Lou Magazzu is long gone from county politics, but his legacy continues to pick at our pockets. The prosecutor’s office fiasco is a quagmire that never had to happen. Prosecutor Ron Casella made the error of asking for two additional employees during a critical election year. The prosecutor’s office was seriously understaffed, crime was rampant and the office was unable to provide the necessary diligence to each and every case. As a result, repeat offenders were plea-bargained to lighten the case-load. It was much easier to release criminal than to be buried under a ton of paper.
Lou refused to allow the prosecutor to hire two employees so that the office could perform its duties properly. It finally ended up in court as a Bigley action, and the prosecutor won. The courts rightly determined that the ability to prosecute criminals should not be subject to the political whims of a tyrant. Not only did Casella get his two employees, but the staff was brought up to the legally mandated minimum level to operate efficiently. And, to boot, the courts mandated that the county provide adequate office space. The freeholder director ensured that he had a spacious office that he rarely used, but the employees of the prosecutors office were denied the ability to even work within walking distance of each other.
So now the county was faced with providing space for the prosecutor. It is now many years after the fact, and this space still has not been completed. in fact, it seems that the entire projects was assumed by Lou to be yet another method to reward his political allies and contributors. Some of the same entities that gave us the addition to the courthouse, the roof that leaks and facade that crumbles, were brought in to do the same shoddy work at the Vine Street School project. And now with the project still incomplete, the construction company has discovered yet another reason to pick the county’s pockets. The cost overruns so far total almost a quarter of a million dollars.
The Cumberland County Freeholders next week will consider a resolution adding $142,000 to a contract with a Bellmawr construction company involved in the stabilization of the former Vine Street school, soon to be the new location of the county prosecutor’s office.
If approved, it will be the fourth such change to the contract with D’Astuto Construction, which when originally approved in March of last year totaled $2,497,000.
This latest change would make the contract would bring to total up to $2,766,513.60.
County officials, speaking at Tuesday’s work session, stated they believe this will be the last change to the contract.