Sunday, November 16, 2014

SCOOP SHOUT OUT: Hackensack Rotary holds annual dictionary distribution

Every year, the Hackensack Rotary distributes dictionaries to every third grader in the City of Hackensack.  This week, the Hackensack Rotary held their annual dictionary distribution to promote literacy.  Below, please find a few pictures of this wonderful project.

Rotary is a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. Members of Rotary clubs, known as Rotarians, provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.

There are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. The Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.

Anyone interested in joining is encouraged to contact Rich Gelber @ email:

SCOOP SHOUT OUT: Hackensack Rotary and Lions team up to feed the hungry

This week, the Hackensack Rotary and Hackensack Lions Clubs teamed up to make a joint donation to the food pantry at The Church of St. Anthony of Padua.  Father Laffler of St. Anthony's remarked that there is a growing need for assistance within our community and he is thankful for the generosity of our community and local organizations in helping to satisfy those growing needs.  Father Laffler welcomes donations of non-perishable food items, which can be made at the church (72 Lodi Street).

Emil Canestrino (for the Hackensack Lions) and Rich Gelber (for the Hackensack Rotary) with Father Laffler

Monday, November 3, 2014

COUNTY EXECUTIVE RACE: Why this Republican is Voting for the Democrat

I guess the good (and the bad) part about writing a blog is that you can be as biased and critical as you want.  The good--I can write what I want, when I want, in the most editorialized way I want in order to make my point.  The bad--by expressing my opinions and editorial comments, I may alienate and drive away those potential readers who do not share my sentiment.

We live in a world that is so very polarized.  I admit, I was polarized--a blind party loyalist.  I was one of those young active party supporters who spent his nights before the election putting fliers on car windows and signs on street corners.  Over the last 18 months, writing this blog and really digging into matters of public concern have caused democrat, republican, and different factions of local political groups to all become grey.   Call me naive, call me idealistic, but the only black and white matters are right and wrong.  And believe me there is a lot wrong with our government leaders, on every level.

I like to think that despite my editorializing of the controversial issues I do a good job of presenting the facts, being on the side of the right, and promoting good government above ALL ELSE.  I think my record shows that and I find validation in the fact that some of the people who were my strongest adversaries are now among some of my most regular readers and vocal supporters.

When evaluating right versus wrong and determining who is best to lead the County of Bergen, this republican loyalist (who actively campaigned for Kathe Donovan in 2010) will be voting for the democratic challenger, Jim Tedesco.

A hypocritical stance on pay-to-play.  Donovan supported pay-to-play reform passed under a republican freeholder board.  Donovan vetoed three subsequent attempts by the freeholder board to ease the pay-to-play restrictions put in place.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a supporter of putting an end to pay-to-play and political patronage.  However, the facts show that Donovan's hardline stance on pay-to-play is nothing more than a show for the media.  Donovan can put on this show because she has found the way to circumvent the very rules that she says she supports--having funds funneled through SuperPAC's.  In 2010 and 2011, over $150,000 in first-time contributions were made to the republican SuperPAC "GOPAC" by county contractors. This money was later funneled back to Bergen County Republicans (including over $100,000 to Donovan) through a series of transfers to the Republican State Committee, Bergen County Republican Organization, Meadowlands UnitedPAC (controlled by the Crifasi's--Joe Crifasi is the Director of Public Works under the Donovan administration), Trawinski for Fair Lawn Council (Trawinski was County Administrator under the Donovan administration), and Baratta for Fair Lawn Council (Baratta is Donovan's Chief of Staff). 

If you think Donovan's circumventing pay-to-play regulations is bad, she outright broke election laws.  Donovan admitted to breaking the law for issuing a taxpayer funded newsletter (campaign literature) less than 90 days before Election Day.  Donovan reimbursed the County for the cost of printing the newsletter but refused to pay full restitution (the employee time of producing the illegal newsletter and the cost of a second newsletter which was produced and distributed). 

Veto? Don't mind if I do.  Kathe Donovan is Bergen County's fourth County Executive.  In Kathe Donovan's four years as County Executive she has issued an unprecedented number of vetoes.  Executives McNerney and McDowell issued none and her third predecessor Pat Schuber, when interviewed by The Record, could only remember issuing one.  I stopped counting Donovan's vetoes when I ran out of fingers and toes to count them on.  That's right, in Kathe Donovan's four years as County Executive she has issued more than 25 times more vetoes than all three of her predecessors combined.  Kathe defends her use of the veto by saying that people don't like to hear her say no.  Sounds more like the other way around... And then of course there are the lawsuits.... 

She doesn't set policy, she litigates policy (at our expense).  Donovan is embattled in lawsuits with every elected official with whom she works--the County Clerk, the Surrogate, the Sheriff (who is a republican mind you), and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Rather than working with her peers, Donovan says "my way or the highway."  And when her peers don't give in, she sues.  When she loses, she appeals.  Some see her "fighter spirit" as a positive--I see well over $1,000,000 in legal fees being spent on (a majority of) losing battles.  

Extravagant spender.  On herself, not on the taxpayers! Kathe says she "held the line" on property taxes and is fiscally conservative.  I call bull.  Kathe Donovan spent over $100,000 on travel and entertainment.  She also has a full time security detail of three Bergen County Police Officers (at the cost of the taxpayer).  All this while cutting services to our children.  Tedesco's team has identified $5 million in cuts to Bergen Community College (causing a 25% increase in tuition and fees), $1 million in cuts to the Technical Schools, and $500,000 in cuts from programs for special needs children. 

Playing politics with people's lives.  Whatever your feelings on the Bergen County Police Department's merger with the Bergen County Sheriff's Department, the dedicated hard working men and women of both departments are the innocent bystanders in this POLITICAL fight between politicians.  Kathe Donovan, however, continues to take her frustrations out on the officers. 

For over three years, Donovan has attempted to interfere with the Sheriff's Department's 2011-2014 contract.  Despite the union settling their contract, Donovan has publicly announced she "refuses" to sign it.  She has filed unfair labor practice complaints, motions, lawsuits, and appeals, in an attempt to get a seat on the opposite side of the negotiation table from the Sheriff's Department Local 134.  She has lost every round with judges asserting that she has overstepped her bounds and proclaiming that the Sheriff, and Sheriff alone, has the right to negotiate a contract with his officers' collective bargaining unit. Donovan thinks the Sheriff's Officer's 2% raises are too high, however she gave her Chief of Staff a 14% raise!

Donovan allegedly withheld the pay and benefits of six new hires to the Sheriff's Department by refusing to sign their request-for-personnel (M1) forms.  When the matter was pulled into the public spotlight, the forms were promptly signed (more than four weeks after the officers were hired).

Donovan has also interfered with the operations of the Bergen County Sheriff's Department in her attempt to stop Sheriff Saudino from acquiring two Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP's) from a Federal program (at no cost to the taxpayer).  Donovan justified the interference by noting that the Sheriff's Department did not have approved guidelines for use of these "military vehicles."  When asked for a copy of the guidelines for the Bergen County Police Department's two BearCat "military vehicles," none were able to be produced.  Despite Donovan's claims that the maintenance costs are prohibitive, and that there is no place for these military vehicles on the streets of Bergen County, she has not announced that she will be calling on the Bergen County Police Department to sell, or otherwise surrender, their two military style vehicles.  This is all further proof that her decisions are based on her political stance and not public safety or the best interests of taxpayers. 

Political hiring is rampant at One Bergen County Plaza. Ed Trawinski, Jeanne Baratta, Alan Marcus, Joe Scarpa, Joe Crifasi, Frank Valenzuela, the list of Bergen County Republicans that got jobs goes on and on.  And we all know the one nearest and dearest to my heart--Thom Ammirato.  Donovan's administration hired Thom Ammirato to a no show political job which was exposed by Hackensack Scoop and resulted in an agreement not to prosecute being executed with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office in exchange for a resignation.  When called before the Freeholder Board to answer for the hire, Donovan ducked the board.

After deciding that I could not vote to reelect Kathe Donovan, I went to a Tedesco campaign event to learn more about the alternative.  Jim Tedesco is a volunteer at heart who has spent 37 years serving the people of Paramus as a volunteer fire fighter.  Jim served seven years as the Mayor of Paramus and another two as a council member.  Jim has a vision for Bergen County and has promised to end the divisiveness that dominates Bergen County government.  Jim plans to restore funding to education programs and veterans services, promote economic expansion, address transportation issues, and has vowed to never sell the Bergen Regional Medical Center.  

Promises are easy to make.  We were all duped four years ago.  Sometimes we have to put a little faith in the promises of the alternative and when all else fails, go to meetings and raise hell to keep the politicians on track.

Do your civic duty.  Vote on Tuesday, November 4, 2014!

Friday, October 31, 2014

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Judge Issues Order to End Harassment, Intimidation, and Civil Rights Deprivations by Bergen County Police

Today, Donald Burke, Esq., filed a lawsuit and an order to show cause in United States District Court on behalf of Bergen County Sheriff's Officers James Tassillo, Alvin Nunez, and Elby Tineo.  The three were denied access to the Bergen County Administrative Building on October 23, 2014 because they were wearing shirts in support of Freeholder Jim Tedesco (who is seeking election to the office of County Executive on November 4, 2014).  James Giblin, the Assistant Director of Security, denied the three men access to the building citing that the building was a polling place and they were wearing political advertisements (which were prohibited within 100 feet of the entrance). 

The Deputy Attorney General has since weighed in advising the Superintendent of Elections, Patricia Dicostonza, that Giblin's assertion is inaccurate and that the County Administrative Building is not a polling place on a day that is not Election Day, a primary, or Board of Education election.

Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins told Cliffview Pilot that he disagreed and that the three Sheriff's Officers were also in violation of the ethics code of the County Administrative Code which "prohibits county employees from conducting such activity on county property."  In the suit Burke contends that "this interpretation of the County Code, prohibiting Bergen County employees from expressing support for candidates for public office while off duty and out of uniform is an unconstitutional infringement of the free speech rights of Bergen County employees and such a statement is intended to and does chill protected speech."  Burke goes on to state that these claims by Higgins "constitute threats, intimidation or coercion made unlawful by the New Jersey Civil Rights Act."

An Order to Show Cause for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraints was filed this afternoon seeking an order to:
  • stop any person from being denied access to the county administration building on the basis of content-based restrictions, 
  • stopping the defendants from labeling the county administration building a polling place except for on Election Day, and days when primary and Board of Education elections are held, 
  • and stopping the defendants from making further threatening, harassing, or intimidating statements regarding the plaintiff's attempts to engage in protected speech and expressive activities.  
The matter was scheduled to be heard on Monday, November 3, at 2:00 pm.  However, with the administrative building being open this weekend and County Counsel contending that the County would continue to restrict access to the building based on political speech (despite the Deputy Attorney General advising the building is NOT a polling place), Judge Salas ruled today on Burke's 21 page brief and issued the order for injunctive relief.  Until Election Day, no person shall be denied access, or otherwise be harassed or intimidated, based upon their expression of constitutionally protected free speech. 

The lawsuit against the County of Bergen, Kathleen Donovan, Brian Higgins, Bergen County Police Department, James Giblin, and John Does 1-10, will move forward.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Donovan's Army (Bergen County Police) Attempt to Continue to Violate Citizens' Civil Rights

On October 23, 2014, Bergen County Sheriff's Officer Romero attempted to enter the Bergen County administration building to attend a breakfast honoring county employees.  Romero is an 11 year veteran of the Bergen County Sheriff's Department and supporter of James Tedesco who is up for election for the office of Bergen County Executive on November 4th.  Romero was denied access to the building by Bergen County Police Officer William Pepard and Bergen County Security Officer James Giblin because he was wearing a shirt supporting Tedesco. 

Giblin and Pepard have contended that the county administration building is a polling place and according to Title 19 political advertisements can not be displayed within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place. 

Romero filed a lawsuit today claiming his civil rights and constitutionally protected right to free speech had been violated.

Community activist Bill Brennan went to the county administration building today donning his "Tedesco for County Executive" regalia and the Bergen County Police attempted to stop him from entering the building.  They detained him and threatened to charge him with a disorderly persons offense.... Until of course Bill Brennan steam rolled the opposition with the facts and the law.  Brennan demanded an opinion from the Superintendent of Elections.

The Superintendent of Elections, Patricia Dicostanzo, offered the final word on the matter.  Though the county administration building is a place where voters can cast their vote, it is only a polling place on election day.  Dicostanzo advised that she confirmed the same with the Assistant Attorney General.

Question--WHERE IS COUNTY COUNSEL?!?! Four Sheriff's Officers were denied access to the building because of their political speech and one resident was unlawfully detained and questioned? All this because they were voicing their support of a candidate for office?  Good job! What is this going to cost the taxpayers of Bergen County?!?

The Bergen County Police Department is clearly wrong and has continued to attempt to deny residents their constitutionally protected rights to free speech in this highly controversial election season (that by the way they have a vested interest in the outcome of as the merger of their department is the most hotly debated items between the candidates).  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Donovan Ducks Freeholders and DeNicola Continues to Put Politics Above Good Government

The Hackensack Scoop broke the first story regarding potential conflicts of interest that arose out of Thom Ammirato's multiple public employments (North Arlington, Hackensack, and the County of Bergen).  The issue quickly unraveled into an investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office which concluded with an agreement not to prosecute Ammirato in exchange for his resignation.  Last week, as this information regarding the agreement not to prosecute came to light (again uncovered by The Hackensack Scoop), the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders demanded that Kathe Donovan appear to answer questions regarding Ammirato's "no show" job. 

Despite acknowledging that the Freeholders have the right to summon her before the board to answer questions, Donovan appeared only briefly today to provide information which was already available and to advise that she would not participate in person with their inquiries.  Donovan's cohorts (Baratta, Kornfeld, and Kezmarsky) who were all served with Rice Notices were no shows for the hearing (they sent attorneys in their place). 

Donovan and her cohorts, rather than facing the music, have done nothing more than attempt to delay until after the election.  Today, the group's non-compliance forced the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders to pass a resolution authorizing county counsel to go to court seeking an order to show cause (wasting more tax dollars) to compel Donovan, Baratta, Kornfeld, and Kezmarsky to comply with their legal obligation to answer the board's inquiries. 

Freeholder Tracy Zur called the need for legal action to compel the County Executive to comply, "so unfortunate."  Zur went on to say that whenever the board seeks information from the County Executive they are "encountered with a stonewall." Zur, who offered the motion, says she did so with frustration and in an attempt to "engage in an inquiry on behalf of the taxpayers of Bergen County."

Denicola, in an apparent attempt to diminish the importance of guarding the taxpayers' purse, called the move political and deflected the focus of the meeting to no bid contracts and public relations fees.  Denicola was the lone no vote in compelling Donovan to answer the board's inquiry and was again the lone no vote in the resolution to authorize county counsel to seek legal remedy for Donovan's noncompliance with her duty to participate in the Freeholder Board's inquiry. 

What I am having a hard time reconciling is if Denicola's no votes were more for the political protection of Donovan, or Ammirato.  Denicola has a professional relationship with Thom Ammirato.  Denicola paid Ammirato's firm (The Write Associates) more than $5,000 in consulting fees during last year's election season (while Ammirato was under the controversial employ of the County of Bergen)... With this professional relationship, how could she not have abstained? 

Denicola did not answer a request for comment as of the publishing of this story. 

You just can't make this stuff up.....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

COUNTY EXEC RACE: Tedesco Claims Donovan Ran False Attack Ad, Files Suit Against County Executive

Jim Tedesco, the Democratic candidate for Bergen County Executive, today hosted a news conference to address the slanderous television commercial and mass mailing issued by Kathe Donovan.  He also highlighted the success of the affordable housing facility and how it benefits dozens of local families.

“Kathe Donovan released a television commercial and mailing which contains absolute lies and misinformation,” said Tedesco.  “She knew these were lies and yet she chose to release it anyway.  Bergen County deserves better.  We need a County Executive who tells the truth and works hard to help people instead of someone like Kathe who is dividing the county and litigating public policy.”

On Friday, Tedesco filed a defamation suit against Donovan and the Republican State Committee for deliberately promoting false accusations and lies when they said Tedesco “lost over $3.6 million worth of our tax dollars through illegal financial activities.”

Paramus used $3.6 million of COAH funds, which come from developer’s fees and not tax dollars, to build Parkview Residences on Ann Court – a project that was completed in partnership with the county and the state.  The facility contains a total of 48 affordable housing units for low to moderate income families.

Adding insult to injury, Donovan also criticized Tedesco for not paying his taxes.  The fact of the matter is that when Tedesco’s wife was in need of a double lung transplant and dying, the family lost sight of a $500 bill that was later paid.  Tedesco says these lies and insensitive remarks are proof that Kathe Donovan is "willing to say anything regardless of the truth in an attempt to win an election."