Tag Archive: Hamilton

Republican Mayor in Hamilton (Mercer) Wildly Inflates the Cost of Local Ethics Panel

Diary rescue from Monday – promoted by Rosi

Unelected Republican Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede came up with a whopper this past weekend to excuse why she doesn’t support a local ethics board in the wake of the worst corruption scandal in the township’s history.

In the Times of Trenton article by Mike Davis headlined “Fate of Hamilton’s ethics board becomes a political football” Yaede is quoted as saying that she is opposed because costs for the board could rise to $60,0000 or more.

First of all, the entire statewide budget for the administration of the Local Government Ethics Law is only $60K (2012)! That includes $35K to investigate complaints, $25K to issue advisory opinions and $5K to review local ethics codes.  

Hamilton (Mercer) Republicans Willfully Blind When It Comes to Corruption

Recently Republican Councilman David Kenny of hamilton had a letter to the editor published in the Times of Trenton touting the supposed honesty of the process for professional services contracts in the township.

Here’s the link to cut and paste:

http://www.nj.com/times-opinio…

What follows is the response I wrote that has been acepted for publication.  It’s merely a tip of the vast iceberg of corruption that floats just under the surface in the township that brought you convicted felon Mayor John Benvivengo:

The willful blindness to corruption around him shown by Councilman David Kenny in his recent letter to the editor (of the Times of Trenton) is probably as bad for Hamilton taxpayers as the corruption itself.  

Despite Mr. Kenny’s puffery, the Hamilton process for issuing non-competitively bid contracts is rife with abuse and higher costs for the taxpayer. One example illustrates just how bad the situation can get.

Under Mr. Kenny’s watch on Council between 2008 and 2011, Birdsall Engineering was granted $276,235 for 8 professional services contracts.  If there were “Savings” in the firm’s initial proposal, they vanished when Council later granted massive upward change orders totaling $71,266.  All of these change orders were passed as part of consent agendas with no discussion or challenge recorded in the Council minutes.

During that same time frame, the Birdsall Group participated in fundraising ad books that generated thousands of dollars for the Hamilton Republican Party, yet no reporting of contributions from Birdsall or any of its identified principals has been made that would account for the company’s ads.  We have since learned that Phil Anagrone Jr at the Birdsall firm admitted engaging in a widespread practice of employing straw donors to get around pay-to-play laws, and since Mr. Angarone was a key fundraiser for the Hamilton Republicans from 2008 to 2012, it is fair to assume that his perfidy did not halt at Hamilton’s borders.

We may never know the true extent of the quid-pro-quo between illegal donations to the Republican Party from professional service contractors and literally millions of dollars in contracts they received, but what we do know is that Mr. Kenny, our current Mayor and the rest of council turned a blind eye to the corruption all around them and Hamilton taxpayers have suffered as a result.  Mr. Kenny ought to be ashamed to claim otherwise.

Angry Birdsall Saga – Execs buy influence in Hamilton

Dear Fellow Democrats,

By now I expect you are aware that the former Mercer County Republican Chairman, Phil Angarone Jr. has pled guilty to a host of corruption offenses in Ocean County in connection with illegal campaign contributions made on behalf of the Birdsall Engineering Group. What you may not know is that this same firm has done over $275,000 in business with Hamilton Township (Mercer County) and that there is a very real probability that Mr. Angarone engaged in the same types of corrupt behaviors here that he has pled guilty to in Ocean.

For many months, I have been tracking the Birdsall saga and as each rock is turned over there are more and more squirmy dealings that indicate a culture of corruption that permeates Hamilton Township government. The corruption of a Mayor and his key aides was abetted by the witting, or unwitting, complicity of a Council that was unwilling to look beyond the party label to identify and prevent the selling of our government to an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Under the administration of convicted Ex-Mayor John Bencivengo, Birdsall Engineering Group has been the beneficiary of $276,235 in non-bid professional services contracts. That total includes four change orders that increased the original value of the contracts by 35% or $71,266. During that same time, the Birdsall Group has been featured in multiple premium full-page ads on behalf of the Mayor’s annual ball fundraiser (Gold Pages) which were priced in the thousands of dollars. Despite the placement of the ads in Birdsall’s name, no reporting of contributions from Birdsall or any of its identified principles has been made to ELEC that would account for the ads. I should also note that no other contractor has received change orders of this magnitude.

The presence of the annual ads on behalf of Birdsall in the mayor’s ad books would indicate that large sums of money were being provided to the election fund of the mayor and the local Republican Committee without their true source being revealed in reports to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission or in documents required by the Township to certify that no play to play violations are associated with a contract. Further, were such contributions to be reported, they would constitute a violation of the Township’s pay to play ordinance. As it is, the hiding of the contributions through the use of “straw donors” as admitted to by Mr. Angarone, is illegal by itself.

The members of Council have asserted that Birdsall’s contracts were granted on the basis of open and competitive bidding. That is untrue. Although they did issue Requests for Proposals, these were not advertised beyond the township web site and, in some cases, they approached select contractors and invited them to provide quotes. The bids are not competitive in the true sense of the word in that they are not sealed, nor are they opened at the same time in an open public bid opening session. This is legal, but amounts to little more than putting a wig on a turd and calling it a prom date. It is absurdly easy to manipulate that process in order to route contracts to a favored contractor, especially if one is willing to go outside the law as Birdsall employees have admitted doing.

In the case of Birdsall, it wouldn’t matter if the initial process was fair. They secured substantial additional revenues through the use of uncontested change orders to the original contracts that were granted by Council without discussion and often as part of their Consent Agenda. These change orders were not part of any bidding process.  It is telling that even after the story has broken about Mr. Angarone and Birdsall’s illegal activities in Ocean County, two members of the all-Republican Council voted this week to give another contract to Birdsall.

Under the administration of former Mayor Bencivengo, Birdsall has profited greatly with little or no oversight. Although they obtained several small contracts prior to the Mayor taking office, it was his election that led to an explosion in the level of business for the firm. From 2008 through 2011 the firm was granted 8 contracts. All but one of these contracts was approved on the Council’s consent agenda with virtually no discussion. In addition, four of these contracts were subsequently the subject of massive upward change orders totaling $71,266. All of these change orders were passed as part of consent agendas with no discussion recorded in the Council minutes. All of them, of course, were no-bid professional services contracts.

Remember that the current Council, as well as the new Mayor, has been part of these decisions.

Further, Hamilton’s pay to play ordinance prohibits firms that have no-bid professional services contracts with the municipality not only from donating to campaigns, it also prohibits them from soliciting contributions from others, Phillip Angarone Jr., was listed variously as Event Co-Chair and Ad Book Chair for a series of Mayor’s Ball ad books from 2008 through 2011. In that role he was the key player in fundraising for the Mayor’s balls that have netted hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Mayor and the Republican Municipal Committee.

Based on this information, I have sent a letter to the NJ Attorney General requesting that the state broaden its investigation of Birdsall and Mr. Angarone to include probable criminal activities in Hamilton Township as well. I have provided him with a list of the contracts and change orders in question and I have offered to provide copies of the ad books which include the unreported Birdsall ads.

I have also cc’d this letter to Mercer County Prosecutor Joe Bocchini and to the Executive Director of the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Wisniewski issues a question to Chris Christie

“Does Governor Christie agree with candidate Christie about whether Bencivengo should resign?”            – John Wisniewski

It’s a good week to be asking hard questions of Chris Christie. He’s Newsweek’s coverboy; they wonder if Christie’s passed his sell-by date. New York Times, as discussed this morning just blew the lid on Christie’s failure to do much about BFF Bill Palatucci’s dangerous record of privatized halfway houses murderers can just stroll out of. The Atlantic notes Bruce Springsteen’s cold shoulder for the governor who loves him bestest. And Washington Monthly says it’s kinda over.

This is more than piling on a governor whose teflon is slipping. There’s a lot wrong with Christie, and there has been for a long time. But he’s been protected by personality journalism, and a cheering (and funding) section of the class he serves, for whom he is a breath of fresh (if hot) air. But hypocrisies pile up, and eventually even a sluggish press notes critical mass. Christie’s still the Republican poster boy but there’s no reason the rest of us shouldn’t show some brains.

And so we come to John Bencivengo. This morning, the Republican mayor of Hamilton – battleground territory for both parties – was indicted on charges of  extortion and money laundering. The law-and-order governor, who made his bones (and, uh, likes to inflate his record) using his federal position to go after corrupt Jersey politicians (read: Democrats) (and read: How Did Chris Christie get off the list?) is silent.

This is candidate Christie in 2009:

“The principle I believe in is, once that cloud is over you, I think you owe it to the people who elected you to step aside and to let someone else who doesn’t have that cloud serve.”

Of course, that was when Democratic Sen. Teresa Ruiz’ husband, Samuel Gonzalez, was accused of election fraud. Christie’s in his comfort zone when it’s about going after Dems. But in April, as there were mounting calls for Bencivengo to step down, Christie’s mouthpiece said he “didn’t think it would be appropriate to comment on the (Bencivengo) investigation at this early stage.”

Okay, so now we have an indictment. And the leader of Bencivengo’s party is still – uncharacteristically – silent. And what Dem Chair Wisniewski wants to know is this:

“Does Governor Christie agree with candidate Christie about whether Bencivengo should resign?”

Know what? It’s a good question.  

Republicans In Hamilton Close Meeting to Public Over Corruption Investigation

Last evening the all-Republican Hamilton Council took their meeting into closed session to avoid a public discussion of a reported corruption investigation into the activities of the Town’s Mayor, John Bencivengo.

Over the formal protests of non-political and democratic attenddes, the five Republicans  went intio closed session to discuss among themselves the rules of succession if the Mayor Bencivengo resigns (Or at least that’s what they SAID they were discussing.  Who really knows?)

The Council’s reticence to discuss the issue only adds to the failure of the mayor to comment on the investigation in any meaningful way since last Thursday when the Times reported that an investigation was in the works.

Council members claim to have no knowlege of what’s going on and none of them have simply picked up the phone to ask the mayor directly.  (Or, if they have, the news is very bad)

A Prequel to the 2014 NJ Gubernatorial Elections -Hamilton Township (Mercer)

Hamilton Township (Mercer) Connie Carella-Dalton Takes on Chris Christie’s pal, John Bencivengo, Head-to-Head

A prequel to the 2012 Elections take place on September 20th from 11:30 AM to 1:30PM. On this day, we have an opportunity to hear Connie Carella-Dalton explain to Hamilton Township residents what is her vision for Hamilton Township.

Along side Connie will be the incimbent Republican Mayor, John Bencivengo, who will desperately try to justify his nearly 40% tax hike from 2008, his union busting tactics and his justification for reduced services AKA HamStat.

Afterwards, each candidate will take questions from the audience.

Sponsered by the Mercer County Regional Chamber of Commerce, this event will be held at the Stone Terrace in Hamilton.

http://mercerchamber.org/CWT/E…

Union Busting In Hamilton Township (Mercer)

Hamilton Township is the Birthplace of the Modern Day Tactics of Union Busting

Well, to start, there is no Labor Day Parade in Hamilton Township, but that is merely a by-product of Labor unfriendly leadership within the Township.

Long before Chris Christie became Governor of New Jersey. Long before Wisconsin’s actions against Collective Bargaining. Long before John Boehner became Speaker of the House. Long before Republican Mitch McConnell became Senate Minority Leader…Hamilton Township has had John Bencivengo, Kevin Meara and Kelly Yaede hard at work busting up the Public Workers’ unions of the CWA, AFSCME and the PBA.

As we analyze what has happened in Hamilton Township it is as though Christie, Wisconsin and the Congressional Republicans ripped a page out of the Hamilton Republican’s playbook.

Claim a fiscal crisis and blame the public workers.

Bencivengo and team came into office by accident. On Election Day 2007, the Times of Trenton headlines screamed deficit and these three rode into office. http://nl.newsbank.com/nojavas… .

Since then, they have seized upon this deficit claim to justify a host of actions against the Township’s Public Workers, which they state were needed to save the money of Hamilton Township taxpayers.

With the backdrop set of “fiscal crisis” and historical deficit levels these three, along with the sitting Republicans on Township Council, began to work to bust up the CWA,

AFSCME and PBA workers.

What is remarkable is that they moved forward with tax hikes and public worker lay-offs and furloughs without ever having actually naming what this deficit amount was. They have said it was $10 million. Then they said it was $8.8 million and $14 million. Next they said it was $16 million. Finally, they said it was $5 million.

Below, in chronological order, are the links to the various deficit amount claims by the Republican incumbents.

http://www.politickernj.com/be…

http://www.hamiltonnj.com/file… (see page 16)

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index…

http://www.trentonian.com/arti…

So, in 2008, the first thing that they set about doing was lay-off 54 public employees and reorganizing the Police Division.

In March 2010 they forced 8 furlough days on the remaining public workers in the Township. But in June 2010 they found the money to propose giving John Bencivengo a raise and to actually give significant raises to the non-Union Department Directors.

In 2010 they privatized the Engineering and Planning Department as well as the Ecological Center – further displacing public workers.

A further indication of their disregard for Public Workers and Collective Bargaining is that the Township’s Personnel Director is not an actual Personnel Director – lacking all Civil Service level requirements to hold such a position.

Bencivengo and the all Republican Council continually discuss how rising benefit costs are wrecking the Township’s budgets and that these costs need to be brought under control.

All of this is poor politics and pure political spin. The largest single increased cost to Township residents is  the enormous increased spedning and probable waste i.e. HAMStat, the reckless and very “un-Republican” 2008 $13.3 million permanent Tax Hike that these elected officials gave to residents. A tax increase that they instituted without knowing what the true financial picture of the Township was.

The next largest burden on the Township has been decreased State aide followed by the State’s hijacking of the utility Gross Receipts tax then followed by the diminishing property tax receipts.

Yet, despite their cries about labor costs and benefits increasing so dramatically over the past four years they have still found themselves able to increase Township spending a cumulative $20 million.

Yes, there is a global recession. However, due in no small part of the $13.3 million annual tax hike, Hamilton Township has lost more revenue due to lost tax receipts from exodusing businesses and residents than what the increasing labor and benefit costs have been.

The Public Workers in Hamilton Township are hardworking and have sacrificed much for the betterment of the Township. Unfortunately, their sacrifices appear to be borne out of Bencivengo’s, Meara’s and Yasede’s generalizations as well as their insincere and unsubstantiated claims of fiscal crisis.

Bencivengo, what was the REAL 2007 deficit?

The True Story of a Reckless & Unnecessary $13.3 Million Permanent Tax Hike

Hamilton Township Republican Mayor John Bencivengo and running mates for Council, Kelly Yaede and Kevin Meara have been running (scared) for office since the day they raised taxes by nearly 40% in their first 3 months of office back in 2008.

Frankly, they should be running scared. When elected, they never understood the fiscal situation that they faced thus they had and still have no justification for their enormous nearly 40% tax hike. Even today they personally do not know why they offered a permanent tax hike for a situation that they did not understand.

So, to compensate, as they run for reelection they blame the “other Mayor” for this historic tax hike of nearly 40%. They state that we had faced a “historic fiscal crisis the likes of which Hamilton has never seen.” and they needed to raise taxes.

They used generalizations and obscurity to pull off instituting a reckless tax hike, a scam and a disservice on the taxpayers of Hamilton Township. But most disturbing is that  they pulled off this reckless tax hike without knowing what the alleged 2007 deficit amount was.

Remarkably, even today, they do not know what the deficit amount was.

Here is how it transpired and here is a narrative of their various claims of various deficit amounts.

They won election to office in 2007 by the “happenstance” that the Trenton Times printed a headline on Election Day 2007 which read- $5M shortfall for Hamilton Red ink revealed in document ordered released http://nl.newsbank.com/nojavas… . I suspect that this headline surprised these three more than it did the then incumbent Mayor. Essentially, they won on an issue that they did not even campaign on, but which they have rigorously seized upon since their reckless 40% tax hike.

They never truly understood the situation left by the former Mayor. As a result, they blunder and they have blundered endlessly in defining for Hamiltonians what this “historic fiscal crisis” was – exactly. So, for the past 4 years they managed to pull out of the wallets of Hamilton residents a cumulative $54 million in extra tax dollars.

If it were not so damaging to the neediest of Hamiltonians and a “defrauding” of all Hamiltonians, the series of different deficit claims that they have uttered would be comical., In all, they have cited four different amounts for what this 2007 deficit was.

In a January 1, 2008 PolitickerNJ article Bencivengo said the deficit was $10 million and Meara and Yaede concurred.

I wish that I could have given a more cheerful address today,” said Bencivengo in a nod to the town’s $10 million budget deficit. “But even if our fiscal circumstances had been better, even if we had ample surplus, I’d be saying the same things. It should be our goal, no matter the circumstances, to do more with less.”

http://www.politickernj.com/be…

What Bencivengo actually said that day was ” a budget deficit exceeding $10 million.”

At a Township Council meeting on February 6, 2008, then Business Administrator, John Guhl, added $5 million, $1.8 million and $2 million to come up with a deficit total of $14 million??? Granted, I did the math in my head, but I come up with $8.8 million. You can read Mr. Guhl’s explanation on page 16 of the Hamilton Township Council Minutes: http://www.hamiltonnj.com/file…

On June 17, 2008, Bencivengo stated that the deficit was $16 million.

Bencivengo heaped praise on Guhl, saying that the exiting administrator had given the township “a turnaround beyond compare” as he attempted to tackle a $16 million budget deficit during his six months in office.

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index…

Then, most recently, in a July 9, 2011 Letter to the Editor of the Trentonian John Bencivengo stated that the 2007 deficit was $5 million!!!

Who can forget the $5 million dollar deficit depicted in the Annual Financial Statement of Fiscal Year 2007?

http://www.trentonian.com/arti…

On top of the fact that Bencivengo, Meara and Yaede are playing games with Hamiltonians by continually hyping up and exaggerating a deficit – they did permanently hike taxes by $13.3 million annually.

Meara said, “but clearly there was a tax increase – I voted for it. At the time with the large deficit we had,

http://www.trentonian.com/arti…

Again, Meara does not offer anything concrete. He only states that that there was a “large deficit”.

Bencivengo, Yaede and Meara got away with the tax hike because they offered Hamiltonians only fear and exaggerations. There is, to this day, no clarity on what the actual financial situation was at the beginning of 2008. They obfuscated, dodged and ducked to introduce as a permanent tax increase of $13.3 million. This is an extraordinary amount which, as a temporary tax increase, would have addressed any number of their deficit claims.

In all, the politicians in Hamilton Township government have raised over $80.1 million thru increased taxes, increased fees, lay-offs of public employees (including police) forcing 8 furlough days on police and other employees and by privatizing the Planning & Engineering Department as well as the Ecological facility.

Meanwhile, they have cumulatively increased spending over 4 years by $30 million (so much for doing more with less John Bencivengo).

That’s a $50 million gap!. Where the heck are those $50 million?

There are bigger issues in Hamilton Township than paving roads. Hamiltonians have been blatantly lied to for four years – essentially robbed of $50 million through a unwarranted permanent tax hike.

Candidate Happenings in Hamilton Township (Mercer)

Candidate Events in July & August 2011

Please support these candidates by attending their Campaign Events.

Check to see if donations are required in order to attend.

Sun, July 24 12:30pm – 4:30pm

Assemblyman Dan Benson’s 7th Annual Back Yard Bash @ 81 Hempstead Road Hamilton, NJ

Sat, July 30, 12:30pm – 5:00pm

Sheriff Jack Kemler’s Annual Family Outing @ Tall Cedars Picnic Grove

http://hamiltondemocratsnj.com…

August 4th 5:30PM

Evening Mixer with Council Candidate Tennille McCoy @ Hamilton Manor at The Cellar

http://www.facebook.com/pages/…

August 17th All Day

Connie Carella Dalton for Hamilton Mayor

Ice Cream Social @ The Brown Dog in Mercerville (Carella’s Hallmark)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/…

Saturday, August 27 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm

Daniel Keelan for Hamilton Twp Council @ Trenton Thunder

http://www.facebook.com/pages/…

Hamilton Township (Mercer) NJ’s Mayor John Bencivengo Admits to Inheriting a $5 Million Deficit

John Bencivengo Finally Gives the 2008 Budget Deficit a number – $5 Million

After years of obfuscation about what the amount of debt was when he took office in 2008 John Bencivengo, in a Letter to the Editor of the Trentonian, states,

“Who can forget the $5 million dollar deficit depicted in the Annual Financial Statement of Fiscal Year 2007?”

http://www.trentonian.com/arti…

Throughout his 3 ½ years in office, John Bencivengo and Hamilton Township’s all Republican Council have pointed to a variety of differing amounts in defining what the deficit was.

In a Trenton Times article of June 17, 2008 announcing the appointment of John Ricci as the new Hamilton Towsnhip (Mercer) Business Administrator (in place of John Guhl), “

Bencivengo heaped praise on Guhl, saying that the exiting administrator had given the township “a turnaround beyond compare” as he attempted to tackle a $16 million budget deficit during his six months in office.”

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index…

John Bencivengo stated in his January 1, 2008 Inaugural Address

“we are confronted by the most serious financial crisis in our history, a budget deficit exceeding ten million dollars.”

http://www.hamiltonnj.com/file…

The Mayor has finally given Hamilton Township residents a true picture of what the “most serious financial crisis in our history” was that confronted his administration upon taking office in 2008. His comments also put a spotlight on the fact that this $5 million deficit accrued under an all Republican Township Council’s watch.

It was the intentional murkiness of defining what the actual deficit was that allowed John Bencivengo and his Township Council to reorganize the Police Department, lay-off and eliminate 55 township positions, impose an 8 day furplough on all township employees and to raise municipal taxes to historic rates.

Now, this November, Township residents can make an informed decision about the incumbent Mayor’s and all Republican Township Council’s decision to address a $5 million deficit with a permanent $13.3 million tax hike.