Cumberland County Freeholder candidates Tonetta, Sheppard and Fiocchi and County Clerk Candidate Noto have issued the following press release.
Since we first raised the question last week of who paid for Lou Magazzu’s convoy to Tennessee to seek the Second Vice President position for the National Association of Counties (NACo) (in addition to Magazzu, Sheriff Austino, Surrogate Rainear and County Planning Director Kim Woods went on the junket) Mr. Magazzu has acknowledged that his campaign was a private matter and was not appropriate for the use of public funds. Mr. Magazzu has also disclosed the existence of “his” political action Committee (PAC) and has now admitted that previous personal expenditures by him on prior years junkets were paid for by public funds but have not been reimbursed to County. This victory for our campaign only highlights the importance of having Republican voices on the Freeholder Board so that our input can be steady and regular.
With the cat out of the bag, Mr. Magazzu is now volunteering to reimburse the County for his private expenses. As he is the Chairman of the Finance Committee and was also the one incurring the expenses it is a more than a little unclear how he could not have realized his failure to reimburse the expenses to the taxpayers before this.
Now we both the Independent Democrats and other members of the public are getting on our bandwagon and asking more questions about this affair. We expect Mr. Magazzu to be fully and completely forthcoming on all aspects of the matter. Here are just some questions that have been posed and need to be answered:
What is the name of the PAC that paid for the Magazzu and Friends junket to Tennessee? When was it formed? Who runs it? Who are the contributors? What did they give? How much did they give? When did they give it? Are the contributors and persons running the PAC county contractors or employees? Is this PAC being used to avoid legitimate “pay to play” rules? Why does Mr. Magazzu have a PAC at all?
What was Sheriff Austino doing in Tennessee? Who paid for him? What was Surrogate Rainear doing in Tennessee? Who paid for him. What was Kim Woods doing in Tennessee? Who paid for her? Did Sheriff Austino, Surrogate Rainear and Ms Woods take personal or vacation days off for the trip or did they continue to draw their public salary while off on Mr. Magazzu’s personal business?
Why was the County ethics code modified recently seemingly to allow Mr. Magazzu to finance a run for NACo office? Was there something wrong with the code before that had to be fixed? If something had been unethical before, what changed to make the practice acceptable? What studies or discussions were involved in determining if the code should have been amended? Were there any committee meetings? What discussions occurred? Did Mr. Magazzu obtain or solicit contributions before the ethics code was amended?
What were the full expenses for Magazzu and Friends junket to Tennessee? What were the expenses incurred by Magazzu and Friend in prior trips to NACo meetings? Are there sign in or attendance sheets from NACo to show that Magazzu and Friends actually attended legitimate functions? Were any of the NACo trips approved by resolutions of the Board? If any of the expenses were private expenses, who paid for them initially and if reimbursement was necessary, when was it made, if at all? If these expenses were personal, why were they paid for by the County in the first place requiring reimbursement? Why didn’t Mr. Magazzu pay them in the first place?
When the Freeholder Board voted without dissent to amend its ethics code to allow Mr. Magazzu to raise funds for his private adventure they showed a clear disdain for the rule of law. The Republican Candidates for Freeholder and County Clerk call for an overall review of the ethics code in force in the County and reform as necessary. The open ended run around “pay to play” laws which would permit a county contractor to contribute to Magazzu’s personal benefit but still do business with the County cannot stand unchallenged.
Now that Mr. Magazzu has acknowledged that at least some of the expenses from this and prior years were personal and should have be borne by him, he needs to quickly and fully answer all of these questions and any more that are posed to him. Full documentation of everything should be forthcoming quickly without the need to drag information and documents out of him. The longer he delays in quelling the rising tide of questions about this affair the more he will put the honesty of the administration of the county government into question. Recent highly publicized arrests for public corruption in North and Central New Jersey have put citizens on edge and have caused doubt in the integrity of government. This is a question of public money being spent for the private benefit of an elected official. We sincerely hope Mr. Magazzu will do everything he can to assure that the citizens of Cumberland County don’t have to ask if the corruption rampant in the northern part of the state has come to Cumberland County.
Republicans press Lou about NACoGate