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Court Drama Continues, April 6th & 8th Caucus & Council Meetings

Special Election Causes Budget Glitchal Election Causes Budget Glitch

(L to R) Councilmen Bill Petrick, Joel Pabon, Council President Lisa Nanton, Councilman Fernando Irizarry listen intently to the audio portion of Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Heidi Currier’s ruling regarding the 11/4/14 election at the 4/8/15 Council Meeting. *Photo by Carolyn Maxwell

(L to R) Councilmen Bill Petrick, Joel Pabon, Council President Lisa Nanton, Councilman Fernando Irizarry listen intently to the audio portion of Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Heidi Currier’s ruling regarding the 11/4/14 election at the 4/8/15 Council Meeting. *Photo by Carolyn Maxwell

– PERTH AMBOY – The 2015 Budget discussion was a topic on the 4/6/15 Caucus Agenda. B.A. Jillian Barrick told the Council, “This Budget was adopted last week by the you. There is a Flat Tax Levy, but the Property Values have increased for the first time in 5 years. We still have a $205 million debt which is 10% of our budget. We’ll have an increase in staff for Code Enforcement and in technological advancements for the Police, Code Enforcement and the Department of Public Works. We intend to hire 12 more Police Officers and 4 more Firefighters. A Budget Hearing will be held at 5 p.m. at City Hall on 4/13/15.”

Mayor Wilda Diaz then came up to speak. She was very pleased with the budget and thanked all of the employees involved in preparing it, “We still have a huge debt, but we never anticipated Sandy.” Then she raised her voice slightly stating, “There was one line item that was not budgeted (the Special Election). The City Clerk said it might cost around $75,000. The Superior Court judge called for this election because of fraud. We intend to go after the people that perpetrated this fraud and they should be held accountable. This will affect our Police Department who over a year ago committed themselves to an event that will be held the same week as this election.”

B.A. Jillian Barrick added, “We will have to adjust the budget because this special election is going to affect the Police Department and the City Clerk’s Office. We will have most of the burden on us.”

City Clerk Elaine Jasko interjected, “I have contacted the Board of Elections and they said they might be able to help us with some of the advertising.”

Barrick said some of the cost will include payment of poll workers and overtime for employees of the Police Department, City Clerk’s Office, etc. and rental space for voting machines.

Councilman Joel Pabon said, “The City loses because we have to pay most of the cost of the election.”

Mayor Diaz continued, “I want to seek some sort of recourse for the City over this fraud.”

Council President Lisa Nanton stated, “Corruption and poverty go hand in hand.”

Mayor Wilda Diaz (right) sits next to B.A. Jillian Barrick as they listen to the audio at the 4/8/15 Council Meeting.  *Photo by Carolyn Maxwell

Mayor Wilda Diaz (right) sits next to B.A. Jillian Barrick as they listen to the audio at the 4/8/15 Council Meeting. *Photo by Carolyn Maxwell

The Mayor continued, “People kept coming forward saying that votes were suppressed. Our taxpayers should not have to pay for this cost. Can you imagine what programs could be funded (senior, youth programs) with this $75,000.”

City Attorney Mark Blunda told those in attendance that the City is considering civil action and there is a possibility that the government may get involved in the case.

Chief Financial Officer Jill Goldy gave a more detailed explanation of some of the items on the budget. “There is a gross debt item on the budget which includes the schools, utilities (water, parking) and the City debt (sometimes issued by the MCIA (Middlesex County Improvement Authority)). Sometimes we have to issue bonding for our debt to get a project going. An example would be in order to get reimbursements from FEMA (i.e. damage from Sandy). The net debt is the true debt of the City. We hired a debt management service to help us out. We paid down some short term borrowing such as PARA (Perth Amboy Redevelopment Agency). In 1991, the water and utility which was privately funded was not reported as refundable debt. The initial money funded at that time was almost 3 times the $76 million we now owe the water company. Some of the $205 million debt we owe now is not all from the previous administration. Some of it is ours (Capital Improvement Projects) including such items as replacing equipment, road work, etc. The Sandy storm was devastating. If we didn’t have Sandy, we wouldn’t have had to incur an additional $72 million in debt.”

During the public portion, former Councilman Kenneth Balut was glad they were going to investigate this election. “And this election should not be the only election investigated. I’m asking Attorney Blunda to call the Attorney General and the FBI to help. This has been going on for years in the nursing homes. Computers were stolen from political party headquarters going back to the Vas Administration. The votes of the Council got us into this mess, even when some of you were sitting on the Board of Education. Elaine Flynn’s (Middlesex County Clerk) Office was raided. The Democratic Party is shattered. They only like certain Democratic Candidates. You need to OPRA to see how all money is spent.”

Resident Stanley Sierakowski came up to speak, “Anyone going to a Senior facility has to sign in and the administrators of that facility must let them know which residents are competent. I heard an appeal is pending (in the election fraud case). If it’s overturned, they’ll be no new election. The Prosecutor, then the Attorney General will continue the investigation. Wait for the appeal.”

Resident David Caba was concerned and puzzled why there are only two candidates on the ballot for the special election. “This election was very close.” Caba addressed Councilman Pabon and said, “You ran with Vas and then with Leslie Dominguez. Did you go to nursing homes then? (Pabon nodded “Probably.”) Then Caba continued, “My cousin (Jelmin Caba) who was on the New Direction for Perth Amboy slate lost by a small margin. Petrick, Diaz, Gonzalez and Caba should be on this special ballot. The trial should have been moved to another county. I don’t believe this judge. Senator Vitale asked for Joe Vas to step down when he was indicted. Have you (the Council) asked for Senator Robert Menendez to resign?”

Caba concluded by telling the Council, “You’re not looking good. The Feds are coming.”

When Resident Alan Silber came up to speak he asked City Clerk Elaine Jasko if there was a list of the names and addresses of all who voted. Jasko replied, “You can get that from the county.”

Silber continued, “There were administrators in a nursing home that gave money to the Mayor’s team. There was $140,000 for the Council Election. These were campaign funds not coming from the Mayor’s pocket. Petrick and Pabon spent much more on this election than what was spent in 2010. We really don’t know what happened. When we moved the election to November, it was said that we could save $50,000. Now the election costs $75,000?” Silber concluded by saying, “I’M A DEMOCRAT WITH NO PARTY. We’re paying for your lawyers. That’s a scam.”

City Attorney Mark Blunda answered some of the issues addressed by members of the audience regarding the Judge’s decision calling for a special election. “The court ordered only two candidates. The Trial was held in Middlesex County Superior Court and testimony was given on both sides. There was a violation of the American Constitution. The $75,000 cost should not be borne by the taxpayers. We can only try to reduce the debt. The judge did a finding then made her judgement.”

Mayor Diaz spoke after Blunda, “We should talk about the business development going on in the City at the Caucus Meetings.” She talked about some of the recent projects coming up such as the recent demolitions of AS&R (American Smelting and Refinery).

Councilman Joel Pabon made remarks after the Mayor, “I’m glad the Mayor brought up these projects. Some of the land that will be developed has been abandoned for at least 20 years. We have more than 60,000 people in Perth Amboy, no matter how much money we bring to the City, people will still complain.”

Mayor Diaz came back to speak, “There are businesspeople that have been in town for years and have given us guidance. We took recommendations from the studies conducted by independent entities. They all stated that we needed more recreation facilities for our residents. I have to go to elected officials to assist us in funding or to lobby for us. You don’t hear people who come to the meetings say this.”

Councilman Bill Petrick agreed with the Mayor, “A lot of companies are coming in and cleaning these properties and it’s a win-win situation for us.”

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Perth Amboy Calendar

MON. Jan 22
• City Council, Caucus,
4:30 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

WED. Jan 24
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

THURS. Jan 25
• Historic Preservation Commission
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

MON. Jan 29
• Special Public Meeting, RE: Discussion of Rezoning Ordinance
6 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

 

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!

South Amboy Calendar

WED. Jan. 31
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

WED. Feb. 7
• City Council, Business,
6 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!