The needler in the haystack.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

PMUA Chair exposes how $1M payout arbitration was subverted

Oh great! It would be Wilson on the $100,000 bill.
How New Jersey is that?


Harold Mitchell, chair of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) Board of Commissioners, explained to the Council and public Monday evening just how the $1 million payout controversy with former executives Eric Watson and David Ervin was subverted by two new board members.

Though the issue was on everyone's mind, it was not on the formal list of items for discussion on the Council's agenda, and only came up after Councilor Rebecca Williams asked about the settlement issue.

Mitchell, a former Mayor and Councilor, explained that the Board's two newest members had taken it upon themselves to intervene by holding personal meetings between themselves and the separated officials to negotiate a settlement WITHOUT BOARD AUTHORIZATION.

(Though Mitchell did not reference them by name, the newest Board members are former Councilor Malcolm R. Dunn and his longtime friend and business associate Cecil Sanders.)

Mitchell's revelation is information that was not known to the public when the news broke after the Board's executive session following its January meeting. Prior to going into the executive session, and with a dozen or so members of the public present, Commissioners Mitchell, Brokaw and Toliver had vowed they would support the arbitration process to the end.

Though there would surely be further expenses on behalf of the agency, the arbitrator's ruling could have come in much lower than the amount demanded by Watson and Ervin or even that arrived at after the intervention of Dunn and Sanders.

Somehow, during that executive session, Commissioner Toliver was persuaded to switch his vote. He tried, not very successfully, to explain himself on Monday evening, but had to be corrected on several significant details concerning the amounts involved, making it seem that he was pressured into agreeing to the settlement proposal without fully understanding the details.


Unspoken in all of this is that the bull-in-the-china-shop intervention by the new commissioners was at the least unethical, if not illegal, and hardly augurs well for the future of the agency.

At any rate, Mitchell continued, the matter is moot for now as the settlement can't be paid because the funds cannot be certified.

When asked by Councilor Williams how the settlement would impact the ratepayers, interim executive director Duane Young said that if new sources of income weren't found to cover the expense it would have to be passed along to the ratepayers.

PAY-TO-PLAY REFORM

There was considerable discussion around the matter of pay-to-play.

Council President Adrian Mapp was of the opinion that the PMUA was 'an instrumentality of the city' as defined by the DCA in its manual on the state's pay-to-play statute (see here), an interpretation that had been brought forward at the time of the ordinance's adoption by resident Alan Goldstein. The DCA manual is itself an explication of the state's pay-to-play law (see here).

Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson has held all along that the PMUA was not covered by this interpretation (see my blog post on the debate here), and PMUA counsel Leslie London took this position Monday evening, noting however, that the Board of Commissioners was not unwilling to look into the matter and to try and align its policy with the City's new ordinance.

I will take up some of the other items discussed in a further post.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Somehow I'm not surprised but Mitchell is completely trying to get himself as the hero. He's whining that everyone did it behind the back when yet HE authorized the partial settlement back in June. During that PARTIAL settlement, he left the door open for more payments. MITCHELL then went back and made a side deal with Ervin and Watson to pay them for unused sick and vacation time. All of which came at the ratepayer expense. The council must do what is right an not appoint anyone. In fact, I have read that the council can disband the PMUA. What is stopping them?

Bob said...

How come the tax payers or the rate payers, in this instance, are left holding the bag when unethical commissioners or politicians make poor decisions? Why can't these people be held accountable and what do recourse do we have for self-serving people like Dunn and his ilk? They need to be dealt with severly and promptly.

Bob Bolmer

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like an illegal meeting was held with no minutes for the public to have access to.
Since Dunn does not do anything unless it benefits his pockets, it makes you wonder how much of a cut will he and Sanders be getting out of this as a commission for brokering the deal?? The deal should be null and void without the specifics being made public.
Just more Plainfield garbage for Christie and the state AG to figure out.

Anonymous said...

So here's how I see it -

You have mapp, storch, williams, and mcwilliams who normally vote together. In my opinion, they vote soundly and I agree with most of their votes. Let's call them Team 1

You have Reid, Greaves, and Rivers voting for whatever the mayor wants. In my opinion, not much, if any thought is given to what they are voting for, the fact that the mayor wants it is enough. As you can tell, I disagree with most of what they vote for. Let's call them Team 2.

In order for Dunn and Sanders to get in, some members of Team 1 had to vote with Team 2. The Team 1 members voted with Team 2 in the spirit of cooperation, and in my opinion, to get some members of Team 2's vote on another issue (politics as usual).

The result was that Team 2 got what they wanted. As usual it was a disaster. The new PMUA members (picked by the mayor) are clueless, and also follow, along with Team 2, the mayor blindly. My suspicion is that Team 1 will get nothing from Team 2.

Moral of the story - Team 1 should stop playing politics, and vote for what is right, not politically expedient.

Anonymous said...

All of the miscreants were in attendance...the PMUA gang...along with their attorney whom they never leave home without.

What was abundantly clear is that the organization is bereft not only of morale fiber, but funds. PMUA CFO Jim Perry identified the award to recently retired Watson and Ervin as $1,050,000. But only after PMUA Commissioner Toliver tried to deflect the inquiry regarding the award by mumbling some low ball numbers which bore no realty to the actual sums.. This amount is exclusive of another $80,000 which was conceded to Watson's an Ervin's attorneys and yet another $15,000 to pay the entire cost of the Arbitration proceedings.

What was not revealed to the Council was that this "settlement" comes on the heels of another "settlement" in which the PMUA agreed to pay the County a chilling $157,000 for disposing of material at incorrect locations for a period spanning 6 years.How does this happen?

None of the above sums are in the budget. Director Young's responses with regard to inquiries made by Mr. Mapp indicated that the future financial viability of the PMUA rests on the anticipation of profitable income ( in an amount which can not be determined and has not been predicted )from the increased use of the transfer station on Rock Avenue. The approvals for expanded use are pending. When asked for an evaluation of what those revenues might be Mr.Young responded that no one has as yet placed a pen to paper. On the heels of this Mr. Young stated that in the past the financial planning, especially as it related to capital expenses for equipment replacement ( which is a BIG line item ) had been done by the seat of the pants. That said, there still has been no detailed budget established. Exacerbating this it should be noted that the Bond redemption escalates as the years pass. Mr. Mapp appropriately noted that all the well established coste, such as; insurance, wages, benefits, etc. are increasing.This chaos reflects the quality of the performance of Commissioners past and present.This is what happens when administration after administration appoints "good ole boys" rather than competent business people who are independent of the political arena.

It is incomprehensible that the Council omitted the subject of the million dollar disgrace from the agenda. Why? When a question was asked of Mr. Young regarding the settlement, which was totally proper because the question goes to "finances" which were on the agenda, several members of the PMUA team, and Corey Storch. jumped out of their seats outraged. What was all that about? What dark understanding was reached prior to the hearing?

The comment in today's CLIPS that Mr, Toliver was an innocent lamb and had his arm twisted at the last minute is baseless. Mr. Toliver has been an advocate of
the award from the outset.

Mr Mitchell stated the PMUA will not pay the award based on some theory.. Mr. Mitchell will learn a lesson about the law as it relates to Arbitration proceedings when he signs the checks made out to
Watson and Ervin.


In the mean time the public is not bereft. The most effective form of protest is to OPT OUT and bring financial pressure to bear. The PMUA may still be able to save themselves, by bringing in the millions of dollars in new profitable revenue that they anticipate, effecting economies in their operations, and through these devices reduce their rates to competitive levels permitting the public to resubscribe to their services. The ball is in their court and the magnificent new crop of Commissioners who are taking over. Bill Kruse

Anonymous said...

All of the miscreants were in attendance...the PMUA gang...along with their attorney whom they never leave home without.

What was abundantly clear is that the organization is bereft not only of morale fiber, but funds. PMUA CFO Jim Perry identified the award to recently retired Watson and Ervin as $1,050,000. But only after PMUA Commissioner Toliver tried to deflect the inquiry regarding the award by mumbling some low ball numbers which bore no realty to the actual sums.. This amount is exclusive of another $80,000 which was conceded to Watson's an Ervin's attorneys and yet another $15,000 to pay the entire cost of the Arbitration proceedings.

What was not revealed to the Council was that this "settlement" comes on the heels of another "settlement" in which the PMUA agreed to pay the County a chilling $157,000 for disposing of material at incorrect locations for a period spanning 6 years.How does this happen?

None of the above sums are in the budget. Director Young's responses with regard to inquiries made by Mr. Mapp indicated that the future financial viability of the PMUA rests on the anticipation of profitable income ( in an amount which can not be determined and has not been predicted )from the increased use of the transfer station on Rock Avenue. The approvals for expanded use are pending. When asked for an evaluation of what those revenues might be Mr.Young responded that no one has as yet placed a pen to paper. On the heels of this Mr. Young stated that in the past the financial planning, especially as it related to capital expenses for equipment replacement ( which is a BIG line item ) had been done by the seat of the pants. That said, there still has been no detailed budget established. Exacerbating this it should be noted that the Bond redemption escalates as the years pass. Mr. Mapp appropriately noted that all the well established coste, such as; insurance, wages, benefits, etc. are increasing.This chaos reflects the quality of the performance of Commissioners past and present.This is what happens when administration after administration appoints "good ole boys" rather than competent business people who are independent of the political arena.

It is incomprehensible that the Council omitted the subject of the million dollar disgrace from the agenda. Why? When a question was asked of Mr. Young regarding the settlement, which was totally proper because the question goes to "finances" which were on the agenda, several members of the PMUA team, and Corey Storch. jumped out of their seats outraged. What was all that about? What dark understanding was reached prior to the hearing?

The comment in today's CLIPS that Mr, Toliver was an innocent lamb and had his arm twisted at the last minute is baseless. Mr. Toliver has been an advocate of
the award from the outset.

Mr Mitchell stated the PMUA will not pay the award based on some theory.. Mr. Mitchell will learn a lesson about the law as it relates to Arbitration proceedings when he signs the checks made out to
Watson and Ervin.


In the mean time the public is not bereft. The most effective form of protest is to OPT OUT and bring financial pressure to bear. The PMUA may still be able to save themselves, by bringing in the millions of dollars in new profitable revenue that they anticipate, effecting economies in their operations, and through these devices reduce their rates to competitive levels permitting the public to resubscribe to their services. The ball is in their court and the magnificent new crop of Commissioners who are taking over. Bill Kruse

Anonymous said...

Well stated anon @ 10:05 AM.

They are all cronies.

Anonymous said...

I can't really feel sorry for you folks in Plainfield. Never will you vote for an independent or republican (gasp). Your BOE as well as your council are filled with incompetents. Mapp tows the line for the democrats, even the ones that threw him out. Until you are willing to entertain the thought that someone other than a democrat can bring ideas and options to the table, then you are stuck with what you have, including that mess of a Mayor.

Maybe it's time for Plainfield to dip their toes into another water.

Anonymous said...

Does this not scare people in Plainfield that this is how things are run. What is wrong with people that they don't vote, they don't get involved, and they take this kind of abuse willingly.

Wake up guys.