictator Erdogan’s propaganda. As the United States State Department has stated over and over again, “Gulen has condemned terrorism.”  In fact, he was the firstMuslim religious leader to condemn terrorism, warning that it “has no place in Islam.”  Gulen wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Poston September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.”    

But international affairs expert Jonathan Rose (NOT!) calls this guy a terrorist?  And Rose and company imply that all who can be linked with Gulen – like Fantasia and the Pope – are terroriststoo, by association. And the fact that it is three Freeholders behind this, a majority, really makes this a very serious allegation and one that could end up getting the county sued big time! 

Here is the story behind the story of why officeholders like Jonathan Rose have been looped into recycling the propaganda of an Islamist dictator. 

A number of New Jersey political insiders – major players in the New Jersey political establishment – work for an international lobbying firm called Mercury Public Affairs.  For example, Juan Melli was recently hired as a Vice President.  Melli is the founder of BlueJersey.com, a former associate editor and columnist for David Wildstein's PolitickerNJ.com, and communications manager for Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.  Melli joins several other members of the New Jersey political establishment at Mercury Public Affairs.  These include Mo Butler, United States Senator Cory Booker's campaign consultant, former chief of staff, and "longtime advisor"; Michael Soliman, United States Senator and former Chairman of the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations Robert Menendez's political advisor and former State Director; and Michael DuHaime, Governor Chris Christie's campaign consultant and someone who has GOP contacts throughout the state. 

Once upon a time, campaign managers were locals who came up through the ranks alongside the politicians whose careers they helped to manage.  But as more money washed into DC and was funneled into campaigns, that changed.  Consultants proliferated and firms became larger.  Following the money, a few either merged with or morphed into public relations and lobbying (government relations) operations.  Why not?  Corporations paid big for access to politicians and there is nobody politicians love more than the person who got them elected. 

It was only a matter of time that things went global.  And that is why these New Jersey political operatives became members of an international firm representing the interests of quite a few unsavory foreign governments.  Mercury Public Affairs is itself a subsidiary of an even larger international firm that handles the image-making  for Russian President Vladimir Putin, receiving credit for, among other accomplishments, getting Putin's face on the cover of Timemagazine -- as the "Person of the Year" for 2007. 

Mercury Public Affairs began in 1999 as a decidedly Republican shop with connections to the RNC and politicians like John McCain and Mitt Romney, around 2013 it embarked on a mission to "diversify" -- meaning making the firm "more bipartisan and full-service."  Mike DuHaime joined the firm in 2009, first as a "managing director" but swiftly rising to partner.  Michael Soliman joined Mercury in 2013 and became a partner this year. Mo Butler joined as a "managing director" in 2016.  Mercury Public Affairs has 10 partners and 160 employees.  Omnicom purchased Mercury in 2003. 

Mercury Public Affairs has 18 offices worldwide -- including London; Mexico City; Washington, DC; New York; and Westfield, New Jersey.  The New Jersey offices (a satellite operates out of Trenton) of Mercury are the haunt of Messrs. DuHaime, Soliman, Butler, and other connected operatives like newspaperman Darryl Isherwood (former top political reporter for the Star-Ledgerand editor of PolitickerNJ), and "Christie campaign vet" Mark Mowers.   

In January 2015, Michael Soliman registered with the United States Justice Department, pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as a person representing the Embassy of the State of Qatar.  You must have read about Qatar in the news...Amnesty International has accused Qatar of being complicit in human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Yes, slavery.  In fact, the United Nations recently gave Qatar one year "to end migrant worker slavery" or face an international investigation.   

Qatar is just one of freedom's garden spots represented by Mercury Public Affairs. Remember the controversy in Uganda, when the President of that country decided that homosexuality was a crime that should be punishable by death?  Well, the law he wanted passed was "moderated" in December 2013, substituting life imprisonment for the death penalty.   In 2015, Mercury was brought on to provide public relations, lobbying, and media monitoring services with regards to the Office of the President and the Ugandan government in general on subjects beginning with "human rights" and ending with "good governance."  For which the contract calls for Mercury to be compensated at the rate of $50,000 per month, with $150,000 up front. 

Mercury also represents individuals.  Folks like Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, who in 2003 led an anti-American demonstration in which he personally burned an American flag.  For its work, Mercury pocketed a $30,000 monthly retainer, plus expenses.

In January 2016, Mercury Public Affairs partner Morris Reid negotiated a contract with Amsterdam & Partners, an international law firm with offices in London and Washington, DC.  The document is marked "confidential and privileged" but is public information under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  In August of 2015, Amsterdam & Partners signed a contract with the Turkish Ambassador to the United States to provide legal services related to a "matter of importance" to the embassy.  The government of Turkey paid Amsterdam a retainer of $50,000 a month. 

While the contract stipulates that the greatest security and confidentiality be observed, under the terms of the contract between Amsterdam and Turkey, third parties may be hired "as the Firm and the Client agree in writing are necessary to further the Engagement."  And so, in March of 2016, Amsterdam hired Mercury to perform work on behalf of the Turkish government for $20,000 a month -- above and beyond what was being paid to Amsterdam by Turkey.  It is in the contract between Amsterdam & Partners and Mercury Public Affairs that we learn what all this cloak and dagger is in aid of:

The Amsterdam-Mercury contract references an "investigation into Fethullah Gulen and his organization in the United States."  So who is Fethullah Gulen?

Gulen has been in the news since the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016.  Gulen is a religious leader from Turkey, and a one-time political ally of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan is the increasingly authoritarian and Islamist President of Turkey.  He has been repeatedly in the news for purging the judiciary, jailing journalists who write unflattering reports, and successfully intimidating the opposition.  Erdogan had a law passed to allow the government to ban websites and he has promised to "rip out the roots" of Twitter.  He has even attempted to censor speech in other nations, in 2015 Turkey demanding that Germany prosecute a poet who had written some verse critical of Erdogan. 

Erdogan and Gulen had a falling out over allegations of political corruption by Erdogan in 2013.  Gulen's books were banned.  First, he was indicted on charges that a Turkish judge threw out, but then was indicted a few months later for treasonable offenses that carried the death penalty.  Gulen fled Turkey, came to the United States, and was convicted in absentia.  According to Wikipedia, Gulen was one of the first Muslim leaders to condemn the attacks on September 11, 2001, writing a "condemnation article" in the Washington Post, the next day.  He wrote:  "A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim."

Gülen teaches a Hanafi version of Islam, deriving from Sunni Muslim scholar Said Nursi's teachings. Gülen has stated that he believes in science, interfaith dialogue among the People of the Book, and multi-party democracy. He has initiated such dialogue with the Vaticanand some Jewish organizations. 

Gülen is actively involved in the societal debate concerning the future of the Turkish state, and Islam in the modern world. He has been described in the English-language media as an imam "who promotes a tolerant Islam which emphasises altruism, hard work and education" and as "one of the world's most important Muslim figures." 

The government of Turkish President Erdogan has attempted to extradite Gulen back to Turkey to face punishment, but the government of the United States hasn't cooperated.  In the hours after the coup attempt, Erdogan was quick to blame Gulen, while Gulen put forward the theory that Erdogan had staged the coup himself in order to consolidate power.

TheAssociated Pressidentified Amsterdam & Partners (the firm Mercury is working for) as "lawyer(s) for the Turkish government" and quoted Robert Amsterdam:  "There are indications of direct involvement (in the coup attempt) by Fethullah Gulen." Amsterdam added that "according to Turkish intelligence sources, there are signs that Gulen is working closely with certain members of military leadership against the elected civilian government."

Why does Mercury Public Affairs want to be a part of extraditing a moderate religious leader to satisfy the rage of an Islamist dictator?  The answer is simple:  MONEY… FOREIGN MONEY… THE FOREIGN MONEY OF AN ISLAMIST DICTATOR.

Why are members of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders associating themselves with an effort to tarnish the reputation of a moderate religious leader, which will make it easier to extradite and murder said religious leader? 

The close relationships with many in New Jersey politics that Mercury's partners and employees enjoy is a matter for deep concern.  Freeholder Boss George Graham operates a political consulting business.  Has he been hired by Mercury, a client of Mercury, or an associate of Mercury?  His public disclosure reports require him only to list his political consulting firm, not its clients or sources of money. 

Both Freeholders Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro operate similar businesses that hide their sources of income from the public, making it impossible to know whether or not their assault on this moderate religious leader was inspired by Mercury Public Affairs.  In any case, as the three members of the Freeholder Board constitute a majority and they have launched this attack, they should publicly come clean about it

Wouldn't it be better if the Sussex County Freeholder Board stuck with figuring out how lower property taxes and cut debt instead of shilling for foreign governments?  With all this money from foreign powers floating around, the Board should avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. 

Calling a moderate religious leader a terrorist? A Sussex County mother of three, a terrorist?  The Pope, a terrorist?  What a rotten way to spend Memorial Day!



In March of 2015, a Sussex County Freeholder wrote to the county counsel with concerns about several lawyers retained by Sussex County:

(The full, 17-page correspondence is available from Watchdog upon request)

In July 2016, Freeholder Boss George Graham engineered a no-bid contract for the very law firm identified above as being at the very heart of the solar scam that has cost Sussex taxpayers upwards of $40 million.  Freeholders Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro dutifully followed Graham. Here is what Freeholder boss Graham said in 2015 about the lawyers he turned around and gave a no-bid contract to in 2016:

"It's all the same people that dug the hole, and every time I ask for a clear, third-party fresh set of eyes, they throw in somebody else that appears out of the past. How many times can you recycle the same names? Are they protecting specific people, or are they protecting the county?” (NJ Herald, March 28, 2015)

This is what then Freeholder Gail Phoebus said:

"Mr. Weinstein had clear conflicts of interest. Far from recommending ‘independent' counsel to guide us through a complex negotiation, you led us to the partner of the attorney who shares responsibility with you for failing to obtain a performance bond... All of this raises serious questions.  (While) Mr. Weinstein negotiated the solar project settlement and rendered advice to the freeholder board, whose interests was he serving”? (NJ Herald, March 28, 2015)

So why did Freeholders Rose and Lazzaro follow Boss Graham and bring Weinstein back?

...in September 2014, the county freeholder board appointed Weinstein as special counsel to guide it through that process.

The appointment of Weinstein -- whose law partner, John Cantalupo, had been on retainer to the county since 2011 for legal services related to county-backed bonds issued on the solar project -- was criticized last year by then-Freeholder Gail Phoebus, now a state assemblywoman, who called it a conflict of interest.

While offering praise for Wednesday's presentation, Roseann Salanitri -- also of Sandyston -- tempered her praise with criticism over the fact that a large portion of it was given by Weinstein.

"He was the same counsel that represented us on (last year's) settlement, and that settlement contained ‘hold harmless' clauses for just about everybody and their grandmother," Salanitri said. "I don't know Mr. Weinstein and have nothing against him personally, but I believe this presentation is not as credible as it could have been if it had been conducted by someone (else)." (NJ Herald, July 29, 2016)

Freeholder Boss Graham defended the appointment of Weinstein, saying:  "He's the only one who has institutional knowledge after all the other people who ran out the door." (NJ Herald, July 29, 2016)

Why did Freeholders Rose and Lazzaro -- one-time critics of the solar scam -- become its enablers?  

When Graham was on the outside, as a minority member (with Phoebus) of the five member board, Graham did one thing, now he does the opposite.  Now, as the boss of the Freeholder Board (controlling three votes of its five members – himself, Rose and Lazzaro) Graham is comfortable with those he used to call the bad guys and has even taken campaign contributions from them.

Where Sussex County taxpayers had?  Was all that anti-solar business an act by Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro?  They need to step up and do some explaining.


Does Sussex County government have its own #MeToo problem?

Which member of the Freeholder Board majority told a Franklin councilwoman that she belonged on a pole in a strip joint?  Was it George Graham, Jonathan Rose, or Carl Lazzaro?  

In a letter printed in the Sparta Independent today, Franklin Council President Dawn Fantasia recounts some of the things said to her, a Republican local elected official and mother of three.  Fantasia writes: 

"...my opponents' supporters have labeled me a 'political prostitute,' 'pimping' a message as a 'spokesperson.' I've been in a public meeting when referred to as a 'lackey' who 'belongs in a cage like the animal you are.'

It's been said directly to me by a currently elected county official and those in his circle that my name 'sounds like you should be dancing on a pole.' 

And last: that 'you don't belong in MY Republican party.'" 

Fantasia called the comments, "crass buffoonery," adding:

"If you know anything about me, you know that in my life, I've overcome significant obstacles and raised three outstanding children as a single parent. I've been a teacher, mentor, volunteer, advocate, and a school principal in a public charter school, empowering students and families to believe that with hard work and discipline, anything is possible.  

I fully support - and am supported by - those who also want to strengthen our infrastructure while protecting the most vulnerable: our seniors, veterans, and children. I'm a fierce advocate of our police and first responders; I've made it a priority to ensure those who protect us have adequate staffing and resources to do their jobs with fidelity.  

I support a strong, skilled workforce, and above all, our taxpayers. I'm proud of my record of fiscally-conservative spending, differentiating needs vs. wants, and I'm secure in my own moral compass, knowing the decisions I've made are good and right.  

My personal experience and interactions with the Republican party have been logical, principled, and based upon mutual respect. That is the Republican party I know in Sussex County. Regrettably, I cannot say that sentiment applies to my direct experiences with my opposition."


We are informed that details of the abusive and bullying behavior towards women by some county higher-ups are about to break into the open.  We're told that Councilwoman Fantasia's is only one account among many. 


QUIZ: Which is more stupid? (1) Handing out raises when you are in the middle of contract negotiations...

The Freeholder Board majority who run Sussex County government is made up of Freeholder Boss George Graham, Freeholder Jonathan Rose, and Freeholder Carl Lazzaro.  In our opinion, they have done a lot of stupid things while running the county and they've let us down.  Heck, we once supported them, so we are really disappointed in their antics. 

Below are just a few of the stupid pranks they've pulled since taking over.  So here's our quiz for today:  Which do you think is the most stupid? 

(1) Handing out raises when you are in the middle of contract negotiations. 

On May 9, 2018, smack dab in the middle of negotiations with unions representing most of Sussex County's employees, these three knuckleheads pushed through pay raises for 50 employees -- some already earning six figures. 

(2) Hiring the same lawyer who signed-off on the solar project to "study" what went wrong with the solar project, in order to assign blame and take appropriate legal action. 

In 2016, one of the first things the three Freeholders (Graham-Rose-Lazzaro) did was to hand out a no-bid contract to the law firm that employed the former State Comptroller, whose office did the final approval and gave the go-ahead for the failed solar project that has cost Sussex County taxpayers over $23 million so far.  

To make matters worse, they said nothing when the former Comptroller himself conducted the interviews, wrote the report, and whitewashed his former office and everyone else.  

End result:  The "study" cost more than $8,000 a page (over $500,000 total).  No harm, no foul, no money back. 

(3) Taking a $2,000 campaign contribution from the bond attorney who failed to blow the whistle on the solar project and then hiring him back.  

It was the job of the bond attorney to protect Sussex County taxpayers and he didn't.  But after getting a $2,000 contribution from his law firm, the three knuckleheads hired him back. 

So which is the stupidest to you?

Send your responses to: info@sussexcountywatchdog.com 


Freeholder Rose's re-launched Skylands blog backed Democrat candidates in 2017

The blog that tried to convince everyone that Assemblyman Parker Space is a racist last year is back...

The "Skylands" blog that did so much to try to elect three far-left Democrats to the Legislature last year by boycotting Space Farms and trashing Sussex County Republicans on behalf of the Murphy team.  They're baaack... 

The blog tries to portray itself as part a tea party group but has nothing to do with any tea party organization in Sussex County.  Instead, the blog promotes the county insider line as laid out by Freeholder Boss George Graham.

Last year the "Skylands" blog pushed for the election of liberal Democrat Dan Perez over Republican Herb Yardley.  The blog was there when Graham's pal Maria Alampi arranged for the anti-gun Perez to speak at the Sussex NRA dinner.

Now it's back... just in time to help with the re-election of Freeholders Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro. 

The "Skylands" blog is affiliated with Freeholder Rose and his pal, Dick.  Cop-hater Dave Fanale recently joined the effort to re-elect Rose and Lazzaro.  It will be remembered that after the disgraced Fanale quit Franklin Council, he moved into Rose's house.  Add George Graham into that mix and you have quite the group.