Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Protection for Whistle Blowers

I’m not very popular at town hall. Nearly everyone is friendly, professional, and helpful, but they must be wondering what I’ll publish next. I don’t blame them. I’m certain many have witnessed things in the township they wish they hadn’t.

Lately, rumors have been swirling among the staff that the council is attempting to engage in a witch hunt. Tidbits have been dropped to see if they result in an OPRA request or a new posting. Others have been accused of giving me too much information in response to my OPRA requests. I’ve witnessed documents gone missing from the files. Yet, most township employees are as repulsed by unethical behavior in government as I am.

For those who wish to be heard but fear the repercussions, this post is for you.

New Jersey’s “Whistleblower Act” is called the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). The law prohibits any employer from taking retaliatory action against an employee who

  • Discloses or threatens to disclose information to a supervisor or public body regarding actions unlawful or contrary to the public welfare
  • Refuses to engage in acts unlawful or contrary to the public welfare
The law allows for compensatory damages and also applies to vendors and contractors who work substantially in an employer/employee relationship.

However, the law does not extend to termination for sharing information with “reporters”. For that, we need to rely upon New Jersey’s Shield Law.

For purposes of the statute, this blog fulfills all criteria for “News Media”. The shield is “absolute” for all civil cases. No state court can compel me to reveal any non-public information that may reveal a source except under extreme circumstances in a criminal proceeding. Federal courts have a bit more leeway but still need to consider the societal cost of compelling a journalist to reveal a source and determine there are no alternative methods.

However, these protections only go one way. NEVER send me an incriminating email from a work computer. Your employer owns all work emails and you have no right of privacy to anything on your work computer. If you wish to contact me, you can email me your contact information and I will call you. I never exchange incriminating information by email. Email is NOT secure.

So long as all communication is done by phone without witnesses, you will be safe. No one will be able to prove you were the source for any specific piece of information. If you ever feel pressured to do anything unethical, tell your supervisor, in writing, that you refuse and why. Even if the municipality has other justifications for terminating your position, they will be extremely hesitant because of their civil liabilities.

This blog has documented far too much to assume our township employees haven’t witnessed any improprieties. And this blog will continue to investigate.

For my readers, here are some examples of the difficulty I have retrieving information.

I once requested a vendor history of all payments made to former town manager, Mark Coren. Shortly after retiring, he was paid a $1,479 consulting fee regarding the transit village project. Since it appeared “within reason”, I didn’t question other reimbursements, such as his $185 monthly cell phone bill, or the inflated expenses for the ICMA conference. However, the township “neglected” to provide the vendor history of Coren Municipal Advisors. Sure enough, he received another $8,500 in payments a year later for “consulting” work on the non-existent Anchor Glass development. For all I know, he’s still receiving payments under the name of other corporations. I have no reason to believe the township if they say otherwise.

Another time, I requested a series of financial documents and received a letter claiming the search would take several hours, possibly over ten, and incur fees. I complained to Mayor Sobel and had all my documents within the hour (save one paper detailing bond payments which I received that afternoon).

Another example is when I hunted for evidence that CME Associates tried to fleece the taxpayers over Oakshades Park. I submitted a number of inquiries but the township always remained firm that CME Associates never had nor attempted to have any involvement in the park’s new lighting system.

Sure enough, I finally found the proof I needed – the township’s grant application to the county included $80,000 for engineering work that was never used.

Steady but slow, bit by bit, more and more will be uncovered. If anyone in the township has witnessed anything contrary to the public welfare, have no fear. The law is on your side. >>> Read more!

31 comments:

mrsb said...

Just to play devil's advocate, do you know of any court cases that have covered a blog under the Shield Law? Is this new territory or something that's been tested?

Aberdeener said...

There haven't been any cases in New Jersey that tried to expose a blogger's sources but here's the relevant language in the statute:

A person "engage in . . . disseminating news for the general public"

"'News media' means . . . electronic means of disseminating news to the general public."

"To sustain a claim of the newsperson's privilege under Rule 27 [Rule 508(a) ] the claimant shall make a prima facie showing that he is engaged in, connected with or employed by a news media for the purpose of gathering, procuring, transmitting, compiling, editing or disseminating news for the general public or on whose behalf news is so gathered, procured, transmitted, compiled, edited or disseminated, and that the subpoenaed materials were obtained in the course of pursuing his professional activities. "

U C Brother & KennyCB said...

I cannot believe that our leadership in Aberdeen who are sworn to act ethically, morally and serve the taxpayers to the best of their ability would ever be questioned, criticized or come under any suspicion in the slightest. Right tell me another one.

Then again this is Kauffville where strange things always happen. Like tonight for instance. We were reading the on line posting for tonights council meeting which will just so happen to have a presentation on COAH by an overpaid Kauff selected company. Then while most every community in New Jersey is fighting the changes for COAH and their devistating affects on communities small and large Aberdeen's leadership will vote to allow a strangely concocted and ever changing density levels for a connected property owner to ???help??? Aberdeen reach its COAH quotas. We are not that stupid Norm. You set this up amazingly but??? We are on to you Norm and the Aberdeener is on to your little shell game also.


This will not matter for tonight in Kauffville as it is already a done deal and the taxpayers of Aberdeen lose again. The ringmaster has spoken and the writing is on the wall, Kauff and all of his connections will push the housing plans on 34 and maybe in my backyard on County Road right on through with every excuse and Kauff's move tonight while masterful will make the Cialia family look like paupers. This is the big cash in for Kauff and the crew since Aberdeen Forge, Somerset Anchor and the train station deal is not going forward fast enough for Norm. Norm you see is getting older and his days are numbered. Right Norm? More than you know we can assure you.

The fact that all of the players are all connected and in Kauff's pocket means nothing. Look for the story as it plays out in the newspapers in the coming weeks. It will all look legal and will have the Democratic Party Boss's approval and everyone will get their piece. Right Norm? By the way Norm say hi to Werner and Lezniak for us. Norm we got that tidbit just last week.

That is what we love about the title "of counsel" it all looks so legal. Right Norm? But when you dig a little deeper????????????????? wait until you see what we found about the properties in Freneau. What is a holding company Norm?

Keep up the good front all of you on the council for your actions tonight. We have gotten the word that will cause your downfall and the word is ETHICS. Something Aberdeen's leadership knows nothing about.

Wasn't there some mandate for all New Jersey public officials to attend some ethics training seminars some time back? Did Aberdeen's leaders attend? Check that out Aberdeener. Please.

We are a little busy with the investigator from Newark right now. Valentin was a waste of time for us so we went north one day on the train and made a stop near Gateway One.

O'h what a tangled web he weaves when first the Kauffster always deceives. Right Norm?

Norm we are getting close. Time for all of you old men to cash in. Right Norm? Spend it quick Norm they are coming for you very soon.

KimsMomsHusband said...

Great Kenny CB and U c Brother seem to be putting few things together. My parents were big fans of jigsaw puzzle also. THe Kauff jigsaw puzzles are very expensive as every piece that is put into place has a huge and often unchecked and un-bidded price for supposedly needed professional services and of course many overpriced payments to the Kauff cronies, which it seems always rolls right back to Kauff and the rest of them.

I wonder if the connection with Kauff and the Werner Lezniak people is true? That would put a whole new light on Kauff and perhaps Lezniak would run for cover and cut all ties with Kauff?

Just a thought.

KimsMoms said...

My husband has put a thought in my head about Senator Lezniak and his law firm. I think I may call up to their offices today and ask for Mr. Kauff. Who knows what they will say. Do they have a website?

Just another thing for our Aberdeener to look into and shine the light on.

Go get em.

Anonymous said...

Thought I would check the Aberdeener before the train. Interesting posts this morning. Lezniak may be connected to Aberdeen. Who is next?

Maybe as Kenny and U C say it seems all to be so legal. That may be true since it is handled by Lawyers and their firms. Like my dad used to say if the world was to end tomorrow the only two things that would survive would be cockroaches and Lawyers.

I add to that because you would have to look under the belly of the cockroach for the Lawyer. Each and every one of them would still be hiding from their past.

Got to go Journal Square next stop All aboard.

Anonymous said...

Heard something was not right at the council meeting last night. Councilwoman Gallo seemed to be very agitated and voted no in most cases. Does anyone know what was going on?

Anonymous said...

The aberdeener has done a great service by putting up this notice in regards to the WHISTLEBLOWER situation. We can imagine that many who know exactly what is going on are very fearful to lose their jobs. Now they know they are protected.

This is especially true after what Norman Kauff did with Stu Brown. Any other employee was sent a very strong message since then in Aberdeen. In our town there is little lately that is talked about in the Dunkin Donuts we go to. Maybe we need to go more often. Love that coffee and those bagels.

Now back to our Matawan and our favorite subject Bud Mullaney. Any news on him for us or the aberdeener to look into? We loved the article last week about Matawan already spending more than they have budgeted. Who are they kidding? That is politics as usual in our Matawan.

Well Summer is over and now we have a lot of spare time to look into things. Don't we all my wife says. I think she is right as we need to all keep very close watch on these fools.

By the way we just spent a great two weeks in Cape May if anyone is looking for a nice fall getaway there is much to do through November at least.


Mr. & Mrs. Middlesex Jim

Anonymous said...

Any news on the council meeting in Aberdeen last night. I waited until 9:15 for a meeting that was supposed to start at 8:30. Anybody know anything?

I had to go to work at 10:00 so I had to go. Just a coincidence or were they waiting for people to leave on purpose? It was nice for the Mayor to tell the public they could come in for the presentation. I still don't trust any of them.

Let me know. I will check in when I wake up.

J Section Ken said...

Aberdeen Council Report

Got there at around 8:10PM last night. The council was in workshop mode for several hours. All council members were present except Mr. Perry.

The council did not convene the regular meeting until after 10PM. Why? It appears that Councilwoman Gallo was upset with how the council was awarding contracts. The rest of the council and the lawyer spent a tremendous amount of effort to prove that she should vote YES with rest of them. At around 9PM, an executive session was held, and some voices were raised loud enough that we could hear the argument in the main council chamber.

The Result: The council had a 5-1 vote on most of the appointments on the agenda and the budget, with Ms. Gallo as the NO vote. I want to credit Ms. Gallo with being courageous and putting the people of our town first, even after being put under pressure.

I again questioned the mayor about all these professional appointments being "NO BID". He replied with the same talking points that all professionals were not the same; I will not repeat the rest of what he said, because the logic he uses to justify it is cockamamie. I said, “how do we know what we are saving, since we do not bid?” If our professionals are as good as the mayor indicates, why don't they have all the business in the county?

I told the mayor, I understand that campaign donations are needed to run an election, but giving contributors “NO BID” work at the bare minimum "does not look good". He could not refute that statement, and I was given a "we will take a look at that in the future" as an answer. I won’t hold my breath a waiting for that to happen.

Perhaps someone can tell me why we are only now formalizing the contracting of professionals now for 2008, when we are in September?

We must keep up the pressure until these “pretenders of public service” are removed from office or shamed into acting in the public interest.

Anonymous said...

I too went to the meeting last night to support Councilman Perry as he had seem to be the only voice that had any independent thought or moral compass. Now it seems that Ms. Gallo has some questions and concerns. As will be Norms tactic soon to develop will be to push for Gallo's removal. That is a similar tact as he tried before with Toomey. As he was another that was not in tow with Kauff and Coren and their misdeeds.

But Sobel had the nerve according to JsectionKen to say they would look at going out to bid. Yeah right that wil happen as soon as Kauff assumes room temperature That would of course be upon his death. If only.............. never mind that thought as he would not commit suicide unless the Feds were at his door. Norman is not a man like that.

Anyway I did tell the reporter for the Independent
to look into Mr. Kauff and his very close and questionable connections and much more that he has brought to Aberdeen and the true costs for same to the taxpayers.

Everyone of them that voted last night should be recalled and tried for outright theft from the taxpayers every single day. And Norman Kauff should be hung in efigy.

KennyCB said...

Ooh Janice you are in for it now. Norman and the boys will be coming after you. Don't you now you are not supposed to ask any questions or cast votes as directed by Norm. Look at Perry do you not see what asking questions can do for your political career when Norm puts his evil spell on you. It should have been Assemblyman Perry but... Norm carries a big stick. Perry is such a disappointment to Norm. Right Norm? Norm gets disappointed with anyone who does not play the game his way. It is after all Kauff's way or it is the highway.

Look at Stu, Nick, Toomey and all of the rest who did not play by Kauff's rules and strict directions.
Councilwoman Gallo how dare you not vote as directed how dare you have the nerve to ask questions? Who do you think is running things in Aberdeen, the town council? Wrong again. Norm, Samuels, Scudeiri and a few others to be indicted at a later date, really run the show.

The taxpayers in Aberdeen just pay their bills, fund their campaign and line all of their pockets.

In closing Sobels standard answer shows just what a spineless bastard he is. So much for the man of the people. F U Sobel.

Good luck Aberdeen taxpayers. You need it after last night. I mean you always needed it but last nights screamfest really put the icing on the cake.

Time for the Aberdeener to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

Anonymous said...

What is the cost for the Mon. Cty. Prosecutors Office to the citizens of Aberdeen. It is time we got some return on the dollars we send them.

With all that is going on in town you would think that something, anything would bring some scrutiny upon the Kauffster and his crew of misfits.

I agree F Sobel the old geezer. Keep telling yourself your a real public servant Owen. Keep fooling yourself. And Vinci he is obviously upset that the meeting lasted so long he is usually done by 8:30. Must have to get home to count the sheckles Norm gave him. What an idiot he is. All of them have their little secrets. The problem with secrets other than JFK most of the time the secret gets out once you apply the right pressure to the weakest link. Too bad prosecutor Valentin did not make it that class in Prosecutor's school.

MaryCMRHS67 said...

Whistleblower protection is not really needed for employees in Aberdeen. My niece works there and has told me of some very obvious things that are common knowledge in the halls of Aberdeen.

So they should not dare to try and get rid of anyone. I think the Stewart Brown thing was a different situation entirely. She once mentioned something in passing that really had me questioning a man I know on the council, who if her statement is true, has really disappointed me.

I was no fan of the former Manager Mr. Coren I can assure you as he was always so condescending and controlling. I did understand he was quite the sexist as well, and should have been brought up on charges several times. But as is always pointed out this is Aberdeen. Aberdeen, where reality is the exception rather than the rule.

They all know what Coren did and they let him. Any employee with four years or more has all they need to protect themselves just from his trips at the expense of the taxpayers he took to Maryland. There were many more examples with Coren that are known and have been kept secret.

Deep down inside I hope they do try and get rid of someone just to see what would come out.

russ in strathmore said...

3 things

1. Isn't the Brown hush-hush agreement with the town up soon? And if so, will he talk?

2. Am I the only one who thinks that the Coren money for CONSULTING is INSULTING?
I want his findings for his consultation.... like what did we learn about Oakshades and the Midland Glass area plant.....

3. If Kauff is not elected, than how do we get rid of him?

Anonymous said...

WITH KAUFF IT IS SIMPLE YET COMPLICATED. JUST APPLY PRESSURE. LIKE ANY OTHER WOUND OR INFECTION. JUST PUT PRESSURE AND THE BLEEDING WILL STOP. THE MEDICATION FOR A KAUFF INFECTION IS TO SIMPLY LET ABERDEEN KNOW SHINE LIGHT ON HIM OR PUT ONE OF HIS FELLOW LEECHES ON HIM TO BRING THE INFECTION TO THE PUBLIC.

I ALSO THINK IT IS TIME WE REACH OUT TO HIS CRITICS IN HIS OTHER KINGDOMS. MANALAPAN, MARLBORO, HAZLET AND ANY OTHER WHERE HE PULLS THE STRINGS.

THINK ABOUT IT.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there someone who was very outspoken on political issues not too long ago?

Would he not go to council meetings and speak on many subjects and prove his points over and over again to our supposed leaders?

Did he not put his opinions on telephone poles all over town for all of Aberdeen to think about?

It was rumored he helped the Democrats oust a Republican tyrant and others, then he disappeared.

What ever happened to him?

Anyone know?

I remember now. They gave him a job.

Problem solved.

NightShiftCB said...

The last post from anonymous was very unfair to say the least. The person you speak of is dedicated to our community and always has been.

Good luck with your misplaced blame and assertions.

You know not of which you speak. The person you speak of loves Aberdeen and you need to truly ask yourself what have you done for the town you live in.

You start pointing fingers point them in the right direction before they end up in your mouth.

Anonymous said...

TO "Nightshiftcb"

I believe that your anger has been erroneously directed to the last "anonymous" poster. I feel this person was simply pointing out what Aberdeen Township does to people whom they wish to quiet: They offer them a job to shut them up. Proof of more corruption and dishonest service to the community by our township officials. "Whistleblowers" in Aberdeen are offered jobs with pensions! Whoo-Hoo!!! Where do I sign up?

Actually, before you indicate that someone else has "misplaced blame," you should look further into the history of the employment offer (if you aren't intimately familar with it already). I am certain you will find that this peron "had" something on someone that, if divulged, would have been damaging. Isn't that so?

Also, it should be pointed out that the vernacular which you used in your post gives away your identity. Perhaps you should be more careful before you threaten people. Your temper has always been your demise. Your defensiveness has always been apparent. This blog is meant for ALL people of Aberdeen Township. Not just for those who agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Dedicated? In what regard. Never served on the Board of Ed. Never on town council. Never on anything that could make a difference. Having opinions is one thing, calling them dedicated is another. Being critical is easy, especially when that person now makes it selective. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on this blog, but dedicated should be reserved for those who do something about it, or make a difference in our town.

Aberdeener said...

I believe your definition of dedicated excludes me as well.

Anonymous said...

Why would serving on the Board of Ed. or Town Council be the criteria for "dedication" in Aberdeen?

Not all, but most, are self-serving!

As far as I'm concerned, those who speak out against the corruption, for the public good and honesty in our elected officials, however they can, are the ones that are dedicated to this community.

Anonymous said...

aberdeener,
You serve a tremendous value to the community by your investigative work and this blog. You attend meetings and voice your displeasure unlike others. I do hope you run for office or inspire similiar people to do so. I have warned in the past, they will try to get you on the payroll if you continue to annoy them. We need good, honest people serving our community in order to see change, not just people who complain on this blog.

Aberdeener said...

If I ran for office, at least we'd have a record turnout. Dozens would turn out to vote for me and hundreds would storm the polls to vote against me.

Still, I haven't precluded the possibility.

NSectionJoe said...

Once again I am amazed how my commitment to Aberdeen is questioned. Now I am supposed to have had something on someone or was offered a job for helping the winning party.

Once again both are not the case. For what is hopefully the last time, I was offered the job I hold three times and did after the third offer accept my position. I enjoy my job and am very proud to do it. That is enough as to the supposed reasons I am so employed it was not a reward I can assure you.

I would appreciate it if any of you need any additional answers or clarification you contact me directly. I thank you.

Anonymous said...

If what Anon. says is true, that they try to get you on the payroll to quiet those who dare to bring light to the abuses of our elected officials, than this blog does a great service to the community.

Since moving here, I always found things to be odd, and never quite knew why. Just always saw the whispering going on, etc. This blog has certainly explained a lot. I don't think the average person in Aberdeen realizes half of what goes on.

Anonymous said...

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office must act on any and all complaints provided you can document what you allege. However, if the Council members in question are good liars and cover their tracts, there is nothing they will find.

Remember some things we may believe are criminal the Prosecutor's office can see it as unethical, inept or inexperience.

Please correct me if I am wrong,Aberdeener. Based on what you quoted on bloggers sources, it makes sense now why certain publications have blogs done by their staff. They can protect their sources, unlike other bloggers. There seems to be alot of latitude. How do we determine news from personal opinion in a Blog written by the press?

Aberdeener said...

I was unaware the county prosecutor's office was required to review every allegation. Certainly, I have posted sufficient documentation, such as Vinci's tax free land deals and taking "consultant fees" from his own party during his own re-election campaign to warrant further investigation.

As for a blog being a news media, there's no hard definition but if you pass these criteria then it's definite.

1) You post regularly
2) You post news articles
3) Your intent is to share the news with the general public

If you have a personal blog, write about your dog, and mention that a friend admitted to causing a fire, you would not be protected under the shield law.

Anonymous said...

You don't even have to call the prosecutor. You can go to prosecutor.co.monmouth.nj.us/
go under contacts, report crime, crime type-public corruption and leave Vincis actions or anything else you wish. You can be anonymous if you wish. I did it but have not heard anything. I suggest all do the same. Maybe with enough complaints they will look at this corruption. Don't just talk, do something.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that info, I just left a complaint on the web site as well.

RedGuy1959 said...

You can also contact US Attorney Chris Christie if you know public corruption exists among our elected officials and other servants: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nj/

--Paul Rinear