The Bilik campaign tries to squash free speech

The retaliation has stepped up for anyone who opposes the solar bailout that has cost Sussex taxpayers millions while politically connected consultants and vendors continue to bill county taxpayers and rake in fees.  The solar crew will go to any lengths to suppress opposition to their deal -- even if it means trampling the Bill of Rights to do so.

They tried imposing a gag order on the Freeholder Board -- something Assembly candidate Marie Bilik criticized Freeholders Gail Phoebus and George Graham for opposing.  Now they are calling and threatening newspapers and even sending threatening letters to at least one outspoken opponent of the solar deal. 

Marie Bilik has implicated herself in these, frankly, scummy tactics.  Her campaign has morphed into an apology for the solar bailout vote and other actions taken by Sussex Freeholder Richard Vohden, who at times is more prominently featured in the campaign than the candidate herself.  And then there are the energy company representatives she has surrounded herself with.  They lobby elected bodies in search of taxpayer-funded public contracts, but Bilik apparently sees no conflict in this.

Now the Bilik campaign has demanded that at least one taxpayer-advocate shut up.  The campaign claims to have sent a letter demanding that the taxpayer-advocate stop making any "statements regarding the staff of the Marie Bilik for Assembly campaign as well as the staff’s employers and clients."  This is a direct reference to energy companies that solicit business from taxpayer-funded county and municipal governments.  It is an attempt to gag anyone from questioning those public contracts.  Just shut up all you taxpayers and pay.

It won't work.  Not in America.

To make their threat, the Bilik campaign employed an insider attorney with a history of being on the wrong side of taxpayers and residents in Morris County.  Don't take Watchdog's word for it.  Here are excerpts from a Star-Ledger report, written by respected journalist Ben Horowitz.

 

Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)

September 25, 2013

Lawsuit: Landfill defrauded state by not disclosing $2.5M in debt

Author: Ben Horowitz; Star-Ledger Staff

The state filed two lawsuits yesterday against the owner-operators of the Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury, charging they defrauded the state by failing to disclose nearly $2.5 million in debt, misappropriated more than $1.26 million in tipping fees, created a "nuisance" and violated the state's solid waste and air pollution laws.

"People are leaving their houses and haven't been at their houses in days and weeks because of the smell."  Rotten-egg-like odors from hydrogen sulfide emissions have been traced to construction debris at the landfill.

The suits, filed in Morristown against Strategic Environmental Partners, say that since November, the Roxbury Health Department has received "almost daily" reports from residents complaining of headaches, breathing difficulties and nose and throat discomfort, due to the odors from the landfill. Roxbury school officials and teachers have kept children inside because of the gases.

"The irresponsible, unlawful actions of these defendants not only have cost the state a significant amount of money and fouled our environment, they have exposed an entire community to noxious odors that are extremely unpleasant to live with and have the potential to make people feel ill," acting Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement.

The landfill had been closed since 1979 when Strategic, operated by Rich Bernardi and his wife, Marilyn, reopened it in 2011 with plans to cap it with more debris, close it and install a solar facility.

The DEP charged in its lawsuit that Strategic fraudulently obtained approval to reopen the landfill when it misrepresented its solvency by omitting the $2.5 million in debts from its financial statements.

Strategic also failed to deposit tipping fees of between $1.2 million and $3.4 million in an escrow account to be used for the landfill cleanup, as required in the DEP consent order that allowed the landfill to reopen, the suit says.

Rich Bernardi said the issue of the escrow account has already been litigated with the DEP for more than a year in both Superior Court and before an administrative law judge, but "we never got a ruling from either one."

Bernardi's attorney, Matthew Fredericks, accused DEP of "trying to impose rules on (Strategic) that are not imposed on any other party." He said the DEP cannot make the owner of a "legacy landfill" -- one closed before 1982 -- comply with escrow requirements, a point he has raised repeatedly in the prior litigation.

Matthew Fredericks is the attorney for the Bilik campaign.  So now you know.