The Politics behind one NJ budget cut

Among the cuts Governor Christie made in the newly adopted state budget was $3 million from “Union County Inmate Rehabilitation services” (listed here under Department of Corrections). Apparently the original budget allocated a $2.5 million increase from last year, the legislature bumped it up to $5.5 million, and Christie wouldn’t go for it. After you get past the bromides there is a real lesson in politics behind this cut and I still have more to learn.

First, let’s examine this line item with a video laying out Union County’s position:

As with most issues relating to Union County, there are more questions:

1) Adopted budgets show the the following revenue items under state aid for “Delaney Hall Drug Treatment” in Essex and “State Reimbursement – Delaney Hall” in Union:
………………..Essex…………….Union
2011……$18,000,000……..$2,500,000
2010……$15,000,000……..$ 0
2009……$18,525,000……..$3,900,000
2008……$19,000,000……..$4,000,000
2007……$20,000,000……..$ 0

2) What is Delaney Hall? A January 8, 2003 Essex County press release mentions:

The county executive suggested several innovative initiatives to create revenue for the county. Among those proposed items are:…” Receiving complete reimbursement from the state for Delaney Hall, an innovative drug treatment and rehabilitation program for inmates in the county correctional system that would reimburse the county $8 million.”

A Star-Ledger story last year including the following:

“We’ve been able to get results better than anywhere else in the country,” said John Clancy, a top executive with the West Caldwell-based Community Education Centers, which runs the facility. A number of political bigwigs attended the ceremony today, including Gov. Chris Christie, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo. “Places like this ought to be celebrated . . . as representing the very best of the human spirit,” Christie said. Delaney Hall is one of six facilities operated in the state by Clancy’s company, which has close ties to both major political parties. Its senior vice president Bill Palatucci has been a Christie confidante, while Clancy, its top executive, has been a major donor to Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex). Essex County is paying Education and Health Centers of America Inc. in Roseland, which contracts with Community Education Centers, up to $20 million a year to operate the facility, county officials said.

John J. Clancy is a major political donor to the people you’d expect him to be a major political donor to with William Palatucci working the other side of the street.

My Take: Based on what I see so far, it looks like this is a private vendor spending money on politicians to be able to run a drug treatment center for prisoners and making a ton of money off of it. It started in Essex County and then expanded to Union County around 2008 with the lure of state aid to offset expenses. Apparently prisoners require drug treatment and this would have been a way of getting state taxpayers to pay for it. Who Union County is actually paying is unclear. ‘Delaney Hall’ does not appear in the check registries though $787,930 was paid to UC Educational Services Comm in 2010 (which is the only vendor that looked like it could be linked to Clancy’s company) up from $421,635 in 2009, AND $423,008 in 2008.

That’s as far as I got. If anyone out there can explain, rebut or expand, feel free.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bpaterson on July 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I do not know the full extent of the facts, but from all the union county FH mtg discussions from the directors, union county sends the prisoners to delaney hall in essex county for the drug rehab. More than likely delaney hall bills Union county per inmate per day (plus meals as a guess if separate billing). That is the invoices that you found in the bills list. Since this program has been ongoing for many years it is not a trial basis. So union county paid $787k in 2010 for the cost of the program for UC prisoners. There is no other major costs involved, maybe just officer OT to transport.

    Now looking at the 2011 UC budget, UC then was going to receive $5.5 million dollars. This dollar amount is a pass through grant, but if UC only spent $1 mill last year and if all things remain the same then what happens to the $4 mill extra. The way Caroselli got mad about being shorted the grant moneis after the mtg (you know that infamous “FA” mtg you had) by all means that money was just being used to balance the UC budget. Was that misappropriation? Is it legal? Well UC got found out and the grant was reduced. Thats why they amended the budget at the last minute to off set that $3 mill reduction. UC budget is a house of cards, there is no one in control with the wherewithal to dismiss all these gimmicks, one time shots, abusive unjustified spending like the healthcare for life they stuck the taxpayers for thier employees, or that UCUA/Covanta refi farce where they stole $2mill from the tipping fees to balance their budget. Its a house of cards. The UC finances are in shambles, county taxes doubled in 10 years, the taxpayers are screwed. One has to wonder if fitch really goes into details when they give bond ratings to the county, or is it just poltics.

    The other side of the equation, the essex county grant of $18 million, sounds questionable also. Is part of that money to cover a lot more prionsers from essex county? Is that money also to pay for whatever, personnel and construction program costs are involved is the whole set up. UC just sends the prisoners over, so there is not other costs or outside burdens involved.

    Reply

    • Union County might have spent $6.2 million on some drug treatment program but I can’t find it in the check registry. I’ll keep looking but this may be similar to what Union County is doing with grants – that is, paying their employees. They may argue that their employees are doing the drug treatment so they deserve the state aid but the whole idea of providing that aid would have been so that it could be funneled to this donor’s company and that wouldn’t be getting done if county employees do the work.

      As for costs, those drug treatment places can get pricey. $1,000 a day is below average according to this:
      http://www.addict-help.com/treatmentcentercenters.asp

      What Union County would get is having the most troublesome prisoners elsewhere without costing them anything – or so they might have been told when they signed on.

      Reply

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