The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Monday, July 9, 2012

Politics and "Fees": Conduct Unbecoming


A few weeks ago, I had requested from the Recreation Division a budget for ALL the Independence Day activities—what I received was a sloppy, incomplete, and questionable Excel spreadsheet. Every single dollar of public money spent on all events associated with the Independence Day parade and concert needs to be accounted for. I am still awaiting the complete and comprehensive budget I requested from the recreation superintendent—along with all bids, required quotes, and signed contracts (including one for Alicia Myers, who apparently performed at no cost to the city) from every performer and vendor. On your behalf, residents of Plainfield, I promise to get this information so that you will have a full accounting.

After riding and walking in the parade, I attended the concert, which had excellent performances by several bands (including KeNoBe, whose lead singer, Kevin Franklin, I know—we used to sing in the same choir years ago), house music legend Alicia Myers and, of course, the headliner, Howard Hewett. Folks were having a wonderful time. I purchased some great food--a delicious, cooked-to-order fish sandwich from The Family Soul Spot and peach cobbler from It's A Wrap (local Plainfield businesses). I would have also purchased my favorite empanadas from Plainfield's Portusa restaurant but, alas, they were not serving them at the concert.

The only thing that marred the concert was the “performance” by the mayor, who managed to politicize the event through several glaring omissions and commentary, some of which I suspect were willful, and one serious one, which was quite embarrassing.
Throughout the evening, the mayor specifically thanked Councilors Greaves, Rivers, and Reid, but not the rest of the governing body, even though I was in attendance and sitting no more than 3 feet from Councilor Greaves the entire time, and the mayor walked right by me a few times. Perhaps I was an apparition the mayor didn't see. Even her husband, Peter, was cordial and friendly. Oh, well.

Mind you, I am not complaining—the degree of disrespect shown by the mayor to certain members of the city council (Council President Mapp, along with Councilors Storch, McWilliams, and yours truly) is by now legendary, and to be expected. The texts that I received from friends in the audience who were surprised by the mayor not mentioning us at all signaled their disapproval of her honor’s extreme tastelessness. Again, it is par for the course.

Another egregious aspect was the degree to which the mayor politicized what should have been a non-political event: she publicly reminded the audience that Councilor Rivers would “be up for re-election next year,” which elicited some shocked looks from the folks I was around in the VIP area, who seemed stunned that she would use the occasion of honoring our veterans for such blatant and tacky political posturing.

The most embarrassing aspect of the mayor’s willful politicking was the omission of any mention of veteran Alex Toliver, who conceived the entire idea of a “returning heroes” parade and came to several council meetings to discuss his efforts as a volunteer, helping with design, contacting the media, etc. Time after time, the mayor took to the stage with her self-promoting, self-congratulatory blather, thanking specific individuals who had not even tangential connections to any of the events, and consistently ignoring Mr. Toliver, whose volunteer time and efforts certainly contributed to the events.

The mayor even brought several individuals with July birthdays to the stage (including one man whose birthday it WASN’T), but not Mr. Toliver. He didn’t receive a single thank you or acknowledgement from the mayor—not even when she read from a printed list. In my humble opinion, he should have been the FIRST person brought up to the stage—perhaps to say a few words about veterans and what  he envisioned. I did see the mayor in the VIP tent thanking him after the concert was over—perhaps she will now be shamed into giving him some kind of public acknowledgement for his work--that would be the classy thing to do. Perhaps if she wasn’t thinking only of her re-election and stroking her outsized ego, she would have remembered Mr. Toliver. It was a tasteless display but, fortunately, the musical performances were worth enduring this silliness.

I also think Mr. Toliver should be thanked for helping to bring to light (at the Thursday, June 28 Special Meeting) the fact that a non-contracted marketing company was going around to local business owners in an attempt to get them to buy “spaces” at the concert grounds, as well as asking for participation in an advertising journal--to the tune of several hundred additional dollars. Bernice blogged about it last week (see here). I had also noted complaints about this at that meeting, and it was publicly confirmed at that meeting what the lawful fees would be.

To make matters worse, this operation was being run out of Recreation, whose staff was handing out applications with these fraudulent and illegal fees printed on them, as well as telling prospective vendors (some of whom complained to me about the unusually high cost of participating) that they had to pay these fees to participate. Copies of this document were openly floating about the city last week, which is how I got hold of one.

The truth is, the ONLY lawful fees vendors were required to pay for participating in the city-sponsored parade and concert were those charged for county ($50.00) and municipal permits (peddler's at $25.00 and food vendor at $32.50), respectively. I will be asking the administration for an explanation of this.

The question is, were monies taken from Plainfield businesses in excess of what was legal? The only way to determine whether everything was done legally and above board is to actually see the bid quotes and signed contracts. As I noted above, I am awaiting this information. It is my hope that the administration will go back to the previous way of staging July 4th activities--by having a committee that will work on the events in an open and transparent way.

What is sad is that there were not many vendors present at all. This is unusual, given the fact that the Union County "Rhythm and Blues by the Brook" event was cancelled, and this concert would have provided an opportunity for our businesses and would help our local economy. Here are some other questions: How many Plainfield-based (and other) businesses were approached about paying these unconscionably illegal high fees? How many decided NOT to participate because they were turned off by the fees that they  were presented with? What happened to the so-called ad journal that fees were also supposed to be collected for? No ad journal was handed out--what did those vendors pay for? Have any and all fraudulent monies collected been returned? What is the responsibility of the administration for this fraud? What will happen next? I want to make sure that our business owners can remain confident that we are looking out for them.


As members of the governing body, it is the council’s duty and responsibility to ensure that nothing illegal or fraudulent occurs with city funds, and that our local business owners are not exploited by operators who do not have any authority to charge fees with the fraudulent imprimatur of the City of Plainfield. This bears investigation by the Union County Prosecutor's Office, in my humble opinion.

All best,

Rebecca

13 comments:

  1. Shady Sharonda strikes again. This mayor seems to go out of her way to embarrass herself and Plainfield. She can seem the fool as often as she wants, but leave my town out of it. I have written the mayor about the PUMA mess and will write the governor. When you think you've seen all the dirt Sharon can do, along comes a new surprise.

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  2. So Rebecca, how will you continue to report to the citizens? Will you report at the council meetings?

    Also, while I agree that Mr. Toliver should have been recognized, he is a staunch supporter of the mayor and obviously has outlived his usefulness. I cannot feel any sympathy for him. He has done as much damage to this city through his PMUA antics as the mayor. I kind of like it when they eat their own - sorry.

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  3. Perhaps there weren't many vendors because they realized they were being BAMBOOZLED.

    tsk tsk tsk!

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  4. There was a closing date for Vendor's and a lot of them did not get their correct information the the County so they can be a vendor. This event was a great success and you are very upset about that. I think the director of recreation need to file charges against YOU for harrassment. I know you will never post this but at least I know you will read this.

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  5. To "Anonymous" at 2:50 pm:

    Of course I will post your ridiculous and conscienceless diatribe--it says a lot about your (lack of) character.

    Clearly, you have no understanding of how to go about getting permits, nor do you have any sense of ethics. What you state about "closing dates for vendors" and getting "correct information to the County" has absolutely NOTHING to do with illegal fees being charged through the Division of Recreation. Perhaps you didn't see the fraudulent contract that Recreation was handing out...or, perhaps you did.

    Also, I have no clue as to what you are talking about regarding "harassment"--I have nothing to do with the operations of the Recreation Division or its employees. To make it clear to you, since you obviously have no clue, the employees of Plainfield work under the direction of the administration--meaning they report to division heads, who in turn report to their department heads, who in turn report to the city administrator (Mr. Eric Berry), who in turn reports to the mayor. If you look at an organizational chart, perhaps you can see how the city operates, who is responsible for what.

    I am not at all upset about the fact that people had a good time--however, if fraud and/or theft occurred because of this illegal operation, you should be very upset. I am shocked that you expressed NO concern for our small business owners and residents who wanted to vend, but could not afford the illegal fees in addition to the lawful fees. Anyone (like yourself) who defends wrongdoing is as bad as the wrongdoer. I suggest you take an ethics course.

    All best,

    Rebecca

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  6. @2:50pm -

    I am one of those vendors who tried to get a permit and realized I couldn't afford the additional (now known illegal)fees. Perhaps I should be filing a lawsuit against the recreational director.

    Hmmmm . . .

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  7. Anonymous above is of the same ilk as those who hold the power in this city. Cut from the same rotting bar rag as it were. One of the imagined insiders, who are so far up the next guy up the latter of power’s six they can not see, nor feel that arm warmly embracing them, picking their pocket.
    I suggest a careful reading of Orwell’s Animal Farm, if you dare expand your mind, pay careful attention to the pigs and their rewriting of the creed. Anonymous is one of the sheep singing the party song, while Rebecca is the goat, just like me.
    Don’t get it? The book is less than a hundred pages, free at the library, I am sure you have heard of that building, you can find out if your being insulted.
    Of course your could always have someone TELL you what it’s about instead of reading it for yourself and finding out the facts, just as apparently done with your knowledge of the city. Why fool with the facts or truth anyway, it’s such a bother, it’s so much easier to believe what you are told.

    In my experience it’s a good thing to have people like Rebecca around, to play the goat, and reveal what was really written on the wall. You should be thanking her for digging into these things, for caring enough to. What have you done lately to make life in this city better? Oh sorry, no one has told you to..
    \
    Rebecca, stand up sit down fight fight fight
    Thank you very much

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  8. Rebecca all vendors had to do was pay their fee's to the county and the city. Again you stated in your comments that there were very few vendor's there, if they had paid their fee's on time there would have been more. I know of Vendor's who went to the county and were told it was to late, so get your facts straight. Again I will say you are EXTREMLY upset that the CONCERT went off with a blast. I am very proud of the recreation department for the hard work they did for this wonderful CITY event. I will also say that the recreation director needs to file HARRASSMENT charges on you. I know this one will not get posted.

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  9. Rob,

    Yes, I absolutely do read every one of your comments. I have my reasons, though. Please feel free to give me a call.

    Best,

    Rebecca

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  10. To "Anonymous" at 8:54 am,

    Here again, you see that I have published your absolutely ridiculous commentary, in which you again have deliberately avoided reasons that vendors may stayed away: perhaps they didn't want to pay the outrageously high ILLEGAL and FRAUDULENT fees on the ILLEGAL and FRAUDULENT application that the Recreation Division was ILLEGALLY and FRAUDULENTLY handing out. Regarding "harassment," why on earth would anyone file harassment charges on me? Should someone file harassment charges on Mr. Toliver, the veteran who brought this all to light? Clearly, you don't think I have an obligation to follow up on possible wrongdoing. Again, why don't you take a course on ethics? You certainly need one.

    Rebecca


    Ps: I am done posting your idiotic commentary--you are avoiding the true issue with your obfuscations.

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  11. This anonymous supporter of recreation sounds exactly like someone who KNOWS how to waste the courts time with frivolus lawsuits. They refuse to address the over and above fees recreation was charging that appear to be illegal. There are a certain group of folks that band together to support wrongness no matter what. Plainfield will never progress with them around.

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  12. Hmmm, I wonder who that supporter of recreation is that keeps rambling on and on about the 7th of July and the vendors. Could it be Dave Wynn or the mayor or her cronies? She was the one that gave Dave all the praise for doing such an incredible job. Where was he during the parade? Hiding from the mess he created? The supporter doing all this ranting about vendors is obviously brain dead and clueless in Plainfield. Wouldn't know the truth if it slapped him/her in the face. Everyone who read your ranting certainly know who you are sucking up to and for what. Idiots, like you, are definitely on the take in Plainfield. God help you all.

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  13. Can't wait to see if the Prosecutor's office will find a crime in this since it wasn't one with the Scarlett Letter. By the way isn't the missmangagement of monies or the unaccountability the reason the County dropped their concert in the park? If correct obviously wynn thinks that since no one has been able to pin him down thus far he can get away with anything.

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