Archive for the ‘Only in New Jersey’ Category

Rutger’s Athletic Scandal Escalates

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Most of us wake up every morning with a running to-do list in our minds of the tasks we must complete at work and at home, but it seems that is not the case for everyone – especially Robert L. Barchi, President of Rutgers University. During a press conference today to discuss the resignation of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, he boldly stated, “I consider resigning every morning when I wake up.”

Pernetti resigned today after gravely mishandling an incident that was brought to his attention five months ago: Mike Rice, then-head coach of the Rutgers men’s basketball team, was depicted in a 30-minute compilation video to be abusing his student athletes, both physically and verbally. Rice was not fired until this Wednesday, although the video had already been viewed by Pernetti and Rutgers’ counsel last November. Barchi had not seen the video and was only given a summary of its content, therefore he simply chose to suspend Rice for three games and fine him for $50,000. Barchi’s excuse for those actions versus firing him? He did not actually watch the video and only acted on the report that was brought to him.

The video depicting homophobic slurs and basketballs being thrown at players’ heads made its presence known in the Rutgers community in the midst of a huge decision for the University’s athletic community – Rutgers would leave the Big East Conference in 2014 and join the Big 10 Conference. Pernetti played a large part in securing Rutger’s spot in the top collegiate conference in the nation, and Rutgers certainly experienced pressure and speculation to uphold their reputation. Barchi stated that he did not know of the abuse case until after Big 10 negotiations were settled, but timing is a fickle thing. Maybe Barchi did not know about the abuse by Rice yet, but it is very possible that Pernetti did, as he was given the video sometime in late November by a former staff member, Eric Murdock.

This afternoon, Barchi could not avoid repeated questioning as to why he did not view the tape between then and now. His response was that his chief counsel, Pernetti and outside counsel viewed it and he trusted theirjudgment. He claimed, “It’s very easy to say in retrospect what we should have done.”

Maybe that is true, but now it is not about what the Rutgers camp should have done, but what they will do from this point forward. In the past week, Rutgers has lost their head basketball coach, assistant coach, general counsel and athletic director. What will the athletic department look like in a week, or in a year? Barchi may wish he would have handled things differently, but this issue will not disappear any time soon. Perhaps he should consider sending in his own letter of resignation if he wakes up tomorrow morning and decides he does not feel like dealing with this fiasco any longer.

Is the Irvington Police Force Breeding Controversial Rappers?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

All of us have our work lives and our personal lives, but what happens when the two identities intertwine and pose a possible conflict of interest? The question is not if we are allowed to pursue interests outside of work, but how far is too far when our interests may be negatively affecting our company? The issue becomes even more pronounced when the employee in question happens to be a police officer here in Irvington, New Jersey.

Maurice Gattison, an officer who is also president of Irvington’s police union, happens to be a part time rapper by the name of Gat the Great. Late last year a music video was posted to YouTube in which he and three other township officers rapped about some controversial issues, such as being a “felon for life,” violence, and dropping many homophobic slurs. The video, among others, also depicts guns and gun violence, which is an extremely touchy subject both politically and socially.  The music video has thus launched an  internal investigation on all four officers, bringing this debate to the front of people’s minds.

Gattison’s rap career is most likely protected by the First Amendment, but does that right change because his main career is a police officer? Opinion is split, with some, such as Irvington Police Director Joseph Santiago claiming that while the lyrics may be inappropriate and offensive, they are protected under freedom of speech. Others, however, are not taking the music video so lightly, such as Eugene O’Donnell, a former Manhattan district attorney who warns that actions that can “cause disgrace to the agency or subject the agency to ridicule can be legitimate issues for internal action.”

These certainly are not the first NJ police officers to go under internal investigation due to something they said on the Internet, but the lines are still not clear as to what is and what is not appropriate off-duty conduct. As for Gat the Great, the problem is not so much that he raps while he is off duty, but what kind of message is he sending out to young members of the community he is supposed to be protecting?  What happens when a young boy growing up in Irvington sees the controversial video and then recognizes Gattison in his uniform a few days later? Will he grow up thinking it is okay to exploit homosexuals and threaten people with guns?

Where Is Your Donation Actually Going?

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Those dreaded bills! What can one do if the pile keeps growing? A native New Jersey couple decided to solve their bill problem through the creation of the fraudulent charity, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation (HSRF).

After Hurricane Sandy hit, many areas which were left devastated looked for aid. One way relief was given was through the contributions of charities. To try and capitalize on this, John Sandberg and Christina Terraccino of Sparta created the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation, which they said was a way to raise money by storm victims for other storm victims. Their website, created the day prior to the storm, http://sandyrelief.org/, received more than $631,000 in donations.

So what does one possibly do with all of that money? Help victims relocate their homes? Help build up the shore area or dress people who lost all of their clothing? Unfortunately, this was not the case here – roughly $13,000 from the foundations bank account were allegedly transferred and used by the couple!

What I feel to be even more appalling is the percentage of the donations that were actually given to the victims of the hurricane. The state financial records indicate that less than one percent of the money donated has been disbursed to aid the hurricane victims.

Sandberg and Terraccino’s creation has caused them multiple violations of consumer fraud and charity laws. Thankfully they can expect to be fined for up to $20,000 for each of those violations.

In regards to the donations raised, the Division of Consumer Affairs has ensured that the donations given to this charity will be used towards the purposes initially represented through the foundation.

Is this couple and fraudulent charity being dealt with? The state claims so, but the foundations website has yet to be shut down and their PayPal account continues to accept donations. I guess we’ll have to watch this story as it continues to grow…

Doomsday Budget Cuts May Mean More Turmoil in NJ

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The first wave of the impending budget cuts that we have been hearing so
much about are set to take place March 1, which will amount to cutting $85 billion in federal spending by the close of the fiscal year in September. The entire plan is to cut $1.2 trillion over nine years, but there is still time for Congress to take action to place these cuts elsewhere. Seeing, however, that members of Congress are on a break this week, it is looking like those opposing Obama are waving their white flags over this one. It seems that cutting federal spending has been talked about for years as an idealistic, far away goal, but now it is looking like it will be unavoidable. The problem? NJ will be immensely affected by the cuts.

Police officers, firefighters, and teachers will likely be laid off and many
victims of Hurricane Sandy will not be able to rebuild with the aid of
federal funding. The New Jersey Hospital Association will lose $110 million
this year, and $1.3 billion over the full nine years. This will probably
mean more NJ hospital closures and loss of some services altogether. The
most obvious impact at first will be in travel, which will be facing roughly
$627 million in cuts in the first year, causing the closure of many regional
airports such as Atlantic City International Airport. The travel cuts will
result in longer security lines, loss of jobs and possibly even fewer
scheduled flights. To put a number on the job losses, the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office projected upwards of 43,000 job losses in NJ
alone in 2013.

The question becomes what does all of this mean, and what impression will be left in the minds of common Americans? Not all of us will feel the effects
right away, but eventually everyone will begin to see the rise of prices for
chicken and beef as well as delay of supply, more preschoolers stuck at home and less funding for the elderly. Who will Americans blame? Will Obama lose the support he has rendered by claiming he wants to empower and build up the middle class? NJ is traditionally a Democratic state, but how long will that last once these doomsday budget cuts reach our state?

The bottom line is that it is impossible to make an entire nation happy in
the midst of change, but how deep will the discontent run, and how tarnished will Obama’s reputation be? The Obama administration will have to come up with some way of helping those who are going to be feeling the cuts the most if he wants to stay in favor of the common people. Talk is cheap, but it looks like that might be all we will be hearing in the wake of the doomsday cuts.

NJ: Voted most likely to…

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Yet again, NJ distinguishes ourselves as the State most likely to…humiliate its residents. Today our US Senator is disputing rumors that he traveled to the Caribbean to have sex with underage women. Last week our other US Senator threatened to spank the Mayor of the largest NJ city. And then our Governor recently graced the cover of a national weekly magazine characterized as a Mafia kingpin.

We resident of the Garden State endure more public embarrassment than the other 49 states combined. The reality shows, the sitcoms, the movies all know that if you want to go for a cheap laugh, a tacky personification, or a loud argumentative impersonation: we are here and we are Jersey ready.

The politicians of the state are immersed in how best to rebuild the institutions damaged by Hurricane Sandy.. maybe it is time to rebuild the reputation damaged by the Hurricane of  Politicians.