Wednesday, February 9, 2011

State fines four Roselle Park officials for failure to disclose finances

On January 31, 2011, the Local Finance Board, which is within the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, levied $100 fines against four Roselle Park (Union County) officials who failed to file their Financial Disclosure Statements (FDS) in 2008.

The four officials are:

Gail Bradley, Board of Health member
Robert Tobe, Fire Chief
Bill Heim, Zoning Board member
Jeff Regan, Library Board member

The Notices of Violations against the four officials are on-line here.

The FDS forms are required by New Jersey's Local Government Ethics Law to be filed by elected and certain appointed municipal officials. The forms disclose officials' sources of income, business interests and real estate holdings so that members of the public can better determine if officials have a conflict of interest in any given matter.

For example, a Zoning Board member's form might disclose, among other things, that the member's spouse works for a particular company. If the company for which the spouse works applies for a variance before the Zoning Board, the public might not realize that the member is conflicted from acting on that application had the member failed to file an FDS form.

The fines were levied in response to an October 1, 2009 complaint filed by the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. In that complaint, the Project alleged that twenty-seven Roselle Park officials had failed to file the FDS forms due on April 30, 2008. Among those named in the complaint for failing to file was First Ward Councilman Laurence Dinardo. The New Jersey Libertarian Party's complaint and letter to the Mayor and Council are on-line here.

During 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Libertarian Party filed complaints against hundreds of officials in approximately fifty municipalities around the State. Previously, the Local Finance Board has steadfastly refused to fine officials who fail to file as long as the official later files the delinquent form.

In light of the Libertarian Party's complaints, however, Thomas H. Neff, who chairs the Local Finance Board, has informed the Party that "the Board is considering implementation of a stricter policy of fining local government officers who fail to file annual financial disclosure statements in a timely manner." Neff added, however, that "pending advance notice of such a policy, the past policy of not fining officers who file statements in response to complaints will continue." A January 31, 2011 letter from Neff that contains these quotes is on-line here.

It is believed that the fines levied against these four Roselle Park officials are the first fines to be levied against non filers by the Local Finance Board since the Local Government Ethics Law was enacted in 1991.

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