The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Many Murkey moments at Council


You want murky? We got murky with the best of 'em.

The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) was the clock-eater at Monday night's Plainfield City Council agenda-setting session.

PMUA Executive Director Dan Williamson took to the mike to answer a prepared list of 17 questions that had been pulled together by Council President Bridget Rivers and given to him in advance of the meeting.

Williamson repeated so many times that he 'didn't have the exact figures with me, but I can get them' that I was put in mind of the perennial closing credits gag from NPR's Car Talk guys show: '...and our statistician is Marge Innovera of Murkey Research...'

That was before the Councilors got to stick their oars in. When Councilor Williams asked Williamson the total spent by the PMUA on its legal counsel, he said he didn't have the figure available but would have if he had known the question was to be asked. (You have to bear in mind that the PMUA just went through its annual budget process, so it's hard to understand why he wouldn't have a figure in mind.) Nor was PMUA corporation counsel Leslie London able to give an answer to the question.

Like worry beads, perennial kvetches were touched on yet again: ratepayers charged for filling swimming pools and lawn-watering, benefits packages for Commissioners, payments from the City to the PMUA, payments from the PMUA to the City, illegal dumping, and 'shared services' charges. And none seems any closer to resolution.

Councilor Mapp focused his questions on the 51 trash cans removed from the downtown shopping district and other locations. Williamson pointed out that action was taken after consultation with the Robinson-Briggs administration and that the PMUA had not acted unilaterally. This was quite different from the reaction of Administration representatives when Councilors first broached the topic last month. At that time, they seemed as much in the dark as the Councilors. So, if there were joint discussions with the PMUA in advance, why didn't Robinson-Briggs 'fess up?

Councilor Storch focused on the contracts the PMUA had negotiated with other communities (Garwood, North Plainfield, South Plainfield, Green Brook and Scotch Plains to date). After a little back-and-forth with Williamson, it came out that the contracts involve those communities bringing their vegetative and bulky waste to the Rock Avenue Transfer Station, where PMUA employees weigh it in and process it.

Councilors Reid, Rivers, Greaves and Brown had no questions or comments with regard to the PMUA.

After the Council had its opportunity to raise questions, Council President Rivers gave the floor to the public.

Resident Alan Goldstein began a lengthy recitation of his concerns, which included construal of the original Interlocal Services Agreement which formed the PMUA to begin with and which he considers fraudulent, as well as the matter of fringe benefits for three 'grandfathered' Commissioners that he asserted have cost the ratepayers 'at least $100,000' and which he referred to as 'embezzlement'.

After about twenty minutes, Council President Rivers tried to get him to wrap it up, but Goldstein protested that she had promised him before the meeting that he would have as much time as he needed to make his points.

Smiling, Rivers relented. Goldstein proceeded. Audience members suppressed snickers.

In a performance that gives a new meaning to the phrase 'drone warfare', Goldstein continued his lengthy comments, referring constantly to a sheaf of several documents he had prepared. (Whatever the merits of Goldstein's research, his concerns, or his point of view, his case was not helped by the fact that everyone -- Councilors and public alike -- had to sit and listen like schoolchildren. There were no handouts, no roadmap, no idea whether his remarks had a beginning, middle and end. And finally, they just sort of petered out, with no summation, no stirring call to action, just the words 'fraud' and 'embezzlement'.

Goldstein obviously cares passionately about the issues he raises, but he is such a loner, finds not a single soul who rises to his excruciating moral standards and with whom he can make common cause, that the end result on the public is to raise a stifled yawn.

And that is too bad, because there are real issues with the PMUA, from its rates and their justification to the $1 million ripoff of the ratepayers for the Watson and Ervin settlement and more.

The bottom line is that while the evening may have been uncomfortable for Williamson (and London), they escaped basically unscathed.

And the next time Goldstein wants to vent, Council President Rivers will be perfectly justified in saying, 'But didn't I give you all the time you wanted on these issues once before?'


-- Dan Damon [follow]



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10 comments:

Rebecca Williams said...

Dan,

I was equally puzzled by Williamson and London eliding the issue of what her law firm gets paid--it is in excess of $25,000-30,000 per month. Our Coproation Counsel, David Minchello, also stated for the record that he agreed with Mr. Goldstein's reading of what constitutes "compensation." The next stop, it appears, is the state.

Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the septic tank that is Plainfield is overflowing

Anonymous said...

Alan you have obviously done a lot of research into the PMUA and bring up a list of accusations on these issues. I wonder though if these are true why hasn't anyone taken these charges farther via court etc. What have you asked the council to do about it?? With everything you presented it was mearly a statement, there was no call to action what you expected the council to do after your presentation. If the council will not look into these accusations perhaps a lawsuit is in order.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Williamson appears ill-equipped to be a Director/CEO.

A CEO should know his business cold.

He knew the 17 questions beforehand -- why wasn't he prepared with the facts to back up his responses? This is something attornys have to do all the time when they make arguments.

Grade: -D

This man is not qualified for this position.

But, for political patronage jobs, I guess you don't have to be.

Alan Goldstein said...

To Anon 9:10- All these issues have been addressed previously with the Council publically and privately, but they sit on their hands. My solution is contained in an email I addressed to Bridget Rivers early this morning:

Council President Rivers,

Thank you for permitting me time to speak last night. I edited down what I wanted to say, and though I got most of it across, it is unfortunate that in order to do so it became a bit of a scene.

It will become more of a scene if the City Council continues to give more weight to the scammers and liars, and short shrift to the facts that undergird an entity that was corrupted in infancy, and continues as a racket from then until now. The lack of understanding of the Inter Local Agreement on the part of the City Council is appalling. It's unwillingness to take the time to educate itself is pathetic. There appears a true conspiracy to reward conflicts of interest while always looking the other way at any suggestion of ethical abuse.

This is fraud, plain and simple; Fraud on the part of the City of Plainfield, PMUA, and various individuals, that I believe is fully prosecutable under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization statutes. Fraud which has been perpetrated against the interests of city residents and PMUA bondholders. Can an entity which operates under secret and unapproved agreements put in place before the ink was dry, which dissembles in its financial statements, whose commissioners embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal compensation, continue in such a fashion? It would seem the answer is 'yes'.

There will be no improvements in the fortunes of this city as long as corruption is the operative rule. Only hucksters will roll the dice on us. That will be your legacy until you show the leadership necessary to achieve a clean break. I strongly recommend that the City Council begin the process of a fair hearing aimed at the removal of each PMUA commissioner, all of whom are legally tainted, their removal fully justified by fact and circumstance. Requesting a state-appointed conservator would be a reasonable parallel step, while a forensic audit of all spending as far back as 1998 is absolutely imperative. It is shameful what has been going on. I urge you to take appropriate action.

Sincerely,

Alan Goldstein

Anonymous said...

so one of the homies wasn't able to put on a perfect dog and pony show?? So what ??
He's on the in..that's all that matters to the Mayor, Jerry, The City Council. They may slap him around here and there for fun in public, but make no mistake about it..they were patting him on the back afterward telling him what a good job he did.
He'll learn to oooze sleeze just like the rest of them soon enough.
Then the voters in Plainfield will be happy again regardless of costs or waste.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 10:35...... I beg to differ, the Executive Director is qualified. He has close ties to Jerry Green, Eric Watson, Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders. He's qualified because he hires anyone they tell him to especially those who attend Tracy Brown church. He's qualified because anyone with these associations will never get fired no matter how much they steal. HE IS QUALIFIED!

Anonymous said...

My God people. Do you really think the unfabulous 4 can understand or shall I say comprehend what Mr. Goldstein is saying. I viewed a January City Council meeting a which time Ms. River's "AXKED Adminsration" so many times that I cannot fathom how any are still standing from all their wounds. GET REAL

Anonymous said...

Bottom Line is that no one with any power wants to stop the PMUA because that would eliminate the Cash and Jobs Cow for their families and friends. If the DumpPMUA movement didn't do it with all the media attention and resident support, nothing will. Everyone thought something would happen after the exposure, but you cannot shame the shameless. That is why Plainfield will always be Plainfield and those of us with nice houses just have to consider it a charitable donation when we pay our taxes and PMUA bill. You are helping the mentally challenged. Take comfort in that folks!

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows that the PMUA Executive Director knows nothing about Sewer, Garbage, or even running a business like that. He knows nothing about the industry and is not trying to fix the "waste".

Just look at all the people that he rehired since he started and the new positions that he has created (Chief of Security etc.) This is the Eric Watson / Jerry Green administration all over again and we people of Plainfield are letting it happen. Shame on us.