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Open Government Advocacy Project:
Ethics Complaint dismissed against 12 South Amboy officials

Issue Detail:

On August 25, 2009, I filed a complaint with the Local Finance Board against twelve (12) Local Government Officers serving the City of South Amboy (Middlesex County). I filed this complaint because each of those officers had failed to file the Financial Disclosure Statement (FDS) that the Local Government Ethics Law requires to be filed on or before April 30, 2008. Note that when I filed my complaint, the FDS forms were over fifteen months overdue. After I filed my complaint, the 12 officials filed their tardy FDS forms and the City forwarded the completed forms to the Local Finance Board on September 15, 2009. On July 28, 2010--more than ten months after the City had filed the tardy forms--the Local Finance Board notified me that my complaint was "dismissed" because it "no longer [has] a factual basis." In other words, the fact that none of the officials had filed by the April 30, 2008 deadline does not, in the Local Finance Board's view, constitute a violation of the Ethics Law. Thus, local government officers are free to simply ignore the FDS filing requirements, knowing that they can simply file their tardy forms in the unlikely event that someone complains. I have been complaining for years about the Local Finance Board's failure to meaningfully enforce the Ethics Law. In one news article I was quoted as saying: "If [the Local Government Ethics Law and the attorney disciplinary system] were intended to actually punish wrongdoing, I think they fail miserably. . . I believe that a decent argument could be made that neither system was intended to ferret out unethical conduct and discipline the perpetrators. Rather, these systems were intended to placate the public and create an illusion that lawyers and politicians are actually subject to oversight." (See http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/new-jerseys-behind-the-curve-in-ethics-and-reform ) Now that I've received the two tardy FDS forms, I've decided to put them on-line so that South Amboy residents can easily access them. The records are here. John Paff, Chair New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project Somerset, New Jersey P.S. Observant readers who review the link above will note that Planning Board Member Lawrence Stratton and Zoning Board Member Jamie Stratton claim to have had NO source of income of more than $2,000 in 2008.




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