Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Record: Ethics filing aimed at mayor

Ethics filing aimed at mayor

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The Record

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS — A crusader for open government has filed an ethics complaint against the mayor questioning whether he had a conflict when he participated in school budget negotiations.
John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project, has filed a complaint with the state Local Finance Board alleging Mayor Joseph Parisi violated the local government ethics law in 2010.
"If the mayor did this he should be held accountable for it," Paff said Thursday.
The ethics complaint is the latest in a series of steps Paff has taken to shine a light on Englewood Cliffs. Paff randomly began filing requests under the Open Public Records Act in January, something he has done in other municipalities across the state to make sure governing bodies and school boards are complying with state laws.
In his complaint, Paff notes that Parisi is chairman and CEO of Otterstedt Insurance Agency and is on the board of directors of North Jersey Community Bank.
Although the Englewood Cliffs Board of Education contracts with Parisi's insurance company and uses the bank as an official depository, the mayor participated in discussions when the defeated school budget was sent to the council for cuts, Paff's complaint states.
Parisi questioned why Paff, who lives in Somerset, nowhere near the borough, is raising a two-year-old issue.
"I don't understand his motivation," Parisi said. "This is an old item, already addressed, already spoken to. I have not violated anything again."
Parisi, a Democrat, said the borough attorney at the time, Fred Semrau, told him afterward that he should not have participated in the discussions and he has avoided school issues since that time. Parisi also noted that the Republicans controlled the council and he didn't vote on the budget, but only stated his opinion.
"He said that I should not have participated and I won't be doing in the future," Parisi said.
Paff includes meeting minutes that quote Parisi saying he recommends no cuts to the school budget. Paff said Parisi should have recused himself from the budget deliberations.
"Mayor Parisi had a divided interested," Paff wrote in the complaint. "He could not realistically support a cut to the school district's budget without imperiling his bank's and insurance agency's financial arrangement with the school board."
Parisi said he though Paff's complaint was politically motivated.
"I just pick towns, there's nothing scientific about it really," Paff said. "You look at the website, it sort of gives you a clue. Especially their website. There's nothing on their website."

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