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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Plainfield mayor covering up criminal financial deception?

The unspoken question hanging over the Plainfield City Council's special meeting Monday evening was this: Are Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and her Administration engaging in a coverup of potentially criminal activity with regard to the city's finances?

And it all hinges on a letter from a DCA official to Mayor Robinson-Briggs and the City Council which the Council members have yet to see.

The special meeting, originally scheduled to discuss economic development, was expanded to include the appointment of a PART-TIME chief financial officer (CFO) and three resolutions that could not be acted on previously owing to the lack of a bona fide CFO.

The possibility of a coverup only came to light through a bizarre exchange between the Council and the Corporation Counsel.

When Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson asked to have the appointing resolution withdrawn at the beginning of the meeting, a line of questioning was opened that eventually led to the evening's shocker.

Saying he had spent the day on the phone with DCA Commissioner Susan Jacobucci and Dan Kaminski, the DCA official Williamson says is in charge of certifications, there had been some back-and-forth over Plainfield and its CFO situation.

Bottom line: 'Part-time' and 'acting' CFOs are not allowed by DCA regulations, hence the withdrawal of the evening's appointing resolution. Williamson added that he had drawn up an aide-mémoire of the conversations that he was willing to share with the Council later.

Further, though the DCA had offered a 90-day alternative of the appointment of an 'acting' CFO while the City conducted a search for a permanent appointee, Williamson said he was unable to provide the certification for the proposed appointee -- Sandra Cummings -- at last night's meeting.

Then came the first Ozian moment: Williamson asked the Council to adopt the three resolutions requiring a CFO's certification of funds availability, stating that the City would provide the appropriate certification Tuesday, or the resolutions would be rescinded.

Councilor Mapp took immediate objection, saying 'I will not vote to have a resolution adopted pending certification because that is not proper...if we have to take a break, so be it...the Council should not act on any resolution without the certification'.

Mapp then dropped his bombshell of the evening, asking Williamson about a letter supposedly sent by the DCA to the mayor and council, which the Council members still as of Monday evening did not have.

Mapp asked City Administrator Marc Dashield if he could explain why the letter, which should have been in Friday's Council packets, was not supplied.

Dashield admitted he was aware of the letter, but could not explain where it is and why the Council failed to receive copies of same. (No one asked Dashield if HE had a copy of the letter.)

Councilor Annie McWilliams then said that she would like to see the letter 'before we vote' so the Council could understand exactly what issues the state says there are.

At this point in the discussion the idea that the Mayor may have purposely withheld the letter from the Council was raised.

Corporation Counsel Williamson interjected that he was aware of the letter and its contents and that he 'cannot believe the Mayor would purposely withhold the letter from the Council'.

In verbally outlining the contents of the letter for the Council, Williamson included a reference to one of the so-called 'part-time' CFOs certificates being used in 'an inappropriate way' according to the DCA.

Williamson, perhaps without intending to, had supplied confirmation of a rumor that has been circulating for months that someone in the Robinson-Briggs administration had continued to use the certification of a former
'part-time' CFO after that person had submitted a letter of resignation and was no longer being paid by the City for professional services.

There are questions as to what has happened to that letter of resignation, and why copies of it are not on file with the City Clerk or in possession of the Personnel Division.

Further, we need to know exactly what the details of the 'inappropriate' use of the certification entailed --

  • Was it for certifying funds for various resolutions? If so which, how many, and when?

  • Was it for the purpose of providing needed countersignatures to checks issued by the City? If so, how many and for how much?

  • Lastly, of course, WHO EXACTLY misused the certification?
The DCA may not see itself in any role but that of enforcing its regulations, but that does not mean that a prosecutor might not have another point of view.

The misuse of the certification was certainly 'inappropriate' as Corporation Counsel Williamson said in his recap of the missing letter. It seems likely that it was also illegal, and perhaps even criminal.

Having Mayor Robinson-Briggs supply copies of the letter would help answer some question, but would doubtless raise others she would rather not discuss.

After a 10-minute recess for Williamson to try and reach Mayor Robinson-Briggs, he reported he met with no success and that she had not responded to repeated calls. (The mayor's confidential aide was in attendance and sat tight-lipped throughout the entire matter, never volunteering whether she could be of any assistance -- either in reaching the Mayor, or in resolving the issue of the letter's whereabouts.)

Upon resuming the Council meeting and hearing from Williamson that he had no success in reaching the Mayor, Council President Burney asked Councilor Reid to offer a motion withdrawing the three resolutions on the agenda. Reid did and the resolutions were withdrawn by unanimous voice vote.

Burney then dismissed Dashield, Williamson and the other administration officials in attendance.

The question, however, of whether there has been criminal activity in relation to the abuse of the CFO's certification has not been dismissed.

Once again, what Mayor Robinson-Briggs knew and when she knew it becomes important.

And, whether failing to share the DCA letter with the Council is an attempt -- if not to cover up the whole matter, at least to delay its exposure to daylight until after the November election.

Once again, residents and taxpayers owe Councilor Mapp thanks for keeping a sharp eye on this Administration's activities.

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

The city needs to bring back Pet Sipilia or an outside auditor to clear things up.Plainfield should be declared a disaster area,and the Federal Government should come here and clean house.Then maybe we would all still be able to afford to live here.With all of this abuse of our tax $$ soon the only people who will be able to afford to live here are the peopel who are on Section 8!

Anonymous said...

Did Williamson try to call the Mayor from a cell phone? If so, was it a city cellphone or personal cellphone? Doesn't make a difference - it was done to conduct City business and should be a matter of public record. Would love to see the cellphone bill. And the Mayor has a City cellphone so would like to see the record of incoming calls also to see if she took the call or not. Council should demand to see these bills and if the Mayor answered th call or not. Did Williamson leave a voicemail message requesting the Mayor call as soon as she received the message. Makes no differece - the Mayor should have seen the missed call message on her cellphone and and knew where the call came from and she should have returned the call at some point in time.

active citizen said...

It's sad that we, in Plainfield, have come to this. Plainfield is not the Newark of Sharp James, and not like other cities where a select group become rich and do what they please. Or are we? Thanks to our vigilant City Council the citizens of Plainfield have some hope for honesty in government.

We apparently cannot trust Robinson-Briggs or any of her cronies. If she is implicated in the CFO matter and signing of illegal checks, I think impeachment should immediately follow. We cannot afford another four years of this mess. Let's make sure everyone in Plainfield knows about how shady our current mayor is. She does with the prize for shadiest, I'll give her that.

Anonymous said...

Yep, just what we need for another four years!! Incompetent idiocy! I don't know if that is proper syntax but it does apply! How can a person raise their right hand, swear to govern and to uphold the law if that person does not take the time to learn the law?

Anonymous said...

Plainfielders need the state auditors to come in. We need to stop this corrupt spending. Remember the election is coming. We need to stop putting the same old bad apples in city hall.

Bobbie said...

No wonder ther is so much crime in Plaifield,LOOK at the officials, they have more crime going on than in the streets!

Anonymous said...

If this does not wake-up the electorate, nothing will.

Anonymous said...

Who starts the ball rolling on trying to find out if something illegal has been done? Does the city council have to contact the state attorney general, or can any citizen do that and voice their concern?

Also, while councilman Mapp certainly should be commended for his vigilance, it is a scary thought that our other council members don't have a clue, and all this would have been missed had it not been for Mapp.

JMG said...

Once again your machine politics providng the only best and the brightest for the residents of Plainfield. As we speak Boss Green (a.k.a. Mayor Green) is out and about with the money bag securing votes for the upcoming election. I'm suprised he has not blamed George Bush for the latest woes in the city of Plainfield. My question is why is the City (taxpayers) paying for a "confidential aide " apparently the Mayor does not confide in her since she had no cue about the Mayor's whereabouts.
Maybe the city council should hire Leon's Catering for the meetings, that would guarantee the Mayor's attendance.

What a joke and like I've said before Mayor will most likely be re-elected again.

I had hopes for this city under Al Mcwilliams, now I see those hopes rapidly being flushed down the drain.

Rob said...

PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAASE SOMEONE CALL THE NEWSPAPERS..PLEASE SOMEONE CALL THE AUTHORITIES!! PLEASE MAKE THIS SUCH AN ISSUE WE ARE FINALLY RID OF HER!! Let this woman continue to arrange the deck chairs on her own personal Titanic but lets get her out before she takes the rest of us with her. AND PLEASE everyone remember this is Jerry's Personal Lapdog that HE put into office...out with the lot of them !! Pull Jerry in front of the reporters because he will either be forced to go on record as supporter her or walking away from her.. PLEASE SOMEONE WITH TIES TO THE MEDIA HELP US !!

nudeal said...

If only the Courier and the Ledger would print this story on their front page and call for in investigation right now. Otherwise this will be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Let's stop saying that she will be re-elected and say that Plainfield is finally taking its city back, and we will have leadership voted in on Nov 3.

She is out, along with Jerry Green. Doesn't that feel great!!!!

Anonymous said...

This should come as no surprise with a Mayor that has one set of rules for herself and her administration and another for folks that speak their minds at Senior Center meetings. It is time to do to her what she did to the GOP mayoral in the cops and get rid of her.

Anonymous said...

This administration is so incompetent. Check out the lawn sign at Green's place regarding Christie. The same slogan holds true for Briggs/Green.
Corzine, Briggs, Green, Stender and the list goes on...send them all packing Nov. 3.

Anonymous said...

This Council needs to get with it and start holding some feet to the fire. We all know this mayor needs to go, but please don't sit idle as the drip, drip of incompetence floods the city.

Anonymous said...

A mayor that can not be reached by cell? What year is this?

Anonymous said...

Dan where there is smoke, there is fire. The problem is the media tends to gloss over much of the corruption instead of rooting out the real causes. Look at the summer sting that landed many politicans in was a flash in the pan and now Corzine and others are on their way to re-election. Heck even Obama, Biden. Clinton and others think there is nothing wrong in NJ. I am afraid that the vast majority here in Plainfield think all is sad.

Jim Pivnichny said...

I was there last night to witness the fiasco and have written about my views on my own blog. I will say this- If elected I will either attend counsel meetings or be available by phone, I will hire competent, qualified people for all statutory posts and I will see that council gets their mail.

Anonymous said...

I am sad beyond words that Plainfield has descended to the level of incredible incompetence now characterizing our city's administration. I am also sad that the machine still has the backing of the voting majority. We're being destroyed from within and I don't see any ladder out of this pit of incompetence and corruption.

Anonymous said...

Two weeks to go. Please keep up the good work Dan and all Plainfield bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Can any of this be probed at the candidate forum on Oct. 28. Dan we must get folks out to fill the room that night -- I am not sure of the time, place, but please let us know ASAP. Also, by packing the room and getting some media to cover it, we can finally wake up those 'Sleeping in Plainfield'.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Divine intervention badly needed here. Pray, we must all pray.

Ron said...

I fear that there just isn't enough of a desire to vote out sharon by much of the town, that for whatever reason seems to think she's doing a good job. It's quite frustrating.
I am somewhat pleased to see as many Pivnichny signs as I am and a surprising lack of Sharon signs. Perhaps some of her supporters just assume she has this wrapped up?

Keep It Real said...

Jim, do you already have a team ready to start on day one? What are your two most critical positions you want filled and what will be their 3 priorities? How do you plan to replace the Public Safety Director with a Police Chief and how long do you think that will take. Are the PBAs members behind you? If you are elected, how will that affect the Introduction of the budget? When do you assume control of the budget? Will you have to battle the Governor every step of the way?

Pat said...

Pat said:
The candidates' forum someone asked about is Wednesday 28 October at Emerson School, off Leland and E. Third, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, 6:30 District 22 Assembly, 7:30 mayoralty candidates.

Anonymous said...

Once again (see Bernice's posts of last week), "Keep it Real" adovocates four more years of Sharon because the inconvenience it might cause to get new, perhaps, more competent hires at City Hall. I really do not understand this rationale and can not find why on earth someone would continue to hound the GOP candidate for mayor on this issue. Wake up...the government just changed hands on 1-20-09 and to my knowledge, it really doesn't seemed we skipped a beat...if the federal government can do it, so can Plainfield.

Anonymous said...

No more "keep it real" is time to GET REAL.

Anonymous said...

To Keep it Real -

Perhaps you need to post your comments . . . or better said -QUESTIONs on Pivnichny's blog.

Or even better yet - GO TO ONE OF HIS MEET and GREETs.

Anonymous said...

Pitch forks, torches and a big old bulldozer are needed to clean up this mess.

Anonymous said...

Is Sandra Cummings certified or not? Isn't her job title Assistant Comptroller? Normally, an assistant is able to perform all the duties of the Comptroller which may/may not be the Chief Financial Officer. Why would she be appointed if she cannot get certified and how has she signed any documents over the years as Acting CFO?

Anonymous said...

To Keep it Real, those are questions you should ask this mayor who has had 4 years to get people in place. So - no CFO in years - Finance and Admin person coming on after no vacancy for 3 years.

It seems to me that Piv has plenty of time to get his team together. After all, the mayor's term is almost over, and she still doesn't have a team. So, even if Piv takes 6 months, he is way ahead of the game.

Anonymous said...

I met Jim Pivnichny last night and I am sold. He has what Plainfield needs. Please spread the word and talk to your neighbors and friends. Thanks.

Keep It Real said...

I appreciate everyone responses and I did post them on his page.I am anxious to read his answer. That will help me to decide. I am not into campaign slogans or platitudes. I want to ensure he has thought this through. If he wins, he has a lot of work to do.

Keep It Real said...

@9:11, I believe your comments are very close to the truth.

Keep It Real said...

@1036, the fact that Plainfield hasn't had a legitimate CFO is very very troubling. Since the CFO must certify the budget by Law. I am puzzled why we are just finding this out. Whatever the reason, it will not be a good news story for the People of Plainfield. I suggest we buckle up and get ready for a painful ride

Anonymous said...

I here that the TAX office is holding refunds due to tax payers. Why would the Mayor not want tax paying citizens and former citizens to get back the money that is owed to them? Is she holding onto the money till after the election? Many mysteries about $$$$ in CITY HALL. What we all need a new team in City Hall.

Anonymous said...

At next week's forum, are questions allowed from the general public? Before one vote is cast, this administration has some explaining to do. I don't know how anyone can justify the re-election of this mayor.