Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ethics Complaint dismissed against 30 Gloucester Twp officials

On October 8, 2008, I filed a complaint with the Local Finance Board against thirty (30) Local Government Officers serving Gloucester Township (Camden County). I filed this complaint because each of those officers had failed to file the Financial Disclosure Statement (FDS) that the Local Government Ethics Law requires to be filed on or before April 30, 2008.

After I filed my complaint, the 30 officials apparently filed their tardy FDS forms--the last one to file was Zoning Board Member Kevin Bucceroni on December 5, 2008.

On July 30, 2010--about a year and half after Bucceroni's filing--the Local Finance Board notified me that my complaint was "dismissed" because it "no longer [has] a factual basis." In other words, the fact that none of the officials had filed by the April 30, 2008 deadline does not, in the Local Finance Board's view, constitute a violation of the Ethics Law. Thus, local government officers are free to simply ignore the FDS filing requirements, knowing that they can simply file their tardy forms in the unlikely event that someone complains.

I have been complaining for years about the Local Finance Board's failure to meaningfully enforce the Ethics Law. In one news article I was quoted as saying: "If [the Local Government Ethics Law and the attorney disciplinary system] were intended to actually punish wrongdoing, I think they fail miserably. . . I believe that a decent argument could be made that neither system was intended to ferret out unethical conduct and discipline the perpetrators. Rather, these systems were intended to placate the public and create an illusion that lawyers and politicians are actually subject to oversight."

Now that I've received the 30 tardy records (actually I received 28 of them--the Local Finance Board did not send me one for Rent Stabilization Board member Laurence Lamourine and sent me the 2007 form filed by District No. 1 Fire Commissioner Ralph Ferninando), I've decided to put them on-line so that Gloucester Township residents can easily access them. The records are here.

P.S. Observant readers will note that: a) District No. 1 Fire Commissioner Ralph Ferninando's filing indicates that he has no source of income and b) Section II.A of Fire Commissioner Kevin Donahue's form is filled out incorrectly.

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