Tag Archive: Matthew Boxer

Christie’s last Jersey ‘gift’ of the year

promoted by Rosi

Nothing like closing out the year with a Bang! Just when I thought Governor Christie couldn’t say or do one more callous, elitist thing; just when I thought he couldn’t give the middle class, the working poor, the unemployed, minorities, seniors, women, children, taxpayers, teachers, public schools, students, public employees, the LGBT community, hourly-wage workers, Sandy survivors, commuters, Dreamers, people in dire need of medical marijuana (did I leave anyone out?) any more of a kick in the craw, he saves the last, big shiv for the end of the year. Commenting on Comptroller Matthew Boxer’s departure next month, Christie said:

“He needs to go make some money. He’s got a family. At $140,000, he can’t put aside the money he needs to do it. It’s well below his market value.’’

Hellooo… Anyone else out there working below their ‘market value’? Anyone else not able to put aside the money they need to provide for their family? Yes, I thought so. Thanks to the governor there are millions of us. I wonder when he will be championing our cause for a better paying job?

For the record, I don’t know Mr. Boxer, and my beef is not with him. He was appointed six years ago by Gov. Corzine, and apparently has done an admirable job. Good for him! I truly hope he finds a great job in the private sector that will allow him to provide for his family in the way he sees fit. We should all be so fortunate. I have no knowledge of his personal finances, but I do know that $140K a year is a comfortable salary for a family of four in New Jersey. But if he needs to move on to a higher paying job, so be it. I wish him good luck in his search.

But, for the governor of the state with the highest unemployment rate in the region, stagnant job growth and an insultingly low minimum wage (which will change on Wednesday) to single out Boxer as somehow struggling while the rest of us are oh… I dunno… ringing in the New Year with a delightful 1928 Krug and $2600 Knipschildt truffles is the height of pomposity, and should be a glaring red flag (as if there aren’t enough already) as to how a POTUS Christie would operate.


Is the Wolf Guarding the Hen House?

After vetoing a bill that would have had an independent entity audit the costs of Sandy cleanup, Governor Christie asked the State Comptroller, Matthew Boxer, to determine whether AshBritt, a company steeped in GOP influence is performing ethically and effectively. Boxer will also audit other companies involved in Sandy recovery.

Boxer, an attorney, was appointed by Jon Corzine to a six year term which will expire in January, 2014 – the same time that either Christie is sworn in for a second term or more hopefully, Barbara Buono is sworn in as Governor.

I’ve met Matt Boxer a few times, and I believe he is a man of integrity and some of the work that his office has done has helped save money and improve efficiency among state agencies. But this is not about Boxer’s efficacy in his job.

There are two problems with appointing Boxer to evaluate AshBritt.

First, Boxer is a high-ranking member of the Christie administration. Given the political and ethical allegations against AshBritt, even if Boxer’s investigation is impeccable, there will always be a shadow over the conclusions. Only an audit team truly independent from Christie’s influence would have the credibility that is required in this situation.

Second, auditing Sandy relief is a big job. We’re talking about billions of dollars here. Has anyone in the mainstream media asked whether Boxer’s existing staff has the resources to handle this? Will additional auditors be added to his office? Or will other investigations get the short shrift, enabling other financial shenanigans and inefficiencies to go unreported?  Why aren’t the mainstream media asking these questions?

If the Governor can’t stand the heat of a truly independent investigation, perhaps he should get out of the kitchen.

Heated Senate Hearing on Halfway Houses Starts at 2:00 PM

The long-awaited Halfway House drama starts at about 2:00 PM with a hearing of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee. There were many warnings of problems culminating in the N Y Times series Unlocked. Now the investigation begins.  

Key scheduled witnesses will include:

  • Comptroller Matthew Boxer whose June 2011 audit revealed serious problems and provided 26 recommendations for changes. A key question is what changes have been made?

  • John Clancy, CEO of Community Education Centers, whose firm received last year $71 million of the $105 million our government spent on such facilities.  His operation came under withering criticism in the NY Times articles and is now believed to be in financial distress.

  • Gary Lanigan, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, who since 2010 was reponsible for monitoring CEC and other halfway houses.

    Members of the Senate committee are: Robert Gordon – Chair, Barbara Buono – Vice-Chair, Thomas Kean, Joseph Kyrillos, Teresa Ruiz, and Paul Sarlo. In firstamend07’s diary, he asks whether the event will be “fight or fluff.” The Democrats have lots of ammunition, but some of the witnesses will be wily and obfuscate, while Republicans will try their best to protect their governor who has praised and enabled CEC.

    For more information see CEC Investigation: Our Leaders Take Action – Part VII.  

    The debate will become heated so make some popcorn and listen to both sides on the legislative website.

    Deciminyan will be live Tweeting up a storm @bluejersey.

    This is open thread…

  • CEC Investigation: Our Legislators Take Action – Part VII

    After years of groups and individuals raising warning signs about problems in halfway houses, the issue was placed in stark relief in a N Y Times devastating series of articles Unlocked by Sam Dolnick. On Thursday the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee chaired by Bob Gordon (D-37) and vice-chaired by Barbara Buono (D-18) will hold a hearing. On Monday the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee chaired by Charles Mainor (D-31) and vice chaired by Gilbert Wilson (D-5) will hold another hearing. The goals are to understand the problems and bring about solutions.

    The Problems: Past articles in the Blue Jersey CEC Investigation series have highlighted serious improprieties regarding halfway houses – particularly those of Community Education Centers (CEC), which last year received $71 million out of $105 million in government expenses. It is a story of CEC’s Founder John Clancy who used a dubious agreement from a prior Attorney General to set up a shell non-profit company and then through large political contributions, lobbying, PR, a well connected legal VP, and friendship with a U.S. attorney and later governor to create a large corrections corporation. With insufficient monitoring from the Department of Corrections (DOC), this company ran facilities that bred an atmosphere of inmate drugs, escapes, violence, gangs, rapes, and deaths. With unqualified staff, security was compromised, the public at large was placed in danger with unnecessary escapes, and the goal of helping to reduce recidivism was given short shrift.

    Christie confidante and CEC Senior Vice President, William Palatucci aided, abetted and defended CEC. Governor Christie as a lawyer at Dughi and Hewitt, as U.S. Attorney, and later as governor at a minimum praised and enabled the activities of CEC. He failed to implement remedies that other more responsible parties were calling for over the years, and he may have done so willfully and improperly. Now we are at the point where the valid role of halfway houses is being discredited, and the largest company in New Jersey is facing such severe financial problems that the DOC might need to take over at a moment’s notice thousands of inmates lodged annually in CEC facilities. CEC failings are not confined to NJ DOC contracts, but extend to those held by NJ local governments and such states as Texas, Alabama, and Colorado.

    There are numerous solutions. The agreement that allowed CEC to use a non-profit organization as a front, in contravention to established regulations, should be ended for any future contracts and possibly existing contracts. CEC was able to build a monopolistic position, and it is now time to enable legitimate non profits to compete fairly for DOC contracts small and large. The Boxer audit laid out key recommendations for remedies, and it is essential to establish what progress DOC has achieved so far and to assure the recommendations are met. Dangerous inmates should not be lodged in halfway houses. The security and living conditions of inmates need to be improved. Process measures must be established to assure that the goals of reducing recidivism through drug treatment, job readiness, and other skills preparatory to re-entering the general population are being well administered. More qualified staffing is important. Pay-to-play regulations urgently need strengthening. People like Governor Christie should be disabused of the notion that privatization brings huge savings, as previous studies have shown that such savings are scant. Goals should include integrity, safety, and reducing recidivism not an elusive search for savings.

    Below the fold are suggestions for some of the individuals who should testify and what questions legislators might ask the individuals.


    CEC Investigation: The Puppeteer and His Puppets – Part VI

    “The allegations of civil rights and corrupt government and contractor practices [at halfway houses] are very serious and disturbing. There is a political circle of individuals and relationships that basically controls State government and certain local governments. This circle conspires to protect itself and its members from appropriate oversight and accountability. This practice must end.” – Senator Ronald Rice (D-28)

    Key members of this circle are CEC Founder & CEO John Clancy, Governor Christie, and CEC Senior Vice President and Christie confidante William Palatucci. Another member is Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, about whom much has been written regarding Delaney Hall, immigration detention, Essex County Jail, and CEC campaign contributions. But that is an Essex County story which may not feature in the July Senate and Assembly investigations of State Department of Corrections (DOC) ccontracts. Yet another story revealed by Blue Jersey was CEC’s mismanagement at Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center in Colorado. For CEC the malfeasance involves contracts with NJ state, local government, and other states.

    The nexus of Clancy, Christie, and Palatucci

    Puppeteer: Let’s call Founder John Clancy the puppeteer. The origins of CEC go back to 1979 when he was a youth services county employee and decided there was money to be made through drug and alcohol treatment for those incarcerated. He was so successful that in 2007 private equity firms Primus Capital and LLR Partners invested $53 million in Community Education Centers. Primus boasted that CEC was “the nation’s largest provider of offender re-entry services with 97 facilities in 22 states and revenues in excess of $200 million.” Today CEC is even larger thanks to a little help from his puppets.

    Puppets and what they do

    Chris Christie joined the law firm of Dughi & Hewitt in 1987 which represented CEC. “It appears that between 1994 an 1996, CEC made good use of its legal counsel and most likely, its political connections, to strike a deal with the AG’s office to allow CEC to use Education and Health Centers of America (EHCA) as a shell to comply with the state’s legal requirement that only non-profits can hold contracts with the state to operate halfway houses.” Perhaps, it was just coincidental that another member of the law firm at the time was William Palatucci, who had joined in 1992. Fast-forward to 2011 when EHCA’s Form 990 (NJ non profit tax return) indicates that on $71 million in revenue from our state and local governments, $350,000 was spent on John Clancy’s compensation as Chair of EHCA, exclusive of whatever he received from CEC.

    In 2000 and 2001 both Christie and Palatucci were registered lobbyists for CEC. In 2005, after representing CEC for 14 years, Palatucci joined the company as its Senior Vice President and General Counsel. His ongoing close relationship with Christie includes helping run Christie’s gubernatorial campaign, serving as co-chair of the governor’s inaugural committee, sitting on the board of Reform Jersey Now which raised money to promote Christie policies, and being a member of the Legislative Apportionment Commission.

    As US Attorney, Christie attended the ribbon cutting ceremony in 2007 for CEC‟s new corporate headquarters and the ten year anniversary celebration in 2008 of Talbot Hall. By 2008 with lots of cash, a U.S. attorney as a friend, a well-connected legal V.P., a dubious, sweet-heart deal on EHCA, little DOC oversight, and weak competitors, Clancy must have been asking himself, “What’s not to like?”

    But it gets even better for Clancy thanks to more help… also warning signs… and let’s not forget CEC donations beyond the fold