$667 Million In Liabilities You May Not Know About

By John Bury | October 22, 2014

The 2013 audit for Union County is out with a spate of interesting material but, as is my wont, I start with Note 15 on Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) costs, basically health insurance for retirees.  This had been fraudulently reported for years but in 2013 the county broke down and got a valuation done.  There remain questions about the validity of this report but it is far better than the previous methodology which consisted of pulling off random projections from the first OPEB valuation done for 2007.

Comparing Notes 15 for 2013 and 2012 we learn two important things:

  1. The estimated cost of retiree health care benefits less assets set aside to fund them as of 2013 comes to $667,300,978.  This is the value of benefits promised that future taxpayers will likely have to pick up.
  2. The county continues to sweeten these benefits

Continue reading “$667 Million In Liabilities You May Not Know About”

UCCF 10/16/14 Miscellany (Including Cranford on UCC Field)

By John Bury | October 19, 2014

Cranford asking about the status of the UCC Soccer field project:
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Grants and the Budget:
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Questions and no answers:
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UCCF 10/16/14: Kemper Contract Extended Again

By John Bury | October 18, 2014

2014-855: Amending Resolution No. 2014-533 to extend the contract with Kemper Sports Management to provide Golf Management Services until December 1, 2014; and further amending Resolution No. 2014-796 to increase the operational funding for the golf courses through December 1, 2014 in an amount not to exceed $250,000 for a total amount not to exceed $6,201,183.

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UCCF 10/16/14: Jail Situation

By John Bury | October 17, 2014

2014-854: Authorizing the County Manager to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Hudson for the assignment of employee, Diana Youst, as Acting Superintendent of the Union County Juvenile Detention Center for the period of October 27, 2014 through December 31, 2014 in the toal amount not to exceed $32,000.

Why this resolution?
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And what about those rumors about the Union County jail closing with prisoners being housed in Hudson County?
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The Christie reference to Hudson County:
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UCCF 10/16/14: Runnells Update

By John Bury | October 16, 2014

At tonight’s freeholder meetings there was about $1 million in Open Space Trust Fund money doled out to 19 municipalities who had contributed about $9 million into that fund (the remainder being appropriated by the county to pay employees, maintain their own parks, and pay off phantom debt)  and sent representatives to pick up those oversized checks.  Thankfully the idea was only to take pictures unless the recipients grabbed the microphone so it only lasted 32 minutes that you might see over the weekend.

The big news was the lack of movement on the big news.  Again the Kemper contract for golf operations was pulled from the docket and Kemper’s old contracted got extended through November.  There was an update on the proposed soccer field at Union County College.  The closing of the Union County Jail was addressed.

But first, the situation with Runnells:
Continue reading “UCCF 10/16/14: Runnells Update”

New Family Court House Staffing Costs a Mystery

By Tina Renna | October 16, 2014

Ground-Breaking-1024x681

An Open Public Records Act request seeking documents that would show the cost analysis and staffing projections, of the pending Sheriff’s Department coverage of the new Family Court House building was answered with 10 position controls showing new positions have been created, not yet filled, at $34,950 each, totaling $340,950, and a completely redacted memo from the Sheriff’s Department titled “Projected Staffing Needs for the New Family Court House Building”.

There is no telling if more positions will be created in the Sheriff’s department, and if there will be any promotions to supervise the new hires and building.

Similarly, an OPRA request seeking the projected costs of the maintenance coverage at the new building returned no documents.

An undated Union County Press release doesn’t state the cost of the project. The release projected the opening to be December 2014. However, the building doesn’t appear to be any where near completion at this writing. Questions asking for staffing costs during open public comment at freeholder meetings, where most of the people in the above photo were present, have gone unanswered.

Another posting on the County website outlines the project, with no costs listed. The projected opening date is December 2013.

UCCF 10/9/14: Union County Jail Closing

By John Bury | October 13, 2014

Accroding to an nj.com story just about everybody has been told that the Union County jail will close though PBA Local 199 still made their points at the last freeholder meeting.
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County Manager Faella explains the situation
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More from PBA Local 199:
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County Counsel Barry responds to PBA on OPRA request
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Before Freeholder comments PBA Local 199 leave en masse
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Runells Sale Tuesday

By John Bury | October 12, 2014

For those of you who may have missed it a notice appeared on the Union County Improvement Authority website dated Friday, October 10, 2014 that alerted the public to……

A Special Meeting of the Union County Improvement Authority (the “Authority”) has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 12:00 o’clock p.m. at the Union County Improvement Authority’s administrative offices located on the Third Floor of the Union County Resource Recovery Facility, 1499 Route 1 & 9 North, Rahway, New Jersey, 07065. This notice is given pursuant to the “Open Public Meetings Act,” N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 et seq

The Authority intends to discuss and formally consider the following, all, or a portion of which, may be discussed in executive session:
1) Contract Negotiations: Sale of Runnells Hospital/Center Management
2) Contract Negotiations: Renewable Energy/Cambridge

The public is hereby informed that, prior or subsequent to completion of any executive session discussion, official action may be taken with respect to these matters during the public portion of the meeting.
Portions of the meeting may be held in Executive Session. Official Action may be taken.

Why such haste and does this really meet OPMA notice requirements?  Announcing a meeting for the next business day (a weekend and holiday intervening)?  There is no other detail on this meeting so let’s conjecture.

Runnells is being sold so the UCIA can make the debt payment on the solar panel debacle that DeCotiis duped them into.  Any other explanation?

UCCF 10/9/14: Rahway River Park Stadium

By John Bury | October 12, 2014

Project questioned by Clark Residents (as reported on nj.com):
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Rahway pushes back
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More against the Stadium
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Wrapping it up
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What’s the holdup with the Jail Study

By Tina Renna | October 11, 2014

A jail study which was supposed to be released a year and a half ago, is still being kept from the public. I’ve been placing Open Public Records Act requests routinely seeking the release of this study. The latest response:

Dear Mrs. Renna, This email constitutes a formal and complete response to your September 15, 2014 OPRA request for “All studies, either completed or partially completed, produced pertaining to the Union County Jail January 1, 2012 to date”. Please be advised there is no completed study to provide. While there is a partially completed study, it is exempt from access pursuant to the “advisory, consultative, or deliberative material” exception within OPRA.
OPRA Compliance, Office of the Clerk of the Board

I expected this response, so at the same time I tried to get information about the study….

Dear Mrs. Renna, This email constitutes a formal and complete response to your September 15, 2014 OPRA request for ‘all correspondence between Union County officials and employees and Perselay Associates, Inc. and Paige Plus, January 1, 2012 to date’. The responsive documents are attached; the redactions required by OPRA are noted in the documents by numbers 1, 2, and 3. The redaction key is as follows: Attorney-client privileged information; Advisory, consultative, or deliberative material; Safety of persons or the public/security measures and surveillance techniques.

Documents released:
Correspondence Document 1

Correspondence Document 2

I just quickly glanced through the documents and found of interest:

In a proposal dated 5/10/12 outlining consultant services to review various aspects of the operation of the Union County Jail, Perselay Associates writes “ … in this engagement, Perselay Associates Inc. has formed a relationship with Gary Hilton, president of Paige Plus, LLC”. We are confident that we can review the operations of the jail and offer various suggestions to provide cost efficiencies and savings for your consideration.

On Thursday, January 9, 2014 Perselay sends an email to jail director Brian Riordan, “…The first would be a review of information for the report that I was told to hold up on several months ago, but now needs to be completed in the relatively near future.”

Well…. That was eight months ago. Why was he told to hold up on the report, and then told he needs to complete the report in the relatively near future? And why hasn’t it been completed yet?

I don’t represent the corrections officers, but if I did, I would fight like hell to force information out of the county. Including pursuing legal action to force Union County to release parts of this study. And I wouldn’t just rely on the county’s numbers. I’d be conducting my own research. You can be sure the county’s study is going to skewer the numbers to support their decision. For instance, it may not include all the costs of all the jail renovations, including the old Juvenile Detention Center which was renovated yet not repurposed for any use.

According to attorney Walter Luers who specializes in OPRA, the “advisory, consultative, or deliberative material” exception within OPRA is very broad in nature, however there may be parts of that study, like statistics or research figures, that a judge would release.”

This is a public safety issue of huge proportions, and it effects the livelihood of about 300 county employees. The fact that the county has admitted to discussions with Hudson County to possibly transfer Union County prisoners there, while keeping this study under wraps is suspicious. Are they using the study’s information to make a decision while not releasing the study to the public? Does the Corrections Officers Union have certain rights to access this Study in regards to collective bargaining rights? A judge might find that the public’s right to know outweighs Union County’s need to keep this entire study secret.

Why just sit around waiting for the county to release the study? It appears it may be tied into their decision on what to do about the jail, and it’s release is being manipulated.

Study’s history:

In the 2014 Union County Executive Budget the County Manager message states: “The County will soon be receiving a study I mentioned in last year’s budget message focusing on the Union County Jail, ….” Of course the CM does not mention that on February 1st of [2013] he had stated that that same study would be completed “within the next 30 days,”

The resolutions appropriating funds for the study:

In August 2012:
2012-646 FREEHOLDER BETTE JANE KOWALSKI: Authorizing the County Manager to award a contract to Perselay Associates, Inc., Chatham, New Jersey, for the development of a management study of the Union County Jail for the contract period August 20, 2012 through December 31, 2012 in an amount not to exceed $30,000.

In March 2013:
2013-57 FREEHOLDER BETTE JANE KOWALSKI: Amending Resolution Number 2012-646 to extend the contract period only with Perselay Associates, Inc., Chatham, New Jersey for the additional three (3) month period of January 1, 2013 through March 31, 2013 at no additional cost.

Also in March 2013 Geoffrey Perselay was named the new Union County Alliance Executive Director. The company he keeps: UNION COUNTY ALLIANCE 2013 BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

Mauro Checchio, Chairman, Union County Alliance
Anthony Albanese, Alman Group (son of former county manager George Albanese)
Linda Carter, County of Union (Freeholder Chair, Ex-Officio)
Karen Conway, Valley National Bank
George Devanney, Keywood Strategies (Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, former county manager)
Elizabeth Ealie, Wachovia Bank
Dr. Dawood Farahi, Kean University
Alfred Faella, County of Union (UC Manager, Ex-officio)
Frank Lehr, Frank H. Lehr Assoc. (former freeholder)
Richard Malcolm, Ironworker Local 480
Margaret M. McMenamin, Union County College
Daniel Sullivan, Union County Utilities Authority (former freeholder)
Maureen Tinen, Union County Economic Development Corp