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Lawsuit claims zoning board rulings in Union City favor mayor's backers

For the second time in a year, Assemblyman and Union City Mayor Brian Stack has been accused in court papers of orchestrating rulings by the Union City Zoning Board to benefit his political supporters.

"Simply put, Zoning Board approvals are for sale," states the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Newark yesterday by Leonia developer Ralph Lieber. "Developers who contribute to the mayor's various war chests are rewarded with unanimous decisions for their projects. ... Those few dissenters who refuse to 'play the game' or those not savvy enough to even know the game is being played, risk almost certain rejection."

Behold Pablo, Jon and that Czech writer

TRENTON — Gov. Corzine should have told the whole truth from the start. He thinks he can shut down any investigation by saying something is private or that politicians can determine what is news. Were that the case, Watergate would have remained a third-rate burglary.

Take the developments surrounding his former squeeze, Carla Katz, union chief and real estate maven. Reporters asked how much total he forked over to her and Corzine keeps saying it is personal.

Negotiating sunshine laws. Step one: Just ask for information you want

The first thing to remember is that you have a right to know.

Government documents — budgets, environmental studies, contracts — are yours to see. The same goes for meetings of elected bodies. If your town board or city council is meeting, you are allowed to sit and listen.

There are exemptions — times when documents or meetings can be closed — such as when it comes to security issues or private employee matters. But for the most part, open government laws guarantee that you're entitled to know what your government is doing.

Critics: N.J. open records law has too many loopholes

New Jersey updated its open records law five years ago with the idea of giving the public a better view of what happens in government.

But open government advocates say New Jersey's law keeps more documents out of the public eye than similar Freedom of Information, or FOI, laws in other states — especially when it comes to records concerning the Legislature.

"It is probably in the bottom tier of FOI regimes," said Mitchell Pearlman, former director of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission and author of a forthcoming study on New Jersey's new law.

Pearlman said the law is flawed because it allows the governor, state agencies and each house of the Legislature easy ways to exempt records that they think should not be made public.

Still, the Open Public Records Act can be a useful tool for curious citizens and, especially, journalists.

N.J. court: Public can videotape meetings. Town erred in arrest of gadfly, justices say

Video cameras today are like the quill pens used hundreds of years ago to chronicle the actions of government, and New Jersey residents have a common-law right to use them to record public meetings, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

While it said governmental agencies can impose "reasonable guidelines" to make sure the recording does not disrupt their official business, the high court unanimously ruled in favor of Robert Wayne Tarus, a gadfly from Camden County who was arrested after he tried to videotape two Pine Hill Borough Council meetings in 2000.

The justices found the Pine Hill mayor was "arbitrary and unreasonable" in ordering the police chief to arrest Tarus -- a longtime critic of the mayor and council --because the borough had never adopted formal guidelines for videotaping public meetings.

Hoboken pol's DWI arrest exposes unspoken perk of public officials. Probe of NYC cop's 'courtesy call'

HOBOKEN - Shortly after 3 on a Saturday morning in late January, Councilman Chris Campos was driving his Mercedes Benz along the West Side Highway in New York City when police lights flashed in his rear view mirror.

What was initially a routine stop that Jan. 20 for driving through a red light, cops said, soon turned into a driving while intoxicated arrest - an embarrassing situation for an elected official.

But now eyebrows are being raised over a New York City cop's "courtesy call" across the Hudson in which he apparently asked a Hoboken sergeant if Campos should be let off the hook.

According to a tape recording of the phone call obtained by The Jersey Journal, a man who identifies himself as New York City Highway Patrol Officer Liotta asks Hoboken Police Sgt. James Peck if Campos should spend the rest of the night "as a guest of the city." Peck immediately tells Liotta that he should "do your duty" and enforce the law - adding later in the conversation that the city's police department has been "without a contract for two years."

Hudson lawmaker under new scrutiny. State looking at funding for child care facility with tie to Stack

A top Hudson County legislator, already the focus of an ongoing federal corruption probe, has come into the cross hairs of a separate state criminal investigation involving a publicly subsidized day care program operated by his wife.

The Attorney General's office subpoenaed records in connection with $200,000 in state funding earmarked by the Legislature for the child care facility in Union City, where Assemblyman Brian Stack (D-Hudson) also serves as mayor.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie also is examining those grants as part of his own investigation of nearly $1 billion in so-called "Christmas tree" items approved by the Legislature during the past three years.

Expanding probe hits office of governor. Budget records sought from 3 administrations

The federal investigation of the state's secretive budget process reached into the governor's office yesterday, as prosecutors subpoenaed three years of records involving nearly $1 billion in special interest grants.

The subpoenas, covering the administrations of three governors, sought budget records, computer files, reports and letters to determine what the state's top elected officials knew about the so-called "Christmas tree" awards.

The expanding inquiry, which had been focused on one influential senator who headed the powerful appropriations committee, is now looking at other lawmakers as well, including a Hudson County assemblyman whose estranged wife received a $100,000 state grant for a day care center she operates, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Uptown high-rise to hold charter school. 'Park on Park' garage will close to make way

Hoboken's Zoning Board unanimously approved a proposal last week for a 12-story building at 1415 14th St. that will include donated space for one of the city's two charter schools.

In addition to carving out 180 condos, 371 parking spaces, and some retail space, developer Bijou Properties is donating 46,000 square feet in the building for the Elysian Charter School.

The plot of land is currently shared by the Park on Park Garage and an undeveloped dirt lot located on 15th Street between Garden Street and Park Avenue.



The following appeared today on the NJ.COM Statehouse Forum

20019. Breaking News
by peaceatlast, 2/26/07 12:36 ET
Rumors are rampant in the Statehouse this morning that as part of the subpoena probe by Chris Christie, a legislator may have been wired for a number of months. We also hear that as many as 15 lawmakers and other politicos are among the targets. (2/26/07)

20019.1. Mostly Dems??
by happyjoey, 2/26/07 12:38 ET
Re: Breaking News by peaceatlast, 2/26/07

20019.1.1. Who Cares
by Babypig, 2/26/07 12:40 ET
Re: Breaking News by peaceatlast, 2/26/07
Dem, Repbub, gay, straight, man, women, black, white, don't matter, just throw them in jail!

20019.1.1.1. Mostly theDems
by happyjoey, 2/26/07 12:46 ET
Re: Breaking News by peaceatlast, 2/26/07

20019.2. I dont care what
by AntiTerror, 2/26/07 12:49 ET
Re: Breaking News by peaceatlast, 2/26/07
Party affliation, sex orientation, or religion they are from. NJ needs to clean house.