Tag Archive: ethics

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.

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.  

The Lorax Diaries Continue….


You just can’t make this stuff up, folks.  My Lorax diaries continue.  The state will now be hearing the case of Robert “The Onceler” Gilman because the Mayor and Council have succeeded in delaying the simple hearing of the ethics board complaint by John Smith (that’s his real name – I swear) against Gilman who voted as a Councilman to approve spending on the PAL complex at the same time he was the President of that organization. Gilman, in his capacity as both Councilman and President of the PAL also ordered trees cut before a Green Acres public hearing, and broke the flood hazard law by building a garage in the riparian buffer of Mezler’s Creek. The Borough is now in violation thanks to Mr. Gilman’s handiwork and the ethics Board, according to my sources was allegedly ruthlessly pressured to leave Mr. Gilman alone.  

NJDOE Commissioner Cerf’s Ethics: Safety Scissors Sharp

NJ Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf was the ACTING Commissioner for 18 months. His nomination was blocked by State Senator Ron Rice under senatorial courtesy; Rice wanted Cerf to testify before his committee about his relationship with Mayor Cory Booker and shady dealings with charter schools in Newark. Since Rice is the senator representing Montclair, Cerf’s hometown, he invoked his privilege to block the nomination.

So, how did Cerf finally get confirmed? He simply claimed that he had moved to be closer to work. Strangely, he decided to move not to Trenton, but to Montgomery, which just happens to be represented by a Republican senator, Kip Bateman.

At Cerf’s hearing, the Senate Judiciary Chairman expressed his displeasure with this slick move:

BurlCo GOP Freeholders Emulate Christie’s Dubious Ethics

As a registered Democrat, I don’t usually receive political mailings from the GOP. After all, they’re greedy and malevolent, but they’re not dumb. They know enough not to waste money sending their propaganda to someone who would not vote for them.

So I was surprised to see one of their political flyers show up in my mailbox. Here in Burlington County, we have five Republican Freeholders, and two of them are up for re-election this year. The flyer had the Orwellian headline, “Freeholders Cut Taxes & Spending, While Protecting Services.” I say Orwellian, because, like the Governor, they are using one-shot gimmicks to balance the current budget.

But upon closer examination, I saw that their political ad was not paid for by them, but rather by me. The flyer was an “official” communication from the Freeholder Board.

Now it’s legal and desirable for the Freeholders to communicate with their constituents on official county business. But this mailing, coming so close to Election Day, is ethically dubious. The Freeholders are sugar coating the problems with the Burlington County prosecutors’ remuneration, ignoring the ramifications of the sale of Buttonwood Hospital to for-profit entrepreneurs, and don’t mention the campaign contributions they received from the contractors who got $6 million in county contracts. I wasn’t going to vote for Republicans Garganio and O’Brien anyway, but this incident makes me more enthusiastic than ever to vote for Democrats Aimee Belgard and Joanne Schwartz.

Governor Christie is the master of using taxpayer money for political purposes with his so-called Town Hall meetings and his army of videographers and social media politicos. The Burlington County GOP has apparently learned from their master.

Ethics Charges Proceed Against Rumana

The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, instituted with good intentions by Speaker Joe Roberts in 2008 to replace the previous toothless body, hasn’t exactly rocked the boat.

The committee, chaired by legendary Rutgers professor Alan Rosenthal (who you probably remember as the 11th member in this year’s legislative redistricting, but is also a nationally prominent political science scholar) often goes months without meeting, moves very slowly, and, as far as I can tell, has dismissed every complaint brought before it since it was reconstituted – it’s hard to tell because there is very little information about the committee online. While the reforms instituted by Roberts (a key reform was having outside members, not legislators, serve on the committee) seem to have improved the process and made it somewhat more independent, the committee (again from what I can tell) hasn’t actually taken action on any complaints. Not even talking about finding people guilty of ethics violations – talking about even opening an investigation instead of throwing it out on the papers.

Which made what happened to Asm. Scott Rumana this week fairly incredible. After many months of consideration, the Committee voted to prepare charges against Asm. Rumana this Tuesday. The Committee had nine months earlier voted to dismiss several other serious charges against Rumana but brought charges on this one, appearance of impropriety, for detailed consideration (you get a sense of the speed at which the Committee moves here…)

More on the substance of the charges, and what the committee does next, below the fold…

Chris Christie has “no credibility on the issue of ethics “

Back when Chris Christie was just a US Attorney who never, no, never used his position for political gain, he was furious with politicians who would not hold press conferences calling for other politicians accused of crimes to resign or step down or be boiled in oil.

Here’s one of his comments from 2007 about Democrats who called for some indicted Democrats to end their campaigns, but let others finish out their terms.

“You have no credibility on the issue of ethics if you take both positions, depending on who’s in the crosshairs,” Christie said.

Here’s what he has to say in 2011 about eight Elizabeth School Board members who have been accused of using their position to demand campaign contributions and other tributes from employees.

“I will use the same principle I used when I was U.S. Attorney,” the governor said at a press conference. “I don’t suggest when a criminal investigation is warranted.”

The difference?  In 2007 Christie was a prosecutor perfectly happy to mix it up in politics, regardless of the legality of it.

In 2011 Christie is a politician who is perfectly happy to be a politician who has, in his own words,  “no credibility on the issue of ethics.”

Let’s Party

So the convention of the New Jersey League of Municipalities is over.  The attendees were a Who’s Who list of New Jersey power brokers.  With one exception.  Governor Christie decided it was more important to hobnob with Republican Tea Party glitterati in San Diego than to interact with the people he’s paid to serve with.  But that’s another story.

Like any convention, there were working sessions, and there were after-hours parties where the politicians could interact informally with the various contractors who provide goods and services to the taxpayers.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  Public servants who work hard should be encouraged to have some off-hours fun, schmoozing with their peers in the private sector.  What is disturbing, however, is the way these events are paid for and the message they send to the politicians.

More below the fold…

How much is “enough”?

Here are a few things to consider:

Chris Christie won the Governor election with less than 50% of the vote.  That means more than half of the voters wanted someone other than him to govern.

He has consistently abused his power.   He pulled rank as a US Attorney to get out of a ticket when he went the wrong way down a one way street, and also pulled rank when he got a speeding ticket in an unregistered car to avoid being towed.   He failed to disclose his close financial relationship with top assistant Michele Brown, a conflict of interest.  He gave huge no bid contracts to his boss (John Ashcroft) and the man who didn’t prosecute his brother for securities fraud, while 19 others were prosecuted.  He governs with a personal vendetta to the detriment of New Jerseyans.

(more below the fold)

New Jersey NAACP files formal ethics complaint over affordable housing

A number of progressive groups have come out against Senator Lesniak’s plan to “bury”  the Council on Affordable Housing (Senate Bill S1) — I recommend this post by Fair Share Housing Center —  but the New Jersey NAACP has just moved beyond that, and filed a formal ethics complaint. Here’s what they say:

James E. Harris, President of the New Jersey Conference of the NAACP, today filed a formal ethics complaint with the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, asking for a formal investigation of whether Senators Raymond Lesniak and Christopher Bateman have violated the Legislative Code of Ethics in simultaneously representing over 40 municipalities on affordable housing, planning, and zoning issues and pushing legislation that would substantially change those municipalities’ affordable housing obligations.

NJ NAACP Housing Committee Chairman Mike McNeil said:  “Sens. Lesniak and Bateman have violated the public trust in intermeshing their private legal work and their service to the public as legislators. We are today asking the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards to determine the extent of the violation of public trust and to require Sens. Lesniak and Bateman to recuse themselves from further debate on the bill.”

I really can’t say whether or not Lesniak or Bateman have crossed the line here, but I will say that the outdated conceit that being a state legislator is only part-time work is what leads directly to conflicts of interest and even outright corruption, whether it is holding multiple elected positions or doing business with the town through a law firm. We’d be a lot better off making the members of the Assembly and Senate full time, even if it ends some romantic notions.