Entries in NJ Herald (66)

Monday
Jul092018

QUESTION: Does the NJ Herald have a conflict?

On Sunday, the NJ Herald ran an editorial titled:  Franklin caught on a slippery slope.”  The newspaper contended:

“By voting again on an already approved ordinance, Franklin officials surely are taking the issue down a slippery slope that is bound to slide right into a courtroom. 

Before the Borough Council on Tuesday will be an ordinance that sets stricter requirements against disturbing steep slopes for developments, something that by all indications and records the council already approved last November.

At issue is whether the developer of a proposed 300-unit apartment complex on Munsonhurst Road can proceed using the previous, less-restrictive slope requirements or if the project will need to adhere to the new and soon-to-be-reaffirmed set. 

Records seem to indicate the steeper slope requirements were indeed recommended by the Planning Board and approved by the Borough Council, but those changes did not get codified, and the previous slope formula remained in the borough's online code book. 

Using the less restrictive slope requirements, JCM Investments presented plans for its apartment complex to the Planning Board in May, and in early June the board ruled the applications complete. No objections to the involved slopes were raised. Only later, at a public hearing in June, was it pointed out that the slopes formula used in the plans was no longer in effect. 

That began a slew of head-scratching, finger-pointing and legal action foreboding that led to the difficult-to-understand move to pass the stricter slope requirements again. 

Doing so can only further muddy waters that are already murky. 

Should the council approve the ordinance, it could be interpreted that the previous attempt wasn't done correctly, so the previous requirements were still in effect. 

On the other hand, if the council votes down the ordinance, does that negate the previous vote? And what effect would that have on the apartment project? 

The Herald continued:

The developer contends he acted in good faith, though it can be argued that ignorance of the law is no excuse. 

However, if the intent of the stricter requirements was to allow for greater discussion and review, that has already been accomplished. At a late November meeting, Planning Board member Jim Williams said, "We are reasonable people here. You want more than 10, 5 and 2 (the stricter set of slope requirements), come tell us why. We might say, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.' "

Without knowing it, they may have done just that when the plans submitted to the Planning Board and presumably reviewed by professional planners and engineers were deemed complete. No comments were made that too many slopes were disturbed. 

If the stricter slope requirements are ruled as applicable to the proposed development, a variance should be approved allowing the project to proceed to the next step. The borough code should be updated and let's move on. (A reprimand may be in order for the responsible party who failed to make the approved change to the code.)

That is, unless the failure to record the changes to the requirements will be used as an excuse to now stop the project.

Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, the matter will most likely need to be sorted out in court.

That’s the story, as reported in the NJ Herald.  

So we are curious as to why the NJ Herald is getting involved in this issue, without disclosing the involvement of its own attorney – who is also the new Sussex County Attorney – Mr. Kevin Kelly.  The Herald must be aware of Mr. Kelly’s involvement, as they have reported on it numerous times: 

Franklin accepts plans for 300 apartments - New Jersey Herald -

www.njherald.com/20170516/franklin-accepts-plans-for-300-apartments

May 16, 2017 - Photo by Jake West/New Jersey Herald — Attorney Kevin Kelly speaks to ... to the proposal by Silk City LLC, a subsidiary of JCM Investments. 

Developer considers next step after Franklin denies apartment plan ...

www.njherald.com/20170707/franklin-denies-apartment-plan

Jul 7, 2017 - Newton Attorney Kevin Kelly said he is reviewing the borough's ... Daurio is a principal of JCM Investments which has developed and manages ... 

Apartment developer seeks Franklin meeting - New Jersey Herald -

www.njherald.com/20170922/apartment-developer-seeks-franklin-meeting

Sep 22, 2017 - FRANKLIN -- The attorney for JCM Investments, the firm that wants to build ... attorney Kevin Kelly said there are issues for consideration by the ... 

Franklin Planning Board endorses new steep-slope rules - New ...

www.njherald.com/20180706/planning-board-recommends-new-steep-slope-rules

3 days ago - JCM Investments and its subsidiary, Silk City Rentals, which owns the ... at Thursday's hearing by attorneys Kevin Kelly and Autumn McCourt. 

Franklin Planning Board OKs zone recommendations for Munsonhurst ...

www.njherald.com/article/20171102/ARTICLE/311029966

Nov 2, 2017 - Nick Daurio, a principal in JCM Investments, seated at center, listens along with his attorney, Kevin Kelly, seated behind him, and engineer Eric ... 

Franklin Planning Board rejects major housing complex - New Jersey ...

www.njherald.com/article/20170706/ARTICLE/170709995

Jul 6, 2017 - As presented by Nick Daurio, a principal in JCM Investments, the ... After the vote, Kevin Kelly, a Newton attorney hired by JCM Investments, ... 

Franklin OKs rezoning for apartment complex property, but keeps an ...

www.njherald.com/.../franklin-oks-rezoning-for-apartment-complex-property-but-kee...

Nov 30, 2017 - On Wednesday, attorney Kevin Kelly, who is representing the developer, JCM Investments and its subsidiary, Silk City Rentals, said he has not ... 

Franklin Council agrees to settlement, property to be rezoned to allow ...

www.njherald.com/.../franklin-council-agrees-to-settlement-property-to-be-rezoned-to...

Sep 27, 2017 - ... the developer's attorney Kevin Kelly argued in a letter last week, actually favored Silk City's proposed Milly's Court development on 71 acres.

This recent photograph, appearing in the NJ Herald, contains this caption:  Nick Daurio, a principal in JCM Investments, seated at center, listens along with his attorney, Kevin Kelly, seated behind him, and engineer Eric Snyder, seated in front of him, as the Franklin Planning Board begins its meeting on Wednesday.” 

So why is the NJ Herald formally putting its weight behind this project in an op-ed that reads like a threat of legal action against the town and taxpayers of Franklin?  Is it the newspaper talking… or is it the attorney talking through the newspaper?

Given his new role at the county – as county government’s top attorney and legal advisor – Mr. Kelly should avoid the appearance of such conflicts.  Given its role as the arbiter of elections and the host of political campaign debates and such, so should the NJ Herald.

Thursday
May312018

Boss Graham and the boys get personal with Sussex Mom

By Sam Adams (A Reader) 

The Turkish are coming the Turkish are coming, or at least that's what Boss Graham would like you to believe.  

Reminiscent of the movie The Russians Are Coming. But unfortunately not as funny.  

It's about as believable as Russian collision, but that already taken by the Democrats, Boss Graham’s people. And with collusion we see how that has cost the taxpayers.  

At this point they seem to be willing to throw anything at Councilwoman Fantasia.  

She does not own a charter school. 

She isn't funded by extremists.  

Moreover all of this hogwash is laughable.  

But if you want a good fairy tale sit on old Boss Grahams lap and listen to him spin a good tail.  Just remember, with him and his people, there is no happy ending.  

Taxes will go up, the solar thing will run unresolved into Boss Graham’s election, and you'll have funded all this with your tax money for them to score political points!!

------- 

Over the weekend, a blog run by Freeholder Jonathan Rose made some claims about a charter school in Bergen County.  It claimed that the school was controlled by a Muslim cleric. 

That turned out to be a lie. 

Freeholder Rose’s blog claimed that the Muslim cleric was a “terrorist”. 

That turned out to be a lie too.

The most troubling aspect of this is that Freeholder Rose operates his blog with input from fellow Freeholders George Graham and Carl Lazzaro.  That’s a Freeholder Board majority, making their actions the actions of Sussex County!  

And just as troubling is the involvement of New Jersey Herald reporter Eric Obernauer.  In open conflict-of-interest, the Warren County resident is also a Sussex County official.

Here are the facts.

The charter school (Bergen Arts and Science Charter School) has no affiliation with any political or religious institutions. Period.

When asked, the school administration noted:  “The only exception is our professional affiliations with colleges and universities in the state with whom we collaborate in our educational programs, such as the past placement of student teachers from the College of St. Elizabeth. Some school buildings are leased from Catholic dioceses, but the schools are not affiliated with the Catholic Church.”

The Muslim cleric that Freeholder Rose’s blog smeared as a “terrorist” is a religious leader named Fethullah Gulen.  He is a religious moderate and an ally of the United States of America, which has provided him with protection from persecution.  Gulen lives in Pennsylvania and has been praised by the Pope.  Yes, the Pope.

Gulen is a religious leader, originally from Turkey, who opposed the hard-line Islamist regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Erdogan is the increasingly dictatorial and Islamist President of Turkey.  Erdogen 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. 

Gulen accused Erdogan of political corruption in 2013.  Erdogan responded by banning Gulen's books.  Erdogan had Gulen indicted on charges that a Turkish judge threw out.  So Erdogan had Gulen re-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.  He faces death if he returns to Turkey.

Freeholder Rose’s assertion that 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.”   

Finally, an investigation by the Bergen Record uncovered no direct evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the operation of charter schools in New Jersey. 

So what we have is a blog run by the three-member majority (Rose-Lazzaro-Graham) of the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Sussex County making a false and defamatory statement against a Charter School, licensed by the State of New Jersey, and a religious leader who has been praised by the Pope and other religious leaders – and who is under the protection of the United States of America. What are these three thinking? 

Now 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."  We know who he is.

The government of Turkish President Erdogan has been trying to extradite Gulen back to Turkey so they can put him to death, but the government of the United States is protecting him. In the hours after a Turkish coup attempt in 2016, Erdogan was quick to blame Gulen, while Gulen put forward the theory that Erdogan had staged the coup himself in order to consolidate power. 

The Associated 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."  That sounds a lot like Freeholder Rose’s blog, doesn’t it? 

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. 

Finally, trashing the reputation of a Charter School and calling someone a “terrorist” who isn’t are things that can get the Freeholder Board’s majority sued. If that happens, who is going to pay for it?  The taxpayer, of course!

Tuesday
May292018

Last year Freeholder Rose’s Skylands blog called Parker Space a racist. 

Now Freeholder Jonathan Rose and his running mate, Carl Lazzaro, are running for re-election.  Their opponents are Franklin Councilwoman Dawn Fantasia and Sparta Mayor Josh Hertzberg.  

Dawn, a Sussex County mother of three, is an educator at a Charter School in Bergen County.  Josh, a former DEA agent, is a husband and father.  His current job makes him responsible for aspects of port security in northern New Jersey. 

Supporters of Rose and Lazzaro (and the politician they answer to, Freeholder Boss George Graham) have called Mrs. Fantasia, the only woman in the race, many names.  They have called her a "political prostitute", accused her of "pimping" a message as a "spokesperson.”  At a public meeting, one Rose-Lazzaro supporter called her a "lackey" who "belongs in a cage like the animal you are."
One of these elected buffoons told her that her name "sounds like you should be dancing on a pole." Another told her that "you don't belong in MY Republican party." 

Why all the hostility towards a conservative, Republican, Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment woman who has cut taxes and balanced budgets as President of the Franklin Borough Council?  Is it because she isn’t “one of the (Graham) boys”? 

Name-calling is nothing new for the Freeholder Rose’s Skylands blog.  Last year, it claimed that Assemblyman Parker Space was a racist.  Now it’s at it again. 

Over the weekend, the blog run by Freeholder Jonathan Rose made some claims about the charter school in Bergen County that employs his opponent, Dawn Fantasia.  It claimed that the school was controlled by a Muslim cleric. 

That turned out to be a lie. 

Freeholder Rose’s blog claimed that the Muslim cleric was a “terrorist”.  

That turned out to be a lie too. 

The most troubling aspect of this is that Freeholder Rose operates his blog with input from fellow Freeholders George Graham and Carl Lazzaro.  That’s a Freeholder Board majority, making their actions the actions of Sussex County!  

And just as troubling is the involvement of New Jersey Herald reporter Eric Obernauer.  In open conflict-of-interest, the Warren County resident is also a Sussex County official. 

Here are the facts. 

The charter school (Bergen Arts and Science Charter School) has no affiliation with any political or religious institutions. Period. 

When asked, the school administration noted:  “The only exception is our professional affiliations with colleges and universities in the state with whom we collaborate in our educational programs, such as the past placement of student teachers from the College of St. Elizabeth. Some school buildings are leased from Catholic dioceses, but the schools are not affiliated with the Catholic Church.” 

The Muslim cleric that Freeholder Rose’s blog smeared as a “terrorist” is a religious leader named Fethullah Gulen.  He is a religious moderate and an ally of the United States of America, which has provided him with protection from persecution.  Gulen lives in Pennsylvania and has been praised by the Pope.  Yes, the Pope.

Gulen is a religious leader, originally from Turkey, who opposed the hard-line Islamist regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Erdogan is the increasingly dictatorial and Islamist President of Turkey. Erdogen 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.  

Gulen accused Erdogan of political corruption in 2013.  Erdogan responded by banning Gulen's books.  Erdogan had Gulen indicted on charges that a Turkish judge threw out.  So Erdogan had Gulen re-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.  He faces death if he returns to Turkey. 

Freeholder Rose’s assertion that 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.”    

Finally, an investigation by the Bergen Recorduncovered no direct evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the operation of charter schools in New Jersey. 

So what we have is a blog run by the three-member majority (Rose-Lazzaro-Graham) of the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Sussex County making a false and defamatory statement against a Charter School, licensed by the State of New Jersey, and a religious leader who has been praised by the Pope and other religious leaders – and who is under the protection of the United States of America. What are these three thinking? 

Now 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."  We know who he is.

 

The government of Turkish President Erdogan has been trying to extradite Gulen back to Turkey so they can put him to death, but the government of the United States is protecting him. In the hours after a Turkish coup attempt in 2016, 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."  That sounds a lot like Freeholder Rose’s blog, doesn’t it? 

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. 

Finally, trashing the reputation of a Charter School and calling someone a “terrorist” who isn’t are things that can get the Freeholder Board’s majority sued. If that happens, who is going to pay for it?  The taxpayer, of course!

Wednesday
May232018

ROSE & LAZZARO HIRED TARGET OF LETTER AFTER CONTRIBUTION 

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.

Wednesday
Apr252018

Why did Freeholder Lazzaro fail to file his NJELEC reports on time?

The lack of transparency is a big problem with the Sussex County Freeholder Board.  Freeholders Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro campaigned on a platform of open government and a promise to govern transparently but have done anything but.  No-bid contracts negotiated and handed out without the knowledge of the Board.  And backroom dealing is so commonplace that county insiders knew Jonathan Rose was the next Freeholder director before he did.  Before the vote was taken, it had been published in the Freeholder agenda. 

This even filters down into the conduct of the campaign.  While Jonathan Rose has been diligent in filing his campaign finance and expense reports with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC), running mate Carl Lazzaro missed a year's worth of filing deadlines and only recently filed them all at once.

 

Perhaps this was in response to the trouble Freeholder boss George Graham got himself into by running afoul of NJELEC?  You can read the New Jersey Herald's report here: 

Freeholder hit with election commission complaint

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has filed a five-count complaint against Sussex County Freeholder George Graham for allegedly failing to comply with state law regarding campaign contributions during the 2013 election season...

http://www.njherald.com/20180304/freeholder-hit-with-election-commission-complaint#//