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Andover lawsuits will be public

ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — A new local ordinance will keep legal payouts in the public eye — and put the township at the forefront of one facet of open government.

The “public reporting of civil judgments and settlements ordinance” — the first of its kind in New Jersey — was passed unanimously by the Township Committee Monday night.

The law requires officials to “make every effort to publicly announce the amount and terms” of lawsuit settlements and judgments against the township that result in public money being spent.

The ordinance was suggested by state open government activist Martin O’Shea, who passed away in December. O’Shea had suggested the model ordinance to Andover last summer, but the committee tabled it at the time, citing a lack of funds to advertise it in local newspapers.

Long-delayed Hoboken police audit recommends major staff cuts

Following a wait of several months, the operational audit of the Hoboken Police Department has now been released to the city. The audit makes recommendations for significant staffing cuts of approximately one-third of the force.

The report said the staffing needs for Hoboken Police Department are one chief, three captains, 12 lieutenants and 60 or 70 officers/detectives depending on the methodology applied. This determination reflects a staff reduction from 158 to 112 or 102 depending on the methodology applied, the report said.

Cutting spending in N.J.

President Obama could learn a lot about fiscal responsibility from New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The governor is making hard choices to close a $2.2 billion state budget deficit by freezing spending and erasing surpluses to meet current needs.

Mr. Christie is cutting money for schools, colleges, hospitals and the New Jersey Transit system - 375 line items total. He is removing noncitizens from the state health care system and canceling a jobs program that mainly created jobs for government bureaucrats. His cuts are intended to impose efficiency and accountability on government spending, concepts people generally do not associate with New Jersey politics.

Billboard blaming Union City mayor for unemployment, higher taxes torn down again

A billboard blaming Mayor Brian P. Stack for unemployment, increased property taxes and problems in schools has been torn down; and the man who paid for it is claiming that Stack or someone from his  administration did it.

"Certainly not," said a spokesman from the mayor's office, refuting the allegations. "Mayor Stack encourages spirited debate of the issues," he said.

 

Federal jury convicts Beldini on 2 bribery counts; she'll lose deputy mayor job, faces years in prison

A federal jury yesterday convicted suspended Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini of taking $20,000 in bribes that prosecutors say she funneled into Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy's re-election campaign last year.

The 74-year-old Realtor and former burlesque queen showed no reaction as the jury foreman read the verdict convicting her on two of the six counts, but her daughter Bianca slumped in her seat in the packed courtroom yesterday afternoon.

Beldini is the first person to be convicted as a result of work done by FBI informant Solomon Dwek, who surreptitiously made audio and video recordings that resulted in 46 arrests last July, following a months-long probe into money laundering and corruption in New York and New Jersey.

Lesniak, other insiders got loans at failed bank

State Sen. Raymond G. Lesniak and five other directors of an Elizabeth bank that collapsed last year borrowed more than $2 million in mortgages and commercial loans from the thrift, records show.

Some of those loans came after First BankAmericano was put under a July 2007 federal order to stop what authorities described as unsound banking and loan practices.

In a report filed before it collapsed in July 2009, the bank listed $11.4 million in "insider loans," a term used by regulators to track financing for bank employees, officers and key shareholders.

Eight former board members, including Lesniak and several others who got mortgage money from the bank, have also been political contributors to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, giving more than $50,000 since 1993, according to campaign-finance data.

Senator Menendez Prodded Fed to Aid Ailing Lender

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey urged the Federal Reserve last July to approve an acquisition to save a struggling bank in his state. He didn't mention that the bank's chairman and vice chairman were big contributors to his political campaign.

If the acquisition had been approved, it would have prevented the two executives from losing what was left of their investments in the bank.

In his letter to the Fed July 21, Mr. Menendez said there was a strong likelihood that First BankAmericano, of Elizabeth, N.J., would fail in three days, which would "send yet another negative message to consumers and investors and further impact our fragile economy." The one-page letter, obtained by The Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act, urged Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to approve a sale of the bank to JJR Bank Holding Co. of Brick, N.J.

THE STAR-LEDGER: HUDSON COUNTY FREEHOLDERS SHOULD DROP JAIL CONTRACT APPEAL

The solution is so simple that the stubbornness of the Hudson County freeholders could lead people to believe there is something shady going on with a five-year, $22 million medical services contract for the county jail.

At every level, the courts have instructed the county to rebid the contract, but instead, freeholders are running up taxpayer costs by filing costly (and fruitless) appeals.

HUDSON COUNTY HANDED THREE STRAIGHT COURT LOSSES, CONTINUES APPEALING FLAWED $22 MIL CONTRACT

Hudson County was defeated twice in court last week over a controversial $22 million medical services contract it gave a politically connected bidder.  Wednesday a two judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division refused the county’s request to stay a previous court decision throwing out an amendment to the awarded contract.   The New Jersey Supreme Court later similarly refused to issue a stay.

Despite the consecutive court rulings, the county continues to appeal.

Stevens Institute of Technology President Harold Raveché resigns as school submits to state oversight

Stevens Institute of Technology President Harold Raveché, beset by allegations he accepted an exorbitant salary while improperly spending the school’s money, will resign in July, officials announced today. In addition, the school will submit to the state’s demands for increased financial oversight under a settlement agreement.

Attorney General Anne Milgram launched a 16-count lawsuit against the Hoboken school in September, alleging financial mismanagement and excessive compensation.