Runnels Hospital is still open for political vendettas
In March Union County moved forward with plans to sell Runnels Specialized Hospital. Tomorrow Linden Councilman Derek Armstead will report to work at Runnels which is known to be a dumping ground for low-show high-paid political patronage jobs, and paradoxically it is also known as a banishment and punishment for enemies of the Democratic machine which is the category Armstead falls under.
Last year the freeholder’s passed an ordinance which allowed the County to move many of their Runnells patronage positions into other departments thereby saving these employees from layoff when Runnells is sold, as well as giving these well connected employees bumping rights over other long-standing employees. Senator Nicholas Scutari’s uncle was one of them (salary $113,438).
Armstead, a Data Processor/Programmer has been stationed at the County Administration building in the Economic Development department, first learned of his transfer today, Wednesday-4/9/14, when he was told to report to Runnels as of tomorrow, Thursday-4/10/14. County employees assigned to Runnells do not know to date if they will be laid off after the sale is finalized. Armstead was hired by the County in June of 1998 (current salary $57,279).
Linden Democratic Machine Politics led by Freeholder Chairman Hudak
Derek Armstead was first elected to Linden City Council in November of 1993, and is currently serving his 4th term.
During an interview with this reporter, Armstead said he had several “high level meetings” which began at the League of Municipalities in November 2013 through January 2014 with State Senator Nicholas Scutari, who is also the Linden Prosecutor; and Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak, who is also the Linden Democratic Committee Chairman (and a Kean University employee). The Linden Democratic Committee offered Armstead a “clean shot” at Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka in November 2014 if he ran on their slate and gave up his primary challenge in June. Linden Mayoral candidates run along with the Council President and the problem, according to Armstead, was that he wanted to pick his own running mate. The committee wanted to pick the council president for him.
Armstead said he felt he had a right to choose someone who would be loyal to him and he gave several names to the committee who he thought would be acceptable to both parties; one name in particular raised a red flag for Armstead, Ralph Strano. Armstead said “When they didn’t find Ralph acceptable; I knew at that point that they had no intentions to mend the fences and move the Linden Democratic party forward.” “A lot of this has to do with Hudak’s unwillingness to move the party forward, and his inability to bring people together.” “They weren’t sincere in their efforts to try move things forward. If we are going to move forward then there has to be a dialogue with regards to how we move forward, we certainly aren’t going to be moving forward with the way things are done now. Linden residents aren’t being considered first.”
Armstead and his running mate, Union County Police Lieutenant Richard Puschel, will be challenging the Democratic slate consisting of Union County Keyboarding Clerk Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling who was hired in November 2013 (salary $28,959) and her running mate Jorge Alvarez. Alvarez is a former Linden Board of Education member who resigned his seat, then unsuccessfully tried to regain it a year later. Between the time of resigning his seat and running for re-election, Alvarez’s son got hired by the Linden Board of Education. According to Armstead this would have been against the Board’s anti-nepotism rules if Alvarez was a board member.
The winner of the June Democratic Primary will face the incumbent Independent candidate Mayor Richard Gerbounka and his running mate Jacqueline Williams in the November General Election.
In 2010 Councilman Armstead ran for Mayor, he beat the Democratic Committee backed candidate in the Primary election. He went on to lose the General Election to Independent Richard Gerbounka, who first became mayor in 2006 when he won the election by a 50-49% margin against long-ruling Mayor John T. Gregorio.
The Union County Prosecutor Incident
Armstead said he and his campaign volunteers have been busy registering people to vote, and he recently handed in about 50 new registrations. Shortly thereafter, one registrant called Armstead and said an investigator from the Union County Prosecutor’s office came to his home to question him about his registration. Armstead said he then called the prosecutor’s office and spoke to someone who confirmed that they were acting on a complaint from Dennis Scott Kobitz, Administrator of the Union County Board of Elections and when they receive a complaint from Kobitz, they have to investigate. Armstead doesn’t know of any charges to date stemming from this investigation, or if it is ongoing. He doesn’t believe anything improper was done. An excerpt from his biography listed on the City’s website states “I have personally registered over 1500 voters residents[sic] city wide with over 1200 of them living in the 4th Ward. I am very civic minded and live by the premise that there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching out and lifting people up.”
Messing with Armstead’s family
“You don’t mess with a man’s family under no circumstances. I didn’t sleep a wink last night.” Linden Councilman Derek Armstead, April 9, 2014.
According to Armstead, yesterday at dinner time, a caseworker for the Division of Youth and Family Services rang his doorbell asking to be let in for an investigation. His wife didn’t allow her in. The caseworker went away, and DYFS hasn’t been back since. Armstead said that follow-up phone calls to DYFS today revealed that the complaint was issued on the 3rd of this month and it listed “An unsafe living condition for the children, hanging wires, kids could get electrocuted”. Armstead also said that the person he spoke to at DYFS told him “I can assure you one thing, that the person who made this complaint is politically driven.”
This isn’t the first time DYFS investigated the Armstead’s. The first time occurred 3 years ago in the summer of 2011 when Armstead ran for his Linden City Council seat. No charges were brought against his family. Armstead faced a primary challenge that year, but he was the Democratic Committee candidate. He won the Primary and went on to win the General Election but states that the party didn’t really back him, instead they backed an Independent candidate that year.
Armstead wasn’t present when the DYFS worker came to his home last night. Armstead’s Wife, Danie Orelien-Armstead, answered the door and refused to let the DYFS worker in because she didn’t believe she was carrying the proper credentials, nor did she have a written order from the agency. The Armstead’s 4 children were home at the time: Two girls aged 16 and 7, and twin boys, age 8. Danie quickly sent the younger children, who were confused, to play in the basement, but not before they saw their mother in tears. It was their 16-year-old daughter who called her father at work to alert him to what was happening. A family friend was also visiting at the time and witnessed the incident.
Danie is a respected member of the Linden community. She is an award-winning tenured teacher of French and ESL in the Linden Public School System. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and holds two Masters Degrees in Instruction and Curriculum and Educational Leadership from Kean University. In October of 2011, she was selected to serve on the Union County Professional Development Board. A professional board that is charged with the responsibility of evaluation of the Union County school districts’ improvement plan.
The Armsteads pay $39,900 in Annual Property Tax bills
Today the Star-Ledger reported that the Armsteads were arrears in their property taxes. The article didn’t mention why they were reporting on this, who contacted them, or why they decided to investigate the Armsteads property tax history, except that it was first reported in the LocalSource by reporter Cheryl Hehl. Armstead stated Hehl never contacted him for the story and that her numbers were off. Hehl’s article states that “Armstead did not return multiple calls prior to press time”.
Without naming a source, or expounding on this sentence Hehl wrote “Although it is still early in the primary race, information about whether Armstead was actually a qualified candidate surfaced late last week.” She went on “According to several sources, the 4th Ward councilman is again in arrears in taxes involving several properties he owns in Linden…. She claimed “the LocalSource was able to verify this information by obtaining documents from the city tax assessor.”
This journalist’s personal experience with Cheryl Hehl is that she outright lied about trying to contact me in her past reporting. She didn’t attempt to contact my attorney either in what I viewed as a hit piece planted by the Democratic machine. And she wrote pure fiction when she reported on a protest in Hillside in which she credited me with orchestrating. Hehl has some credibility issues, to say the least. Requests to her editor for retractions were ignored.
According to Armstead the family owns 4 properties in Linden because, “We still believe in this town”.
The problem he says is a commercial property he purchased in 2010 on St. Georges Avenue with $140,000 down. The property has been empty while they struggle to renovate it. The taxes and fees on this property are approx. $5,000 because it is empty, he expects the taxes to be raised once the renovations are done and it is reappraised. They also have a mortgage on the property.
Armstead stated “I’ve never lost a property. I’ve owned properties since 1988 and haven’t lost a piece of property to a tax sale. All the years I’ve been here, I only made it to the list twice.” He blames his tax issue on the vacant St. George Ave. property which he believes will work itself out in time. “The bottom line is we’re still investing in Linden because we still believe in the town.”
Along with the commercial property mentioned above, the Armstead’s pay approximately $39,900 annually in property taxes and fees on their Linden properties:
Their home is a single family 6,000 sq. ft. new construction. Taxes/Fees: Approx. $13,000
Rental – 1-family home. Taxes/Fees: Approx. $7,000
Rental – Two family home. Taxes/Fees: approx. $14,900
“Property taxes in linden are just too high. We have to bring things in line so people can pay these taxes.” Linden Councilman Derrek Armstead, April 9, 2014.