Entries in Sussex County Taxpayers (160)

Monday
Jun042018

Sheriff Mike Strada endorses Fantasia & Hertzberg for Freeholder

Monday
Jun042018

Why is Freeholder Carl Lazzaro being dishonest?

On Sunday, Freeholder Carl Lazzaro launched a robo-call that not only disturbed the peace of the day but was disturbing in its level of dishonesty.  It is clear that Freeholder Lazzaro is attempting to deflect attention away from his own actions – and those of the Freeholder Board majority of which he is a part. 

That Freeholder Board majority – Freeholder Jonathan Rose, Freeholder Carl Lazzaro, and their “Boss” Freeholder George Graham – has made some grossly improper decisions while in a position of trust. 

Here are some questions that Freeholder Lazzaro and his side needs to answer: 

(1) Why did Freeholder Carl Lazzaro re-hire the bond counsel who failed to do his job and warn county government and county residents about the problems with the solar program contract? 

Unfortunately for Sussex County taxpayers, this lawyer didn’t even require the contract to have the basic insurances that, if they had been in place, would have protected Sussex County and its residents from financial liability.  So why did the three freeholders hire him back? 

Why are Sussex County taxpayers paying this man? 

(2) Why did Freeholder Jonathan Rose give a no-bid contract worth $518,000.00 to the lawyer who allowed the solar scam to happen in the first place? 

This lawyer ran the state office that was the final step in the process of approving a contract that turned out to be a scam.  His office was the taxpayers’ fail-safe.  But instead of catching what was an obvious problem, his office rubber-stamped the contract and the taxpayers of Sussex County were out $40 million. 

So why would Freeholders Rose, Lazzaro, and Graham give the lawyer who signed-off on the solar scam $518,000 to investigate the solar scam?  An obvious whitewash?  No wonder Sussex County has never got back a penny on the money it lost. 

(3) Why did their side take a campaign contribution from the law firm responsible for solar? 

Why would they take a campaign contribution from a law firm that they themselves acknowledged was implicated in the solar scam?  Isn’t this the very definition of “dirty” money? 

Now we know why Carl Lazzaro made that robo-call.  To deflect our attention from what he and his crew have done in office.  

Now we know why Lazzaro and Rose are trying to mislead us again. 

They lied about solar, spent more of our tax money, borrowed more, and raised property taxes every year they’ve been in office.

How can anyone argue that they deserve to be re-elected?

Sunday
Jun032018

Why does Sussex County pay its administrator more than more populated counties do?

The Sussex County Freeholder majority of Jonathan Rose, Carl Lazzaro, and Boss George Graham reward their cronies – while they continue to piss on average county workers.  Take the County Administrator as an example.

The current County Administrator was installed by Boss Graham and the boys at a salary that is over-sized for the population of Sussex County.  But that is okay by them, because this guy follows the script they hand him to the letter.  We’re concerned actually, because if Boss Graham ever stopped short, the county administrator might find his head lodged up Graham’s backside.

Sussex County has a population of 142,000 and falling.  But its new county administrator pockets $180,000 plus a packet of perks and benefits that would choke a horse.

On the other hand, Bergen County, with a population that rivals some states (approx. 939,000) pays its county administrator just $171,182. 

Essex County – with Newark in it and all the problems that come with a big urban area (population: approx. 796,000) – its county administrator makes $142,640. 

Hudson County – with Jersey City – and a population of 677,983, pays its county administrator $167,028.  And this guy has been on the job for decades. 

Another populous (approx. 555,000) county, Union, pays its county administrator $172,000.

Morris County, population 498,423, has a county administrator who earns $171,844. 

Passaic County, population 507,945, pays its county administrator $177,012. 

Neighboring Warren County (population: approx.. 106,000) pays its county administrator $143, 235 – and he’s been on the job since 1999! 

Smaller counties tend to pay less for their county administrators, on the order of Salem ($80,000) or Cape May ($110,000).  So why do we pay so much, here in Sussex County? 

Well, boys will be boys – or rather, the boys will be the boys.

 

Wednesday
May302018

Why did Rose & Lazzaro hand a solar scam enabler a $518,000 no-bid contract? 

Matthew Boxer was the State Comptroller from January 2008 until December 2013.  Before taking this position, Mr. Boxer was an associate with the New York City law firm of Lowenstein Sandler.  After leaving office, he returned to that firm as a partner.

Most residents of Sussex County are aware of the scandal that involved a public-private partnership to install solar panels on local government buildings, using federal subsidies.  As it turned out, the private entity responsible for the work was under-capitalized, failed to pay the contractor doing the work, was sued by the contractor, and the project stopped.  The cost to taxpayers in Sussex County is estimated at upwards of $40 million. 

Sussex was one of three counties involved in this project -- Somerset and Morris were the others. Lacking its own agency, Sussex County worked through the Morris County Improvement Authority (MCIA), although each county made its own individual contracts with the entity, called Sunlight General, a new creation with a board of directors drawn largely from a French bank.  

In February 2011, the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Sussex County authorized a shared services agreement with the MCIA to implement the solar project.  In July 2011, the project was sent to the Office of the State Comptroller for review.  After reviewing all the project documents, the following month (August 2011), the project was given the okay by the Office of the State Comptroller -- headed up by Mr. Matthew Boxer.  Based the affirmative review given by Mr. Boxer's office, the Sussex County Freeholders went forward with the project. 

Apparently, the project was so fashioned that by October 2011, Sussex County had received just one bid -- from Sunlight General.  And so, in that month, the Sussex County Freeholders awarded the contract to Sunlight General.

The Freeholder Boards of Morris, Somerset, and Sussex Counties all signed agreements -- reviewed by the Office of the State Comptroller (Mr. Boxer's office) -- that used taxpayer-secured debt to back up SunLight General's operations. Unfortunately, the contracts were poorly written, the expected flow of capital was fanciful, the projects poorly planned and executed.  Allow us to quote from the documents supplied by the federal court: 

- SunLight General Capital and its subsidiaries were formed "with virtually no assets, such that they were undercapitalized at the time of formation." 

- The SunLight Entities "have drawn on the Public Bond Funds and diverted such funds for non-trust purposes in violation of the New Jersey Trust Fund Statute." 

- The SunLight Entities have admitted that "millions of dollars of Public Bond Funds" have been used to "make lease payments" and to "fund the SunLight Entities' required contributions under the Program Documents, and to pay the 'soft' costs (including attorneys' fees) of the Authorities and the SunLight Entities." 

- "The SunLight Entities owe Power Partners millions of dollars as a direct beneficiary under the New Jersey Trust Fund Statute and there are no longer sufficient funds in the Public Bond Funds to pay Power Partners and to complete the projects." 

- The SunLight Entities "participated in an additional scheme to draw down over $6.3 million in Public Bond Funds and misdirected more than $2.7 million of such funds for non-trust purposes." 

- Those who controlled the SunLight Entities treated corporate assets as "their personal piggy banks, repeatedly transferring assets from one entity to the next for the purpose of ensuring that there would be insufficient assets in each entity to satisfy its obligations to Power Partners." 

- "The corporate form of the SunLight Entities was used to commit conversion, make fraudulent transfers, and other improper acts." 

Yes, the Office of the State Comptroller -- Mr. Matthew Boxer's office -- let down the taxpayers of Sussex County.  Matthew Boxer got to move on to his law partnership and the Office of the State Comptroller just keeps on reviewing what it reviews and the residents of Sussex County are left to deal with the $40 million loss in their (higher) property tax bills.  In March 2015, the Freeholder Boards of both Sussex and Morris Counties reached out to the Office of the State Comptroller and formally requested that the State Comptroller review the project -- for a second opinion. 

About this time, the name Matthew Boxer resurfaced again, only now it was as part of a proposal to bring in "outside counsel" to review the solar project and what went wrong.  Sussex County Freeholder Boss George Graham – the guy Freeholders Rose and Lazzaro follow -- pushed for Mr. Boxer to be brought in for this purpose. 

In April 2015, the Office of the State Comptroller turned down both Sussex and Morris Counties' requests to review the solar project.  No official reason was ever provided.  However, there is an "unofficial" explanation provided in a May 26, 2015, memo from the MCIA to the Morris County Freeholders.  It goes as follows: 

"The County is still awaiting a written letter from the Office of the State Comptroller, as a follow up to the phone conference with Morris County on April 27, 2015.  In the absence of the written response, and as a reminder, the State representatives (OSC) advised the County that it undertook an internal review of the Solar II Program and conducted its own analysis and evaluation of the Solar II Program.  Following this review process, the Comptroller's Office concluded that, based upon the information that Morris County had forwarded to them, it was not going to pursue a further review of the Solar II Program." 

So it appears that the Office of the State Comptroller had conducted a review of the solar project it had signed-off on, but was unwilling to share said review.  The memo continued: 

"The Comptroller's Office noted several factors in its post-review decision not to review the matter further: 

a. Noting that the Solar Programs and original agreements were a local policy decision, approved by the County Freeholders, and; 

b. That in the view of the Comptroller's Office, both the change in the SREC Market, as well as the legal dispute between the developer and the contractor (SunLight/MasTec) contributed to the Solar II Program not proceeding as originally expected." 

The "post-review decision not to review the matter..."  Wow.  

The Office of the State Comptroller's recalcitrance to share the review that they had already conducted or to take that review further was a loss to the taxpayers of Sussex County, but a boon to former State Comptroller Matthew Boxer, who was now being touted as the onlyman to do a review that was to be paid for by fresh taxpayer's money.

And so, it came to pass that in January 2016 a new Freeholder Board in Sussex County -- now controlled by the very same individuals who had been for months advocating for the selection of Matthew Boxer as the onlyman to review the solar project -- handed Matthew Boxer a contract for $500,000 to conduct said review. 

The guilty parties in handing out that ridiculous contract – Freeholders Graham, Rose, and Lazzaro. 

The manner in which this contract was provided to Mr. Boxer was curious, and remains unexplained to this day. In a letter, dated January 19, 2016, a Sussex County official wrote to Mr. Boxer's firm inquiring how he came by the contract.  Here is what he wrote: 

Dear Mr. Boxer,

On New Years’ Eve, Dec 31, 2015, I received a phone call, about 5:00 PM, informing me that a resolution had been submitted to the Sussex County Clerk of the Board regarding an agreement with Lowenstein Sandler, LLC to provide professional services to conduct a review of the facts and circumstances involved in the Sussex County Renewable Energy Program. 

This was the first time I had any knowledge of this negotiation and agreement. 

I spoke to our Freeholder Director, the other sitting Freeholders, our County Administrator, our County Council, our Clerk of the Board, our County Treasurer, our Director of the Department of Central and Shared Services, our Purchasing Agent, and our assistant purchasing agent. 

...I believe that the governing body has had no part in negotiating an agreement with your firm. 

I would like to know, and now ask, who represented Sussex County in these negotiations, especially the negotiation of the “blended” hourly rate and the understanding that the Board of Chosen Freeholders has provided that fees are not to exceed $500,000.00? 

To this day, this official -- a respected member of the community in Sussex County and a veteran of the Korean War -- has never received the courtesy of a reply.  Why not?   

So the official wrote to the State Ethics Commission and noted the following: 

He stated that this agreement was negotiated with two phone calls with a Matthew Boxer, Esq. 

In 2011 Matthew Boxer was the New Jersey State Comptroller.  

Matthew Boxer led a staff responsible for overseeing audits and performance reviews at all levels of New Jersey government. The office audited government finances, examined the efficiency of government programs and scrutinized government contracts.  

On August 23, 2011 the State Comptroller's office, after a review, signed off on the procurement of a Photovoltaic Systems Developer with respect to certain local government facilities in the County of Sussex and the RFP as approved for advertisement. 

I have been asked by many Sussex County residents if Matthew Boxer has a conflict of interest representing Sussex County as Special Counsel in order to review its participation in the Sussex County Renewable Energy Program. 

To which the State Ethics Commission replied that Mr. Boxer claimed that he “did not have any personal involvement in the Office of the State Comptroller's review or approval of Sussex County's procurement related to the Program.”   

It seems strange that the person in charge of the office directly charged with reviewing the contract -- the failsafe in the approval process – would claim no personal involvement.  That is a curious statement.  How about professional involvement?   

Was Mr. Boxer so lax as to have no knowledge of what was a three-county project involving -- to start -- $100 million? His office reviewed nearly a dozen similar contracts involving many more millions in public money.  Okay. let's accept that Mr. Boxer was a "delegator" without direct, day-to-day knowledge about the office he was responsible for.  How did he come to be recommended as the sole recipient of a $500,000 contract to review what his office failed in reviewing at the start?   

The answer to that is simple: Freeholders Graham, Rose, and Lazzaro.  

And now, Rose and Lazzaro are asking us to give them a second chance to make breathtakingly stupid decisions like this one. Decisions that have to do with spending our money.

Really?

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!