News Report: Upper Saddle River Mayor & Council-October 3, 2019
By Rue Eisen
The mayor and council approved a resolution authorizing the separation of Chief Municipal Financial Officer Gene Leporiere due to “an impending reorganization of the CMFO and Tax Collector positions.” The resolution states that an employment agreement had already been reached between the borough and Leporiere.
Democratic Council Candidate and Attorney Mark Garber inquired as to details of the employment agreement. Mayor Minichetti and Borough Attorney Regan both refused to give any specifics stating that it was a personnel matter, and directed residents to file an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request if they were interested in knowing more.
Over the past several regular monthly mayor and council meetings, Democratic Mayoral Candidate Marshall Grupp has publicly confronted the mayor and council about the failure of the borough to not only present its audited financial statements in a timely manner, but also to properly manage the borough’s finances. When the borough’s outside accountants finally presented the statements last month at the September 18 USR Mayor & Council Meeting, many anomalies were found including:
- Tax overpayments by citizens had not been recorded properly, nor had they been either refunded or credited for the past two years. Since the borough’s general ledger was not being reconciled on a regular basis, the auditor said, the tax overpayments were not reconciled, and tax refunds or credits may not have been properly made in 2017 and 2018.
- Escrow accounts had not been accounted for and sent to appropriate parties, and did not have trial balances.
- Excess balances of trust funds in 2017 had not been resolved in 2018.
- Over expenditures and expenditures not budgeted for were not approved by the mayor & council.
- Items were purchased without approved purchase orders.
- Salary expenditures were not in agreement with the approved ordinance amounts.
As a result of these findings, the borough’s auditing firm, Lerch, Vinci & Higgins cited 11 corrective actions including monthly updating of the general ledger, bank reconciliations, and posting of records, all normal, basic duties which should have been managed by the Chief Financial Officer, which were found to be lacking for the past two fiscal years. Of concern to citizens, was the fact that these corrective actions were also recommended in the borough’s prior fiscal year audit in 2017.
All of these issues were the responsibility of the CFO, who has not been present at any of the mayor and council meetings this year to present the budget or the audits. The CFO is responsible to the business administrator and the finance committee of the borough council. Business Administrator Theodore Preush made no comment during the meeting. Mr. Grupp stated at the September mayor and council meeting that, “accounting practices in our town are terrible.”
Grupp Confronts Mayor on using Borough Property for Personal Campaign
Democratic Mayoral Candidate Marshall Grupp confronted Mayor Minichetti about her use of a video about the borough that had been already posted on the borough’s website, USRToday.com, on her personal Facebook page to promote her candidacy for her third term as mayor. Grupp stated that she had used “Community Intellectual Property of the town” which, he said, “you cannot use a government resource to your own advantage.” Grupp stated that this was a violation of election code ethics.
Resident and Attorney Richard Medina stated that the mayor should contact the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) to acquaint herself with election laws. Medina had been a Democratic candidate for mayor in 2018.
Resident Eric Friis, former mayoral candidate stated that numerous cars are kept idling in front of area schools at pickup time causing carbon monoxide pollution from auto exhausts. He requested that the borough police enforce the law and ticket drivers that leave their cars idling for long periods of time. Chief of Police Rotella responded that he was aware of the problem and had contacted the NJDEP, which said that it did not consider it a violation.
Consent Agenda Resolutions Approved:
#104-19: Participation in the NJ Cooperative Purchasing Alliance
#105-19: Cooperative Pricing Agreement with the Cranford Police Cooperative Pricing System
#106-19: Tax Appeal Settlement – Pak
#107-19: Property Tax Overpayments
#108-19: Authorization of Employment Agreement
#109-19: Authorization of Emergency Appropriation
First Reading of Ordinance:
#10-19: Zoning 150-19F Exceptions to yard requirements permitted obstructions regarding fences.
Day for Traffic Safety Proclaimed
Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day was proclaimed for October 10, 2019
Assemblyman Robert Auth was a no-show. He was on the agenda to recognize Upper Saddle River’s 125th Anniversary.
Police Officer McWilliams also did not appear for a MADD Award Presentation.