Friday, January 30, 2009

Local Finance Board is slow in responding

After my recent posting, I received a few comments advising me that the Local Finance Board, which handles the bulk of the municipal ethics complaints filed in New Jersey, is very slow processing the complaints. I concur with these correspondents and offer the following as evidence of the slow pace at which the Local Finance Board operates.

On January 3, 2005, I wrote a letter of complaint to the Local Finance Board which is at pages 13 and 14 of the file I've uploaded here.

In that letter, I complained that as of 2004, 9 of the 33 complaints that the Board had received in 1999 were still not resolved. In other words, nearly a third of the complaints docketed in 1999 remained unresolved even though five years had elapsed. The Local Finance Board's March 23, 2005 response, which is at the last page of the file at the above link, expresses the Board's view "that complaints are being handled appropriately."

When I submitted another request for the Board's ethics complaint status reports in March 2006, I received the records that comprise the first thirteen pages of the file at the above link. As you can see, the Board did resolve 3 of the 9 1999 complaints in the fifteen months since receiving my January 3, 2005 letter, leaving 6 of those complaints unresolved.

One problem with this slow pace is that the Local Finance Board refuses to release any information about its open cases, including the name of the local government officer or employee against whom a complaint was filed, or the name of the local government entity that the complained about officer or employee serves. This means that a member of your municipal council may have been named in one of the unresolved ethics complaints filed in 1999 but as of 2006--7 years later--you would still have no way of knowing that the complaint had been filed.

Today, I filed another OPRA request with the Local Finance Board for its ethics case status records from 1999 to 2008 and for the years prior to 1998 for which any cases remain unresolved. I will post these records and notify this list upon receipt.

Unless the Local Finance Board has radically improved its handling of complaints, I may be asking readers of this list to complain to their state legislators and ask for their help in getting the Local Finance Board to be more prompt.

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