Tag Archive: Joe Cryan

Koch Conspirators

There’s an old Middle Eastern saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I don’t buy into this philosophy, but it does provide a starting point for evaluating that enemy of my enemy.

Today, the Koch Brothers’ organization, Americans for Prosperity, released a 2014 scorecard of New Jersey legislators. AFP has a simplistic philosophy – government and taxes are bad. However, the real world is more nuanced than that, but it’s interesting to see how AFP rated some of our New Jersey legislators.

Help Wanted. $125K/year. No Experience Necessary

Well, that’s not quite true. As Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula explains, “All it takes is to be a friend of the governor.”

Ever since he took office, Governor Christie has not only established a horrible record on energy and the environment, but he has misused funds earmarked for energy improvement and job creation as a gimmick to balance the budget.

To get one of these high-paying jobs described in the headline under the Christie administration, all you need to do is to get the governor to appoint you as a commissioner on the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

As Chivukula, chairman of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, explains in the video below, the BPU was established as an independent agency whose charter is to work for the ratepayers (that’s us), and promote programs that conserve energy and save the environment. But instead, the Board has become a patronage pit for the governor’s cronies (three out of the five commissioners were appointed by Christie) most of whom Chivukula believes do not have the background to do the work that they are being paid for. To add insult to injury, Chivukula points out that the BPU has hired some very expensive consultants to compensate for the gaps in the board members’ experience. Heck, you don’t even need to be a Christie Crony to be appointed. Being the spouse of a Christie Crony is qualification enough – as long as you’re a tennis official.

To be fair to the governor, the lack of qualification of BPU members is not entirely his fault. Commissioners are appointed by the governor but must be confirmed by the Democratically-controlled Senate. None of the current BPU commissioners have any educational qualifications in science, technology, or the environment. Only Commissioner Fox (appointed by Governor McGreevey) has had extensive relevant career experience. Yet, when Bob Hanna, now a State Supreme Court nominee, was brought to the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation as president of the BPU in December, 2011, not a single relevant question was asked. As Assemblyman Chivukula puts it, “The BPU should also not be a waiting area for gubernatorial political appointees until they get nominated for judicial positions.”

In our conversation, Chivukula also spoke about several bills that he and Assemblyman Joe Cryan are sponsoring in response to Hurricane Sandy (starting at 5:45 in the video).

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.


Star Ledger Headline Mischaracterizes Cryan Support as Partisan

promoted by Rosi

After all the examples of false equivalence in the media when covering political situations, it’s bizarre to see a paper paint a partisan picture in a headline for an article that shows bi-partisanship.

Assemblyman Joe Cryan had some embarrassing and sexually explicit personal e-mails leaked to the media, and there were suggestions that he would be harmed.

In a second day story Star Ledger reporter Matt Friedman wrote an article about the response from the political community titled, “N.J. Dems back Cryan amid release of salacious e-mails.”  The lede sentence is:

Democratic colleagues of Assemblyman Joe Cryan defended the lawmaker Tuesday and said he could still have a robust political career …

Anyone reading this would think that the only people defending Cryan were Democrats, and that they were rallying around their own.  From that some will infer that only Democrats are supporting Cryan.  

Except that’s not the case.  Here’s how the article ends:

The Assembly minority leader, Jon Bramnick, also declined to criticize Cryan.

“My position is real simple,” Bramnick (R-Union) said. “I work with Joe Cryan on getting things done in the Legislature. If other people want to judge him, that’s up to them … I’ve worked with Joe for a long time. I like Joe.”

Besides being buried at the end of the article, the word “Republican” doesn’t show up there at all, just “minority” and “R” to indicate that a leader of the Republicans was backing the Democrat, Joe Cryan.  Combined with the headline and lede this indicates the Ledger didn’t really want us to know about the high-ranking Republican supporting Cryan.

Assemblyman Joe Cryan on Gun Violence

In “civilian” life, Assemblyman Joe Cryan works in the Union County Sheriff’s office, and sees the impact of gun violence more often than ordinary citizens. I spoke with him prior to yesterday’s Jersey City rally. Below is the interview, followed by his remarks to the crowd.

Rally for Gun Control in Jersey City

While a rally for sensible gun laws was being held on the National Mall today, a group of about 200 New Jerseyans came to Lincoln Park in Jersey City to rally for similar controls at the state and federal levels. Hosted by Jersey City Major Jeremiah Healy, a slew of Democratic elected officials spoke about how to prevent the next Columbine or Newtown.  While the temperatures were very cold, this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or the speakers.

Not a single Republican was on the stand. This should not be. Our children’s’ safety and that of ourselves should not be a partisan issue. Just like the Koch Brothers should not be dictating our energy policies, the NRA and their patrons should not be endangering our kids. As with marriage equality, the GOP is simply on the wrong side of history.

Stay tuned to Blue Jersey. Over the next few days, I’ll post some of the comments from the speakers including Congressman Frank Pallone, former Governor Jim Florio, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senators Barbara Buono, Bob Gordon, and Ray Lesniak, and Assembly members Joe Cryan, Angelica Jimenez, Connie Wagner, Charles Mainor, and Jason O’Donnell.

Cryan to Introduce Legislation to Limit Size of Ammunition Clips

Today, Assemblyman Joe Cryan announced that he will introduce legislation to limit the legal number of rounds in an ammunition clip to five. I spoke by phone with Cryan this afternoon to get some of the details.

Currently, the legal limit is fifteen rounds and I asked him if possession of clips with that capacity would be grandfathered. He indicated that this would be one of many subjects of the debate as the bill progresses. Already, he said, he has received push back on this simple, common-sense bill from citizens and fellow legislators. But he said, “the whole idea here is to have a reflective debate” in light of the events in Newtown and elsewhere. He recognized the Connecticut teachers as heroes and wants to do whatever can be done to slow down or impede the inevitable shooters of the future.

Cryan indicated that this will be the first in a series of bills that will include addressing of ammunition sales, identification of ammunition, and other related topics – to be introduced in mid-January.

His approach will not only consider sensible gun regulations, but also mental health issues and a good look at the “games that desensitize violence.”

Of course, even if New Jersey implements strict gun control laws, it’s easy to bring in these killing machines from other states. Cryan recognized Senator Frank Lautenberg as a driving force for sensible gun laws across the nation. “We need to have a full discussion” on sizes of magazines and availability of assault weapons across the board. He pointed out that these initiatives do not impinge on Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens.

I’m happy that Cryan is taking the lead on this initiative. (Senator Weinberg also wrote about gun control laws in her diary on Monday.) Now, we need other legislators to join them in working to make sure that we don’t experience a Newtown massacre in New Jersey. Cryan’s proposals do make sense, and any legitimate gun owner should sign on and support these initiatives which will protect, not impinge, on, their interests.

Blue Jersey Focus – Assemblyman Joe Cryan

“The Courage to Speak Out”

That’s an attribute Assemblyman Joe Cryan says he admires. But he’s also the epitome of this philosophy – often paying the political price. Once part of the Democratic leadership in Trenton, he’s now somewhat of a pariah within his own party because he insists on adhering to Democratic principles rather than political expediency.

I spoke with Cryan earlier today at a law office in Union. We talked about his joining with Michael Patrick Carroll to vote against the Constitutional amendment to limit judges’ benefits, his political philosophy, the travails of Assemblyman Schroeder, and Cryan’s favorites to challenge Chris Christie in 2013. Cryan excoriates both the Governor and, when deserved, his fellow Democrats.

I’ve interviewed lots of legislators, mostly Democrats, and I like and would support most of them. But Cryan is a more refreshing breed. He doesn’t dance around questions, and is as blunt and to the point as his counterpoint, Chris Christie, but without being obnoxious about it.  If you don’t know Joe, watch this video and be pleasantly surprised.

CEC Investigation: The Dirty Little Secrets of EHCA – Part VIII

Stella Tulli recounts the events of her sister’s murder by a CEC escapee, and her own painful, frustrating and hear-breaking experiences in this Blue Jersey diary.

Following Monday’s Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee’s aggressive questioning, particularly of CEC, we learned more about this secretive private organization and the calamitous disarray at its halfway houses. However, Blue Jersey research into CEC’s non-profit arm – Education & Health Centers of America (EHCA) – reveals disturbing new details. EHCA was created to circumvent the law that requires only non-profits can receive halfway house contracts from the Department of Corrections (DOC). We have learned that EHCA reduces transparency, adds unnecessary costs to the halfway house operation, allows selected individuals to receive dual compensation, lets CEC retain profits in EHCA which are nontaxable, offers no firewall between the two firms, and donates to organizations from which it seeks favors for CEC.

EHCA’s most recent non-profit 990 tax filing provides a wealth of information. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, EHCA received $71,049,271 in revenue from NJ State & local governments. It passed on only $69,038,017 to CEC as a “support service fee,” to run the halfway houses. EHCA kept $2,011,254 (2.8% of EHCA revenue). With EHCA, CEC gained a second entity to divert NJ government funds away from direct CEC services and into separate coffers controlled by CEC.

What did EHCA do with its $2,011,254? First of all, $664,435, which could have been spent on inmate services, was treated as EHCA retained earnings and added to its fund balance. As an entity designed theoretically as a “pass through” organization to get funds to CEC for program purposes, it became a repository to divert funds and allow John Clancy as Chair of both CEC and EHCA to do as he wished. These retained earnings held by the non-profit EHCA are nontaxable, whereas, if they were retained as profit by the for-profit CEC they would be subject to tax. In effect, EHCA reduces CEC’s taxes.

Here are some additional uses for the $2,011,254 pocketed by EHCA. John Clancy paid himself $350,000 as Chair of EHCA, claiming to work 30 hours per week for EHCA – an entity which represents only a fraction of CEC’s total activities in 15 states. This salary excludes whatever he received from CEC as its Founder and CEO to which he likely dedicates the majority of his time. In the process he is using a NJ non-profit organization receiving our government funds  to pay for work most likely performed on ventures in other states. The total compensation costs of this “pass through” agency for its officers, directors, trustees and key employees was $581,863. Other salaries were $262,292, and employee benefits and payroll tax were $84,855.  A lot of costs just to pass government funds to CEC.

Other expenses included legal: $112,332 and accounting: $31,500. With no real difference between the two entities, EHCA added occupancy costs: $60,019, office expenses: $22,073 and other costs for insurance and depreciation.

During Assembly testimony Dr. Robert Mackey, CEC Senior Vice President, testified about the required “firewall” erected between CEC and EHCA. Nonetheless, Dr. Mackey stated he received part of his salary from EHCA and that his responsibilities span many states.  Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20) rightly scoffed at the notion of a “firewall” as Mackey and Clancy work for both organizations. Not mentioned by Dr. Mackey was that Maria Carnevale, as an employee of EHCA with compensation there of $102,600, is also listed in the CEC website as part of the “CEC Management Team” as Assistant to John Clancy, presumably with an additional salary.

Beyond the fold: more about the fake firewall, donations, the impact of EHCA, and the need for change.

The State Budget: Stay Tuned

Although it appeared earlier last week that the Senate and Assembly were in agreement on budget matters, on Thursday, according to a source, the agreement came to an end. Since then the status seems to change at a moment’s notice. The surcharge on personal income over $1 million and Christie’s inflated tax revenue forecast are just two of the concerns. However, as of this moment Budget Chair Paul Sarlo (D-36) is set to present a review of the Senate’s budget tomorrow, and the Senate is set to vote on it early next week. Within the Senate Barbara Buono (D-18) does not support the plan and is concerned about the property tax relief proposal during a period of economic uncertainty. She does support a millionaire surcharge which has not been a part of the Senate budget. Nonetheless, it appears the Senate has the 21 votes to pass the bill.

Within the Assembly, it is less clear as to whether there are the needed 41 votes to pass a bill. Joe Cryan (D-20) has been a vocal opponent. He says, “I have problems with this budget, because it’s full of one-shot gimmicks, borrowing for transportation funding, not fully funding education, taking money from towns, false tax cut promises, and not penny one for a Rutgers plan everyone knows will cost tens of millions of dollars.” The Assembly like the Senate has a Budget Committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow.

Governor Christie has been adamant about wanting some kind of tax cut, although he has not stated what he thinks about the legislature’s plan to delay a decision on implementing its property tax relief proposal until the end of the year. He and Senate President Sweeney (D-3) have been in discussion over budget matters, with more conversations anticipated.

The bottom line: Stay tuned: Things change at a moment’s notice, but the issues will be resolved as the June 30 deadline is fast upon us. As Shakespeare might have said, the course of budget making never did run smooth. However, the final bill will more closely resemble the Senate version and will include about $140 million more than what Christie proposed.