Rahway River Park Stadium – A Little History

By John Bury | May 19, 2015

It started June 23, 2011 with:

2011-615, authorizing the County Manager to enter into a professional engineering services contract with Neglia Engineering Associated, Lyndhurst, New Jersey, for design, construction administration and inspection services for artificial turf & lights at Rahway River Park, Rahway, New Jersey, in an amount not to exceed $116,202.

and then on December 18, 2014:

2014-1080: Amending Resolution Number 2011-615, a Professional Engineering Service Contract with Neglia Associates of Lyndhurst, New Jersey for additional engineering and construction administration services for the Rahway River Park Project in an amount not to exceed $163,800.00 for a new contract amount not to exceed $280,002.00. (Union County Engineering Project Number 2011-019)

which was explained at that meeting:
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The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) referred to in the video was executed on August 25, 2014 (around the time  Mayor Samson Steinman and other Rahway politicians were cashing campaign-contribution checks from DeCotiis and Bohler) between the County of Union, the Board of Education of the City of Rahway, and the City of Rahway.  Excerpts from that MOU:

WHEREAS the Board has expressed a need for additional athletic fields to be used by its students. including Rahway High School students, for practices and for the hosting of home games of football, soccer and other sporting events (the “BOE Uses”); and

WHEREAS the City desires to contribute monetarily on its behalf as well as on behalf of the Board toward the repair, improvement and upgrading of athletic fields at Rahway Park in exchange for which the County will allow the Board of Education non- exclusive use of the upgraded athletic fields at Rahway Park for BOE Uses, at some of which Uses spectators would pay an admission fee that will be used for the benefit of Rahway High School or other school sponsored or school affiliated organizations and  sporting programs

A. The County, as Lead Agency, will procure the goods and services necessary for the planning, development and completion of the Project in accordance with the Local Public Contracts Law

B. The County shall enter into a formal written contract directly with the successful bidder (Contractor) on the Project, issue all purchase orders in its own name directly to the Contractor against the contract, and be invoiced by and receive statements from the Contractor. The County shall be solely responsible to the Contractor for all costs related to the Project, except that the City will provide the County with a contribution towards the cost of the Project….Said contribution by the City shall be in an amount equal to the final cost of the improvements which they have specifically requested be made to the multi-purpose field as ultimately determined upon final completion of the field, and which improvements are more specifically set forth in Section 5 below.

5. Compensation. The City agrees to contribute to all costs of construction arid all related installation required of a press box, sound system, bleachers, two team field pavilions) a pre-fabricated concession stand with bathrooms and a scoreboard (collectively, the “Amenities”) and any reasonable engineering costs associated with cha11ging the County’s existing plans for upgrades to the Park to include the Amenities. Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, the City’s obligation to contribute to construction of the Amenities is subject to the following: (i) prior to issuance of bids. the County shall confer with the City regarding the scope of tr1e Amenities to be bid by the specifications drafted by the County for the Amenities option shall be approved by the City prior to issuance of bids by the County, (iii) the County and the City shall establish a pre-bid estimate for the Amenities option prior to issuance of bids by the County, and (iv) in the event the County receives bids in excess of the pre-bid estimate for the Amenities Option the County shall first confer with the city to determine  bid estimate, in which case, the County may award ‘the Option; however, in the event the City, in its sole discretion, determines that it will not pay such additional amount, the County shall, in its sole discretion, either decline the Option or shall be obligated to pay the amount above the pre-bid estimate. The City shall have no obligation with respect to continued maintenance, upkeep or improvements to the Athletic Fields or other recreational facilities at the Park, and shall not be responsible for any other costs under this Agreement, except as otherwise expressly set forth herein.

As lead agency Union County has already paid Neglia Engineering $55,885.66 with another $224,166.84 budgeted for.

Here is the area of the park targeted for the ‘improvements’ as it looked last Sunday:
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Can Scotch Plains Vote on the Union County Budget?

By John Bury | May 19, 2015

The question was asked quite a few times since Freeholder Al Mirabella was named Business Administrator of Scotch Plains for $145,000 in which position he would be given orders by the Scotch Plains governing body who would then, for all practical purposes, have a vote on all county matters through their own freeholder liaison.  For example, if the Scotch Plains governing body put in an application for that $1.5 million in infrastructure funds the county made available in 2015 (applications were due to be submitted by yesterday and we will see who applied) would they instruct their business administrator to vote for that application in his role as county freeholder?

It is a tricky legal question that was answered last Thursday:
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15 Minutes of Public Budget Hearings

By John Bury | May 18, 2015

The introduced 2015 Union County budget with a tax increase that is $99,018 below the maximum allowable under law ($335,282,323 being the amount to be raised by taxation when the maximum under the “1977 Cap” and after utilization of the 2013 and 2014 cap banks was calculated to be $335,382,341) was open for public discussion and this is what we got:
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Fabricated-Grass-Roots Support for Rahway Stadium

By John Bury | May 16, 2015

At the last freeholder meeting there were about 20 Rahway youth soccer players with their parents supporting new soccer fields including presumably the new football stadium in the middle of Rahway River Park. As it turns out their attendance at this meeting was ‘suggested’ by a letter sent from the office of the mayor of Rahway dated April 29, 2015:

rahway steinman letter

Note that there is no mention of the stadium and it is made to appear that it is a “few vocal Clark residents’ who are trying to take away athletic opportunities from Rahway kids when in fact it is Mayor Steinman and his campaign donors* (mostly 20  individual lawyers form DeCotiis Fitzpatrick & Cole, LLP who donated $130 each – $2,600 total – to Steinman’s primary campaign and $375 each – $7,500 total – in the general election) who stand to benefit from the building of the stadium while the children of Rahway will have the largest recreation area in their city destroyed.

Tomorrow, Sunday, at 10:00 AM the Coalition to Save Rahway River Park will be spreading their truth.

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* DeCotiis covered themselves by also donating to the campaigns of Baker Giacobbe Miles & Mojica – Rahway Democrats in the amount of $500 each – $10,000 total – and these candidates also got $10,400 from Lud Bohler who puts down his occupation as engineer.  The Republican opponent, being unlikely to win and thus not in a position to dole out contracts got only some GOP party support along with his own money.  NJELEC records for 2014 in Rahway for all except Steinman are here.

UCCF 5/14/15: Miscellany

By John Bury | May 15, 2015

Among the subjects touched on at the last freeholder meeting:

The musicfest mentality is returning with big name acts announced for the May 30 R&B festival in Plainfield:
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According to an nj.com story on Thursday:

Union County officials settled a sexual harassment complaint that a social worker filed after she claimed she was fondled by a county police officer, and the officer was never charged or disciplined, according to the woman who filed suit.

Union County officials said the freeholders are expected to vote on a proposed settlement tonight, and that the suit has not yet been settled.

There was no vote but the freeholders were told what was going to happen:
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A freeholder showed frustration with Bruce Paterson constantly bringing up how much county vendors who get no bid contracts donate to freeholder campaigns by noting:

  1. laws in the most corrupt state in the nation make those bribes legal; and
  2. Super-pacs are bad too

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UCCF 5/14/15 Mixed Messages on Rahway River Park Stadium

By John Bury | May 14, 2015

Are there plans for a Rahway River Park Stadium? Will there be a public hearing next month?

Answers vary depending on who is speaking and who is being spoken to (i.e. patronized).

The second video is a full unedited version of the comments made tonight (both pro and con) at the freeholder meeting. The video below starts with Rahway Business Administrator (and UCIA board member) Cheron Rountree giving her slant at this Monday’s Rahway council meeting and then you have the freeholders saying there are no plans (when addressing the con-group) but accepting the thanks of those youth soccer proponents glad to get the new stadium and turf field:
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Rahway Doings

By John Bury | May 11, 2015

Tonight’s Rahway Council meeting had a lot of discussion about raises for council members and the mayor (who was not present) as follows:

Elected Officials
  Mayor $72,000 Annually
  President of Municipal Council $9,676 Annually
  Member of Municipal Council $8,043 Annually

There was an Associated Press story critical of the $51,000 raise for the mayor but those who supported it primarily pointed to former mayor Rick Proctor who had his salary reduced to $21,000 and resigned under pressure as making Rahway a laughing stock, something that apparently had turned around in the year-and-a-half that current mayor Samson Steinman has been in office.

The other issue was the stadium proposed for Rahway River Park with several people speaking in opposition.

Full videos of both issues are below but first we start with the county angle on the issues:
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Rahway Business Administrator Cheron Rountree responds:
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Comments on the mayor’s raise:
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Comments on Rahway River Park Stadium:
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Union County Jail employee charges hostile work environment

By Tina Renna | May 9, 2015

The Union County Watchdog Association routinely places OPRA requests for civil complaints and notices of claim filed which names the county or any of its officers or employees as defendants. There were many slip and falls and accidents in this last batch which covered February 17-March 31, 2015. One involves alleged bad behavior by corrections officers…. Again.

Union County Corrections Officer Marissa Taylor-Munger filed a Tort Claim though her attorney Matthew Rinaldo, claiming the County of Union is responsible for her harassment through willful failure to remedy a hostile work environment.

Excerpt from the claim:

This Notice is based on harassment and retaliation experienced by Ms. Taylor-Munger at the hands of Sgt. Kevin Burkert. Sgt. Burkert has been harassing Ms. Taylor-Munger on a continuous and regular basis since 2011 for no reason other than her gender as female and race as African American. Ms. Taylor-Munger made several complaints about Sgt. Burkert which were deemed substantiated. Sgt. Burkert has harassed African-American female co-workers and inmates in the past.

Sgt. Burkert has cornered Ms. Taylor Munger and has threatened and intimidated her. He has gone out of his way to ensure that her work assignments are under his supervision. Ms. Taylor-Munger has been in fear of physical harm at the hands of Sgt. Burkert. Sgt. Burkert has attempted to disparage Ms. Taylor-Munger’s reputation among her colleagues. Despite Sgt. Burkert’s behavior and past history, the County simply has given him a slap on the wrist and has taken no meaningful steps to stop his reign of terror against Ms. Taylor-Munger.

No meaningful discipline has been forthcoming as a result of the above incidents. Consequently, Sgt. Burkert has been and continues to be in a position to commit acts of harassment and retaliation against Ms. Taylor-Munger.

As a result, Ms. Taylor-Munger has suffered escalating anxiety, physical and emotional trauma, and depression.

The Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:8-1 to 59:8-11, requires that a party file notice of a tort claim against a public entity within ninety days of the accrual of a claim. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8(a). N.J.S.A. 59:8-8(b) further states that a party is “forever barred” from bringing a claim if “two years have elapsed since the accrual of the claim.”

This claim was filed on February 15, 2015. To date no public monies have been appropriated to defend Burkert or the County, and no civil complaint or settlement has been released through OPRA requests.

This isn’t the first time a Burkert was involved in a jail employee lawsuit.

Linda Stender Gets Help

By John Bury | May 7, 2015

Earlier this year the Union County Improvement Authority felt it needed help so they passed Resolution 26-2015:

WHEREAS, the Authority is currently involved in the development, financing, implementation management, administration and supervision of the following projects, including but not limited to, the general construction of the Union County Family Court Building, Renewable Energy Program, Shared Services Agreement with the Union County Utilities Authority, Union County College – Cranford Campus Expansion, the Union County College – Plainfield Campus Project; and the Roselle Community Center Project; and

WHEREAS, the Authority is presently engaged in discussions to undertake new projects and activities involving renewable energy and municipal development; and

WHEREAS, it has been determined that the position of Deputy Director/Project Manager of the Authority shall be created to work with the Authority and the Executive Director to assist, manage, supervise, and oversee the aforementioned projects and future projects of the Authority; and

WHEREAS, the Authority passed Resolution 66-2014 on July 2, 2014 approving the position of Deputy Director/Project Manager of the Union County Improvement Authority and directed the Executive Director to advertise the position and to report findings at the August 2014 Board meeting; and

WHEREAS, it has been determined that the position of Deputy Director/Project Manager of the Authority shall assist, support, promote, operate, direct, manage, oversee and otherwise fulfill his/her obligations to ensure the successful development, financing, implementation, administration and supervision of the numerous projects that the Authority is currently involved in; and

WHEREAS, the Authority hereby appoints Linda Stender to the position of Deputy Director/Project Manager of the Authority, whose curriculum vitae is attached hereto, at an annual salary of $90,000.00 effective February 10, 2015.

Apparently Linda Stender was not enough since at yesterday’s UCIA meeting they passed Resolution 37-2015:

WHEREAS, the Authority is currently involved in the development, financing, implementation management, administration and supervision of the following projects, including but not limited to, the general construction of the Union County Family Court Building, Renewable Energy Program, Shared Services Agreement with the Union County Utilities Authority, Union County College – Cranford Campus Expansion, the Union County College – Plainfield Campus Project; and the Roselle Community Center Project; and

WHEREAS, the Authority is presently engaged in discussions to undertake new projects and activities involving renewable energy and municipal development; and

WHEREAS, it has been determined that the position of Project Specialist of the Authority shall be created to work with the Authority, Executive Director, and the Deputy Director to assist, manage, supervise, and oversee the aforementioned projects and future projects of the Authority; and

WHEREAS, it has been determined that the position of Project Specialist of the Authority shall assist, support, promote, operate, direct, manage, oversee and otherwise fulfill his/her obligations to ensure the successful development, financing, implementation, administration and supervision of the numerous projects that the Authority is currently involved in; and

WHEREAS, the Authority hereby appoints Monica Perkins to the position of Project Specialist of the Authority, whose curriculum vitae is attached hereto, at an annual salary of $72,000.00 with benefits, effective May 11, 2015.

Monica Perkins, according to her resume, last worked for:

CITY OF ELIZABETH, Elizabeth,                                           NJ 2012 to present
Program Manager (Workforce Investment Act)
• Ensure that all programs and activities are implemented according to legislation, policies and procedure
• Assess the program requirements for youth.
• Identify and connect with. community organizations and other interested partners to provide work experience for youth.
• Responsible for improving the employability and work readiness skills of youth
• Recruit, mentor, and supervise youth participating in the program.
• Communicate with youth to determine their needs and interests.
• Ensure that youth and youth organizations are aware of program.
• Organize and develop enjoyable activities for participants to partake in.
• Develop positive and supportive relationships with all youth and families
• Conduct needs assessment among participants.
• Record statistical measures of public.participation in the program, compile photographic documentation,and prepare final  evaluation and report of the program at its completion;
• Providing training and workshops.
• Administering the TABE test.

You would assume that to be a full-time position but datauniverse does not show any Monica Perkins working for the City of Elizabeth in 2014.  There was a Patricia Perkins-Auguste on the the Elizabeth payroll and she happens to also be Elizabeth council president but no Monica Perkins.  So the poll question is:

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County ordered to pay $40,085.65 in free speech lawsuit

By Tina Renna | May 6, 2015

citizens-forum-logo

Almost four years after the Rutherford Institute filed a free speech lawsuit against Union County government over its efforts to censor a local TV show aired on Cranford’s local channel 35, in April 2015 a Judge approved my attorney’s fees in a total amount of $40,085.6S stating in part: This declaratory action was a direct result of the County’s baseless threats in its letters. Indeed, the very purpose of a cease-and-desist letter is to set the scene for litigation if the recipient does not obey…..

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, including Walter Luers, filed the lawsuit in 2011 after county officials ordered me to stop displaying the Union County Seal in the background of my public information show “Union County Citizen’s Forum” because it allegedly infringed on the County’s trademark rights.

My show, The Citizen’s Forum, simply featured me mostly reading county resolutions in which they appropriated funds. I did this because the county, unlike most municipalities, does not read their agenda items therefore people watching the meetings at home have no idea what they are voting to spend millions of dollars on.

My show made the county ballistic. In addition to threatening me with legal action they shamelessly harassed Cranford officials and its cable station staff. At one point County Attorney Norman Albert called the station and screamed at them. Freeholder B.J. Kowalski lied when she read false statements about the station during her comments at public meetings. And when democrats took control of the Cranford government body, they added political hacks to the Cable Station Advisory Board.

The county managed to intimidate Republican Councilman Mark Dugan as well. Dugan, an attorney, wrote an indemnity agreement which anyone producing a show on the cable station would be forced to sign in order to be aired. The agreement was poorly written from a legal standpoint, extremely restrictive, and would have left me vulnerable to being sued by the county. I put the show on hiatus.

In May 2014 in a resounding victory for the First Amendment, especially as it relates to freedom of the press, a federal court ruled in favor of my right to display Union County’s seal in the background of my public access television show. Ironically the seal features Hannah Caldwell, a hero of the American Revolution. Rejecting Union County’s claim that I was infringing on trademark protections associated with the seal, U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty asserted that my use of the seal is protected by the First Amendment and that the County’s infringement claims were a baseless attempt to impede my free expression in the pursuit of increased government transparency.

On April 21, 2015 a judge approved attorney’s fees in a total amount of $40,085.65.

Excerpts from the Opinion:

Judge Hammer found that there was an unusual discrepancy in the merits of the positions taken by the County and Renna. The County, Judge Hammer said, had asserted trademark rights that it knew, or should have known, did not exist. (R&R, 14). It had relied on federal and state trademark law, neither of which provide trademark protection to the “insignia” of a municipality. (Id. at 15) Attorneys’ fees, he therefore found, were appropriate……

……. True, the County did not file this action. It was, however, the aggressor: it sent a cease and desist letters with respect to Renna’s use of the seal. Renna’s counsel replied, stating inter alia that the Seal was not registrable and did not implicate commercial activity. Counsel for the County replied with a second letter that very misleadingly implied that the trademark was now registered (in fact it had been rejected). That letter also falsely implied that Renna might face criminal prosecution if she continued to use the County Seal.

…. The County’s threats seemingly intimidated the television station, which demanded an agreement of indemnity as a condition of continuing to carry Renna’s program. Under those circumstances, Renna
was not required to continue her alleged infringement (assuming the station would have permitted it) and wait for the County to sue her….

….The County argues that its pre-litigation conduct should not be considered in deciding a motion for attorneys’ fees. I disagree. The Third Circuit has explained that culpable conduct, while not required, may contribute to a case’s being considered “exceptional.” …..

…. In addition, the Supreme Court has emphasized that courts should consider the totality of the circumstances in deciding whether to award attorneys’ fees….

…Surely the relevant “circumstances” would include the events related in the complaint. This declaratory action was a direct result of the County’s baseless threats in its letters. Indeed, the very purpose of a cease-and-desist letter is to set the scene for litigation if the recipient does not obey. Finally, I note that virtually no facts were in dispute; the dispositive issues were legal ones……

There was not much question as to whether the plaintiff could marshal evidence to prove the facts she was asserting. Indeed, many of the relevant facts were stated or implied in the County’s own letters. The County’s defense was limited to assertion of its erroneous legal position. For several reasons, then, I reject the argument that an award of attorneys’ fees would not be proper because the County is a defendant…..

… I will adopt Judge Hammer’s Report and Recommendation with respect to the award of fees of $39,535.00, plus cots of $550.65 under the Lanham Act.

Kevin McNulty, United States District Judge

An ethics grievance I filed is pending against Norman Albert, Esq., formerly Union County’s First Assistant County Counsel. Albert has since been promoted to Director of Personnel, salary $120,566, while maintaining a private law firm in Cranford, NJ.