Monthly Archives: December 2013

Borough Opens Bids for Professional Appointments

Borough Administrator Jay Delaney confirmed that all bids for professional appointments had been received and opened this afternoon, the last day for submission. The Borough advertised the positions on both the Borough’s Web site and in the Coast Star, although it did not place a free advertisement on the League of Municipalities’ Web site. This last venue may have drawn a larger group of submissions.

 As expected, many Democratic-connected firms that formerly served the Borough have put in bids. Nominees for the 3 major categories are:

 Borough Attorney:

Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC (the current appointee)

            Hiering Gannon & McKenna

            John Lane (retread from 2011)

Starkey, Kelly, Kenneally, Cunningham & Turnbach (partners Bill Kelly and Scott   Kenneally have both served under Democratic mayors)

  Borough Auditor:

            Holman, Frenia & Allison (the current appointee)

            Suplee Clooney & Co. (served under former Democratic mayors)

Borough Engineer:

             Eastpoint Engineering (the current appointee)

            Hatch Mott Macdonald

            CME Associates

 The name that leaps off the page immediately is CME Associates. To learn more about this firm, read this article: CME Associates Buys Middlesex County Democrats

More About Jan. 1 Reorg Appointments

In our post last night, heightsonline looked at why appointments made at the Jan. 1 reorg meeting are important to the taxpayers and made some predictions. Here is the second in articles about the reorg.

Borough Engineer. The Borough Engineer has input into contracts on infrastructure upgrades throughout the town, such as road improvements, sidewalks, curbs, sewers, buildings – anything that would call for engineering expertise. For many years, the Borough’s engineering appointment switched between the currently-under-indictment Birdsall Engineering and the firm of Leon Avakian. In 2010, the Borough appointed Eastpoint Engineering, the firm retained by the Borough’s Planning Board. The representative of Eastpoint, Joe May, also serves as the Borough’s zoning officer. Joe May is a responsible, easy-going individual who is a good engineer and discharges his zoning duties well. It is possible he will survive the purge of stable, efficient government in favor of a return to cronyism, because most people genuinely like him and respect his ability. However, retaining a capable professional who has saved the Borough money has never stopped anyone from appointing a friend in his place before in SLH.

Council President. This is not a contracted position, but one of recognition by the Council. The Council, by statute, may organize itself into committees and elect a Council President. The role of Council president can be very time-intensive, as the Council president guides the governing body in the Mayor’s absence and takes on the duties and responsibilities of the Mayor. As such, the role is typically filled by someone with years of experience who knows the ins and outs of municipal government and who has the commitment of time to make to the role. For the past two years, the role has been filled by Republican Councilwoman Sara King, who has done an excellent job and who has devoted extremely long hours to supporting the Mayor.

The most logical choices for Council president are to see Councilwoman King continue in the role or to see returning Democratic Councilman Tom O’Brien fill the position, as he has both the Council experience and the leadership ability. The fact they are both qualified, however, almost guarantees that neither will be appointed.

Look instead to see a toss-up between Councilwoman Patricia Cindea and second-year Councilman Chris Tienken for the seat. Neither one has the time or the experience to fill the role, which in Spring Lake Heights apparently makes them ideal candidates. Tienken has repeatedly said he has no extra time for Borough affairs, focusing instead on his multiple careers in the education industry. He seems to barely have time for his Council duties, let alone taking on additional responsibilities. Cindea has not even had the time to attend the last three Council meetings of 2013 (although she gets paid for them), so how or why she would handle the Council presidency could make for interesting reporting during the year.

Heightsonline will continue to focus on Borough appointments in the run-up to the Jan. 1 reorg meeting, to be held at 1:00 PM at the Borough Hall.

Borough Reorganization Meeting: January 1, 2014 at 1:00 PM

The annual Borough reorganization meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 1 at 1:00 PM. Under State law, every municipality must reorganize within the first seven days of the New Year. How can this reorganization meeting impact the taxpayers?

 The reorganization meeting can set up a season of more political intrigue than a new season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, but without the sex. Politically-connected firms can be appointed to lucrative Borough contracts while Council members and employees jockey for positions of perceived power. Occasionally, someone actually considers the stability of government and the importance of providing continuity to the citizens instead of handing out no-bid contracts.

Heightsonline looks at some of the major appointments and they might indicate as to the balance of power. The known voting tendencies of the Mayor and Council are this:  Mayor Butch Maccanicco, Councilwoman Sara King, and Councilman Jim Shuler tend towards the “stable government, status quo.”

 Councilwoman Cindea has been defrocked by the County Republicans and freshman Councilman Chris Tienken follows her every lead, including renouncing his Republican affiliations in the run-up to the 2013 election. Re-elected Councilman Tom Vorbach also tends to follow Ms. Cindea’s lead. Newly-elected Councilman Tom O’Brien found himself heckled from the audience by Ms. Cindea during his previous term; we wonder if he remembers the night she stood up and called him a crook? Will O’Brien be able to stand up to the pressures of both the Democratic Party and Ms. Cindea?

 Here are some of heightsonline’s opinions and predictions:

 Borough Attorney. This is a key position, one that advises the Mayor and Council on proper procedure on the legality of all issues. Unfortunately, it is one of the most abused, with an effort to appoint a friend or political crony who will NOT tell the governing body how to avoid problems, but to agree with members who want to try and skirt the law. In a previous post, heightsonline featured a December 2010 e-mail from Councilwoman Patricia Cindea where she supported appointing former Republican County Committee chairman Joe Oxley as borough attorney, complaining that she could not understand why her fellow Republicans objected, especially after all she had done for “these candidates in helping them get elected.” Oxley’s qualitications? He was “the frickin’ head of the Monmouth County Republicans.”

 No doubt there will be a move to dump long-time attorney Fred Raffetto, who is upstanding and insists the Council do things by the book. If Cindea feels she has the support of a majority vote, watch for her to nominate someone along the lines of former Borough Attorney John Lane, who is active in the County Republicans. If Cindea is going to go along with the bidding of the Democratic Party, as is suspected, watch for firms like Starkey, Kelly, Kenneally, Cunningham & Turnbach or the firm of King, Kitrick, Jackson, & Troncone, which provides services to the Borough’s Board of Adjustment. The first firm has provided borough attorney services under former Democratic regimes of the past, while former mayor Enright made an effort in 2010 to force Board of Adjustment attorney Mark Kitrick into the role of Borough Attorney.

 Borough Auditor. The Borough’s auditor oversees finances, budgeting, and the annual audit. A good auditor will find problem areas and make recommendations for improvement. A politically-motivated auditor will turn a blind eye to problems and go along with whatever he or she is told. Long-time auditor Robert Allison has worked closely to see that the Borough follows proper financial procedures, so heightsonline suspects this renders him useless to both the Cindea faction and the Democratic Party faction. Cindea has supported Allison’s reappointment in the past so we suspect he will be thrown under the bus in favor of a Democratic appointment. An unnamed source cites that the Union County, New Jersey firm of Suplee & Clooney is under consideration. This would be a reappointment of a firm with strong Democratic Party connections which has worked for the Borough in the distant past, but one whose ability and reputation in the CPA industry is questionable.

 Heightsonline will continue to look at possible appointees in the run-up to Wednesday’s meeting.

Has Cindea Quit the Council? Councilwoman Absent from Dec. 16 Meeting

Councilwoman Patricia Cindea was once again absent from a publicly-advertised Borough Council meeting, making the third such meeting in a row that she missed. The Councilwoman arrived at the November 25th meeting, but walked off the dais shortly after her arrival to the Council Chambers. That meeting had to be rescheduled, as Cindea’s walk-out left the Council without a quorum. Cindea then failed to appear for the rescheduled meeting on December 2.

The December 16 meeting contained a number of discussions of importance to the residents of Spring Lake Heights. Matthew Clark, Monmouth County’s tax administrator, spoke for over an hour about the County’s new method of conducting tax assessments. Clark explained that the current method of reassessment and revaluation occurs approximately every 10 years and can cause an inequity in how some property owners are taxed. He noted that the current standard of “a third, a third, and a third” – meaning that a third see taxes go down, a third stay the same, and a third see their taxes raised – can result in inequities. It is believed that the new system of rolling five-year property appraisals and yearly reassessment will result in a more equitable system.

Councilmen Rich Diver and Thomas Vorbach voiced concerns that while the system would benefit the county, they were skeptical if the new system would benefit the taxpayers. Resident Andy Zelnik expressed concerns that the State has only 8 approved vendors for property appraisals. He felt these firms would quickly become overwhelmed with work, resulting in higher fees.

Borough Engineer Joseph May, East Point Engineering, spoke to several issues effecting the Borough. One dealt with the sealing of an unused well at the corner of Route 71 and Allaire Road. Because sealing the well is a capital expenditure, it requires an ordinance to go forward with the work. Borough Administrator Jay Delaney explained that had the November 25 meeting taken place, there would have been time in 2013 to introduce the ordinance and pass it before the end of the year. As tonight’s meeting was the last of 2013, and an ordinance is required to be heard at two meetings, the issue needed to be rescheduled until January 2014.

Other items included a discussion about the clean-up of Hurricane Sandy-related damage in Ocean Road Park and along the Poly Pod Brook at the northern border of the Borough. Road repairs to Jeanette Court, Norman Terrace, and Crosby Road were also discussed, along with a plan for focusing on sidewalk and curb installation in areas leading to parks and the school. Mr. May explained that he had reviewed the neighborhoods with the highest likelihood of foot traffic and made recommendations as to where it would increase pedestrian and bike safety by installing sidewalks.

Heightsonline Exclusive: Cindea Expelled by County Republican Organization: County Chairman Cites By-Law Violation for Questionable Campaign Tactics

Heightsonline has learned that Councilwoman Patricia Cindea, who lately had also served as the chairperson of the local Republican Committee, has been expelled from the Republican Party for using her position to support the two Democratic candidates in the recent election.

In a November 25th letter, County Republican Committee Chairman, former State senator John O. Bennett III notes that Cindea “penned and distributed a letter endorsing the Democratic candidates.” Bennett’s letter goes on to say:

“This action is a violation of the Monmouth County Republican Committee by-laws, and for that reason I am taking the following course of action. I am removing your name from the Organizational rolls as Municipal Chair and County Committee member within the county organization. You will no longer be recognized in either capacity by any member of the County Republican organization, nor will you be permitted to participate in Monmouth County Republican Committee events and functions.

“I believe elected Party officials are to either work for the election of Republican candidates, or remove themselves from their Party position should they feel inclined to “cross the line” and openly support the opposition.

Cindea and political ally, local gadfly John Lewis ran one of the dirtiest smear campaigns in local memory. Old-time political residents noted they hadn’t seen anything to compare since 1969. Cindea and Lewis attacked incumbent Councilman Richard Diver and his running mate, former 3rd District Committeeman Ray Miller with a variety of wild, untruthful claims. Among these were a blatant lie that the two candidates wanted to close the grammar school, and that Diver orchestrated a $1.3 million bond issue when, in fact, Cindea herself oversaw the bond issue.

The local Republicans had enjoyed a 5 to 1 majority on the Council, with a Republican mayor. Lone Democrat Tom Vorbach and freshman Councilman Chris Tienken, who recently dropped his political affiliation with the Republicans, most often vote with Cindea on Council business. Sources said that Cindea was hoping to gain a majority voting block by supporting the Vorbach/O’Brien ticket, despite her treatment of Tom O’Brien during his previous stint on Council.

Heightsonline will continue following the story and provide coverage as news becomes available.

Council Holds Special Dec. 2 Meeting to Make Up For Nov. 25 Cancellation

 

The SLH Borough Council met briefly this evening to take care of the most pressing business: paying the bills. The Nov. 25 meeting was cancelled at the last minute, when Councilwoman Patricia Cindea left the dais moments prior to the meeting’s start. Due to absences on the Council that evening, Councilwoman Cindea’s walk-out meant there was no quorum and the Council was unable to conduct business.

Because this evening’s meeting was scheduled on short notice, neither Mayor Maccanico nor Councilman Richard Diver were able to attend and made the appropriate notifications in advance of the meeting. Council President Sara King and Councilmen Jim Shuler, Chris Tienken, and Tom Vorbach all indicated they would be in attendance. Councilwoman Cindea did not respond to the Borough Administrator’s rescheduling of the meeting.

Council President King chaired the meeting with Shuler, Tienken, and Vorbach in attendance to form the necessary quorum. The Council members conducted the necessary steps to pass the resolutions allowing the Borough Administrator to process and pay the bills, including the money budgeted to the Fire Company for their 4th Quarter.

Council members completed all business in less than 10 minutes; all discussion items deferred from Nov. 25 being carried to the Dec. 16 meeting.