We all know the story of Lou Magazzu’s failed run to head the National Association of Counties (NACo). Little attention has been paid to his dismal failure to oversee the New Jersey Association of Counties while he was president of that organization. The Star Ledger just broke a story recently that Magazzu Watch touched on a year ago – that there was a total lack of oversight of the N JAC.
New Jersey county governments paid escalating dues to a private lobbying group whose director’s salary reached $205,000 with no apparent formal oversight, according to an audit obtained by The Record.
The New Jersey Association of Counties also lacked control over office expenditures and charges made to the personal credit card of Celeste Carpiano, the director whose pay increased 58 percent over six years.
Lou Magazzu is on record stating that any salary over $75,000 a year is obscene – forcing his his candidates for constitutional office to take a pay cut. Lou’s choice for sheriff, the unqualified Bob Austino, where $75K is a gross overpayment; his candidate for surrogate, the bombastic Doug Rainear, who sources tell us rarely puts in a full week of work; and his candidate for clerk – all ran on the “we will work for less” ticket.
But Lou had no problem spending Cumberland County money for inflated dues to be a part of NJAC, and looked the other way while the organization frittered their money away.
The auditors, Suplee Clooney & Co. of Westfield, recommended the group overhaul its financial policies, correct Internal Revenue Service filings and evaluate its nonprofit foundation and another related organization. It also suggested the association address the issue of dues, which collectively cost county governments nearly $200,000 this year and which rise at least 3 percent annually.
While no criminal acts have been alleged, gross mismanagement and misuse of money has been proven:
The audit was ordered by board members last year, after The Record reported Carpiano’s salary was $205,000, and she was driving a $35,000 all-wheel-drive Lexus leased by the association’s non-profit foundation. At the same time, New Jersey counties’ combined dues came to $193,618, and increased this year to $199,425.
The newspaper obtained a draft, issued to members last month, under the Open Public Records Act. Among the findings:
• The foundation in 2009 distributed less than half its $71,000 in charitable corporate grants, and used hundreds of thousands of dollars in Atlantic City conference revenue to pay association employees, including Carpiano.
Is it any wonder than Cumberland County is in the sad fiscal shape it is in, considering the inability of Magazzu to properly manage any financial affairs, including his own?