Category Archives: Operation Bid Rig

APP Editorial: Shameful start out of the box

Here is an editorial that the Asbury Park Press has gotten right and if you read the comment posted by readers afterwards, they all seem to agree:

The new 5-0 Republican majority on the Monmouth County freeholder board got off to a disgraceful start this week: Its first order of business was rescinding its tough 2008 pay-to-play campaign finance restrictions. Welcome back to the world of one-party rule.

The old ground rules, passed in response to Operation Bid Rig, a sting targeting money laundering and political corruption that led to the arrests of 13 politicians in the county in 2005, was a huge step in putting an end to the sort of legal bribery that allowed graft to flow freely.

The freeholders now seem to believe that graft and corruption are a thing of the past. Either that or they want to cement their one-party grip on the board, briefly lost the past few years, by ensuring campaign contributors are aptly rewarded when it comes time to handing out contracts.

Under the previous rules, individual contributions were capped at $300, while a firm’s contribution was limited to $2,600. Candidates could not accept a contribution from another county’s political party in excess of $2,600 per election.

Now that those rules have been rescinded, the board will be guided by the state’s lenient “fair and open” bidding process for counties and municipalities, which state Comptroller Matthew Boxer has said is anything but.

In a commentary in the Press last year, Boxer wrote, “The pay-to-play law presents few, if any, real obstacles to local government entities seeking to reward politically favored vendors with public contracts … a series of fatal flaws have essentially rendered the pay-to-play law meaningless at the local government level.”

What reason did the freeholders offer for changing their minds? Freeholder Lillian Burry, who voted for the tougher pay-to-play regulations in 2008, said they made sense then: “It appeared at the time to be a very necessary thing for us to do,” Burry said.

But now? Burry says the 2008 rules may be “too harsh” and proved “very confusing to the professionals.”

The freeholders apparently would have us believe that the people who want to do business with Monmouth County were absolutely flummoxed by the 2008 county standard, and could not fathom the differences between the county’s rules and the “fair and open” process.

If the freeholders adequately educated potential contract bidders to those differences and they still couldn’t get it, those aren’t the sort of people the county should be hiring in the first place.

What is clear is the freeholders’ action was shameless. They should reinstate the tougher pay-to-play rules. If they don’t, citizens should express their disgust at the polls.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, editorial, Lillian Burry, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Operation Bid Rig, pay-to-play

Amy Handlin Gets Tony Palughi Loyalty Award

This scathing letter that doesn’t pull any of its punches against Republican Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, appears online at the Atlantic Highlands Herald.

The letter was written by the former Republican Chairman of Freehold Township Romeo Cascaes and gives some very strong reasons why she shouldn’t be supported by fellow Republicans in a reelection bid for her 13th District Assembly seat tomorrow.

Dear Editor,

I would like to nominate Amy Handlin for the Tony Palughi Loyalty Award. She has certainly earned it.

The Tony Palughi Loyalty Award, which I just created, should be awarded to the person who has consistently spit upon those most responsible for their own success.

As you know, some years back Tony Palugi got himself into a peck of trouble with the feds, then turned on Harry Larrison by incriminating him in order to receive a lighter sentence. Harry had been like a father to the bum.

Now, once again, Ambitious Amy throws Harry Larrison under the bus, when in fact she should thankfully pray for him and for all Harry did to further her career in politics (Harry would affectionately call Amy, “The Gentle Lady”).

First, he supported Amy in her initial quest for the nomination. Without his support she would never have advanced up the political ladder. Moreover, when Amy rankled many Republicans who had worked hard for her elections over the years, it was Harry Larrison who, on at least two occasions, saved Amy from being dumped from the ticket. When most Republicans abandoned her, it was Harry Larrison who asked me to help her raise funds for her empty war chest, produce campaign materials and other such necessities of a successful re-election effort. I assure you Harry did a lot more than I did on Amy’s behalf.

I knew Harry Larrison for 40 years. I never once detected a crooked bone in his body. He loved Monmouth County and worked very hard for it. He was a visionary who looked beyond the problems of the moment to plan for a Monmouth County “for our children’s children.” No one, dead or alive, has done more for this county than Freeholder Director Harry Larrison, Jr.
Now, on the eve of her latest re-election campaign Amy comes out with a new book about her years on the Board of Chosen Freeholders – calling it “Crony Capitalism.”

She was a member of the Board for 16 years; why has she waited so long to “expose” this nasty system. Where was she for 16 years? She had 16 opportunities to vote against Harry Larrison as Director of the Board, the leader and head crony; 16 opportunities to speak out and do something.

She did nothing!

Instead, for 16 years she was an integral part of it – she was a Principal Crony – and helped perpetuate its existence, if in fact it did exist at all, other than in her mind.

When Tony Palughi was appointed Bridge Superintendent, did Freeholder Handlin rise in protest? No! She did nothing! In fact, she willingly accepted Tony’s help in all of her re-election campaigns without so much as a whimper.

So now, Amy Handlin authors a book about the bad Republican freeholders just before her two Republican running mates are vying to retain their well-deserved seats on the Board. The timing of the release of her book is intended to help Handlin get re-elected but it sure won’t help her fellow Republican freeholder candidates.

As always, Amy Handlin thinks only of Amy Handlin.

Amy Handlin is a self-absorbed, self-righteous human being who doesn’t deserve the loyalty of Republicans nor the electorate.

Romeo Cascaes
Former Republican Chairman
Freehold Township

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Filed under 13th Legislative District, Amy Handlin, Harry Larrison, ltive District, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Operation Bid Rig, reelection, Tony Palughi

>Jersey Scandal – Could Another Operation Bid Rig Be Far Behind In Monmouth County?


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Filed under Freeholder John D'Amico, Freeholder Lillian Burry, John Curley, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, New Jersey, Operation Bid Rig

Ethics Board Can Head Off Another Operation Bid Rig

The following commenatry appeared int he Asbury Park Press yesterday. It was written by Arthur Z. Kamin of Fair Haven who is an independent journalist and who has written about Monmouth County politics before.

In his commentary he states that the idea for the newly created Monmouth County Ethics Board is a good one that is long over due and that and ethic board could prevent another Operation Bid Rig from happening again in Monmouth County:

Now that the election is over, the five-member Monmouth County Board of Freeholders — in a split vote along political lines — finally adopted a strong ethics structure to give the county the watchdog agency it needs to help ensure honest government. The long-overdue action came Tuesday night. Three Democrats voted for the resolution. The Republicans opposed it.

The two GOP freeholders had been battling efforts by the Democrats to establish an ethics board that would promulgate and administer a county ethics code. The recommendation for the board and code originated with a blue-ribbon ethics review committee appointed by the freeholders.

Freeholder Robert D. Clifton was the biggest stumbling block, arguing that the ethics board would be too powerful and too costly to run. Freeholder Lillian G. Burry picked up the chant, claiming it would create another level of government that the county can’t afford.

What they did not say is that many Republicans still don’t like to bring up the touchy subject of county ethics because it dredges up memories of the Operation Bid Rig scandal four years ago when more than two dozen Monmouth County and other officials were arrested in an FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office corruption sweep.

That sweep also netted the late longtime former Republican Freeholder Director Harry Larrison Jr. The freeholder board was all Republican at the time and county government was loaded with patronage, cronyism and favoritism.

It was a shameful period in county history. And Monmouth County still bears the scars of those terrible days. The county, as a result of that nightmare, is still referred to statewide as “Hudson County with lawns.”

To prevent another Operation Bid Rig from happening and to establish an ethics agency with teeth, the county appointed a first-rate ethics review committee that carefully examined existing policies, procedures and an employee manual. It concluded: “The existing structure is in need of revision.”

Thus, the freeholder majority was wise to approve the recommendations of the ethics review committee, including the creation of a six-member nonpartisan, independent ethics board that would serve without compensation. Monmouth County residents should be served well by this arrangement.

Continue reading >>> Here

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, ethics, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Operation Bid Rig

What was so Important That Kyrillos Needed To Speak To Christie 48 Times Between 2002 & 2008 ?

Can anyone tell me what was so important, that Monmouth County State Senator and current Christie Campaign Director Joe Kyrillos (R-13), needed to talk to Chris Christie about 48 times between 2002 and 2008?

I know the two are old-time college buddies but during this time, to make 48 attempts at contacting Christie while he was US Attorney seems fishy.
Could it have had to do with his relationship with shady developer Jack Morris and the questions that surounded the re-development of the Matawan-Aberdeen Train Station? Or a possible “Thank-You” call to express apprieciation for his brother Todd Christie’s donation of $225,ooo to the State Republican Committee that Joe Kyrillos headed? Or did he want to discuss details of “Operation Bid Rig”?
Of course, Kyrillos just may have been lonely and wanted to reminness about the old-times but somehow I doubt it.
The Corzine people are courious as well, Wally Edge at PolitickerNJ has a post about it:
Kyrillos calls Christie at U.S. Attorney’s office 48 times

Republican State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Middletown) is part of GOP gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie’s inner circle; some details of their friendship are apparent in a log of calls from Kyrillos to Christie between 2002 and 2008. Kyrillos left messages for Christie at the U.S. Attorney’s office 48 times between 2002 and 2008, including 19 times while Kyrillos was the Republican State Chairman, according to a log of Christie’s incoming phone calls requested by the Corzine campaign as part of an extensive series of document requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Corzine campaign received the phone logs late Friday.

Most of the phone messages shed little information as to the topics Christie and Kyrillos were discussing. Kyrillos tended to call after 5PM, and would usually leave a message that offered little detail.

Kyrillos did call Christie on April 22, 2002, the day Todd Christie wrote a $225,000 check to the Republican State Committee.

These records don’t reflect completed calls, or incoming calls from Christie to Kyrillos, if there were any at all.

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Filed under Chris Christie, Gov. Jon Corzine, Joe Kyrillos, Operation Bid Rig, PolitickerNJ, Todd Christie, Wally Edge

County Needs Ethics Board Now; Why Does Clifton Oppose Ethics Panel ?

Two River Times

By Arthur Z. Kamin

It is sad to watch members of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders squabble over how to get a much-needed county governmental ethics structure up and running. At the heart of it, Republican Freeholder Robert D. Clifton seems to want to forget the GOP-dominated Operation Bid Rig scandal four years ago and refuses to admit that the corruption stench of that time still hangs over Freehold.

The irony is that Clifton, a longtime Republican insider, is not a babe-in-the-political-woods and should have known what was taking place during those terrible days when more than two dozen Monmouth County and other officials were arrested in an FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office corruption sweep. Scooped up in that sweep was the late longtime former Republican Board of Freeholders Director Harry Larrison Jr., charged with taking bribes. It was a shameful period in county history.

And where was Clifton when former Freeholder Amy H. Handlin, now a Republican assemblywoman from the 13th legislative district, became a trailblazer for ethical reform in county government? She fought a brave battle – even going so far as to rightly urge that Larrison’s name be removed from Brookdale Community College’s tainted Larrison Hall campus building. Clifton was silent.

Now he is the major stumbling block, as the county appointed a special Ethics Review Committee that carefully examined existing policies, procedures and an employee manual concluding, “The existing structure is in need of revision.”

To his credit, Democrat Freeholder John D’Amico Jr. urged that the freeholders promptly release the report to the public. Clifton was opposed. He attempted to keep the document under wraps, not wanting to bring up reminders of the old days. How’s that for governmental transparency? But the excuse became an argument over what should be or should not be released from freeholder executive sessions.

Here is the makeup of the bipartisan pro bono ethics review committee: Retired former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James R. Assail; retired former Superior Court Judge Alexander D. Lehrer; and former Freeholder Director Thomas J. Powers And here is what the committee unanimously recommended to the freeholders: “the adoption of a strong county ethics code and the establishment of a nonpartisan, independent ethics board.”

The committee did not recommend the establishment of an Office of Inspector General even though recognizing the value of it could bring in the search for an ethics watchdog and higher ethical standards in county government.

Creating an inspector general’s office would be costly and – the way things often have been carried on in Monmouth County – it could lead to another bureaucracy with cronyism and patronage jobs. “But during these challenging economic times it cannot be justified,” the committee stated.

That leaves the ethics board with wide-ranging powers backed up by what should be a no-nonsense code of ethics that would include provisions pertaining to such areas as conflicts of interest, activity that gives the appearance of impropriety, gifts, lobbying of public officials, nepotism, incompatible employment, the procurement process, penalties, ethics education, and financial disclosures.

The ethics board would be able to issue subpoenas, receive complaints, and hold code violation hearings. It could forward information to law enforcement authorities. It would enforce the code and impose or recommend penalties for violations. It would have the teeth to get an ethics job done….

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Filed under ethics, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Operation Bid Rig, Two River Times

Joe Kyrillos’ Glass House

I thought that the following post and commentary from Blue Jersey’s Vincent Solomeno would be of interested to my fellow Midletown residents. The post deals deals with Middletown’s very own state Senator from the 13th District Joe Kyrillos and how he has tried to capitalize on the recent corruption cases for the Christie campaign. Vincent points out that Kyrillos supported evry one of the indicted Republicans that where wrapped up in 2005’s “Operation Bid Rid” and that people that live in galss houses shouldn’t be throwing stones. The artical was first posted on Blue Jersey last Thursday.

From Blue Jersey – by Vincent Solomeno

Like my mother says, people in glass houses should never throw stones. The Bergen Record’s Herb Jackson reports today that Solomon Dwek, the cooperating witness in the F.B.I.’s recent corruption bust, gave nearly $200,000 to New Jersey elected officials of both parties. While there is nothing nefarious about accepting a contribution, it is disconcerting when one considers the influence of money in our political system, a reality for lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.

Yesterday, CQPolitics changed their estimate of the New Jersey gubernatorial race from Toss-Up to Leans Republican. The story on the ratings change included a quote from State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown), State Chairman of Chris Christie for Governor, who was quick to link Democrats to the latest round of indictments:

“I think that the New Jersey Democratic party is a major embarrassment, not just to people here at home, but should be to Democrats all over this country,” said Christie campaign chairman Joe Kyrillos, a state senator.

“There’s a culture and an enabling of people and care and feeding of the wrong kinds of actors and a looking the other way that has a allowed this kind of episode – and it’s not the first one – to take place,” he said.

Kyrillos is right that there is a culture that enables corruption in New Jersey politics. What he neglected to acknowledge is the bipartisan nature of the problem. Which is interesting, considering he actively supported every one of the Republican elected officials nabbed in the 2005 wave of Operation Bid Rig. He even counted some among his friends. As Jackson’s report makes clear, Kyrillos also accepted $5,200 from Dwek, notwithstanding the $51,000 given over to the Republican State Committee.

No one is saying Kyrillos is crooked. Dwek also donated to the re-election campaign of Congressman Frank Pallone and to the Democratic State Committee. Like Pallone, Kyrillos is giving the contributions over to charity. And while there was nothing wrong with accepting the contributions in the first place, Dwek’s inroads demonstrate that the permanent quest for cash inherent in New Jersey’s political culture is a problem for both Democrats and Republicans.

Corruption has nothing to do with political party. Chris Christie has said as much himself. It’s a fact that his campaign chairman, with his own ties to corrupt politicians and dirty money, would be wise to remember. Because really, Joe, people in glass houses should never throw stones.

politicizing corruption (4.00 / 1)
In the past, I’ve seen more level-headed Republicans such as Senator O’Toole not use a political corruption case as a pretense to lambaste the state Democratic Party. But such behavior would be too much to ask for from Christie puppy-dog Kyrillos, who doesn’t undertand that, as Vincent rightly put it, corruption knows no party boundary.
Interestingly enough, besides the Dwek donation and the Bid Rig scandal connections mentioned above, Kyrillos may have some other Christie-centered, quid-pro-quo issues in his closet. According to the On Our Radar blog

The Christie brothers’ business associates, including Kyrillos, also donated generously to the state Republicans during that critical time Chris was being considered for recommendation. Does one hand wash another? Employees of Todd’s New York company then donated $14,000 to Kyrillos’ campaign in October 2001. In the three years Kyrillos held a committee chairmanship, the Christies and their associates gave the Kyrillos campaign $30,850.
Last week’s horrific corruption case that was brought to light had very little to do with any systemic Democratic corruption and everything to do with transparency and checks and balances on a general level. Kyrillos may spout lame Christie talking points, but he has his own possible ethical quandaries to worry about.

And we haven’t even mentioned huntsu’s research on Kyrillos hyperpolitical college interview with Christie that couldn’t even be aired…

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Filed under Chris Christie, corruption, CQ politics, featured, Frank Pallone, Herb Jackson, Joe Kyrillos, Jon Corzine, Operation Bid Rig, political wire, Solomon Dwek

Despite the corruption arrests, Corzine still doing OK

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be a regular columnist /contributor to the, a news organization put together by former Star-Ledger staff members that had been layed-off by the newspaper over the past year.

A couple of members from the News Room have been following this blog and thought that I would be a good fit and lend a progressive voice to the website.
I was honored to think that real journalists thought enough of my writing and insight to include me in their endevours, so I couldn’t say no to the offer.
Below is the first of what I hope to be many opinion pieces posted by my new friends at News Room Jersey:
Despite the corruption arrests, Corzine still doing OK

When I first heard the news on the morning of July 23 about the FBI sting operation that netted 44 people throughout the state on corruption and other assorted charges, as part of the continuing 10-year-old investigation known as “Operation Bid Rig,” I have to admit I wasn’t very happy.

I thought, “here we go again.’’ Another black-eye for the state’s already tarnished and beleaguered image as the most corrupt in the country. I was shocked, angered and concerned all at the same time.

As a Democrat who is involved in the local politics, I immediately thought about how this would affect Governor Corzine and the rest of the democratic ticket down the line. This was not something that Jon Corzine or democrats, in general, needed to be dealing with 13 weeks before November’s election.

After working the overnight shift, keeping up on what seemed like an endless stream of new information and details about the sting operation, I started to think that there was no way, with recent polling numbers showing that the governor trailed his opponent by upwards of 15 points depending on the survey, could survive this latest round of bad news.
My despair only increased when, as the morning shift arrived, my fellow co-workers sought me out to express their displeasure with the scandal and said that it was further evidence as to why they would not be voting for Jon Corzine.

It didn’t matter to those guys that the investigation was started 10 years earlier during the Whitman administration or that the governor was not involved or named in the investigation. It was just further evidence to them that New Jersey’s political system was broken and just as corrupt as ever.

It didn’t matter to them that Jon Corzine is beyond reproach or that he can’t be bought off by special interest (the man is a multi-millionaire who doesn’t need to take money from other people) or that Corzine is one of the most politically ethical elected officials that the State of New Jersey has seen in over a decade. It didn’t matter that during Corzine’s time in office, he is responsible for ending the practice of duel office holding by elected officials or the fact that major Pay-to-Play legislation was passed early in his administration that ended that practice or that he put an end to no-bid contracts.

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Filed under Gov. Jon Corzine, Monmouth County, New Jersey, New Jersey Newsroom, Operation Bid Rig, political corruption, the Star-Ledger