Kathleen Donovan's office is responsible for the production and publication of a newsletter, Bergen Blast. The Election Law Enforcement Commission deems these types of communications, when distributed within ninety days of an election, to be an in-kind campaign contribution, even if it does not contain an explicit appeal for the election or defeat of a candidate. The cost of producing the newsletter was incurred by the County of Bergen and it is illegal for a public entity to make political contributions.
The Fall edition of the Bergen Blast, which was distributed within ninety days of an election, is five pages in length yet features Kathleen Donovan’s name twenty seven times as well as her photograph eight times. The Summer edition of the Bergen Blast, which was also distributed within ninety days of an election, is four pages in length yet features Kathleen Donovan’s name seventeen times as well as her photograph seven times.
Donovan has reimbursed the County of Bergen the $878 in printing costs that were incurred in printing the Fall newsletter, however, the Bergen Record has reported that she will not reimburse the County of Bergen for the cost of the five staff members' time in producing and publishing the newsletter.
Donovan also contends, through her spokeswoman Jeanne Baratta, that she will not reimburse the County of Bergen for the cost of producing the Summer edition of the Bergen Blast because it was printed more than ninety days before an election. The law, however, is clear that the law is broken not when a political communication is produced but
broadcast within 90 days of the date of any election . . . .”
Tonight, the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a
resolution demanding that County Executive Kathleen Donovan reimburse
the County of Bergen for the cost of two editions of the Bergen Blast, deemed political propaganda, which were illegally produced using taxpayer funds.
The resolution orders the County Executive to immediately remove both editions of the newsletter from the county website and calls upon the County Treasurer and County Auditor to prepare a full accounting of the cost of production of the newsletter for the Freeholders. Upon receipt of the audit, the Freeholder Board will pursue reimbursement of the costs from the County Executive.
The resolution was passed with four yes votes and one abstention from Freeholder Maura Denicola. Freeholder Denicola's abstention is a clear message that she has placed political alliances above good governance. Freeholders Tanelli and Felice were absent from tonight's meeting.