As quoted in Steven Hart’s book American Dictators on Depression-era political bosses it could apply in modern-day New Jersey with only a few new words (Hurricane, Sandy, Christie) or (unemployment, Union, County, government) and some new wrinkles.
Archive for the ‘Union County Government’ Category
I started attending Union County freeholder meetings about six years ago in part to get material for a weekly column I had in what is today the LocalSource and was then the Kenilworth Leader. At the time, to my amazement, the freeholders were not answering questions and I got an article out of it. Subsequently they started answering questions, to varying degrees, but this year it looks like they have relapsed (note that this video is unedited – the pause was really that long):
These ‘public servants’ smugly refuse to answer to the public. “It’s public comments not public questions” and we don’t need to answer to those who:
- pay the taxes
- take time to attend these meetings for no remuneration
- research the issues
- suffer the abuse and ridicule of those who expect they will have us pay for their defined benefit pensions and lifetime health benefits.
Shame on them:
Forms season almost done and the 33 filings still due are prepped so here is a potpourri of material that piled up over the last couple of weeks that would normally merit full blogs:
Somehow it has become a scandal when a retired government employee gets another public job that pays a salary. In an article out this week by New Jersey Watchdog the focus is on those retired on disability who get jobs working for the governor wherein state pension board member John Sierchio makes the point:
“These people are playing within the rules of the game. But the rules of the game are so absurd, they need to be changed.”
Exactly! Rules made up in essentially secret meetings based on advice from ‘experts’ paid to justify the needs of those who seek to benefit personally always seem to wind up over-benefiting those people who do pay attention (a cohort that excludes the general public and the media).
But once we have the rules then why vilify someone who plays by them and gets a windfall? Do you attack trial lawyers who get 40% of an injury settlement? Or TPAs who get 20 basis points for a 5-life-plan that happens to hold $10 million primarily from a DB rollover? Or Alex Rodriguez?
But I could be wrong. So noticing that the list of New Jersey retirees had been updated to June, 2013 I decided to search through pension records of Union County Freeholders to see if there was anything particularly irksome.
Really dumb ideas (Pension Obligation Bonds, starting up a restaurant) get justified even without any proof that a government can make them work. Vested interests sucker gullible, venal politicians into believing they can turn any half-assed project into gold since the politicians are infallible. After all, didn’t they just win an election?
The POB ploy blew up in Detroit and in Union County it’s the Red Knot. Both ideas seemed really stupid at the time but upon reflection…..
Can you videotape in a public place in New Jersey? According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press the rule is:
Hidden cameras: It is a crime of the third degree to photograph or record the “intimate parts” of a person or one engaged in a sexual act in a place where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, and to disclose any images obtained by these means. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-9. The law, however, does not criminalize the use of recording devices for other purposes in areas to which the public has access or there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (i.e., filming conversations on public streets or a hotel lobby)
And that was for HIDDEN cameras recording “intimate parts” and the expectation of privacy. My camera was out in the open in a public meeting room and focused on a door, not on any “intimate parts” involving sexual acts yet two lawyers plus a political flunkie said I couldn’t tape.
Give a political operative truth serum (in the guise of an emergency meeting that only ‘insiders’ were supposed to know about called to accept the resignation of his embattled benefactor) and you get their truth:
“I just want to say that it has always been my observation over the years that probably the most dangerous people to effective government are known as commentators. Commentators are those people that sit back and take pot shots and cherry pick and do things to make governmental officials look bad. I didn’t really realize that until I got into government because I in fact was in the private sector before that but Charlotte, on behalf of all government officials that are not just commentators but rather doers, I thank you for being the type of government official we would all like to be, strive to be, and in our wildest dreams will probably never accomplish. Thank you again Charlotte……L-A C-O-R-T-E”
I’m not not making this up. That’s what he really said. See:
It was supposed to be a ring-kissing ceremony as Union County political boss Charlotte DeFilippo was going to resign her public sinecure this afternoon at 3 pm in an ‘emergency meeting’ of the Union County Improvement Authority. Though she had been recently called an overpaid political hack after her terms of employment became public knowledge, this gathering was going to be a celebration as the people she handpicked for either public office or public employment (resulting in million-dollar pensions and lifetime health benefits for some of them) would gather to pay fealty.
However, at 2:20 pm I was tipped off and was able to crash the party with my camera.
The Mercatus Center released a working paper questioning if campaign finance reforms reduce public corruption.
In my experience it does not and I just happen to have a perfect example which I will present one week from today to the New Jersey’s Local Finance Board in regard to an application before them:
The reason I can call myself an actuary is that I passed a couple of exams in the 1980s and had the requisite experience then to become an Enrolled Actuary under ERISA which allows me to certify to the funding of Defined Benefit plans. But public plans are not covered under ERISA so what defines an actuary there?
Based on practically all the reports I have seen it is membership in the American Academy of Actuaries whose requirements include association with practically any organization with the word ‘actuary’ in its name plus a $75 sign-up fee and $605 annual dues. Then follow the Code of Professional Conduct which is a combination of common sense and following “applicable standards of practice” and you’re an actuary who can claim in your reports:
We hereby certify that, to the best of our knowledge, this report, including all costs and liabilities based on actuarial assumptions and methods adopted by the Board or mandated by statute, is complete and accurate and determined in conformance with generally recognized and accepted actuarial principles and practices, which are consistent with the Actuarial Standards of Practice promulgated by the Actuarial Standards Board and the applicable Guides to Professional Conduct, amplifying Opinions and supporting Recommendations of the American Academy of Actuaries.
But what are “generally recognized and accepted actuarial principles and practices” for public pension funding?