Entries in OPRA (3)


Extortion isn't the American way, but that doesn't stop some.

Sussex County Watchdog has been around since the spring of 2012.  Over the years, our efforts have stopped or brought to light many instances of public corruption.  These have included attempts to sell the county dump, the premature forcing of some county employees into retirement in order to use the money for new patronage employees, the corruption at the Sussex County Community College, the use of toxic chemicals near county employees, county spending and borrowing practices, county vendors and lobbyists, the county Solar scam, and the county's poor history with OPRA.  

Along the way, we've uncovered inside deals in the awarding of tax breaks and vendors' contracts, and the purchase of land.  On several occasions, Sussex County Watchdog led the way by contacting state and federal law enforcement, as it did during the solar scam -- when this website provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Attorney General's Office with background and material information. 

From time to time, our activities have made some insiders less than happy.  There is an all-too-cozy corruption at work at the county level.  Most counties in New Jersey are actually much more corrupt than Sussex is -- but, as in the Solar scam -- our county is being colonized by other counties interested in expanding their corruption here.  

Watchdog is important because we will act when corporate media is afraid to act because some important advertiser is at the core or connected with a matter.  We are anonymous because, in a county as cozy as Sussex is, it prevents direct retribution for exercising our First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.  Anonymous speech is as American as our Founders and has been protected through the centuries by the United States Supreme Court.

Nevertheless,  our efforts have been the target of extortion attempts -- of threats designed to coerce us to stop writing in a way that offends the extorter or to write in a way more favorable to the extorter.  We have always rejected such attempts, because extortion is not only a criminal act but an existential act.  As an act of coercion, it is designed to kill free will, and so is an enemy of freedom itself. 

Extortion is the crime of obtaining money, property, or services from an individual or institution, through coercion.

Most states define extortion as the gaining of property or money by almost any kind of force, or threat of 1) violence, 2) property damage, 3) harm to reputation, or 4) unfavorable government action. While usually viewed as a form of theft/larceny, extortion differs from robbery in that the threat in question does not pose an imminent physical danger to the victim. 

Extortion is a felony in all states. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and damaging information to family, friends, or the public.  Inherent in this form of extortion is the threat to expose the details of someone's private life. 

Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats or force.   It involves a set of various types of actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce a desired response.  These actions may include, but are not limited to: extortion, blackmail, torture, threats to induce favors, or even sexual assault. In law, coercion is codified as a duress crime.  Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in a way contrary to their own interests. 

These crimes can take place over the telephone, via mail, text, email or other computer or wireless communication.  If any method of interstate commerce is used in the extortion, it can be a federal crime. 

As believers in the First Amendment and of the Bill of Rights, Sussex County Watchdog has always offered the liberty of our pages to any opposing point of view.  Write what you wish, and we will publish it.  We are an open forum, accessible to all.  And we offer anonymity to all who wish to publish.  We always have, and a few have made use of the liberty of our pages.  Some have stayed on as regular contributors.  

Unfortunately, there are many who don't want to be part of a free and open discussion.  They want to be able to exercise power, gain material benefit from the taxpayers, or seek power -- without scrutiny.  They don't want a discussion, they want power or a contract or taxpayers' money or status and they don't want to hear about it or have anyone asking questions.  These are the kinds of people who opt for extortion over the liberty of our pages. 

As one can readily appreciate, extortion is the realm of thug life, of wannabe Il Duces and Mafioso -- not of old political organizations and political families.  At least, it shouldn't be.  We have been surprised at some of the names connected with the latest attempt. 

Please allow us to provide counsel to our wannabe extorters, to those making the threats.  To those enemies of freedom, we say this:  The best way to address writing that you do not like is with more writing.  

Speech should be met with speech.  Not with threats, intimidation, coercion, and extortion.  Once you take that road there is only one way forward... as someone  who fears words, as the enemy of freedom, the book-burner, the hater of words and of journalism and of writing.  And where does it end?

It is a bloody path that you are choosing...


Candidate Hayden broke DOT rules to run

William J. Hayden (AKA Bill Hayden, Dell Hayden, Skylands Patriot ) is an 18 year public employee of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.  He works as a supervisor, based in Trenton, where he pockets a salary and extras more each year than any legislator earns -- plus full benefits and a pension.  Hayden is a member of the CWA -- one of the most liberal unions in America.


He doesn't vote much.  He made it last November, but the last time before that was 2010.  Now he thinks we should give him a second public job -- as our legislator.


The Department of Transportation has certain simple rules.  Before you contemplate running for partisan elected office, you are supposed to notify the executive office.  It is the same when you have any form of outside employment that might cut in on the time you are paid working for the taxpayers.  It is plainly written, in black and white, in the Ethics Manual that all DOT employees must abide by:

The NJ Department of Transportation Code of Ethics states:  "Employees who intend to run for partisan elective public office must submit an Outside Employment /Activities (PR-102) Form to supervision and the Ethics Liaison Officer prior to becoming a candidate for such office." (Page 20, under Political Activity)

Somehow the media missed this when they reported on March 31st that Hayden had announced his intention to run a day earlier and was collecting signatures.  On April 2nd, the Herald posted a story that announced Hayden was a candidate. 


But even at that late date, Hayden had failed to follow the Ethics rules and had not notified DOT superiors or the Ethics Liaison Officer.  In typical Hayden bully fashion, he just did whatever he wanted to do and to hell with the rules.


In fact, according to DOT records obtained through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), Hayden took his time and didn't follow Ethics rules.  He filed and was on the ballot (April 3rd) and was still in the middle of an Ethics process that should have occurred prior to him even circulating a petition to run for partisan elected office.

We guess the rules don't apply for some people.  Or some people don't think they do.  But that doesn't stop Hayden from laying down rules for everyone else -- as those who have had to deal with his high-handed manner as a DOT supervisor will attest.  And now he wants even more power to make rules for people that he will not follow himself.


Will Andover taxpayers be sued for trying to silence blog?

What did Assemblyperson Gail Phoebus mean when she told her Assembly colleague that Andover Township was going to silence Bill Winkler?


Phoebus, a former Andover Township Committee member, has targeted Winkler claiming that he is the "founder" of the Sussex County Watchdog blog.  Phoebus knows better, as the blog was created at the time of her first run for countywide office in 2012.  In fact, Phoebus' campaign mail featured the Watchdog in it, so she should know that the blog was founded by the late Rob Eichmann and has been maintained by a group of his associates ever since. Phoebus herself has contributed numerous stories to Watchdog.


Sussex County Watchdog has a long history with Andover Township that of late has become contentious.  The Watchdog has complained about Andover Township's failure to follow OPRA (Open Public Records Act) rules and has written about its failure to abide by the Open Public Meetings Act.  The blog acted as a whistleblower when it uncovered the improper way in which a recent resolution was drafted and passed.  Now that the blog has criticized Phoebus and her former colleagues in the Andover Township government, Phoebus is angry with the Watchdog.


What has upset Andover Township's politicians the most is Sussex County Watchdog's coverage of the former headquarters of the notorious American National Socialist Bund -- Andover Township's own Camp Nordland.  According to Assemblyperson Phoebus, township officials became incensed when the Watchdog made the following recommendations:


That Andover Township place a plaque at the site of the American National Socialist Bund's Camp Nordland, to honor the victims of the ideology practiced there; and that Andover Township donate all proceeds from events held at the former Nazi Beer Hall to organizations representing the victims of the Holocaust and their families.


Phoebus told a fellow legislator that Andover Township was going to "get" the person they held responsible.  And now, it appears that an attempt is being made. 


On Monday, October 31st, the Sussex County Watchdog blog posted a report about how an old Quaker gentleman had been accosted by Sussex County Freeholder Director George Graham and two Andover Township Committeemen.  The blog report is posted here:




The incident took place at a GOP event held at the former headquarters of the notorious American National Socialist Bund.  For some strange reason, instead of demolishing the former Camp Nordland, the town leaders of Andover Township have maintained the building that hosted numerous Nazi, Fascist, and Ku Klux Klan rallies in the 1930's. 


The day after the Watchdog blog posted its story, the Deputy Mayor of Andover Township filed a harassment complaint against the old Quaker who was accosted by the three Sussex County politicians.  According to witnesses, one of the Andover Committeemen had threatened to "punch someone in the face," while another Andover Committeeman had threatened a bystander earlier that evening by saying "you better not be his (the old Quaker) friend."   


Of course, the people who run Andover Township would have you believe that it happened the other way round.  They want you to believe that a 60 year old Quaker assaulted a 40 year old Marine and his two comrades.  They want you to believe that writing about their political corruption is "harassment".


As David Danzis of the New Jersey Herald reported today, the Andover Township Deputy Mayor has filed a complaint against the alleged blogger:




Really?  In America?  Are they really playing the old brown-shirt trick of beating up the Jew and then claiming he started it, in order to have him arrested?  Shame on the elected and appointed officials of Andover Township and shame on the residents who elected them and then stood by and let it happen.


Filing a false report is a serious offense, as is the attempt to deprive American citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights -- both the right to report the news and opinion, and the right to read it.  Of course, the former Hudson County Democrats who have switched their party registration and now occupy positions of power on the Sussex County Freeholder Board (Graham) and in Andover Township are following the playbook of where they came from.


A few years ago there was a similar case in Hudson County when the mayor of a city there decided that he wanted to "take down" an anonymous website that was publishing news and opinions that he didn't want published.  The mayor and his son conspired to "take down the website and to identify, intimidate, and harass those who operated and were associated with the website."  The United States Department of Justice takes such civil rights violations very seriously and the feds arrested both the mayor and his son.  The son took the rap and was convicted in federal court.     


Is there a similar conspiracy in Sussex County?  Watchdog knows the names of a great many political figures in Sussex County who were aware of this matter well before the accused was and that Assemblyperson Phoebus herself was making calls about it, spreading false information, and that she has expressed her animosity towards the Watchdog website and the individuals she claims are associated with it.  Yes, this stinks to high heaven! 


Will this end up in federal court?  If it does, it will impact you greatly if you are a taxpayer in Andover Township.  Remember, you elected them.  And you are responsible when they behave like fascist thugs.  As they say, stay tuned...