Harvey Roseff asks tough questions
Citizen activist Harvey Roseff has been asking tough questions all summer long. He scored a big victory for taxpayers when he organized a ballot initiative that stopped Byram Township from spending $11 million on new municipal facilities.
Mr. Roseff, who once ran as an independent candidate for the Sussex County Freeholder Board, raises so many important issues that we've decided to collect them and update the public from time to time. This is our first such installment.
Sussex County Freeholder Board
There is a controversy over a key county appointment that revolves around the question of whether or not there should be a vote of the elected Freeholder Board to confirm said appointment. The appointment is that of Carol A. Novrit, the county's social services director, who was promoted to administrator of the Department of Health and Human Services. We believe Ms. Novrit to be highly qualified, but as the appointment was made by an unelected official, we must join with Freeholders Vohden and Crabb in insisting that the entire elected Freeholder Board be given the opportunity of a public vote on the confirmation.
We are particularly concerned with Freeholder Director "Boss" Graham's assertion that he doesn't need to do things in public. The NJ Herald's Rob Jennings reported:
The decision to elevate Novrit, who started her new job Tuesday, was made last week by Acting County Administrator Ron Tappan.
Tappan consulted with the freeholders but did not seek a public vote.
Vohden, near the end of the 21/2-hour meeting, charged that state law required a public vote.
"When did I vote? Where is my consent?" he said.
Freeholder Director George Graham, in response, asked County Counsel John Williams whether the process that was used -- Tappan consulted with freeholders before making his decisions -- had followed the law.
Williams replied that it had.
Undeterred, Vohden said he planned to revisit the situation.
Tappan did not attend Wednesday's meeting.
Should the unelected Acting County Administrator be deciding on an appointment by backroom "consulting" out of the public eye? That is what public freeholder board meetings are for. Then he has the balls to skip the public meeting when questions could have been put to him about his behind-the-scenes "consulting" process? Wasn't this what "Boss" Graham criticized the old county administrator for? It would be base hypocrisy for Freeholders Graham, Lazzaro, and Rose to allow this and we hope the latter two will stand up to the former and ensure that he allows a public vote.
Mr. Roseff summed it up by commenting: "A lawyer, seeking his 30% payday by filing a piece of paper for a fee that buys a good lunch, should not be allowed to muzzle a government official. That's the role of a Judge after a trial. Freeholder Vohden - your opinion is why you were elected. Represent the people."
Hopatcong School Board
Referencing the fact that New Jersey has the nation's highest home foreclosure rate, largely because it has the highest property taxes in America, Mr. Roseff writes: "The BOE rains a foreclosure pox on its people. Hopatcong has had a 33% drop in student population and a 27% local revenue increase in budget over the past 10 years. In a deflationary time, that is a huge local burden increase for an aging homeowner demographic."
Roseff goes on to suggest that the candidates in this year's school board elections should "advocate for an immediate 10% cut in the budget with an additional 15% cut in the following 5 years."
Getting back to foreclosure rates for a moment. As of August 2016, these were the states with the top foreclosure rates in the country:
1 in every 1388 homes
Top 5 States
1 in every 544 homes
1 in every 622 homes
1 in every 740 homes
1 in every 807 homes
1 in every 824 homes
Sussex County, NJ
1 in every 325 homes
In Hopatcong, the foreclosure rate is more than double the state's rate, coming in at one in every 219 homes. Vernon, at one in every 190 homes, is even higher.
Frankford Township School District Board of Education
Earlier this week, voters in Branchville and Frankford approved $1.46 million in new school spending to replace the school roof and upgrade security at the Frankford Township School. The vote was taken in a special election, called for the purpose, and not at the November General Election.
The referendum passed with a nearly 65 percent majority -- with unofficial vote counts of 476 residents in favor and 260 against. There are 554 registered voters in Branchville Borough and 3,911 in Frankford Township.
Harvey Roseff commented:
"Here we have a BOE who derailed public participation. By calling a special election, it organized to avoid the full electorate participation of the November general election turnout. Yet the public's request to have fiscal responsibility is disturbingly countered by the excuse that BOE meetings are not attended.
This wasn't about 'architects', it was about correctly addressing an out of control tax and spend BOE personality.
At only 520 students, at $20,000/student, this BOE has not performed in the public's interest. Costs have soared - chasing Frankford/Branchville residents out of New Jersey. The BOE overhead and spending needs to right size through a consolidation process."