Entries in Gary Chiusano (12)


The sad fates of those who trusted Freeholder Boss Graham

Around the County Courthouse in Newton they have a saying... George Graham makes a lot of friends, but doesn't keep any for long. 

Graham rose in Sussex County politics from a local Democrat official to the Republican boss of county government.  His political consulting business -- York Strategies -- was once closely associated with the campaigns of a number of Democrat candidates in Hudson County.  Remember Assembly Speaker Joe Doria?  The Hudson County Democrat was Governor Jim Florio's legislative point man in the passage of the most restrictive firearms ban in our nation's history.

George Graham and his political consulting business, York Strategies, worked for Joe Doria in Hudson County.  Graham was a registered Democrat when he worked for Doria. 

George Graham was a lifelong Democrat until switching to Republican to vote in the primary against conservatives Alison McHose and Gary Chiusano.  In the General Election that year, Graham donated to their liberal Democrat opponents and switched back from Republican to Democrat in order to vote in the 2008 Democrat presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 

Afraid of losing his seat on Stanhope council, a desperate Graham switched again to Republican, his current party today.  In a matter of a few years time, George Graham flipped from Democrat to Republican, back to Democrat, and then to Republican again. Graham has been a Democrat for most of his adult life and affiliated with liberals for much of that time.

Graham's political consulting business, York Strategies, which included partner James Barracato, came up with slogans like "Joe Doria is full time Bayonne" and "I'm with Joe," according to the Hudson Reporter newspaper.  Although no longer a member of the Legislature, Joe Doria is still on the campaign trail with Jim Florio, only now they campaign for gun control and against the NRA (National Rifle Association).  At a recent gathering the two called for new constraints on the Second Amendment, with Joe Doria calling the NRA "dirty".  Not to be outdone, Florio added that the manufacturers and sellers of guns were, in his words, "Merchants of Death." 

As a Republican, George Graham closely aligned himself with former Freeholder Glen Vetrano.  In 2012, Vetrano and Graham engineered the victory of Dennis Mudrick, who was elected to the Freeholder Board. 

But it didn't take long for Graham to deep six his former friends.  After securing election to the Freeholder Board himself in 2013, the following year Graham instigated the ethics investigation that brought down Vetrano, and in 2015 he ran Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro against incumbent Freeholder Mudrick, who was defeated in the primary.

In 2016, Graham became the boss of the Freeholder Board -- controlling a majority made up of him, Rose, and Lazzaro.  After winning the primary that year, he successfully talked Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus into challenging Senator Steve Oroho for his seat in 2017.  This move essentially ended Phoebus' political career as well.  

Not content with ruining Assemblywoman Phoebus, Graham moved on to Republican candidate for Freeholder Herb Yardley, who Graham deliberately sought to hobble so that Democrat Dan Perez might win and the join Graham, Rose, and Lazzaro on the Freeholder Board.  Worse still was the fact that Graham involved Freeholders Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro in supporting the Democrat. 

And that is why we are where we are today. 


Sussex County has had some really fringe candidates

Remember Chris Thieme?  Once-upon-a-time he was the "next big thing" in Sussex County politics.  Yep, Chris Thieme, who came out of nowhere to grab 3,000 votes against Gary Chiusano in the 2002 Republican primary for Freeholder.  People called him a "grassroots wonder" and "man of the people."  Some people got so excited about Thieme that they forget to check him out -- to get behind that smiling face and a handshake.  But then a funny thing happened on the way to becoming the "next big thing."  We'll let the New Jersey Herald take over from here:

A Newton man and former Sussex County freeholder candidate has been arrested by federal authorities and charged with attempting to pay a hitman $25,000 to kidnap and kill a Paterson woman, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Christopher Thieme, 35, was arrested on Monday and charged with one count of murder-for-hire and one count of attempted kidnapping.

The murder-for-hire charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and the attempted kidnapping carries a maximum of 20 years. Each charge also carries a $250,000 fine.

"During multiple telephone conversations and text messages exchanged during this time period, Thieme explained to the individual that Thieme wanted the victim kidnapped and held for a week or two, during which time Thieme would empty the victim's bank accounts and sell the victim's real property for his own profit," a criminal complaint against Thieme said.

The complaint alleges that after two dates, the victim attempted to cut off contact from Thieme.

Thieme allegedly told the undercover agent that he would make the victim's death look like a heroin overdose, the complaint alleges.

On Jan. 4, Thieme took the undercover agent to the victim's home and other frequented locations before being dropped off in Caldwell and being arrested shortly after by the FBI.

No, that didn't end too well at all.  Thieme's barnstorming of Sussex County will have to wait seven years, because that's when he is expected to get out of prison.

Sussex County has a long history of fringe candidates who came out of nowhere, unvetted, with no background on offer beyond a smile and a handshake.  "What you see is what you get" they'll tell you, but oh... not really.

One got as far as being elected a local mayor before it was found out that he improperly used state time and property and he went to jail, another got six months in prison for corruption, another was convicted of abusing two girls, another had to resign over juvenile Facebook posts -- and all their supporters uniformly expressed shock and could not understand how the person who they had promoted turned bad.  In fact, the bad was there all along only they refused to see the warning signs.

Yeah, yeah, they would say, "maybe that Facebook post was in bad taste, but he is doing it to make a point." And then he went further, and they made more excuses.  Until one day, it went too far...

Take the case of former Byram Councilman Rick Meltz.  He was the quintessential "nice guy" and small town "goodfella".  Everybody liked the guy -- until he was arrested in 2013 for his involvement with New York's infamous "cannibal cop", the NYPD's Gilberto Valle, who planned to stalk, kill, and eat his female victims. 

In January 2014, Meltz pleaded guilty to planning to kidnap, rape, and murder women.  According to the New Jersey Herald, Meltz and his co-conspirators planned to "attack and kill multiple victims, including the wife, children and other family members of a co-conspirator."  Meltz and his co-conspirators also discussed what they referred to as the "snuffing" of "women, children, and infants."  With the FBI's tapes rolling, Meltz dispensed tips on how to kill without getting caught, such as "removing a victim’s teeth to avoid dental identification, taking off the fingers to avoid fingerprint identification, and chopping off and disposing of the head."

Yes, this is the same Councilman Meltz who nearly won the Republican primary for Sussex County Sheriff.  Oh yes, Meltz shouted and hollered about how he was a true patriot -- a Sam Adams if you will -- and how the incumbent was a bad guy who wasn't "one of the people" (like him).  And this lunatic almost won, getting 4,406 to the incumbent's 4,752. 

That was a close call for Sussex County.


Tea Party candidate threatens GOP Assembly Leader

Mark Quick, who in 2011 ran with Sussex County Tea Party president Roseann Salanitri against conservative legislators Alison Littell McHose and Gary Chiusano, used social media to post what appeared to be a threat against GOP Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick and others.  Quick's post was in response to a plea for civility made by Assemblyman Bramnick:


"I am deeply concerned how partisanship has evolved into hatred and intolerance.  We must be very careful that our country does not continue down a path that can only be destructive for our nation."


Quick, who opposes the tax restructuring plan supported by Assemblyman Bramnick and others, responded derisively:


"As soon as the Traitors are in jail or swinging from a rope."


"Traitors... swinging from a rope?"  Was that violent image (lynching) really necessary?


But this is just what we have come to expect from Sussex County's tea partiers -- coarse, pornographic rants laced with threats of violence.  Posting mainly through social media, those responsible sound more like 15 year-olds than the 70 pluses they tend to be.


Here is one Sussex County tea party member musing on what should be done with the United States Congress:


"All 545 sitting in DC right now are guilty of treason. And all those living who have sat over the past 2 decades, since the signing of NAFTA are, too. That is our reality, they should all be indicted, dragged out in chains, the evidence a matter of congressional record and unimpeachable. And all should be subject to all the consequences the law provides up to the firing squad."


But not every Tea Party group is like this.  On the website of a Tea Party organization in a neighboring county, we found this admonishment to members:


Remember the quote attributed to Ronald Reagan “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” 


Sussex County has New Jersey's most reliable conservative legislators -- year in, year out.  And yet, since the beginnings of the Tea Party movement in 2010, tea party members in Sussex County have consistently attacked them as "20 percent traitors" (actually, we'd be surprised if there was five percent disagreement on the issues between them).


The Tea Party has attacked Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, Assemblyman Gary Chiusano, Assemblyman Parker Space, Senator Steve Oroho, and others.  It lay aside developing a door-to-door commitment for Congressman Scott Garrett, in order to focus its attentions on the apparently far more thrilling game of screw the conservative Republican.  Why go after Pro-abortion, anti-Second Amendment liberal Democrat Josh Gottheimer when you can screw Pro-Life, Pro-gun, Pro-hunting conservative Republican Steve Oroho?  It's priorities. 


It has never been about policy for the Tea Party in Sussex County, but rather about individual envy, jealousy, covetousness, and the hatred these sins produce.  Now, unfortunately, the ooze is making its way around the state, courtesy of Bill Spadea and others.


Update!  While writing this column we've heard from another Sussex County Tea Party member (Skylands Tea Party) and candidate for the state legislature.  He made this charming comment:



Now there's the kind of guy you want in the State Legislature, providing leadership, a role model for children.  Go Tea Party!


The arrogance of young Nathan Orr

Maybe it's his involvement with the Tea Party?  Or maybe it's just the way he's been raised?  Rarely, very rarely, has there been a more bold-faced exposition of smug, youthful arrogance than the letter to the editor, written by Nathan Orr, and published by the New Jersey Herald on November 1st.


But which Nathan Orr is this? 


Is it Nathan Orr the law partner, or Nathan Orr the software engineer, or Nathan Orr the accountant, or Nathan Orr the executive, or even Nathan Orr the 4th Grade school teacher?  No, it is Nathan Orr who graduated from Centenary College in 2013, spent time traveling through Europe courtesy of some family money, and whose first act as an adult appears to have been a campaign for political office. 


This is worth noting, because young Nathan called the Senator who represents him a "career politician."  Well, if he is, then he came to his career a lot later than Nathan Orr has. 


Unlike Nathan Orr, who went straight from undergraduate to political candidate, the man he so casually shits on had other responsibilities after his father died young. He went to work in New York City, met a girl, married, started a family, got involved in the Right-to-Life movement.  He became a Certified Public Accountant and worked for companies like W.R. Grace.  He was a senior financial officer for S&P 500 companies like Young & Rubicam and was sent to Europe to put newly acquired companies back on a healthy financial track.  And all this was before he ever even contemplated running for public office.


Remembering how hard his father had worked and his early death, he retired from corporate life to have more time to spend with his growing family.  He got involved as a coach for a number of youth athletic teams -- most notably as a football coach at Pope John High School.  He got involved in his town's economic development committee, local community organizations and charities, then was elected to borough council where he learned about municipal budgets and the problems local governments have to deal with. 


He ran for Freeholder and together with Hal Wirths and Gary Chiusano, reformed the county's budget process.  The successes of that board -- and later the board chaired by Jeff Parrott -- are looked upon today as the "good old days" of Sussex County government. 


And then, after a lifetime of learning and experience, only then did this so-called "career politician" consider running for the New Jersey Legislature. 


Not so Nathan Orr.  No sooner he was birthed from college he had his petitions to run for the New Jersey Legislature.  No place for humility when you are starting at the top.


Maybe it's the way he's been raised?


A common thread throughout civilizations is respect for age -- which is really just a way of acknowledging experience and the practical learning that comes with it.  Those who give respect, get it in return.  Not so our Nathan Orr. 


This young man casually dismisses the generally acknowledged feat his Senator accomplished by successfully negotiating five tax cuts from a position of weakness, one in which the Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature by hefty margins.  And his Senator accomplished this with the Democrats knowing that all they had to do was to run out the clock, wait until November 2017, when they can elect a new Democrat Governor.  Then they could have raised the gas tax as much as they like without any tax cuts.  Against all this, his Senator forged a compromise.


But the Senator's accomplishments are casually shit on by a young man whose most noteworthy negotiation to date has been securing his girlfriend's agreement to be engaged to him.  It is an amazing case of arrogance.


Maybe it's the way he's been raised?


Young Nathan Orr concludes his letter with a threat.  Speaking for his father as well, Nathan Orr writes:  "We accept your offer to meet before we decide whether or not to recall you."


Wow.  Somebody told that young man a story about how great he was and he believed it.


It's nice that Daddy Orr and Nathan Orr will get to spend some personal time to screw with their Senator.  Father and son can bond as they ignore what their Senator has to say, safe in the knowledge that they have all the answers -- even if they can't say how they got them. 


One person who won't be at that meeting is the Senator's son.  He's in public service too.  He's someone Nathan Orr might sneeringly call a "career government worker and son of a career politician." 


No, the Senator's son won't be at that meeting, standing by his old man's side like Daddy Orr will be by Nathan's.  And that's because the Senator's son is a U.S. Army Ranger, deployed in the fight to defeat terrorism.  Yeah, like his old man, he's a doer too.


Public service (whatever others may sneeringly call it) runs deep in some families.

By the way, did you sleep well last night?


To some, gossip is more important than fact.

There are always going to be some people who believe that "Navy SEALS blew up the World Trade Center, that WMD's were in Iraq, or that Anna Nicole married for love."  And it's the same with some of the gossip that gets tossed around about the tax restructuring proposal being worked out between the Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature, and the Republicans, who hold the Governor's office for another 16 months.


The latest was published by Hamptonian Tris Tristram, a prolific letter writer to the New Jersey Herald.  Tristram has found something to complain about with the portion of the proposal that would eliminate state taxes on the retirement income of most retirees in Sussex County.  According to the State Treasurer's office, the average retiree in Sussex County would see a $2,500 savings on his or her income tax. 


In his letter to the Herald, Tristram wrote: "Raising the 'no tax' threshold to $100,000 leads me to the cynical conclusion that this arbitrary number was reached because law makers and their cronies will be receiving pensions around that amount in the not too distant future (if not already doing so), thus cheating the state out of this needed revenue."


In fact, the threshold wasn't "arbitrary" but was calculated to make New Jersey more competitive against other states that have been luring away middle class and wealthy retirees.  As any financial planner will tell you, New Jersey is one of the worst places to live as a retired person in America.  Anyone who understands basic economics knows the consequences that face New Jersey, which is suffering from an outflow of wealth, while at the same time those moving into the state (including illegals) are often dependent on government services.


And no, lawmakers do not receive public pensions.  That is a LIE repeated over and over again, endlessly, by people who deal in gossip instead of FACTS.


Here are the FACTS.  The LAST legislator who was eligible for a state pension in Sussex County was Gary Chiusano.  And while we know that this must be hard for self-confessed "cynics" like Tris Tristram to believe, Gary Reagan Chiusano TURNED IT DOWN!!!  That's right all you cynics out there.  Your neighbor, Gary Chiusano, voluntarily turned down being grandfathered into the state pension system. Senator Steve Oroho does not get a state pension.  Assemblyman Parker Space does not get a state pension.  Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus does not get a state pension.  So the premise of this "cynical conclusion" is plain, old-fashioned bullshit.


This is the irresponsible way of the gossip.  Find any WMD's yet?  No?  Don't worry, when the facts don't suit you, just make them up and invade.  After the war is over, after the billions have been spent and all those dead boys and girls and all those arms and legs missing, you can always explain away the harm you did by chalking it all up to "whoops".


For anyone planning to continue to reside in New Jersey after they retire, the portion of the tax restructuring proposal that eliminates the tax on retirement income is a must.  But the only way it happens is if there's a compromise between the Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature, and the Republicans, who hold the Governor's office for another 16 months.


Time is running out.