Tag Archive: CEC

Bridgegate: Jamie Fox’s Problematic Lobbying Records

Sixty pages of lobbying documents – below the fold. Promoted by Rosi.

Last month the seemingly unending and ever-expanding political vortex known as Bridgegate sucked in yet another major figure in New Jersey politics and government, James P. “Jamie” Fox.

A story in the Bergen Record revealed that a subpoena from federal investigators to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey demanded information related to former Port Authority Chairman David Samson’s travel records and any communication he had with current Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox, previously the registered lobbyist for United Airlines.

United Airlines accounts for 70% of the flights at Newark Liberty International Airport which relies on transportation systems managed in part by the Port Authority. During Fox’s tenure as a lobbyist for United the airline setup special flights for Samson nick-named “the chairman’s flight” which provided Samson privileged flights to South Carolina where he has a home.

While Samson was receiving special favors from United Airlines the Port Authority was reviewing a multi-billion dollar proposal to extend PATH service from Newark Penn Station to the airport. The proposal was ultimately adopted and will provide considerable benefit to the airport and its largest carrier, United Airlines.

Documents received under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) show that Jamie Fox filed as a registered lobbyist for United Continental Holdings Inc. and served as the firm’s lobbyist for a period of years. Fox is a long time political insider in New Jersey – this is his second time as Transportation Commissioner and he previously served as the Chief of Staff to Governor Jim McGreevey. In between his government posts he has been extremely active in lobbying with records going back over a decade.

Records Show Top Chris Christie Advisor Lobbied To Bring More Inmates To Troubled Halfway Houses

Promoted by Rosi. Originally posted on Firedoglake.

Viviana Tulli was murdered by an escaped halfway house inmate

One of the most confusing aspects of the halfway house scandal – where numerous inmates escaped  halfway houses and committed horrendous crimes – is why such violent individuals would ever be released to such a low security facility in the first place. Based on records obtained by Firedoglake under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) we may be closer to an answer.

Bill Palatucci, a major fundraiser and former business partner of Governor Chris Christie, has spent copious amounts of time lobbying New Jersey officials to bolster the halfway house system for his longtime client and subsequent employer Community Education Centers (CEC) that has financially benefited from increased use of the halfway house system. Records show Palatucci was CEC’s registered lobbyist while also becoming a vice president for business development.

Lobbying For CEC

In his role as a lobbyist for CEC, for which he was generally paid $45,000 a year, Palatucci approached officials in both the New Jersey State Legislature, State Agencies, and the Governor’s office to promote CEC’s interests:

* In 2007 Palatucci lobbied then Governor Jon Corzine as well as the New Jersey Department of Corrections for a public contract for CEC in relation to a recent court ruling that found that local ordinances prohibiting the treatment sex offenders in various communities were “arbitrary and capricious.” Presumably Palatucci lobbied to help expand the use of halfway houses and other CEC services now that a court had struck down laws that prevented sex offenders from being housed within certain limits of children.

* In 2008 Palatucci lobbied the new State Parole Board chair and staff with a “discussion of services.” He also lobbied Assemblyman Louis Greenwald regarding Assembly Bill 2800 which increased funding for halfway houses. Additionally, Palatucci paid a visit to New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to “advocate review” of halfway housing licensing laws on behalf of CEC.

* In 2009 Palatucci lobbied again for halfway house licensing from Department of Community Affairs as well as for favorably amending a contract between CEC and Department of Corrections. Palatucci also disclosed that he was promoting a bill to expand halfway houses in the state of New Jersey.

After Chris Christie became governor in 2010, with considerable help from Palatucci, CEC began using other lobbyists. Palatucci had already gone beyond lobbying with CEC becoming senior vice president and general counsel for public affairs, he would ultimately resign from those positions in the wake of the halfway house scandal in 2012.

More after the jump

One year later AFTER Assembly hearing for Halfway House reform

promoted by Rosi

Today marks the one year anniversary of my testimony at the Assembly hearing for the Halfway house system in NJ and I’m still awaiting to see how this saga unfolds.  

If you recall- my beloved younger sister, Viviana Tulli was strangled by David Goodell , a CEC escapee ,on our mother’s 60th birthday on August 30, 2010.

I have read with interest all published articles seeing what is being done in the name of reform and I still wait for an outcome.  

Yes, I do understand this all takes time, but how much longer? Are the powers that be at CEC waiting me out?? Come on guys, you can do better than that.  As you can see- I’m not giving up that easily.

I have been blessed with the outpouring of support and guidance by so many, including your very own Rosi and Bill Orr.

I have requested appointment to the Halfway House task force- or whatever it will be called- to ensure reform does happen.  Who better to be on that task force than myself?? I have a very personal interest in this and will not give up.

I have made contact with several legislators for help in suggesting my appointment- hoping I can make a difference in some way.

I’m an everyday person TRYING to turn my sister’s horrible murder into a positive triumph for  us.  Not an easy feat.  

I recall my testimony last year- and become emotional- emotional as I was that day. My voice cracking, my attempt to hold back my tears as I spoke- all while heavily pregnant.

This rollercoaster ride that began almost 3 years ago has not been a fun ride.  There have been great ups and horrible lows, with some twists and turns for flair.

How can I right such a huge wrong on behalf of so many entities.  Yes, I will admit David killed her.  David, one month ago in court did ADMIT to faking a seizure and gave graphic  detail on “grabbing her by the neck and strangling her.”  When asked if his intent was to kill Vivi- he responded “yes.”

So, rehabilitation for a violent offender at a halfway house facility? Please, show me.

Due to my filed lawsuit against CEC, I can’t speak much about it- in case it hurts us.  What a crock.


Murder victim’s sister slams Christie corrections chief’s remarks

Something has bothered me all week since Bill Orr’s excellent post, Gary Lanigan’s Head: Stuck in the Sand. Lanigan, to refresh you, is Christie’s Corrections Commissioner. He’s not concerned about security and safety issues at NJ’s halfway houses, despite the fact it took the New York Times to get our state government to pay much attention, despite escapes during Hurricane Sandy (seriously, the system fails because of … weather?), and concerns that Christie friend/advisor/contributor till recently ran the corporate privatizer responsible for most of the issues. Lanigan’s job encompasses not only security concerns but also the rights of inmates and the community.

That said, his remarks to Senate Budget were so casual, as if he doesn’t take seriously how easily the system we’ve now let tycoons take over can be tricked by inmates. Yesterday, I chatted with Stella Tulli, whose sister was murdered by a man who fled a CEC facility by pretending to be sick. As irritating as Lanigan’s remarks were to me, they were something else beyond that for her. I thought part of what she wrote in Bill’s post deserved to be pulled up to our front page (which she gave permission for). Here’s how it looks to Stella:

I have a personal interest in the way the halfway house situation is going… I feel the need to speak and remind everyone who reads this on my family’s dealings with this situation..

My 21 year old sister was murdered by a CEC inmate who faked a seizure, transported to hospital and bc of  not having any law enforcement with him, he escaped.

He then met up with my sister and ended her life.

This may be a small “anecdote” to Lanigan, but to my family and myself- our lives continue in a nightmarish reality.. Reading this garbage from Lanigan and seeing how much time it is getting to move on halfway house reform is another punch to the gut.

It floors and appalls me that Gary Lanigan is not bothered in the least on this situation.  

The corrections commissioner in Pennsylvania admits there is a problem with the halfway house system, yet this guy can’t bring himself to admit it. I can only assume the more he tells himself it isn’t a problem, it isn’t.  seems as if he needs to convince not only himself, but the lemmings as well.

Christie, Palatucci, & Jersey

Late last year, Bill Palatucci, friend and mentor of NJ Gov. Chris Christie, left Community Education Centers for the law firm of Gibbons, PC.

Community Education Centers, CEC, calls itself “A leading provider of offender reentry” is the company to which New Jersey has outsourced halfway houses.

It is also the company that allows felons to – in words Mitt Romney might use – “Self-Parole” and “Self-Pardon” – to walk away at will. The New York Times covered this at length. The Times, not known for sensationalist reporting, described Community Education Centers half-way houses as places where “bedlam” reigns.

Palatucci said that his resignation from CEC had nothing to do with Governor Christie’s re-election campaign. He also said that he wants to have time to work on Republican campaigns in 2013.

If Gov. Christie runs his campaign the way Community Education Centers runs their half-way houses I expect Mr. Christie to lose his re-election campaign.  

After Sandy: The State’s Contract with AshBritt Reeks of “Business as Usual”

Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty announced in early november his town hired AshBritt, a Florida-based company, to lead cleanup efforts in his borough. He indicated, “They are the contractor chosen by the state of New Jersey … I am following Gov. Christie’s lead on this.” Mayor Doherty may soon have reason to doubt his choice. AshBritt has left a wide trail of lawsuits against it, municipalities cancelling its contracts, charges of over-pricing, criticism from congressmen, and evidence of substantial political contributions. Governor Christie has vowed to be our leader for Sandy reconstruction, yet his leadership in this case reeks of “business as usual.”

As the Statehouse Bureau pointed out yesterday, “AshBritt’s critics contend it artificially drives up costs and takes advantage of officials in desperate circumstances, intimidated by Washington bureaucracy.” It goes on to point out that “Jeff Bertrand, the administrator for Wall Township, said, ‘AshBritt officials made their pitch to him days after the storm and estimated it would cost $2 million to remove the downed trees and other debris that had piled up.’ Bertrand went with a different option. In the end, Bertrand said he expects that the labor, tipping and rental costs will come to about $400,000.”

AshBritt’s trail becomes particularly strong in 2004 prior to Katrina when Corpwatch reports AshBritt,has close ties with Florida governor and presidential brother Jeb Bush, and lobbied hard for a state contract in Florida. Records show that AshBritt’s CEO is a major donor to state and federal GOP candidates. Later local debris-removal firms in Mississippi have said AshBritt’s cozy relationship with Washington essentially precluded competition for Katrina contracts.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research states that AshBritt found itself involved in controversy after Hurricane Katrina, when “some questioned whether AshBritt’s political donations or lobbyists paved the way for its fat federal contracts.” The Miami Herald reported that these questions led to Congressional hearings which aired objections that local contractors were passed over in favor of AshBritt. A 2006 congressional report examining federal contract waste and abuse noted AshBritt used multiple layers of subcontractors, each of whom got paid while passing on the actual work to others.

More on AshBritt’s legal problems, donations, and contract with the State.

Hotshot Reporting 2012: Best Reporting by Traditional News Media

In 2012, there were a lot of things we might never have known if good journalists, good editors and their news outlets had not devoted resources to uncovering them. Sometimes this was simply a matter of going through mountains of paper or on line communication that is public record as a matter of law. But somebody had to do it, which usually means somebody else would rather it stay hidden.

Here for 2012, are some that really impressed us here at Blue Jersey, with thanks to the news organizations, and their editors & reporters for what we now know because of their work:  

Associated Press on Surveillance of NJ Muslims AP’s 24-part 2-year probe of NYPD’s secret surveillance (by the questionably-named ‘Demographics Unit’) of Muslim students, neighborhoods and places of worship in New Jersey.

UNLOCKED: Sam Dolnick’s New York Times exposé  of the consequences of New Jersey’s privatized halfway house system run by Christie pal Bill Palatucci, which led to hearings in both houses of the NJ legislature, Palatucci’s exit out CEC’s back door, and at least one lawsuit, by the sister of murder victim Viviana Tulli, killed at the hands of a CEC escapee.  (Note: Bill Orr tracked the aftermath of questionable policies by CEC for Blue Jersey).

Dolnick was looking at CEC and how Christie and Essex party boss Joe D were connected to it almost 18 months ago.

Star-Ledger brought to light the video of a mentally disabled man getting a beat down by state police as well (as well as the fact that authorities initially cleared the trooper of wrongdoing before Star-Ledger began to make inquiries.

Sal Rizzo at Star-Ledger was responsible for the Ledger’s in-depth examination  of how closely legislation from Christie & NJ Republicans matched bills written by fake-charity American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Trenton Times recently pored over 500 pages of emails and documents after TCNJ employees fall sick during chemical use in roof reconstruction on the campus. And that includes shedding light on internal emails about how TCNJ school officials, concerned staff members might require inconvenient building transfers to somewhere on campus where they wouldn’t feel ill at work, encouraged “hand holding” by administrators and the school’s environmental health officers to get workers to “live with” the odor that was making them feel sick.

halfway house victim

First up to testify this week in the 7-hour halfway house hearing before Assembly Law & Public Safety was Stella Tulli, whose younger sister Viviana was murdered when David Goodell escaped from a facility run by Community Education Centers (CEC) the company with close ties to Gov. Christie. Her voice shook as she asked the panel for answers, but she did it. Grateful she is telling her family’s story here.   – promoted by Rosi

Allow me to introduce myself–

My name is Stella Tullli- I”m a 36 year old female, mother of 2 boys and pregnant with a girl who shall be here in about 6 weeks.

You may have recognized my name… I testified at NJ Assembly Hearing yesterday, July 23, 2012 in regards to the halfway house system.

The reason for my speaking out— My lively 21 year old sister, my mini me, Viviana Tulli was tragically murdered by a man who “absconded” from a NJ halfway home on August 30, 2010

Halfway House Hearing at Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee

The hearing at Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee on the troubled – and troubling privatized NJ halfway houses is just beginning.

Senate Legislative Oversight hearing was last week.

Want to follow along?

NJ Legislature media page is streaming the hearing live. It just began.

You will need Windows Media Player. You can download that free with the link at the bottom of the legislature’s media page. Hearings typically start late. Refresh the page often. When the hearings begin, the ‘Pending’ status will change to ‘Watch’ (video) or ‘Listen’ (audio). And yes, the system does crash, try to reload if it does.

Twitter: @BlueJersey. We will also be live-Tweeting at least part of the hearing.

Blue Jersey’s 7-part CEC coverage here.

Sam Dolnick’s widely-read 3-part series Unlocked that kicked off the new efforts at legislative oversight of the public safety hazards of allegedly poorly-run privatized facilities – most run by the company Gov. Chris Christie has close ties with, Community Education Centers (CEC).  

Senate Halfway House Testimony Reveals The Horrors

Today’s Star-Ledger article on the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee Hearing on halfway houses reported on the early segment of this event which in total went from 2:00 PM to about 6:00 PM. The session began with a “politically correct” but on-point exposition of shortcomings presented by Comptroller Boxer. The early segment then moved into a full-throated defense by Department of Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan and Community Education Centers founder John Clancy. It was not until late in the afternoon when counseling, corrections, and foundation individuals testified about the true depth of the problem.

The Star-Ledger reported: Sen. Barbara Buono asked Clancy how she can reconcile his testimony, which provided glowing reports about operations at CEC, with the newspaper expose, the comptroller’s report and a report by the State Commission on Investigation. “Are they all fiction?” she asked. Personally I don’t think Clancy and Lanigan fooled the legislators.

It was in the unreported later part of the day when experts testified about lack of oversight and security, large numbers of inmates failing drug tests, lack of real programs, the revolving door of inmates going back and forth between prison or jail and halfway houses, inmates’ ease in getting contraband, low staff salary levels, secrecy maintained by the sites, lack of true cost information, and more. They made suggestions including performance contracting (reaching outcomes as a basis for payment), incentives to reduce escapes including third party review, opening up bidding to allow more competitors, and obtaining more of the available federal grant matching funds.

At the end Chair Senator Robert Gordon summarized some possible solutions: develop legislative tightening of contract procurement, increase staffing, improve staff training, assure that pre-adjudicated inmates not be sent to halfway houses, have uniformed officers in sites, and use performance contracting. For another take on yesterday’s hearing, read today’s N Y Times article.

On Monday at 10:30 AM the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee will hold its own hearing. Members will have the benefit of having learned what was disclosed during the Senate hearing and being able to pursue issues further.