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Re: "Party Committee Service" Workshop: Saturday (3/19)
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Posted on: 2011/3/18 22:03

"Party Committee Service" Workshop: Saturday (3/19)
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Saturday (3/19) at 10:30 a.m. in the Council caucus room, 2nd floor at City Hall, 280 Grove Street.

CivicJC is hosting a FREE one-hour workshop for residents interested in serving on the Republican and Democratic Party Committees. Together with the Citizens' Campaign, we will teach you the important role that party committee members -- half are men, half are women -- play in our county politics.

Get in the game.

For those interested, come on over at 10:30 a.m. for coffee and munchkins, before the workshop.

To help with the headcount, please r.s.v.p. via e-mail:

CIVIC JC is a registered 501(c)(4) non-partisan non-profit.

Posted on: 2011/3/18 11:18

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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Additional media coverage of Monday's criminal (and political?) developments, with more details from the new indictments incorporated into the article:

NJ deputy mayor facing more corruption charges

[from "The Record," Monday, November 30, 2009, 6:24 p.m.]

NEWARK ? Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini faces new charges for her role in a federal bribery sting that resulted in the arrest of 26 elected officials and political operatives in July.

A new six-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury earlier this month added two counts of attempted extortion under color of official right and three counts of accepting something of value that was meant to influence and reward.

The original indictment returned in August charged Beldini with one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, a charge that remains in the new indictment.

Federal authorities allege that Beldini accepted $20,000 in campaign contributions for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy?s re-election campaign from Solomon Dwek, a government informant posing as a developer offering bribes in exchange for speedy building approvals from the city.

Beldini was the treasurer of Healy?s re-election campaign.

The charges also accuse Beldini, a real estate agent, of trying to secure commissions for herself by offering to serve as the broker or co-broker for condominiums in Dwek?s proposed development.

In return, Beldini allegedly assured Dwek that she could help him ?get through a lot of red tape? in Jersey City to help him get his building projects rolling, the charges allege.

Beldini?s attorney, Brian Neary, could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

The criminal conspiracy alleged in both indictments is the same, though the newest court filing provides some further details.

The indictments detail a series of meetings that Beldini had with Dwek, in which they discussed specific details of Dwek?s contributions to Healy?s campaign and how Beldini and others could help ensure city approvals.

Beldini talked to both Dwek and Jack Shaw, a Hudson County political operative who died shortly after being charged in the corruption scheme, about making Dwek?s payments appear to come from several fictitious donors and splitting them among various political committees, including the Jersey City Democratic Committee, to avoid exceeding campaign contribution limits, the indictment said.

The indictment also includes for the first time a transcribed conversation between Dwek and Beldini, in which Dwek told Beldini he would ?count on [her] for all [her] help, you know, approvals and stuff,? to which Beldini responded, ?Absolutely.? Dwek later said to Beldini, ?you?re my person, obviously, for the real estate.?

Beldini allegedly told Dwek she would charge a 5 percent commission for condominium units that she sold. If another broker helped on the sale, the fee would be 6 percent, with 4 percent going to Beldini.

In a later meeting, the new indictment says, Healy and Beldini joked with Dwek about putting his application for a zoning change at the ?top of the pile.?

Edward Cheatam, the affirmative action officer for Hudson County and a commissioner on the Jersey City Housing Authority, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

Cheatam, who took $15,000 in bribes, introduced Dwek to Shaw, who then set up a meeting with Healy and Beldini, according to the indictments.

-- Ashley Kindergan

Posted on: 2009/12/1 14:23

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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Below is today's fuller media coverage of the latest indictments in the Jersey City government corruption case:

Beldini hit with new charges


A superseding federal corruption indictment against former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini further exposes the city's allegedly corrupt political underbelly.

Beldini, arrested in July and in August indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, now faces two additional counts of attempted extortion and three counts of taking bribes to allegedly help a developer win zoning approvals in the new indictment, which is dated November 19.

The developer turned out to be FBI informant Solomon Dwek.

Beldini allegedly took $20,000 of Dwek?s money and, through straw donors, funneled it into Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy?s reelection account and the Jersey City Democratic Committee. She also allegedly extracted a promise from Dwek to use her as the real estate agent for his purported development project on Garfield Avenue.

In one exchange with Dwek recounted in the indictment, Beldini, who was the treasurer for Healy?s reelection campaign, even gave him a brief tutorial on the practice of wheeling.

Beldini explained to Dwek why his $10,000 will be given to the Jersey City Democratic Committee instead of Healy?s campaign account (Healy, who has not been charged with a crime, is not identified in the indictment, but is easily identifiable as ?JC Official 1?).

?What we?re trying to do is put money into different funds so we can, when we need it, funnel it back into [JC Official 1]. Which everybody does. So this is for the Jersey City Democratic Committee,? she said.

The donations were purportedly ticket purchases for a Healy/JCDC fundraising event on March 28 called ?Broadway at the Beacon?

In a report filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), that $10,000 appears in four $2,500 donations dated April 6, 2009 from four people who were associated with the corruption sting: Jack Shaw, a now-deceased political consultant who facilitated many of the meetings between Dwek and allegedly corrupt officials; Catherine Chin, his live-in girlfriend who has not been charged with a crime; Maher Khalil, the former Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Director who pleaded guilty in September to taking $72,500 in bribes from Dwek; and E. Cheatam Associates, the company of former Hudson County affirmative action officer and Jersey City Housing Authority Commission Ed Cheatam, who also pleaded guilty to corruption charges in September.

Beldini allegedly told Dwek that Healy knew that the ticket purchases were funded by him and agreed with Dwek that Healy ?appreciates the way [the CW] does business.?

Later, Dwek gave another $10,000 to Shaw to place directly in Healy?s reelection account. That $10,000 is broken up into four more $2,500 donations from Shaw, Chin, E. Cheatam Associates, and Michael Schaffer, who remains a commissioner on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority despite his July arrest on corruption charges.

The indictment recounts two meetings at Jersey City restaurants between Dwek, Healy, Shaw and Cheatam.

At a March 13 meeting, Healy pointed out that Beldini, in addition to being one of his deputy mayors, owns a real estate company, and agreed with Dwek that it was a ?big benefit.?

At a later meeting, Dwek asked Healy to make sure his development applications were not put ?at the bottom of the pile.?

From the Beldini indictment: ?JC Official 1 laughed and said, ?Bottom of the pile or top of the pile?? Cheatam made clear that the CW ?wants to be on the top,? and defendant BELDINI said, ?Well, we can flip the pile.?

-- Matt Friedman


Superseding indictment quotes former Jersey City deputy mayor as saying Healy knew about corrupt payments

[from "The Jersey Journal, "December 1, 2009, 5:35 a.m.]

The superseding indictment against former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini quotes her as saying Mayor Jerramiah Healy knew corrupt payments were being funneled from a man who turned out to be a cooperating witness for the feds.

"Defendant BELDINI confirmed that JC Official 1 (Healy) knew that the CW (cooperating witness) had funded the purchase of tickets to the JCDC?s (Jersey City Democratic Committee's) 'Broadway at the Beacon' event and agreed with the CW that JC Official 1 'appreciates the way [the CW] does business,''' the indictment, handed up last week, states.

Under the new indictment, Beldini, who had been previously charged with one count in the massive corruption sting, now faces six.

Healy, who hasn't been charged with any crimes and maintains he has done nothing wrong, is referred to in several places in the 21-page indictment.

Get the full story in today's Jersey Journal as well as excerpts of the indictment that mention Healy.

Posted on: 2009/12/1 14:13

Shooting Death Just Half-Block from JCPD West District
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Jersey City man killed by gunshot to thigh

[posted by "The Jersey Journal," November 8, 2009, 12:59 p.m.]

A 29-year-old Jersey City man died after being shot in the thigh outside a tavern early Saturday morning, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said today.

Sherod Saunders, 29, of Broadman Parkway died at Jersey City Medical Center after single 9-mm bullet past through both his thighs, at around 1 a.m.

After interviewing several witnesses, investigators believe that the shooter got out of a gold colored car near where the victim was standing on Communipaw Avenue near Harrison Avenue.

The shooter opened fire at Saunders with a semiautomatic weapon, DeFazio said. Several shell casing were found near the scene.

"Apparently there was no confrontation or argument," DeFazio said. "The motive has not been established but it does not appear to be robbery."

The gunman then fled the car driven by a woman that went east on Communipaw Avenue and then turned onto Park Street.

Anybody with information is asked to contact the homicide unit at (201) 915-1345.

- Charles Hack

Posted on: 2009/11/8 19:27

Re: Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez a Florida Resident?
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It would appear - if Ms. Lopez is deemed ineligible to have been a candidate in the May 2009 municipal election - that the rationale is a legal "do-over," resetting the electoral clock. And, if so, only those candidates who had participated in the original contest would be on the special election ballot.

Judge Gallipoli - if voiding Ms. Lopez's eligibility as a candidate - would concurrently void the May 2009 election for Ward C. The apparent remedy (for the "original" Ward C candidates, as well as the Ward C voters) is an election as "should have happened" in May 2009, all ineligible candidates now removed from the ballot.

Brighter, more agile minds can hopefully provide the statutory citation governing a special election, in this circumstance. My understanding is drawn from reading the original action brought by Mr. King, and later joined by Ms. Raymaker - that is the injunctive relief being sought - and the courtroom statements (and precendents cited) by the lawyers.

All in all, a messy situation.

Posted on: 2009/11/3 19:32

Re: Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez a Florida Resident?
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As noted in IWitness' most-recent post, this is a civil matter. That said, if Judge Gallipoli rules against Ms. Lopez, the May 2009 election will be voided, and a new Ward C election will be scheduled within 50 days.

And here's where it gets even more interesting: only those original candidates who were on the ballot in the May 2009 election are allowed to participate in this new special election. Six were on the May ballot, but only four of them would be qualified to run this time. [Ms. Lopez would be ineligible; Mr. King pled guilty to corruption.]

Had Ms. Lopez resigned instead, before the trial, the same procedure for filling a Council vacancy would have been implemented for a Ward C opening as was just orchestrated for Ward B, with Council self-selecting (or self-approving) an interim replacement. By allowing the matter to go to trial, Ms. Lopez (and the HCDO) have run the risk of losing both the seat and the direct power to appoint a replacement.

Now, according to Ms. Raymaker's attorneys, the rules will be different (if Judge Gallipoli finds against Ms. Lopez): a special election would follow, within 50 days; only the pre-existing, May 2009 candidates would appear on the new ballot; and the winner would serve until June 30, 2013 (the full term). Again, if Ms. Lopez is declared as having been ineligible, the May 2009 election will be voided, as if it never happened.

The plot thickens.

Posted on: 2009/11/3 17:26

Re: Testimony Finished in Lopez Lawsuit
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Testimony finished in Lopez lawsuit

[from, October 27, 2009]

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli will issue a written decision on whether Jersey City Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez can remain in office.

Gallipoli today heard arguments from a lawsuit that challenges Lopez?s residency because she claimed her Orlando, Fla. home as her permanent residence for tax purposes and filed income taxes from Florida, which does not have a state income tax.

Attorney Diana Jeffrey, who with law partner Howard Myerowitz represents the plaintiff, unsuccessful Ward C council candidate Norrice Raymaker, said that she expects to hear the decision soon because judges typically rule quickly in election related cases.

Jeffrey said Lopez explained why she did not pay her taxes in New Jersey.

?Basically she said she didn?t know she had to ? that she had to file taxes from her New Jersey address even though she worked exclusively in New Jersey, and as to the mortgage documents said they say her Florida home was her primary residence,she said she didn?t read them, just signed them,? said Jeffery.

Jeffrey said that Lopez admitted that she renewed her driver?s license in Florida in 2006, and said that she was unaware that she was supposed to get a New Jersey driver?s license if it was her permanent address.

An account of today?s testimony from the Jersey Journal said that Lopez attorney Bill Northgrave tried to establish Lopez's status as a Jersey City resident based on her church membership, her husband?s job as director of family services for Hudson County, and the fact that she?s always sought medical treatment in the Jersey City area.

Reached by phone, Northgrave declined to go into specifics, but said that Lopez is "glad the trial is over, and she wants to get back to serving the people of Jersey City."

"We'll await the judge's decision," he said.

- Matt Friedman

Posted on: 2009/10/27 13:27

Re: Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez a Florida Resident?
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Excellent coverage from "JCI":

Raymaker Gets Her Day in Court, But No Decision Yet

[from "Jersey City Independent," October 26, 2009, 6:00 p.m.]

Lawyers for community activist and former Ward C candidate Norrice Raymaker and that ward?s current councilwoman squared off in court today, but Hudson County Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli declined to issue a ruling in the case, saying he would issue it in writing at an unspecified later date instead.

The suit, which was originally filed by Raymaker?s fellow Ward C candidate Jimmy King, alleges that Lopez?s primary residence is Florida, not Jersey City, and asks the court to vacate the result of May?s election. Raymaker joined the suit in August, and King dropped out after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

Lopez, who grew up in Jersey City, moved to Ridgefield Park in 1977 with her ex-husband Karl Boehringer. In 1994, the couple moved to Kissimmee, Fla., and in 1996 they bought a home in Orlando. Lopez testified that she moved back to Jersey City in or around 2001 following her divorce from Boehringer. However, Raymaker?s lawsuit charges that Lopez is disqualified from holding office in Jersey City because she never ?abandoned her domicile? in Florida or ?evidenced her intention to establish a new domicile? in New Jersey.

During her examination by Raymaker?s attorney Howard Myerowitz, Lopez testified that she claimed Florida residency and improperly received a homestead rebate on property taxes there; she said she wasn?t aware of it because she entrusted her tax matters to her accountant. Lopez has paid all her personal property taxes, as well as taxes for her Hoboken-based dental consulting business, in Florida for at least the past three years. Florida does not have a state income tax. Lopez indicated that an attorney she hired in Florida has made arrangements on her behalf to pay additional taxes and fees owed to the state Florida as a result of her improper claim.

During Myerowitz?s questioning, which Judge Gallipoli disapprovingly characterized as ?machine-gun style,? he also claimed that Lopez renewed a Florida driver license in 2006 and voted by absentee ballot in Orlando in 2003. While Lopez testified that she did not recall doing either, she agreed that documents produced by Myerowitz indicated she did. Lopez also confirmed that in 2008 she signed a mortgage refinance agreement for her house in Orlando that identifies it as her primary residence. The house is currently occupied by Lopez?s son.

Lopez?s cross-examination by her attorney William Northgrave consisted of a flurry of documents that he claimed demonstrate that Lopez was domiciled in Jersey City from 2001 on. These included a voter profile indicating she registered to vote in Jersey City in 2001, the certificate of her 2001 marriage to Ben Lopez, medical records for treatment she received in New Jersey, various bills for the Orlando house that were mailed to her Corbin Avenue address and election ballots from 2003 and 2008, years in which Lopez ran for county committeewoman. Lopez also testified that she has served as a commissioner for the Jersey City Parking Authority, although she could not remember the name of the commission without prompting, and stated that she is an active member of Iglesia Presbiteriana Nueva Esperanza on North Street.

With arguments wrapping up today, both sides ? and the Ward C community ? will now wait for Gallipoli?s written ruling. A staffer in the judge?s chambers could not give a definite date when it would be issued.

?The only reason this case got as far as it did was because Lopez failed to mind her Ps and Qs,? Northgrave, referring to her improper tax claim, said during his closing statement. He said that the arguments presented by Myerowitz failed to meet the required standard of ?clear and convincing? evidence that the councilwoman does not live in New Jersey, and he requested the matter be dismissed.

But in his closing, Myerowitz argued that his case met the standard of a ?preponderance of evidence? showing that Lopez has not abandoned her Florida home, or made efforts to establish a new home in New Jersey. Lopez?s actions show that she ?intended to defraud? the state of New Jersey, he said, calling her claims that she didn?t recall any wrongdoing ?ludicrous.? He asked Gallipoli to find in favor of Raymaker and void the results of May?s Ward C election.

After the hearing, Raymaker said Lopez was being ?disingenuous? and called for the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) ? whose stamp of approval is almost always necessary and sufficient to clinch a win in Jersey City elections ? to ?take seriously their duty to nominate authentic candidates.?

Regardless of the outcome of the case, Raymaker said all candidates should be subject to background checks once certified for the ballot. ?As a community, we can?t afford to keep challenging elections,? she added.

Lopez declined to comment, saying only that she would ?continue to serve the people? of Ward C as she awaits Gallipoli?s decision. But her husband Ben Lopez, who is the director of the county?s Department of Family Services and a former city councilman, was anxious to tell the press what he thought.

?This is a travesty,? he said, ?that you have to prove where you live to people who lost in the election box.?

- Shane Smith

Posted on: 2009/10/26 22:33

Development Oversight in J.C.? Who Watches the Watchmen?
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Development Auditor Has Ethics Lapse

[from "The Jersey Journal," October 26, 2009]

The law firm hired to audit Jersey City's development process has been removed from a major case due to ethics violations.

Essex County Superior Court Judge Claude Coleman disqualified McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLC from representing the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in a whistleblower lawsuit last week.

Coleman found that the firm, specifically partner Walter Timpone, had previously represented one of the whistleblowers who is suing the university.

"Counsel has made misrepresentations to this court and to plaintiff's counsel concerning its role as attorney to plaintiff," Coleman said in a written decision.

Timpone did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment.

The city retained Timpone and two other lawyers from the firm, Ronald Riccio and Thomas Scrivo, in August to lead the audit after 44 people were arrested on money laundering and corruption charges, many of them Jersey City officials promising favors to an FBI informant who was seeking favors for a fictitious Jersey City development.

At the time, Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy said the audit was being conducted to make sure the development process "is fully transparent, fair and efficient."

The lawyers were given 90 days to conduct the audit and then compile a report.

Jennifer Morrill, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said the findings would be public once the audit is completed.

Morrill released a statement after learning the firm was disqualified from the UMDNJ case.

"This firm has made an outstanding reputation in the legal community and we're confident that they will produce a professional, thorough and independent audit of our development process," she said.

- Melissa Hayes

Posted on: 2009/10/26 17:30

Retirement pay-rate for decade-old unused vacation/sick days
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The following article showcases a big-ticket item that materially effects Jersey City, year upon year. Our annual budgetary set-aside for this negotiated obligation is substantial, now over $7 million from operational dollars. And the police and fire unions' current contracts will soon be ending, meaning that a far-sighted administration & Council will have an opportunity to re-think this policy - and its inflated costs - and devise a more fiscally-sound, equally-fair method of compensating the uniformed service members for "unused" days. Like having unused time cashed in at the end of every fiscal year - at that year's pay rate - rather than rolling over for decades.

Here's the article:


N.J. owes $1B to retiring employees, for unused sick days, vacation time

[from "The Asbury Park Press, October 24, 2009]

Call it the billion-dollar retirement bill.

New Jersey's taxpayers owe almost $1 billion to municipal workers for not taking sick, vacation and comp time during their careers, budget figures show.

Add in the total accumulated sick time owed public school employees, and taxpayers' collective bill likely will climb toward the $2 billion mark, according to an Asbury Park Press review of municipal and school budgets.

How does it work? If an employee banks 200 days of sick and vacation time, he can cash in on it upon retirement ? at his final rate of pay. It's an institutionalized practice that has been going on for decades.

It's a little-known element of governmental costs, which adds to New Jersey's rising property tax burden, the highest in the nation.

Recent examples include two police captains in Long Branch who received payouts of $179,126 and $176,487. A police lieutenant cashed out for $156,570.

The projected payout for all municipal employees in Monmouth County is $59.2 million in the coming years. For Ocean towns, it is $48.4 million. That's a total of $107.6 million.

The public school tally for both counties ? $109.9 million ? doubles taxpayers' payout obligation.

Statewide, for the towns that reported their numbers to the state Department of Community Affairs, the tally is $747.4 million. School payouts are likely to double that amount.

"The taxpayers are paying for time people did not work," said Jerry Cantrell, president of the New Jersey Taxpayers' Association, Randolph.

But how much will the final bill be for New Jersey's taxpayers?

No one knows. There is no comprehensive fiscal tracking system for the 566 municipalities, 605 school districts and 400 other taxing authorities in the state. Newark, the state's largest city, Camden, and 116 other towns failed to report their employee liabilities to the state. Newark officials provided no details to the Press. Its budget documents were unclear. Camden's liability was $24.3 million in 2008.

And in New Jersey's fractured governmental system, there also is no cumulative tally for payouts made to state and county workers.

What is known is that taxpayers already have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to retired employees ? and they'll continue to for decades despite changes in state rules that limits some payouts.

The modifications, which went into effect July 2007, set payout caps of $15,000 for elected municipal officials and certain high-ranking administrators. But all workers hired before July 2007 were grandfathered into the old payout scheme.

Sick-time policy

It's a kind of public employees' lottery: Hang in long enough, notch a few promotions during your career, don't come down with an illness that will eat up much sick time, and you can retire with hundreds of thousands of dollars in your pocket ? on top of your pension.

The payouts have been going on for years. When the Press tracked municipal buyout tallies in 1994, the figure was almost $50 million in Monmouth and Ocean ? meaning, the sums have more than doubled in 15 years.

Most officials interviewed termed the liability sums "unrealistic."

Local officials said that unless towns go out of business and every worker cashes in on their contractually stipulated IOU, the money owed departing workers annually is substantially less than what is budgeted for planning purposes.

That's small comfort to taxpayer advocates who wonder how and why New Jerseyeans started paying their public servants for time they did not work.

"Sick time is intended for sickness, not as a bonus when you leave your job," said Cantrell, of the taxpayers' association.

Yet over the course of time, labor unions have negotiated contracts for an estimated 400,000 municipal employees, including police, fire and sanitation workers, that permit payouts upon retirement for sick days not taken, for vacation time not used and compensatory time.

The numbers game

Payout plans differ from town to town. Amounts range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Workers take payouts in lump sums or in increments, typically over a three-year period.

Also typical is the fact, municipal finance officials say, that a worker retiring this year will get paid for unused time banked in 1985 or 1995 or 2005 at his 2009 rate of pay.

"In the real world," said Jim Mumolie, a member of the Manalapan-Englishtown Board of Education and a resident of Manalapan, "no one gives you breaks like that."

At the state level, workers have a $15,000 cap on sick leave payouts, according to Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs. State employees also cannot carry forward more than one year's allotment of vacation time.

Following a series of high-cost retirement bonuses, top schools administrators are capped at payouts of $15,000, once their contracts are renewed.

In the federal civil service system, soon-to-be retirees are generally allowed to convert their accumulated sick time into pension credits.

Payout details

This year in Toms River, a police captain will be owed a total payout of $99,867 for accumulated sick and vacation time upon his retirement Dec. 1, according to township Payroll Manager Bonnie Fine. A senior patrolman will be owed $55,717 when he retires Nov. 1, while a golf course supervisor officially retiring Nov. 16 will be owed $56,526.

Payouts already clocked in 2009 in Toms River for accumulated sick and vacation time include $74,842 by a construction code official; $55,440 by a foreman in the shade tree division; and $40,669 paid to the estate of the late Robert H. Chankalian, the former business administrator.

According to Toms River Chief Financial Officer Chris Manolio, in fiscal year 2009, the township paid out to retirees $379,495 for unused sick and vacation time.

In Long Branch, according to Chief Financial Officer Ronald J. Mehlhorn, payouts of unused sick days are dispersed over time.

Since contracts differ from town to town, Mehlhorn said, the terms of every town's payout policy is different. Some pay only for sick and vacation time, others also for accrued comp time. "The biggest payouts are normally public safety. They have the biggest lobby."

Longevity also plays a key role in the amount of the payouts, said Scott Pezarras, administrator for Brick.

Payouts for police generally are high, Pezarras said, because "they have a lot of accrued time because of their contracts. They also have injury time off in their contracts so they don't have to take sick time (for injuries sustained on the job). Of our $7 million (liability), $3,310,735 is attributable to our PBA's 127 officers."

The top liabilities in Brick today are Pezarras, a 25-year township veteran, owed $91,080; Township Clerk Virginia Lampman, 28 years, $87,749; and Police Chief Nils Bergquist, 29 years, $86,649.

Because each town's payout policy is different, records are kept differently as well.

In Howell, where the payout obligation is $1.9 million for some 6,783 days of accrued time, Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Filiatreault can pinpoint that if the township police chief were to retire today, his payout would be $76,115 while the township manager's would be $39,186.

Of actual retirees this year, Filiatreault reported a total payout of $110,477, with the highest amount of $34,700 going to a senior police officer.

The payout plans take up sizable chunks of money even in smaller towns.

Atlantic Highlands' liability for this year is $1.2 million, up from a little more than $835,000 in 2008.

"The number grew so much because of longevity," said Gerard Gagliano, borough treasurer, a part-time post. "We have so many people who have been (employed) here such a long time."

Actual payouts for Atlantic Highlands are, as in other towns, far less than the liabilities. In 2009, a retiring police captain was paid about $80,000, Gagliano said, while last year a police sergeant was paid about $50,000.

"A snapshot in time"

While the numbers may look alarming, municipal officials say they only represent what could be owed if every worker in every town retired at once.

"It's just a snapshot in time," said Lakewood Chief Financial Officer Bill Rieker. "The figures (from the Department of Community Affairs) are unrealistic. At least half the people never retire from here; they change jobs."

Pezarras, the Brick administrator, said that the township ? like many others ? has set up a trust fund for accrued liabilities. Brick also spreads out its payments over the course of three years, lessening the immediate burden to taxpayers, Pezarras said.

Yet local taxpayers, such as Michael Billig of Lakewood, are just as angry at the concept of workers being paid for unused vacation time as they are about the payout amounts.

" "Use it or lose it' should be the sick-time policy," Billig said. "I understand that sometimes, with regard to vacations, it's hard to get away. But you should never be able to carry over time for more than one year. It used to be that public employees thought they were underpaid. They are overpaid, if anything. It's passe to think public-sector people are underpaid."

If that's the prevailing sentiment, said Jim Ryan, spokesman for the state Policemen's Benevolent Association, then elected officials need to address the issue at contract time.

"The whole picture is changing in collective bargaining," Ryan said. "Too many political units are focused on the short term. Elected officials agree on these contract. Then they complain."

Taxpayer advocate Cantrell believes payouts for unused sick time in particular must be stopped.

"The starting point for stopping this is that language must be changed in future labor contracts," Cantrell said.

Ryan said taxpayers' concerns about unused sick time being paid out upon retirement is valid and "something that should be addressed at the bargaining table. But it's very rare to hear from local government officials, "Hey, we want to look at sick time.' You know, I pay taxes, too."

Mehlhorn recalls that a couple decades ago, "I used to sign documents for our cops to get food stamps ? that's how low they were paid."

Times, Mehlhorn said, have changed.

"This is prime time to hate public employees," Mehlhorn said. "But hate the game, not the player."

? Andrea Clurfield

Posted on: 2009/10/25 15:48

Re: Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez a Florida Resident?
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Trial on Lopez residency will begin next week

[from "The Jersey Journal," Monday, October 19, 2009]

Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez will stand trial to defend her residency.

Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli declined on Friday to dismiss the civil case against Lopez, who is accused of having a primary residence in Florida, thus invalidating her election to serve on Municipal Council. The trial will begin next Monday, October 26th.

Lopez' attorney William Northgrave did not return a call seeking comment.

Jimmy King, who lost the May 2009 election to Lopez, filed the lawsuit this summer arguing Lopez should not be able to serve. King later dropped the suit after pleading guilty to corruption charges, but another runner-up, Norrice Raymaker, had filed to join the case.

Lopez attempted to have the case dismissed, saying it was filed after the 30-day deadline to contest the ballot and that Raymaker could not take over the case for King.

Diana Jeffrey, the attorney representing Raymaker, said both of Lopez' claims were dismissed. The judge ruled that the 30-day limit could be waived because Lopez uses the name Nidia Boehringer in Florida and King could not have known that before the election. Jeffrey said the judge also ruled that Raymaker could intervene because she was also a candidate and joined the suit before King withdrew.

The suit alleges that Lopez was registered to vote in Florida, has a Florida driver's license, and has claimed her Orlando home as her permanent residence on tax forms since 2000 in order to get a tax break.

According to statute, Lopez had to have her primary residence in Jersey City for at least a year before the May 12 election to serve on the Council.

In court documents Northgrave has argued that Lopez has lived at 66 Corbin Ave. since "at least 2000," and that she has consistently voted in New Jersey elections since 2001.

- Melissa Hayes

Posted on: 2009/10/19 13:43

Re: Auto Dialer Election Call
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Just received the same robo-call, from a Washington, DC, telephone number, 202 area code.

One question, verbatim to the original post.

The order of the choices was:

1. Sean Connors
2. Sandra Cunningham
3. Steven Fulop
4. Jerramiah Healy
5. Other

Once the response number was entered, the call ended, w/o any further information or a 'thank you.'

Posted on: 2009/10/14 19:47

Re: Support Norrice Raymaker's Lawsuit to Determine Nidia Lopez' Eligibility to Represent Ward C
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Reform group raises Lopez lawsuit money with pancakes

[from, October 12, 2009, 10:30 a.m.]

A group of Jersey City activists who hope to oust Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez will hold a flapjack fundraiser on Sunday to raise money for the effort.

The proceeds will go to help pay the legal fees of former council candidate Norrice Raymaker, who alleges in a lawsuit that Lopez is technically a Florida resident.

Raymaker said that the decision to serve pancakes at the fundraiser was not meant to poke fun at a suit Lopez filed in the 1990s against on Orlando, Fla. International House of Pancakes, where she fell after slipping on a French fry.

?No, it was not. But that?s very good. I hadn?t thought of that,? Raymaker said. ?I?m from Wisconsin originally, and a pancake breakfast is a real community event. Many organizations do pancake breakfasts, so it?s a relatively inexpensive fundraiser for people to participate in.?

One Jersey City ? the organization whose slate Raymaker ran on in the May municipal election ? is hosting the event. Tickets are $15 and $10 for seniors. Kids eat free.

Raymaker took over the suit from former council candidate Jimmy King, who was arrested on corruption charges after he filed it and pleaded guilty last month.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli will hear a request for summary judgment from Lopez attorney Bill Northgrave, who hopes to get the case thrown out before it goes to trial. If Gallipoli does not grant the request, the trial will start on October 26.

Raymaker is already getting discounted and pro-bono legal representation, but she said that court fees and stenographer costs add up.

- Matt Friedman

Posted on: 2009/10/12 17:00

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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"Jersey Journal" Editorial

Toll rises to 45 in corruption scandal
by The Jersey Journal
October 12, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

The legacy of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy is not being written in letters but in numbers -- those used for court dockets and prisoner identification.

The Healy administration, including the City Council majority, showed more rot at its foundation on Tuesday.

There was a big unpleasant surprise for the mayor, the city, and this newspaper. Ward B Councilman Philip Kenny pleaded guilty to taking $5,000 in bribes as illegal campaign contributions. Kenny was not among the 44 arrested in the massive New Jersey corruption and money laundering federal investigation. His name was not on any federal complaints but he is now the 45th defendant. It was like a left-hook no one saw coming.

Kenny had a reputation for working to help people as a West Side Avenue aide to Hudson County Freeholder William O'Dea. He exuded sincerity and was considered by many as honest. This newspaper endorsed his candidacy in the May municipal election. The one factor against him was that he was on the Healy ticket, but there was some hope that he would show an independent streak on the City Council.

Now, there is a suspicion that the secrecy surrounding Kenny's involvement in this corruption investigation may suggest that the rookie councilman, who was in office only six months, has bolstered the U.S. Attorney's corruption cases or possibly others that may still be pending. It is pure conjecture, to date.

After it was learned that Kenny was the weekly star for federal court in Newark, a silly thing happened. City Councilman Mariano Vega sent a letter to the City Clerk's Office announcing he was "temporarily" resigning as president of the council. If the situation was not so serious, his "resignation" would be laughable.

Vega was among the 44 handcuffed by the FBI in July on corruption and money laundering cokplaints. He is stepping down as president until he is exonerated from the corruption charges. Vega remains on the council so it is difficult to understand how dropping a meaningless title achieves anything for himself or the city.

Why not just resign?

Vega does not control the majority on the panel. Healy does -- unless the City Council's actions are not to the liking of Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. After all, too many of the city lawmakers are also on the county payroll and serve two masters.

The mayor has selected a replacement for Kenny, his own mayoral aide, David Donnelly. This week, the City Council will do the bidding of the boss and vote for Donnelly. Except for Downtown Councilman Steven Fulop and only occasionally Councilwoman Viola Richardson, the local governing body is a city joke. One council member pleaded guilty, another is prepared to go to trial for taking bribes, and another is trying to prove in court that she was a city resident when she won her seat in May.

It is difficult for the city to live with the fact that this gang's term in office still has more than three years to go. Before it ends, it should be considered the worst administration in the city's history -- including those where mayors have been incarcerated.

Posted on: 2009/10/12 14:23

Re: Jersey City Council President Vega, charged in corruption sting, says he won't resign
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And from the Weeping Willow website, here's Mr. Vega's home address:

Contact Us/Make Reservation

We will be happy to answer any questions:

Email Us

Call Us 201-332-4123 or 201 232-0492

Write to us 156 Mercer St, Jersey City, NJ 07302


Tick-tock, tick-tock...

Posted on: 2009/10/9 23:20

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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Tick-tock, tick-tock...

Another Hudson political figure charged in corruption sting due in court

[from "The Jersey Journal," October 8, 2009, 10:42 a.m.]

The parade of Hudson County political figures headed to the federal courthouse in Newark continues today.

One of the people charged on July 23 in the massive corruption sting will make an appearance in Newark at 12:15 today.

On Tuesday Jersey City Ward B Councilman Philip Kenny pleaded guilty to taking $5,000 in bribes. He is the sixth Hudson County public official to plead guilty in the investigation revolving around informant Solomon Dwek. The others are Guy Catrillo, Maher Khalil, Edward Cheatam, Denis Jaslow and Jimmy King.

-- Ron Zeitlinger

Posted on: 2009/10/8 16:40

Re: Its Not Over Yet - Call Continues for Healy, Vega and Lopez to Resign
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Mayor Healy is an officer of the court, and he failed to uphold that legal/ethical responsibility by not reporting the improper activities that he witnessed, as detailed in the criminal complaint against Deputy Mayor Beldini (Healy's campaign treasurer), et. al.

At the service academies (West Point, Annapolis), the honor code indicts not just those who may do wrong, but those who do not immediately report what they know about any such wrongdoing. Likewise, Mayor Healy - as a member of the N.J. Bar, as a (former) municipal judge - is honorbound to do the same. Demonstrably, he did not, regarding either of the two confirmed meetings he attended with the cooperating witness.

New Jersey's election law is clear and finite, with its contribution limits. So any discussion of splitting donations in excess of $2,600, that would be a red flag, to negate in the moment and/or report afterward.

And any hint of pay-to-play - "Thanks for the campaign contribution. We'll put your approvals on the top of the pile." - is illegal, and should have been reported.

So before even getting to issues of breaching the public trust - as an elected public servant - Mayor Healy's INACTIONS in the face-to-face of two illegalities are reason to ask for his resignation.


Posted on: 2009/9/30 15:36

Re: New Jersey Policy Perspective Report on Tax Abatements in Jersey City
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With hopes to clarify how Jersey City's PILOT receipts get divided, here goes:
95% go to J.C.'s municipal coffers
5% go to the Hudson County coffers
0% go to the J.C. Board of Education

[Until Secaucus sued Jersey City, about 10 years ago, none of the PILOT receipts were allocated at all to the County. The settlement yielded the 5% allocation.]

Which means that non-abated property owners (collectively) fund the entirety of the local contribution to JCBOE (schools). And with the State of New Jersey, per prior announcements, lessening its subsidies of the JCBOE, that annual total - the tax burden on J.C.'s non-abated property owners - will continue to increase.

As well, J.C.'s non-abated property owners fund the majority of the local contribution to the County's budget, i.e., everything above and beyond what's generated from 5% of the PILOT receipts.

Of course, in re-reading the above, the reality still feels terribly opaque...

Posted on: 2009/9/29 16:57

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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Jersey City's Jimmy King pleads guilty to corruption,
faces 10-16 months in prison

[from "The Jersey Journal," September 24, 2009, 1:37 p.m.]

Unsuccessful Jersey City City Council candidate James "Jimmy'' King faced a federal judge in Newark this afternoon and admitted he took $5,000 to $10,000 in bribes in exchange for his future official assistance of development projects proposed by a man who turned out to be a federal informant.

By pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, the 67-year-old King is expected to be sent to prison for 10 to 16 months when he is sentenced on Jan. 5.

The charge normally carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars.

As a now convicted felon, the longtime figure in Jersey City politics loses his right to vote, hold office, sit on a jury and own a firearm.

King made no comment as he left the courtroom, but in the hallway, his attorney, Arthur Abrams of Jersey City said his client is remorseful.

"He is very sorry for what occurred,'' Abrams told reporters.

The hearing before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares took about a half hour during which King was extremely respectful.

Asked by Linares how he wanted to plead, he said: "Guilty, your honor."

Very few people were in the courtroom and it didn't appear that any family members had attended.

King was among the 44 people netted by the feds in a wide-ranging sting that involved public figures and rabbis and involved charges ranging from corruption to money laundering to trafficking in body parts.

King is the fifth person arrested in the July 23 sweep to have pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from the informant, who was posing a developer seeking favors from officials.

Former Jersey City Housing Authority commissioner Edward Cheatham, former Hudson County Board of Elections investigator Denis Jaslow, and former Jersey City municipal employees Maher Khalil and Guy Catrillo have all admitted their guilt.

A former Hudson County undersheriff, King is also the former head of the Jersey City Parking Authority and a former chairman of the city's Incinerator Authority.

He was the longtime leader of the Jimmy King Civic Association, which held parties for seniors among other charitable works. After his arrest in late July, he disbanded the association.

King had come in second in the May contest for the Ward C, Journal Square, council seat to Nidia Lopez, a running mate of Mayor Jerramiah Healy. After the election, King challenged Lopez's residency, pointing out in a lawsuit that she has claimed Orlando, Fla., to be her home in order to get a tax break on a home she owns there.

The lawsuit, which has since been joined by third-place finisher Norrice Raymaker, is making its way through state Superior Court.

-- Michaelangelo Conte

Posted on: 2009/9/24 18:01

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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Hudson County official pleads guilty in connection to corruption sting

[from "The Star-Ledger," September 24, 2009, 12:47 p.m.]

NEWARK --A former Hudson County undersheriff pleaded guilty today in connection to the massive corruption sweep that netted 44 people in July.

James P. King, 67, told a federal judge in Newark he accepted between $5,000 and $10,000 bribes from a government informant while running for the Jersey City Council. In exchange, King promised if elected he would help secure zoning changes for the informant, who was posing as a developer building a condominium project.

King is the fifth defendant to admit guilt in the case. It revolved around a single informant, identified as failed Monmouth County developer Solomon Dwek.

Dwek was charged with bank fraud in 2006, then spent more than two years recording conversations for federal prosecutors during scores of meetings in diners, parked cars and boiler rooms.

His work led to the arrests of three mayors, two state legislators, several political operatives and five rabbis from communities in Deal and Brooklyn.

U.S. District Judge Jose Linares scheduled his sentencing for Jan. 5.

Two officials from Hudson County pleaded guilty to extortion charges in federal court in Newark last week and implicated a dozen other defendants -- including two former mayors and an assemblyman.

Edward Cheatam, 61, an ex-Jersey City education and housing official, said he took $70,000 in bribes and introduced a government informant who posed as a crooked developer to an array of Democratic officials who, he said, also took bribes. They include state Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, former Jersey City council candidate Louis Manzo and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini.

Cheatam also said he funneled a total of $15,000 in illegal contributions to the campaign of Jersey City's Democratic Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy. In exchange, Cheatam said, Healy and Beldini would help secure approvals for a luxury condominium building.

Two other Jersey City officials -- Maher Khalil, 39, a former health official, and Guy Catrillo, 54, a former planning aide -- became the first defendants in the case to admit guilt, telling a federal judge they took bribes from the informant.

-- Joe Ryan

Posted on: 2009/9/24 17:26

"JC Official 3" up for re-appointment as city director
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Czaplicki up for reappointment tonight

[from, September 23, 2009, 11:12 a.m.]

Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop says he will abstain on the council?s vote to reappoint Carl Czaplicki as the director of the Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce.

Czaplicki, who was Mayor Jerramiah Healy?s chief of staff before taking on his current position, appears in the federal corruption complaint against political consultant Joseph Cardwell as ?JC Official 3.?

?I don?t think I can vote yes at this time until the situation is cleared,? said Fulop, who thinks that Czaplicki should be left on in an acting capacity. ?There is a cloud looming here, so I think the mayor/council should leave him as is until the situation is cleared further. There is no reason for the mayor to endorse or reject him today in light of the recent events until there is more info.?

Czaplicki has not been charged, but was a close political ally of Cardwell?s and figures prominently in the corruption complaint against him. In it, Cardwell claims to be the middleman between Czaplicki and the FBI's cooperating witness, Solomon Dwek.

Czaplicki met with Dwek (?CW?), who was posing as a developer, at a Jersey City restaurant. According to the complaint, Dwek asked Czaplicki for help securing approvals for a fictitious development project.

According to the complaint, ?In response, JC Official 3 told the CW that JC Official 3 could offer the CW advice and only wanted what was good for Jersey City. JC Official 3 further added that if he could ?fast track? matters, then he would do so.?

Later, Dwek attempted to hand Czaplicki an envelope stuffed with $10,000 in cash but was rebuffed.

?JC Official 3 then told the CW that he did not do that, and that the CW should deal with defendant Cardwell, who knew both JC Official 3 and the mayor. JC official 3 told the CW that there would be events and tickets and that defendant Cardwell knew the ?playing field.??

Despite Czaplicki?s appearance in the federal complaint, Healy (who appears in a different federal corruption complaint as ?JC Official 4? and who has been visited by the FBI since the July corruption busts), had no second thoughts about reappointing him.

?Based on [Healy?s] reading of the complaint, it appears that JC Official 3 did nothing untoward or illegal,? said city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill.

Czaplicki?s reappointment is not expected to meet with much resistance in the council. Ward B Councilman Phil Kenny told that he does not have an issue with Czaplicki. At-large Councilman Peter Brennan said that if Czaplicki had done anything wrong the feds would have arrested him.

?I?m not going to put any guilt on someone when there?s nothing there. Fulop will put guilt on someone to get his name in the paper,? he said.

Council President Mariano Vega was arrested in the same sweep that took down Cardwell and many other Jersey City employees and political figures.

Czaplicki is one of seven agency heads who are up for reappointment tonight. The others are Business Administrator Brian O?Reilly, Fire Director Armando Roman, Police Director Samuel Jefferson, Health and Human Services Director Harry Melendez, Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis and Recreation Director Joseph Macchi. Public Works Acting Director John Yurchak is expected to continue in an acting capacity.

-- Matt Friedman

Posted on: 2009/9/23 16:06

Tax Abatement Policy Criticism Draws Council Anger
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Tempers flare as Jersey City officials debate tax abatement policy with critic

[from "The Jersey Journal," September 21, 2009, 10:42 p.m.]

According to a New Jersey think tank, Jersey City gives out more tax abatements than anywhere else in the state, robbing the city, county and schools of much needed taxes and unfairly burdening residents of non-abated properties with an unfair financial burden.

But administration official, armed with 29 pages of rebuttal, and the Jersey City City Council, got into a hot debate with the report?s co-author, Naomi Mueller Bressler of New Jersey Policy Perspective, at tonight's City Council caucus.

?We believe that tax abatements represent the most powerful economic development tool we have at our disposal,? Mayor Jerramiah Healy wrote in the introduction to the city?s rebuttal.

The NJPP report gave the example of Sugar House, a 65-unit tax-abated condominium. The report says that in 2007, condo owners there paid a total of $695,477, 95 percent of it going to Jersey City. But if they had paid conventional taxes, they would have paid more than twice that ? $1,627,108, with $746,477 going to the city.

But Jersey City Business Administrator Brian O?Reilly challenged Bressler?s calculations, wielding their own calculations on four buildings ? 101 Hudson, 10 Exchange Place, Cali-Grove Street and Harborside Plaza 2 & 3 ? that recently switched from abatements to conventional taxes. He said in those examples, the city received an average of 31 percent less under conventional taxes.

Bressler countered that even in cases where abatements benefited Jersey City, abated properties still shortchanged the county and schools, leaving residents in non-abated properties in Jersey City, as well as taxpayers across the state in the case of the schools, make up the difference.

She also made several recommendations to the city including that the city should grant abatements only in truly blighted areas, open the process of granting abatements to the public, limit the percentage of a municipality?s revenue that can come from tax abatements so that municipalities do not overly rely on this money to balance budgets, limit abatements to 10 years, bar elected officials from granting abatements to developers who have contributed to their campaigns and give county and school districts a greater share of the tax-abatement money.

City officials said in their written response that they have opened the abatement process by opening tax abatement committee meetings to the public and that the developer pay-to-play ordinance, which passed Sept. 9. The response rejected most of the remaining recommendations.

Afterward, Downtown resident Mark Smith, who owns a brownstone on Grand Street, said he was disappointed by the response to the presentation. ?People who live in luxury waterfront condos pay a fraction of what I pay and I sense there?s an inequality that needs to be addressed,? he said.

But he said it was obvious that the presentation ?pushed some buttons? for the council leading to a defensive response. ?They addressed minor issues but they didn?t seem to put much thought into the issues in the report,? he said.

-- Amy Sara Clark

Posted on: 2009/9/22 5:50

Re: Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez a Florida Resident?
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Lopez's attorney again seeks residency suit's dismissal

[from, September 21, 2009, 1:13 p.m.]

Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez will pay thousands of dollars the State of Florida claims she owes because she is, in fact, a Jersey City resident, her attorney argued in a brief submitted Friday.

The attorney, William Northgrave, says that Lopez mistakenly continued to claim a homestead exemption on her Orlando, Fla. house that was intended only for permanent Florida residents after she moved to Jersey City in 2000. She has ?taken steps to correct that error? and will pay more than $30,000 the state says she owes in back taxes and penalties. Even the letter informing Lopez of her mistake ?recognizes that taxpayers are often not aware of the legal requirements for the exemption,? Northgrave wrote.

Lopez, who overwhelmingly won the May election to represent Ward C on the Jersey City Council ? becoming the city?s first Latina councilwoman ? is fighting to hold on to her council seat over allegations that she is technically a Florida resident. In the brief, Northgrave seeks dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds that Lopez has been a Jersey City resident since ?at least? 2000 and that it was filed well past the 30 days statute of limitations for challenging election results.

The case is set to go to trial in Hudson County Superior Court on October 26.

The suit was originally filed in late June by Jimmy King, a civic activist who finished second behind in the May election. After King was arrested on corruption charges in July, good government reformer Norrice Raymaker ? who also ran in May and finished third ? picked up where he left off.

In the brief, Northgrave argues that Lopez, despite being registered to vote in both New Jersey and Florida, has not voted in Florida since 1997 ?to the best of her recollection.?

?She believed, mistakenly, tahat her registration in New Jersey would have voided her registration in Florida,? wrote Northgrave.

Lopez has denied casting an absentee ballot in a 2003 election for mayor of Orlando, although Florida officials told the Jersey Journal that they have a record of the vote and that the ballot?s signature seems to match Lopez?s. She registered to vote in New Jersey in 2001 at the Corbin Avenue address she shares with her husband, Hudson County Director of Family Services Ben Lopez, and has voted from there 17 times.

Moreover, Northgrave argues, 24 of Lopez?s Corbin Avenue neighbors signed her nominating petitions for council.

Northgrave cited several precedents that showed candidates allowed to run despite more dramatic examples of residency issues, noting that courts generally interpret election law liberally to avoid voter disenfranchisement. In supporting that argument, he notes twice that Lopez, who ran on Mayor Jerramiah Healy's well-funded slate, got 100 votes more than her five opponents combined.

And although Raymaker knew that Lopez owned the Florida home as early as January, she did not challenge her until King was arrested, Northgrave argues.

Northgrave?s brief did not reference the fact that Lopez filed her income taxes in Florida ? where there is no state income tax ? despite testifying at a deposition that her business, Nidia Boehringer Consulting, operates exclusively in New Jersey.

?The discovery process has only raised more questions about Mrs. Lopez?s residency. It doesn?t answer them, and we believe the voters deserve a trial,? said Diana Jeffrey, who represents Raymaker.

Jeffrey, noted that Northgrave has used the statute of limitations argument before, when he tried to keep Raymaker from taking over the suit. Without any new information, she said, it would likely be rejected for a second time.

?It sounds to me like Northgrave is really just laying the foundation for an appeal,? she said. ?The issue of whether or not we have the right to intervene has already been decided by the court.?

-- Matt Friedman

Posted on: 2009/9/21 18:52

"Journal" Calls for Healy's 'Leaving Office,' Sort Of
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Editorial: 'No Comment' is Healy's middle name

[from "The Jersey Journal, September 21, 2009," 12:01 a.m.]

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy is a unique person. He does not see corruption, hears no corruption, and never speaks about corruption in his administration or among those politically associated with him.

Can anyone imagine any mayor of a major city in the country refusing to comment on the admitted bribe taking in their administration?

Healy, an attorney and former municipal judge, may be trying to pass off his silence as a noble gesture, a code among officers of the court. His no comments use the crutch of "an ongoing investigation."

The people of Jersey City have a right to hear why some people in the government of the man they elected to office seem so bent on filling their pockets and illegally financing the mayor's return to power. Is the arrogance so great that this elected official feels no need to comment on the criminal behavior of not only those on the city payroll who were caught extorting thousands of dollars but at least one person he selected to run on his ticket in May.

Friday, Ed Cheatam, a former city Housing Authority commissioner, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit extortion and admitted funneling bribes to Healy's campaign war chest.

Healy would not comment except to repeat that he will give to charity any money given to anyone by an FBI informant and donated to his election campaign. Perhaps someday the mayor will tell the public which charities benefited from what are essentially federal funds, which is one reason Healy may not be able to ultimately be so charitable.

Municipal employees Maher Khalil and Guy Catrillo, who ran on the mayor's slate in May and lost, pleaded guilty earlier this month, admitting in federal court they took bribes. Healy would not comment.

Also this month, former Jersey City building inspector Randolph Condi was sentenced to 13 months in federal court for taking bribes. The mayor did not comment on the corruption. His spokeswoman's response was very clinical, and there was nothing from Healy.

City health official Joseph Castagna was among those 44 people arrested July 23 by the FBI in connection with its major corruption investigation. Castagna is also being investigated by local police for issuing too many food vendor licenses. Healy declined to comment.

He would not say anything about most of the others who worked for the city or who are politically connected to him and were handcuffed in July in the mass arrests.

Only City Council President Mariano Vega and Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini have received some words of support, not condemnation, from the mayor.

It is just one of the reasons people are demonstrating in front of City Hall demanding the resignation of Vega and Councilwoman Nidia Lopez, whose residency and right to sit as a city elected office are being challenged in court.

They are also demanding Healy step down.

Mayor, there is an insidious cancer in your administration and it is slowly killing the city. Stop pretending it does not exist, or leave office.

-- Ken Thorbourne

Posted on: 2009/9/21 12:15

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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Two more Jersey City officials are expected to plead guilty in N.J. corruption sweep

[from "The Star-Ledger," September 18, 2009, 12:00 p.m.]

NEWARK -- A Jersey City housing official arrived at the federal courthouse here, where he is expected to be the first of two people to plead guilty today in connection to the massive corruption sweep that netted 44 people in July.

Edward Cheatam, a housing authority commissioner, was indicted last month along with Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini for allegedly promising to help a government informant posing as a crooked developer secure building approvals in exchange for illicit campaign contributions to Jerramiah T. Healy, the city's Democratic mayor.

Healy has not been charged. Beldini has pleaded not guilty.

Cheatam is scheduled is appear before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares at noon.

The second defendant expected to plead guilty today is Denis Jaslow, an investigator for the Hudson County board of elections who and an ex-state corrections officer.

He is charged with taking a $2,500 bribe in exchange for introducing a Jersey City council candidate to a government informant posing as a crooked real estate developer. The informant said he wanted the independent candidate, Michael Manzo, to help secure a zoning change for a luxury condominium building.

Jaslow is scheduled is appear before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares at 12:30.

Last week, two other Jersey City officials -- Maher Khalil, 39, a former health official, and Guy Catrillo, 54, a former planning aide -- became the first defendants in the case to admit guilt, telling a federal judge they took bribes from the informant, identified failed Monmouth County developer Solomon Dwek.

Dwek was charged with bank fraud in 2006, then spent more than two years recording conversations for federal prosecutors during scores of meetings in diners, parked cars and boiler rooms.

His work led to the arrests three mayors, two state legislators, several political operatives and five rabbis from communities in Deal and Brooklyn.

-- Joe Ryan

Posted on: 2009/9/18 16:26

Re: Van Vorst Shooting on Wayne Street
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While still waiting for any word in the local paper (on Tuesday's shooting), anecdotal assurance was shared by JCPD brass (at a non-Downtown community meeting) that the police are progressing rapidly with their investigation.

TBD if this provides actual solace, but the JCPD brass said that Tuesday's gun violence was between the two individuals, the shooter and the victim. [Does this mean, in other words, that Wayne Street residents should feel comforted by the accuracy of the armed perp?]

Just thought the thread deserved some current (and relevant) information...

Posted on: 2009/9/17 1:37

Re: Jersey City Government Corruption Scandal - 16 arrested
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City Employee Retirement Board Approves Castagna?s Pension

[from "Jersey City Independent," September 16, 2009]

At a meeting of the Jersey City Employees Retirement System (ERS) board this morning, health department official Joseph Castagna?s request to receive early retirement benefits was approved.

Castagna, who was arrested on federal corruption charges in July, put in a request to retire after it was revealed that he is under investigation by the Jersey City Police Department for allegedly issuing more food vendor permits than the law allows.

Given that Castagna has not been formally charged, assistant business administrator Bob Kakoleski felt that the board ?should only consider the facts as they are today.? City staffer Ben Bruno and chief financial officer Donna Mauer, the other two commissioners present, agreed when they voted in favor of the request along with Kakoleski. Business administrator Brian O?Reilly recused himself from the vote because he has overseen disciplinary action brought by the city against Castagna in connection with his federal arrest. Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who is also a voting commissioner of the board, was not present at the meeting.

The commission agreed that their decision is subject to revision if Castagna is convicted of misusing his position in City Hall. As Bernie Hartnett, the independent attorney for the ERS, put it, the retirement benefit is ?expressly conditioned on the rendering of honorable service? to the city.

According to city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill, Castagna?s pension is more than $60,000 per year and he will receive a one-time payment of $84,414 for unused vacation and for 80 percent of unused sick time. Any future adjustments to Castagna?s benefit would impact only what he accrued after the date of his first criminal act.

-- Shane Smith


Innocence presumed, a retiring civil servant (or public official) should be due his/her accrued benefits. Bizarrely, though, those benefits - pension, unused vacation days, etc. - are not currently "revocable," should that same retiring civil servant/public official later plead guilty, or be found guilty in criminal court, of selling their office.

Posted on: 2009/9/17 1:22

Van Vorst Shooting on Wayne Street
Just can't stay away
Just can't stay away

At around 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday (9/15), a shooting occured in front of 98 Wayne Street, near the corner with Jersey Avenue. At least 10 marked police cars responded, witnesses gave statements, shells were collected, and the gunshot victim was treated at Christ Hospital (reportedly with wounds to the neck and head).

As well, a second report of gunfire at around 6:00 p.m. today was also investigated on the same block. A cuffed suspect was taken into custody.

Nothing is known about "what happened?" or "to whom?"

Astonishingly, seven hours after the first incident, none of the local online media -- "Journal," "Independent," or even "JCList" -- have any prior mention of this latest incident of violent crime. Hence, this post, to focus attention on something that happened just a few blocks from City Hall.

The street violence, the reactive policing, the media vacuum -- this entire episode portends bad news.

Posted on: 2009/9/16 1:59

Hudson County Pay-to-Play Equally Bad
Just can't stay away
Just can't stay away

Ban Pay-to-Play Redevelopment at County Level, Too

by Yvonne Balcer, Jersey City
[letter to the editor, "The Jersey Journal," September 8, 2009, 12:01 a.m.]

While I am glad to see encouraging talks that the Jersey City Municipal Council might pass a "redevelopment pay-to-play reform" ordinance, only part of the problem is being addressed -- corruption on the county level.

Specifically, I am referring to the Panepinto building that the county wants to buy under eminent domain.

I am one of many who spoke before the freeholder's meeting more than 20 years ago, when the county entered into a 20-year agreement with Joe Panepinto, former chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.

That agreement is an example of true "pay-to-play" because the terms of the agreement were above market value. While this agreement was executed under the former county executive, the former freeholders also saw no conflict with this contract.

This is just one small example why our county taxes continue to rise each year. Our tax bills essentially are used to reward political friends. The county needs to adopt a "redevelopment pay-to-play reform" ordinance.

Posted on: 2009/9/8 14:38

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