Friday, May 29, 2009

Jerry Green: Blog post on McWilliams family taken down

Jerry Green's Page

This post was taken down by the Assemblyman sometime before 8 AM, Friday, May 29, 2009.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Give the late Al McWilliams the Respect He Deserves

I hope that with these remaining 8 days in the primary, we can discuss issues that are of concern to residents. Unfortunately, my opponents and the candidates running against the Mayor have yet to discuss what I and the public consider as solutions and moving ahead in the right directions.

I have not only developed a working relationship with Senator Bob Menendez, who I served with in the Legislature early in my career, but also with just about every Congressman that represents New Jersey. These sorts of relationships are very reassuring when I am able to reach out personally and get answers and solutions for my District.

That is why it is important that I make it very clear that I have the utmost respect for the late Al McWilliams and his family. Even when some people use his name for political reasons, I try very hard not to respond in a manner that would offend or slight the McWilliams name. If these people were true friends of the late mayor, they would make it their business to give the family the same respect and not misuse the McWilliams name. Any response from me to negative attacks from the opposition would be "spun" as an attack on the McWilliams family.

Politics can be a very tough business. As an elected official, I understand being in a position where sometimes you have to accept things being said that are not true, only for the greater good. I always try to remember that i will have a life after politics, so that I can always look people in their faces and know that I have been fair and honest. I hope these principles are adhered to within these final 8 days of the primary, especially in the use of the McWilliams name.

Whether the McWilliams’ decide to get in the campaign or stay out of it, the late Mayor deserves that respect. I for one have no feelings of negativity towards his family, especially since his daughter is an elected official within my District. The only relationship we have is a professional one. All I ask is that those involved in this local campaign give the late Mayor Al McWilliams the respect he deserves by keeping him out of political games within this primary season.

Posted by Assemblyman Jerry Green at 11:34 AM

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Plainfield Schools - Courier - Guard suspended after strip search

Published in the Courier News, Saturday, May 16, 2009, page A-8

Guard who searched student suspended


PLAINFIELD -- A female security guard at the city high school has been suspended after she strip-searched a 15-year-old female student who was falsely accused of stealing a cell phone, school and police officials said.

Police launched an investigation into the incident shortly after it happened on May 8, according to Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig, who said authorities determined no touching or sexual gratification was involved and, therefore, no criminal charges are pending. But Hellwig said he supported the school district's decision to suspend the guard, callin the situation "an overstepping of her bounds."

"Although it's not criminal, it's certainly an intolerable action," Hellwig said.

Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III said the guard said the guard was suspended with pay immediately after the incident being reported, and added that a final decision on further action will be takend after school officials have an opportunity to review reports from police and the state division of Youth and Family Services, which conducted its own review.

Gallon said that based on preliminary assessments of the matter, he is recommending that the guard, whom he declined to be identified, be terminated.

"This allegation is something we take very seriously," Gallon said. "These alleged actions were taken outside any current appropriate procedures employ in regard to student safety."

Gallon said school officials have offered the student their support.

This item appeared in the print edition ONLY on Friday, May 16. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or CLIPS endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hackensack UMC - Record- Sanzari Involvement

Published on, Tuesday, April 28,2009

[HUMC, Coniglio, Sanzari, Bergen Dems, PMK, more]

Sanzari got years to pay his dumping bill

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Last updated: Tuesday April 28, 2009, 10:07 AM


Firms owned by Joseph Sanzari, the prominent contractor with deep ties to Bergen County's ruling Democratic Party, dumped fill and construction debris at the Overpeck Park site for two years without being charged, while other haulers paid by the truckload.

The firms dumped well over 100,000 cubic yards of debris at the county-owned site before Bergen County officials even sent a bill, in October 2007.

Sanzari's trucks by that time had been coming to Overpeck since the spring of 2005 and had run up a $609,000 tab, delivering thousands of loads from publicly financed road and redevelopment jobs across North Jersey.

Scores of other haulers, by contrast, paid tipping fees as often as 10 times a month, records show, with most paying two or three times a month.

Even after Sanzari began to make payments, records show he maintained a significant balance. In fact, his companies still owed $320,000 in tipping fees when The Record first started to ask questions about the matter earlier this month. County officials said that Joseph M. Sanzari Inc. made payments of $150,000 and $18,000 the week of April 13. A second firm, Creamer-Sanzari, A Joint Venture, paid $152,000 last Friday.

Bergen County's failure to collect from Sanzari's companies came at a time when officials were struggling to finance skyrocketing expenses associated with the Overpeck project. More than $100 million in bond offerings and open-space tax reserves have already been dedicated to the project site in Leonia, Teaneck and Ridgefield Park, where a former garbage dump is being converted into what officials promise will be "Bergen County's Central Park."

Those officials are now declining to discuss details of their dealings with Sanzari, a leading Democratic contributor who is also the employer of state Sen. Paul A. Sarlo of Wood-Ridge.

The Bergen County Improvement Authority, which has responsibility for the project, said it was not equipped to keep tabs on such a large undertaking. The quasi-governmental agency outsourced oversight for the project to PMK Group, a politically connected project-management firm.

"There's basically a staff of three people over there," Keith Furlong, a BCIA spokesman, said last week. "They rely on hired professionals to do the oversight."

Furlong, in a prepared statement, said Overpeck truckers "occasionally" make late tipping-fee payments. "This is typical during such a large construction project," he said.

He added that the agency has full faith in the work of PMK of Cranford, which has received $6.7 million since being hired as project manager in 2005.

In a brief interview before issuing the statement, Furlong said he could not explain why the agency had waited more than two years to collect payments from one of Overpeck's major fill suppliers. He did not respond to further questions this week.

PMK officials also did not respond to requests for interviews last week. Discussing the issue earlier this month, PMK executive Bashar Assadi said the county, not PMK, made all decisions about the haulers who dumped at Overpeck.

"We aren't bill collectors," said Assadi, PMK's lead man at the Overpeck site. "We tell the county if someone owes, and after that it is up to them."

BCIA records show that all Overpeck documents, including billing invoices, are signed by Executive Director Edward Hynes. In addition to its $140,000-a-year chief, the BCIA has a board of directors that has approved a range of expensive add-ons that have pushed the project's price tag past $70 million, from a $45 million cost estimate just two years ago.

Neither Hynes nor BCIA Chairman Ronald O'Malley returned phone calls for this story.

Sanzari's office also declined to discuss their record at Overpeck. But in a statement released last Friday, a company official said the county sent Sanzari's firms only two tipping-fee bills in the past four years.

"As of today Joseph M. Sanzari Inc. and its affiliated companies does not owe any money to the BCIA," said Jo Ann M. Dellechiaie, the company's vice president. "At all times during the project, [Sanzari companies] followed all protocols regarding testing, sampling and invoicing as established by PMK Engineering."

She said that the Sanzari firms — which have supplied about 15 percent of all Overpeck fill — have paid as much per cubic yard as other haulers who dumped at Overpeck, and sometimes more.

Sanzari, of Ho-Ho-Kus, and his construction firms enjoy a reputation for timely completion of complex public projects, including the successful reconstruction of the once-snarled intersection of Routes 4 and 17.

He also is known as one of New Jersey's most visible pay-to-play contractors, one with deep ties to officials who set state policy and make key spending decisions. State records attribute more than $100,000 in contributions to New Jersey candidates and committees since 2006 to Joseph M. Sanzari Inc. and those associated with the firm.

Between 2006 and 2008, his companies were awarded more than $380 million in public contracts.

As the chief operating officer of Sanzari's construction firm, Sarlo has a direct role overseeing the firm's multimillion-dollar dealings with state and local public agencies. His work includes the endorsement of bid documents and the review of expenses in public projects.

Sarlo also had his Trenton aide, Chris Eilert, sign some Sanzari company documents as a witness. Eilert said he is a notary public and any signature for Sarlo's company was probably done "over dinner" with Sarlo, off government property.

Sarlo says his employment by Sanzari does not conflict with his part-time job in Trenton, where he sits as a majority member of key committees that control state spending on construction projects. He declined to speak about Sanzari's record at Overpeck.

"I'm not really allowed to say anything," Sarlo said.

Sarlo declined to respond when informed of data that show J. Fletcher Creamer of Hackensack, Sanzari's partner in the Joint Venture, made frequent and regular payments to the county for material trucked in by a firm he owns separate from Sanzari.

Overpeck project records show that in the fall of 2007, Sarlo stepped in to stop the county from an attempt to collect some of the money owed by Sanzari's companies.

In a letter to the BCIA, PMK had recommended that the county withhold $200,000 it owed to another Sanzari-related firm, North Bergen Rock Products, for clean rocks used at the Overpeck site.

But in conversations with PMK, the records show, Sarlo successfully argued that the county could not withhold payment because North Bergen Rock, legally, is a separate company.

Asked if the county challenged Sarlo's interpretation or sought any further negotiation on the debt, a PMK official said he was uncertain what happened next, if anything.

"Sarlo told us we couldn't deduct the payment and, as far as I know, that was the end of the matter," said Assadi, the project manager.

North Bergen Rock Products lists its business address as 90 W. Franklin St., Hackensack. It is the same address as Joseph M. Sanzari Inc., and at least two other Sanzari companies.

Overpeck project invoices show that the county does not have records detailing how much material Sanzari's crews trucked in from the Carlstadt project. An Oct. 31, 2007, letter shows that the Overpeck project manager instead estimated the amount once it was already in place, noting that it was spread over 6 acres to a depth of about 4 feet.


Online story here. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or CLIPS endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Hackensack UMC - Record - Deep Dem Connections

Published on, Sunday, April 26,2009

Tangled web of power: Hospital's influence reaches far

Sunday, April 26, 2009
Last updated: Sunday April 26, 2009, 11:43 AM


The trial of former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio, convicted in a bribery scandal involving Hackensack University Medical Center, exposed the hospital’s reach into the State House — and put a spotlight on the wealthy, influential men who serve as the hospital’s power brokers.

Hackensack’s board members have connections and political muscle that extend far beyond the hospital. At black-tie fund-raisers and dinners at board member Joseph Sanzari’s Stony Hill Inn, business — hospital and otherwise — is on the agenda.

Various board members help to underwrite Bergen County’s Democratic machine and powerful lawmakers in Trenton. They’re awarded many of the region’s public construction contracts. They have the network — and the money — to smooth over zoning issues for the hospital. Testimony at the trial this month showed they supported the hiring of Coniglio, who was convicted of steering millions in grants to Hackensack while on the hospital’s payroll.

"A political machine" is how Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas R. Calcagni described the hospital as he told jurors about Hackensack’s relationships with former acting governor and Senate President Richard Codey, state Sen. Paul Sarlo, Coniglio and others during the trial.

"There are board members who could pick up the phone and call the governor and say, ‘I need help on this,’ " Coniglio’s defense lawyer, Gerald Krovatin, said at the trial.

The hospital’s most powerful board members include major contractors Sanzari and J. Fletcher Creamer Jr., whose political roots run as deep as their wallets. Joseph Simunovich, who rose up through the Hudson County political arena to become chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and a fund-raiser for Sen. Bob Menendez, is also a key member of the hospital’s inner circle of decision makers. With their help, John P. Ferguson, the hospital’s president and CEO, has taken what was once a community hospital and built it into a $1 billion enterprise — the busiest and, in many ways, the best hospital in the state.

But while Hackensack’s board members are generous donors — and prolific fund-raisers — some are also making money off the hospital. It’s a practice that is frowned upon by health care experts and outright banned at some hospitals in North Jersey, where officials say it crosses an ethical line.

A few examples from the hospital’s federal tax filings for 2007, the latest available:

* Companies owned by Sanzari and Creamer are building a 975-car garage as part of the $135 million cancer center now under construction. Creamer was paid more than $475,000 by the hospital for construction services.

* The hospital paid more than $2 million to Progenitor Cell Therapy, a private stem cell research company owned in part by Ferguson; Dr. Andrew Pecora, director of the cancer center; board members Peter C. Gerhard, George T. Croonquist and Samuel Toscano Jr.; and the hospital’s chief operating officer, Robert C. Garrett.

* The hospital paid $2.5 million to lease space from Sanzari 2001, where board member David Sanzari — Joseph’s cousin — is a managing member with an ownership stake. It also spent $68,000 at the Marriott at Glenpointe hotel, which is owned by David Sanzari’s family.

* The DeCotiis law firm, one of the most influential in the state, made more than $1 million from the hospital. It is representing the hospital in the Coniglio case and guiding its campaign to reopen Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood. During that time, Frank Huttle III, a partner, served on the board. He said Friday that he resigned recently.

* Universal Health, which operates a retail pharmacy at the hospital, received $200,000. At the time, Toscano was the company’s chief executive officer.

‘Squeaky clean’ is the goal

These types of arrangements trouble expert Jamie Orlikoff, who said hospitals nationally are moving away from allowing trustees to serve if they do business with their hospital.

"It doesn’t pass the smell test," said Orlikoff, a national adviser on governance and leadership to the American Hospital Association.

"When you govern a hospital, you’re governing the most important asset in the community," he said. "You should be squeaky clean."

Englewood Hospital and Medical Center had its general counsel step down from the board to avoid any conflict, said Douglas Duchek, the hospital’s president. Other than doctors, no other board members are being paid by the institution, he said.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, is so concerned about the potential for abuse that she introduced a bill in October that requires boards to disclose any potential or perceived conflict of interest. The bill also would require hospitals to solicit bids in awarding any contract for more than $25,000.

"If board members themselves are also making a profit from their association, that information should be fully divulged,’’ she said. "We can actually look at what’s grown up to be cozy relationships and decide whether they’re appropriate."

Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, D-Englewood, sponsored the bill in the Legislature. Her husband is Frank Huttle, who said he resigned from the board because of time constraints.

Screen of privacy

Despite all the public money that goes to the hospital, it’s considered a private institution. Board meetings are closed and contracts are not disclosed. That makes it difficult to paint a full picture of the business of running the hospital.

The hospital has offered little in the way of comment since the Coniglio trial began. On Friday afternoon, however, it released this statement:

"Community-based institutions throughout the nation rely on the support of local civic and business leaders who serve on their governing boards. Members of the Hackensack University Medical Center board of governors are generous with their time and their financial support, but more importantly have gained the skills to govern a complex institution such as ours. An independent, nationally recognized authority on not-for-profit governance has counseled HUMC for more than five years. The HUMC board’s best practices model includes a rigorous annual disclosure statement and ongoing education. This conflicts of interest policy is enforced by a dedicated committee of the board of governors."

The Record called Creamer, Sanzari, Ferguson, Toscano and other board members for this article, but only one, Simunovich, would speak.

Simunovich said he was "saddened" by the Coniglio verdict, but said board members were not involved in hiring the senator.

"We didn’t sign off on him," he said Thursday. "Board members don’t hire or fire."

He said he had been in Florida and hadn’t paid attention to the trial. "All I got was a phone call that he was found guilty," he said.

There are "no politicians that I know of [on the board]," Simunovich said. "You certainly do have corporate representation, and of course you have people we count on for their advice and guidance."

He did not respond to a question about the possible ethical tightrope walked by board members who do business with the hospital.

Big winners in grant race

The Coniglio trial served as a primer on the backroom politics of New Jersey, where certain grants, known as "Christmas tree items," were doled out based on who has "the juice." By all accounts, Hackensack mastered the game and loomed large in Trenton. From 2004 to 2006, the hospital received $17.4 million for its cancer center, an extra $9 million in charity care above the millions it was already getting and $250,000 for the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. A $900,000 research grant was awarded to the private stem cell firm at the hospital and $70,000 went for a seat belt study.

Those awards dwarf the grants given to Hackensack’s competitors. The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, for instance, took in less than $1 million a year in both state and federal grants during that time, according to the hospital’s tax filings.

Robert L. Torre, a hospital vice president who was given immunity to serve as the government’s star witness, testified that Ferguson authorized Coniglio’s hiring. Torre, who testified that he didn’t need Coniglio, said that after a conference call with Simunovich, Joseph Sanzari and Ferguson, it was clear Coniglio would be hired.

Coniglio, a former plumber, was paid $103,900 between May 2004 and February 2006 for a low-show "community relations" job at Hackensack. "Hackensack’s personal senator," as he was called at the trial, got a $500-a-month raise after the hospital received checks for state grants, prosecutors said.

But the trial showed the hospital’s reach went further than one legislator. Coniglio’s defense attorney said that Torre had "played Joe Coniglio like a fiddle" to get to Codey. A Dec. 13, 2005, report from Torre to his board of trustees credited Codey, in his role as acting governor, for a $9 million award for the cancer center, and noted $3 million of that grant would be earmarked for The Maureen Fund, established in honor of Codey’s aide, to fight ovarian cancer.

Weight to throw around

The power Hackensack wields comes as no surprise to other hospital executives.

"The trial hasn’t showed us anything we didn’t know. It’s not a level playing field," Duchek said. Englewood and Valley are battling Hackensack’s plan — and its considerable P.R. machine — to open a 128-bed hospital in Westwood, which they say could significantly harm the finances of other hospitals in the region.

Besides its board and its members’ connections, Hackensack has weight to throw around because it is Bergen County’s biggest business and one of the state’s top 10 employers. It boasts marquee physicians providing care that rivals that of the nation’s best hospitals.

Hackensack University Medical Center ranks high in nearly every national and state assessment of patient care. Founded in 1888 with 12 beds and as Bergen County’s first hospital, it now has 775 beds and 7,200 employees.

Its fund raising is the envy of the other hospitals in the region. Benefactors include Don Imus and his wife, Deirdre. Even in these tough times, the Hackensack University Medical Foundation reported a staggering $25.3 million in donations last year.

Hackensack’s president, Ferguson, is ranked 12th — just behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — in Modern Healthcare’s list of the most influential health care leaders in the nation.

The 60-year-old Park Ridge resident’s name came up often at the trial as the omnipotent boss involved in every decision. He was never charged or called to testify.

But the case may not be over for the hospital. When asked why hospital executives weren’t charged, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Brown said the investigation is continuing. "I think heads at HUMC should roll," jury foreman Walter Palkocki said. "Their culpability is significant."

Influential roles

At Hackensack, a few names — Simunovich, Ferguson, Sanzari, Creamer — keep showing up in influential roles on key boards. They serve as trustees of the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation, the hospital’s fund-raising arm, as well as the hospital’s board of governors and Hillcrest Health Service System, the hospital’s parent corporation. Leading contractors and developers — Sanzari, Creamer and John C. Fowler — are on the building committee.

During the trial, a large photo of Simunovich seated next to Codey at a hospital fund-raiser was shown to jurors as an example of his access and influence.

In his closing statement, Coniglio’s attorney credited Simunovich and Sanzari with snaring a $500,000 state grant for the hospital without the help of lobbyists or legislators.

Simunovich is the former chairman of the board of governors and current chairman of the board of trustees for the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation, the hospital’s fund-raising arm.

Simunovich, the former president of United Water Management and Services, was a Hudson County freeholder for 12 years, three as chairman. He served under three governors on the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and is the former chairman of the Bergen County Economic Development Corp., serving along with Ferguson and Creamer. The corporation was later part of a movement to create a bio-tech development area near the hospital.

Governor Corzine did not reappoint Simunovich to the Turnpike Authority in 2007 after he was investigated by the State Ethics Commission; as chairman, he had voted on millions in public contracts that were awarded to Sanzari while he accepted free rides on the contractor’s private jet. Simunovich paid a $50,000 fine, which was not an admission of guilt.

"Mr. Simunovich’s actions do not reflect the standards demanded by the governor for those who serve in his administration," Corzine’s then-spokesman Anthony Coley said.

During that probe, critics pointed out that a company run by Simunovich’s son-in-law landed a contract in 2005 to renovate a thrift shop run by the auxiliary of the hospital’s foundation. Torre said at the time that Simunovich had nothing to do with that decision.

Big contributor

Joseph Sanzari serves as first vice chairman, the No. 2 position on the hospital’s board of governors.

He’s a generous hospital contributor: He and his wife gave $10 million to the children’s and women’s hospital that bears their names. Just days before the trial began, Sanzari contributed an additional $1 million to Hackensack.

Sanzari, who started his business with two trucks and a backhoe, is a leader in highway construction. His companies have taken in more than $380 million in three years through contracts with public agencies, including the Turnpike Authority, Xanadu, and other entities, according to the pay-to-play databank prepared by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. The Ho-Ho-Kus resident is such a prominent contractor that he was once serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti at a builders’ event in his honor.

Sanzari is part owner of both the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack and the New Bridge Inn in New Milford, popular hangouts for Bergen County’s political elite. Sanzari, his companies and employees have contributed more than $100,000 to political campaigns and political action committees in the past three years, according to data the company provided to state elections regulators.

Among his top employees is state Sen. Paul Sarlo, also the mayor of Wood-Ridge. Sarlo oversees billions in public spending as a lead member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he also controls key appointments to state agencies that have awarded millions in contracts to Sanzari’s firms.

Sarlo, chief operating officer for Sanzari’s construction company, testified at the trial that he was largely responsible for getting the $900,000 grant for the hospital’s cancer center. He said he also lobbied Codey for the $9 million cancer center grant and played a role in the $900,000 grant for stem cell research at the hospital.

Deep connections

J. Fletcher Creamer Jr., the chairman of the hospital’s board of governors and vice chairman of the foundation board, also has deep connections in Bergen County.

J. Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc. received more than $84 million in public contracts in Bergen County and elsewhere in New Jersey from 2006 to 2008. The company contributed $152,185 to candidates or committees last year, according to ELEC’s pay-to-play Web site.

Like the Sanzaris, Creamer family members are significant contributors to the hospital: Hackensack’s trauma center bears the name of Jeffrey M. Creamer, the late brother of the current board chairman.

Frank Huttle — who is running for mayor in Englewood — is a partner in the Teaneck-based DeCotiis law firm, whose senior management includes chief counsels to two former governors and has a client roster that ranges from EnCap Golf and Xanadu to scores of public entities. Two partners in the firm attended the Coniglio trial virtually every day to represent the hospital.

Federal tax filings for 2007 identify several other board members who work for companies that do business with the hospital. For instance, the hospital paid North Jersey Media Group, The Record’s parent company, $371,255 for advertising in 2007. Jennifer Borg, vice president and general counsel, serves on the hospital’s boards.

In tax filings, the hospital notes: "Any goods purchased or services performed are done so at fair market value rates pursuant to arms length negotiations." The hospital’s bylaws require members of the board to tell the hospital of potential conflicts of interest and to abstain from voting on such issues, but that information — and even the votes — are not public.

Power over local decisions

Hackensack’s power, its money and its vast web of connections isn’t just in Trenton. It also reaches into the local level and into Washington:

* When the hospital wanted to build a new cancer center over the objections of residents, it turned to Scarinci & Hollenbeck, the influential firm where then-Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero was a partner. Two of the city’s five council members at the time were members of the county Democratic committee, a third was once a member, and a fourth had a job with the county. A political action committee run by the medical center had once donated thousands to this political team. In addition to those connections, the hospital paid the city $1 million and promised to take over its daytime ambulance services. Ferriero, who is now under federal indictment for conspiracy to commit fraud, notarized the deal, which was witnessed by Sanzari.

* Less than a week after the Bergen freeholders pledged not to take sides in the battle over whether Hackensack should be allowed to reopen Pascack Valley Hospital, they passed a unanimous resolution supporting Hackensack. That meeting was jammed with construction workers led by Richard "Buzzy" Dressel — a board member of Hackensack’s foundation who also is a leader of the county Democratic Party, the business manager of a local union itching for renovation work at Pascack and a partner in Sanzari’s New Bridge Inn. They grabbed all the seats before the session began, so that employees bused in from opposing hospitals were stuck in an overflow room.

* In Washington, Michael Hutton, a lobbyist who had done work for the hospital’s foundation, hosted a swanky reception to celebrate Menendez’s swearing in at the Senate in 2007. Hackensack hospital was among a handful of groups — including Verizon and AT&T — that funded the private celebration, where Simunovich and other partygoers feasted on shrimp and lobster pasta. When questioned later, Torre conceded that non-profit firms are barred from political activity. But this was not a political event, he said. "It was hosted by a third party," Torre said.

Union leader Ann Twomey said the trial "makes it clear there wasn’t enough oversight’’ at Hackensack.

"It’s a matter of making sure the scarce patient-care dollars are going to where they belong and that it’s not being influenced by those who are in the greatest position of power — the board of trustees," said Twomey, president of the Health Professional & Allied Employees, a union that represents employees at several area hospitals.

Twomey said Weinberg’s proposed legislation should outright ban trustees from doing any business with their hospital.

At The Valley Hospital, just one board member — its chairman, the president of a hospital supply company — does business with the hospital, said hospital President Audrey Meyers.

The chairman, Vincent Forlenza, who works at Becton, Dickinson and Co., does not participate in any decisions about purchasing supplies, she said.

The hospital directly bought $83,000 worth of supplies from the company and paid an additional $1.6 million as part of a group purchasing program, Meyers said.

"The Valley Hospital does not allow trustees to do business with the hospital unless a trustee works for a company where the value of our business is insignificant to that company," she said.

Others agree that hospitals need to stay away from mixing business with service on the board.

In the public’s mind, if a contractor who serves on the board is the successful bidder, there may be a perception of insider dealing, Orlikoff said.

"It’s exactly this sticky, one-hand-washes-the-other-hand mess you’re trying to avoid," he said.

Staff Writers Peter J. Sampson, Lindy Washburn, Mike Kelly, Jeff Pillets, Bob Groves and James M. O’Neill contributed to this article. E-mail:

Online story here. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or CLIPS endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

New Dems - PolitickerNJ - Mapp opens headquarters

Published on PolitickerNJ Monday, April 19,2009

April 19, 2009 - 3:43pm

In campaign HQ opener, Mapp appeals to 4th Ward,
emphasizes tough background

By Max Pizarro, Reporter

PLAINFIELD – Running as the New Democrat successor of the late Mayor Al McWilliams, 3rd Ward Councilman Adrian Mapp opened his campaign headquarters on Watchung Avenue Saturday and promised to end what he described as “a dictatorial form of government” in Union County’s Queen City, and to fairly represent all four wards.

“I will create an economic development plan that is not developer-driven, and develop an aggressive marketing plan to enhance Plainfield’s image,” said Mapp, standing at a podium in front of an American Flag hung from the ceiling. “With a transit village tax credit, the train station can be our linch pin for revitalization. I would also like to undertake a study of all brownfield structures and create retail store ratables where possible.”

A large concentration of those old structures stands in the 4th Ward, the city’s longtime poorest residential district and the epicenter of the 1967 Plainfield riots. When she first won election nearly four years ago with the establishment backing of Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield) , Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs defeated then-incumbent Mayor Al McWilliams in the 4th, 868 to 698 votes.

As a candidate on the New Democrats’ ticket with Mapp last year, McWilliams’ daughter, At-Large Councilwoman Annie McWilliams, came back and crushed Robinson-Briggs ally Councilman Harold Gibson. But while she beat him decisively in the 4th Ward, (233 to 151 votes), voter turnout remained low there compared to Plainfield’s other three wards. In the more affluent, New Democrat-controlled 2nd Ward, where McWilliams lives, she buried Gibson, 738 to 270.

On Saturday, Mapp made a special appeal to the 4th.

“We cannot leave anybody behind,” said the former freeholder, a native of Barbados who along with his wife raised two daughters in this city. “We must move forward with all four wards.”

Touted by his allies as an egghead who will be able to make surgical decisions regarding the city’s budget, Mapp works as the chief financial officer for the City of Roselle. That town’s mayor, Garrett Smith, Mapp’s wife Emilia and New Democrat Assembly candidate Rick Smiley joined a crowd of about 50 people at the storefront-sized downtown HQ in support of Mapp, who’s challenging Mayor Robinson-Briggs in the June 2nd Democratic Primary.

“You have a great man here,” Smith told Mapp’s allies. “You don’t get MBAs and CPAs everyday in this line, because of the dirt in politics, quality people don’t want to run. But you’ve got a gem, and he will be an awesome mayor.”

Pat Politano, campaign strategist for Robinson-Briggs, said there's nothing wrong with the current mayor.

"During Sharon's tenure, she has cut the murder rate by 300% - from 15 to five - and stabilized taxes," Politano said. "Come on, this is a candidate (Mapp) who collects two public paychecks and wants to be somebody. He's going nowhere. When he was a councilman (during the McWilliams era), he didn't even know the 4th Ward existed. He wanted to make cuts to the police department as a so-called fiscal lconservative without considering the impact in the greatest areas of need."

There is a larger political context to the mayor's race here, as Green and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Fanwood) face a 22nd District general election challenge from Republicans former Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks and his running mate, Bo Vastine. In the meantime, they will have to get through Smiley, 49, who heads the ticket in Plainfield that includes Mapp.

Employed by the City of Plainfield for 23 years as director of community relations among other jobs, Smiley is on leave from his job coordinating the opening of Headstart facilities, to focus on the campaign.

“The closing of Muhlenberg Hospital transcends Plainfield,” said Smiley, speaking to his signature campaign issue. “My message will get around. I’ve got a little time now to get my message out there.”

The New Democrats’ decision to not field a second assembly candidate indicates their focus on the mayor’s race. “I’m comfortable having Rick on the ticket,” said Mapp. “There is such a level of dissatisfaction in Plainfield and in the 22nd District. Every town in the legislative district was affected by the closing of the hospital.”

In the speech he gave on Saturday following a shorter address delivered by Smiley, Mapp invoked the idealism of Lincoln and Obama, and committed to embracing renewable energy, building the police department to a complement of 160 officers, and ensuring the federal census properly records Plainfield’s population over the 50,000 mark in order to land a coveted category to qualify for more inner city funding.

“Most importantly,” he said, “I will listen to you.”

On the battlefield of ward politics, the knock on Mapp is he’s too cerebral, but his allies repeatedly plugged his intellect and detail-oriented approach as irrefutable strengths. The well-spoken candidate himself referred to his hard background lest anyone confuse him with a silver spoon transplant.

“I was raised in a one-parent household in extreme poverty,” he said.

As the challenger reached the emotional high point of his speech, a car alarm went off in the adjoining alleyway. Undeterred, Mapp’s vocal chords competed momentarily before outlasting the distraction.

While the New Democrats possess the advantage of having just vaulted Mapp and McWilliams onto the council last year, they still face the money and machine edge enjoyed by the establishment, and a formidable opponent in the mayor.

New Democrat School Board Member Christian Estevez told the crowd, “That tired machine will recruit teenagers to work for them and those teenagers will take their money and dump their pamphlets in the gutter. But we’ll be out there working for every vote.”

Max Pizarro is a Reporter and can be reached via email at

Online story here. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or CLIPS endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

PMUA - Courier - Watson defends conferences, travel

Published in the Courier News print edition Sunday, May 10,2009

May 9, 2009 [online]

PMUA chief defends cost of training conferences,
travel for Plainfield agency's employees


Having fallen under fire earlier this year for introducing drastic rate hikes and laying off more than a dozen employees, the city's waste management organization is on the defensive again after it spent thousands of dollars to send more than a dozen top officials to a conference in California two weeks ago.

Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority Executive Director Eric Watson confirmed that 13 members of the organization's board of commissioners and other executives attended the 2009 National Forum for Black Public Administrators conference in Oakland, Calif., from April 25 to 29. The trip cost approximately $25,000, Watson said, with that amount covering hotel stays of up to six nights at the Oakland Marriott plus airline tickets and conference registration fees. Watson also said he was allotted a $140 daily per diem for the trip, with other staffers receiving daily per diems of $100 or $75 depending on their seniority.

The trip came less than four months after the authority raised its solid waste fees by 20 percent and its sanitary sewer fees by 14 percent for 2009, costing the city's average single-family household nearly $200 more per year. Officials cited falling revenues and rising costs as necessitating those moves, adding that 20 of the authority's 170 workers were laid off and the remainder asked to take unpaid furloughs to help offset deficits.

The California trip resulted in a flood of complaints from residents and authors of some of the city's popular blogs, and drew near-universal criticism from both sides of the city's sharply defined political fence that separates two powerful Democratic camps.

"I think it's ridiculous, it's an outrage, to have the PMUA — in light of the challenges taxpayers are facing lately, and the fact that people are being laid off — pay money to take (13) people out to California," said City Councilman Adrian Mapp, the mayoral candidate for the city's self-labeled "New Democrats." "I think it shows that the leadership of the PMUA is totally out of touch."

"This is the final straw, because the public is crying out that this has to stop," agreed Assemblyman Jerry Green, D-Plainfield, longtime leader of the city's traditional Democratic organization. "I'm looking at the bigger picture when I say some of the city's agencies ... run by commissioner appointment by the mayor and council almost feel that they're not accountable to anyone. Well, that's not true."


Authority officials vigorously defended the trip last week, claiming it was intended to help improve business practices and efficiency within the organization. Watson, who sits on the National Forum for Black Public Administrators board of directors, said classes and seminars at the conference centered on various topics including improving morale in the workplace, coping with stress associated with downsizing and applying for federal stimulus funding.

"I think it makes us better employees, and the more knowledgeable you are, the better. And if you have disgruntled and unhappy employees, that's pretty tough on your business," Watson said. "Conferences and training are part of your job, and we want our employees to be the best trained as they can be."

Authority Chairwoman Carol Ann Brokaw Boles, whose participation as a panelist during a conference seminar titled "A Three-Way Affair: Tightening the Bonds Between Local Government, Immigrants and Established Residents" is touted on the front page of the PMUA's Web site, agreed. Brokaw labeled recent criticism directed toward the authority as representing political posturing, not legitimate grievances.

"I'm not saying the PMUA is perfect, but nothing about any entity is perfect. And we certainly try everything we can to make our operation as efficient and intelligent as possible," said Brokaw, who recently announced her candidacy for mayor. "PMUA has just become political football this year, and some people have decided to make that the mantra of their entire political campaigns."

Watson further defended the trip by pointing out the authority's annual travel and training budget, which he estimated to have approached $175,000 in recent years, recently was slashed to $100,000 "because of the economy." He said the authority does not intend to curtail plans to send from four to six officials to two additional conferences in Las Vegas and Long Beach, Calif., later this year.

"To suggest a person shouldn't be able to go learn something and train is ridiculous," Watson said. "As long as I am executive director here, I will allow people to grow."


Explanations fell on deaf ears among many city residents.

"What are they doing? At a time like this, when the economy's bad and people are suffering, why would you do things that would create greater expenses for people and have to raise (rates) to pay for them?" asked Bill Pyfer, a 63-year-old retired federal agent who lives on Cedarbrook Road.

"It was a weekend vacation for these people," agreed Carol Pyfer, his wife. "I see very little being done for the good of the people here."

Philip Charles, who has spearheaded a residents' campaign against the PMUA by founding the Web site and filing a lawsuit against the authority that features multiple charges and plaintiffs, said he and other fellow residents were "deeply saddened" by the news.

"The fact that they would continue to send this number of people to these, I'm going to say quote-unquote, "workshops,' ... I find it hard to believe," Charles said. "Even after they increased rates and let people go ... their spending doesn't look like it's changed."

Both Green and Mapp pledged action on the matter, with the assemblyman recently asking the Office of the State Comptroller to "examine the entire operation of the PMUA ... because of the high rate of dissatisfaction with this agency," as he wrote on his blog.

"I feel we should put all our different agencies on notice, the school board, the housing authority, everyone, that the city cannot tolerate this any longer," Green said. "These are all agencies that really govern themselves, but it's time now that the mayor and council sit down and come up with a city-wide policy dealing with travel."

Mapp, who earlier this year pledged if elected to disband the PMUA and bring waste management under the auspices of City Hall, said he feels one of the only ways the authority can reverse damage to its reputation is by taking matters into its own hands.

"I would go as far as to say that the leadership of the PMUA should reimburse the authority for all of the expenses that were incurred (during the trip) in order to show they understand in simple terms the hardships that taxpayers are facing," Mapp said. "I challenge the leadership of the PMUA to do the right thing."

Additional Facts

• For more on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, visit, or call 908-226-2518.
Online story here. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or CLIPS endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.