Monday, April 21, 2014

Has the Council declared a Civil War?

At tonight's council meeting, Mayor John Labrosse opened the public portion of the meeting with a statement that Thom Ammirato will no longer be writing press releases or statements for himself or Deputy Mayor Kathy Canestrino. He cites personal reasons, as well as, open questions regarding Ammirato's county employment and the outstanding subpoenas that have been issued to three of Ammirato's employers.

Canestrino was absent from this evenings meeting. Council members Battaglia, Sims, and Greenman did not offer comment on the matter.

When asked if Ammirato's monthly pay of $6,500 would be adjusted for the lighter workload, Interim City Manager Anthony Rottino commented that Ammirato's salary is set by the council. When asked about Ammirato's pay being adjusted, Mayor Labrosse advised "not at this time."

It is clear that after the warnings of many a tax payer, Labrosse and Canestrino may be starting to 'see the light' as it pertains to jumping into bed with your political cronies. I wonder how many back room straw polls went to a 3-2 vote to terminate Ammirato? Or any other political hacks for that matter. I would urge Labrosse and Canestrino to push to have Ammirato's employment put on the agenda.  Bring the matter to a vote and let the council put their positions, and votes, on the record for the public.




Saturday, April 19, 2014

More election season political hirings in Bergen County?

After uncovering irregularities with Mr. Thom Ammirato's hire by the County of Bergen (and conflicts of interest with his City of Hackensack contract), I dug a little deeper into some of the County of Bergen's crop of hires from the Bergen County Republican Organization.  It appears that Mr. Ammirato's political hiring wasn't a fluke and there are some questionable hiring practices at One Bergen Plaza.

Republican Councilman (and candidate for reelection) from Rochelle Park, and former District 38 Assembly Candidate, Joseph Scarpa served for fourteen years as the Emerson Borough Administrator.  In November of 2013, for no doubt politically motivated reasons after a year of strife including harassment charges brought by the borough clerk and filed against a councilman, Mr. Scarpa's contract was not renewed.  Mr. Scarpa was paid through the end of the year and landed on his feet in no time as a Director of Administration and Program Development for Bergen County's Department of Public Works.

Mr. Scarpa submitted a job application to the County of Bergen on February 21, 2014.


For what he submitted an application, I am unsure.  As you can see below, I don't think he was certain either.


What he was hired for was an $85,000 per annum position as the Director of Administration and Program Development. 


I am not sure what this position was, so I asked.  I learned that Mr. Scarpa would be acting as basically a second in command to a department head.  A job that I am sure he is more than qualified, perhaps over qualified, for after serving fourteen years as a Borough Administrator. 


What was curious however, is that Mr. Scarpa's application for employment was seemingly blank.  There was no phone number, no background information, no position applied for, and no references.  Mr. Scarpa also did not submit a resume for consideration.  


According to dictionary.com, a resume is "a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job."  In Bergen County politics (I'm sorry, I mean government), applicants for jobs seem to not submit resumes (or even complete applications, for that matter).  I have asked for several other key employees' resumes and have been advised by County Counsel that no resumes were submitted.  It seems that in Bergen County the old it ain't what you know, but who you know, is less of an adage and more of an unwritten rule.

I wonder how Mr. Scarpa was contacted for an interview?  An email address and phone number were not provided.  How was his education confirmed?  A bachelor's degree is REQUIRED for this position, but the education information on the employment application was left blank (and no resume was submitted).  Since no phone number was provided, an interview had to be set up via mail, right?  I asked for communications with Mr. Scarpa from the personnel department and all that was produced was a short email announcing he was hired.  

Further, I find it curious that Mr. Scarpa did not disclose his past employments on his application.  He was specifically asked for all previous government employment on his application and he only disclosed that he was a Councilman in Rochelle Park.  He did not disclose that he was the Borough Administrator for Emerson (or Bogota) under the expansive "previous employer" section of the application. 




Mr. Scarpa is a direct report to Joe Crifasi, the Bergen County Director of Public Works, Chairman of District 36 of the Bergen County Republican Organization, and ghostwriter of many a political 'Letter to the Editor.'  I wonder if that is a coincidence? After all, Mr. Scarpa is an out of work Republican with strong ties to the BCRO....


What raised the most questions of all about this hiring is that the position seems to have gone UNADVERTISED!  I requested a copy of the advertisement for this position and I was provided an advertisement for a Director of Administration and Program Development in the Department of Human Services (NOT PUBLIC WORKS) from 2012.  Perhaps this is why Mr. Scarpa left the position applied for section of his application blank?



I followed up with County Counsel seeking clarification.  Perhaps naivete.... I did not understand how Mr. Scarpa was hired to a different department than the fifteen month old advertisement that the County relied upon for hiring him.  I also did not understand why Mr. Scarpa's base salary was more than three times the advertised rate.  Requests for clarifications have gone unanswered since April 4th.  




Further requests for employment applications have been DENIED by the Bergen County custodian of records.  County Counsel has taken the position that the job applications of other (what I deem to be) politically motivated hires (mostly direct reports to County Executive Kathe Donovan) are not subject to disclosure under OPRA.  When asked why Mr. Scarpa and Mr. Ammirato's were previously provided, I was advised they were provided in error.  It is funny how transparency and open government go out the window when you shake the wrong (well, right) branches.

**I take no issue with Mr. Scarpa or his employment by the County of Bergen.  I am certain that he is qualified, and even a nice guy as I was continually reassured of by the number of phone calls I received within 48 hours of submitting OPRA requests for his application and resume (it is funny how much chatter comes from both the County and City when I submit requests for documents).  What I take issue with is the non-transparent and politically motivated hirings, the what looks to be CREATION of a position.




Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hackensack holds opening day

Today, the Hackensack Recreation Department hosted their annual opening day for the youth baseball and softball programs at Foschini Park.

Girls Tee Ball Teams were sponsored by: 
Carvel of Hackensack 
The Hackensack Volunteer Ambulance Corps

Boys Tee Ball Teams were sponsored by: 
The Lodi Moose in Hackensack 
QuickChek 
Hackensack Rotary
Hackensack UNICO

The 7-8 Year Old Teams were sponsored by: 
Hackensack Late Nite Pizza and Steak
The First Presbyterian Church 
Hackensack Troast Athletic Club
Toyota of Hackensack

The 9-10 Year Old Teams were sponsored by:
The Hackensack Chamber of Commerce
The Hackensack Volunteer Ambulance Corps
Hackensack PBA Local #9
ShopRite of Hackensack (Inserra Supermarkets)

The 11-12 Year Old Teams were sponsored by:
Citizens for Change
The Hackensack Elks #658
Blue Dog Graphics

The 13-15 Year Old Teams were sponsored by:
 Pro-Player Baseball Academy
The Hackensack FOP

The Girl's Softball Team was sponsored by:
Parisian Beauty Academy





Saturday, April 5, 2014

HFD hosts MDA day

VIA HFD:

Hackensack Professional Firefighters, Locals 2081 & 3172, in coordination with the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Jersey hosted their 2014 fill the boot kick off campaign today.

Children and their families got to talk with firefighters, were given a tour of the firehouse, got to take home some fire safety items, and enjoyed a pizza lunch which was provided by IAFF locals 2081 & 3172.









“The smiles on the kid’s faces were priceless” said Hackensack Firefighter and IAFF local 2081 MDA coordinator Timothy Rice.

Hackensack firefighters have been working with MDA for over 35 years raising money to support MDA families.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Hackensack gets ready to "Slam Dunk the Junk"

Hackensack's annual "Clean-Up Day" will be taking place on Saturday, April 26th, RAIN OR SHINE.  

Check-in for volunteers will be held at 9am at Java's Brewin' (270 Main Street). Volunteers will help clean up parks, schools, and other public areas from 10am to noon.  A barbecue for the volunteers will be hosted by the Hackensack Elks at noon (37 Linden Street).

You (or your group) can register to participate in this annual clean up day by calling the Clean Communities Coordinator at 201-646-3920 x2013.  You can also fill out this form and submit it to cpanny@hackensack.org.

Pictures from the 2013 "Clean-Up Day"






Wednesday, March 26, 2014

YMCA of Greater Bergen County to host Healthy Kids Day®




On Saturday, April 12th, the YMCA of Greater Bergen County (360 Main Street, Hackensack) is holding a free community event to inspire more kids to keep their minds and bodies active. YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day® , the Y’s national initiative to improve families’ health and well-being, features games, healthy eating, demonstrations, arts and crafts and more to motivate and teach families how to develop a healthy routine at home.  

YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, celebrated at nearly 1,600 Ys across the country, aims to get more kids moving and learning, so they can keep up the habit all summer long – a critical out-of-school time for kids’ health. Research shows that without access to out-of-school physical and learning activities, kids fall behind academically. Kids also gain weight twice as fast during summer than the school year.

In celebration of YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, the Y offers the following tips to help families develop healthy habits:

·         High Five the Fruits and Veggies – Make sure kids get at least five servings a day, the minimum number nutritionists recommend to maintain healthy childhood development.
·         Foster an Early and Onging Passion for Books – Read to and with your kids. Help children read at every age and every stage of their development.
·         Team Up for Athletic Events – Set a family goal of great health by teaming up for community or charity events like races, walks, fun runs. Bike rides, etc.
·         Volunteer Together – Find a cause that matters to the kids. Open their eyes to a world beyond themselves and the rich rewards that come from making a difference.
·         Lead By Example – Be a good role model – kids can be influenced by seeing how hard their parents work at home or on the job, and how rewarding that experience is.

The YMCA of Greater Bergen County’s Healthy Kids Day takes place at 360 Main street, Hackensack NJ. from 10:00am to 1:00pm and features fun, active play and educational activities as well as an opportunity for the YMCA to recognize key leaders in the community. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hackensack Elks take forty children from youth home to the circus

Thanks to the Elks National Foundation (ENF), funds are available for Elks to invest back into and build stronger communities.  With the support of ENF, the Hackensack Elks took forty children from the Youth Consultation Services (YCS) of Bergen County, which is located in Hackensack, to the circus.

The children of the YCS group home, located in Hackensack, were able to enjoy an afternoon filled with fun and excitement.  The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show "Legends" featured performances with elephants, lions, tigers, and horses.  There were also performances by the trapeze artists the Tuniziani Troupe, the China National Acrobatic Troupe,  the Torres Family performing motorcycle stunts, and Alexander Lacey the lion and tiger tamer.








YCS, a 501(C)3 organization, was founded in 1918 to help the women and children left alone and/or abandoned by the aftermath of World War I.  Programs and services grew from this beginning and today YCS maintains programs throughout the state for children with special needs, from birth to 25 years of age.  Programs include: educational, psycho-therapeutic and psychiatric services in home and in our residential facilities, crisis intervention, foster care and treatment home placements, as well as our newest in home and residential programs for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  If you, your company, or organization would like to make a donation to or get involved with the YCS Foundation you can contact Kathy Mongon at KMongon@ycs.org.

The Elks is a national service organization with a 140+ year history and nearly one million members in 2,000 lodges around the country.  Local lodges invests in their communities through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, by undertaking projects that address unmet needs, and by honoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans.  The Order of Elks spends more than $80,000,000 per year in charitable programs.  If you are interested in becoming an Elk you can contact the Hackensack Lodge at 201-487-0658.