Financial fix; Amendment made to temporary budget, new contract awarded

UNION CITY – The city budget will be a popular topic of discussion at many future Union City Board of Commissioner’s meetings, and this past Tuesday’s meeting was no exception. The commissioners unanimously passed an amendment recommended by Chief Financial Officer Joseph Suliga to the approximately $15 million first quarter fiscal year 2000-2001 temporary budget at the meeting. Revenue and Finance Commissioner Ralph Fraguela said that when the temporary budget was adopted in a special meeting on July 1, a page of the budget was missing. “Even though most of the money [on that page] will not be used at this juncture,” said Fraguela, “We thought that [the page] should be included.” The page dealt mostly with federal grants provided for use by the city’s police department for maintenance and new radios. To aid the city in creating a regular budget, a resolution to award a contract to Carr, Daley, Sullivan and Company, a Jersey City financial consulting firm, also was passed with a unanimous vote. “I thought that it would be good to bring in someone from the outside to help with our current financial problems.” said Fraguela. “I am trying to prevent any problems from occurring.” Carr, Daley, Sullivan and Company is the financial firm used in West New York. Fraguela said that the firm has been successful in West New York and has been able to find potential problems. The budget is a sticky issue in Union City, as last year’s budget was held up until last month due to controversial revenue items. City officials want to avoid getting stuck in a fiscal quagmire again this year. In other business The appointment of two alternate members of the city’s seven-member Board of Adjustment was tabled after city attorney Donald Scarinci said that the procedure in which the appointment was being made was illegal. Scarinci said the appointment of members to the Board of Adjustment, which deals with zoning issues, was supposed to be done by the entire Board of Commissioners and not just by mayoral appointment. Mayor Rudy Garcia said that that actually was how it had been done. But there was some confusion at the meeting. Fraguela said, “I agree that both [Romero] Franco and [Roberto] Morreira should be appointed to the Board, [but] I do not want to do anything that can jeopardize the appointment in the future.” “These are two members of the community that are very active,” said Garcia. The resolution to appoint the two men was withdrawn and will be brought again to the next Board of Commissioners meeting on August 22. Testimony will be heard at Grand Jury Just two days before city officials were to submit documents subpoenaed by the Official Corruption Unit of the state Attorney General’s Office, it was announced that the custodians of the records requested had to be present at an actual July 12 Grand Jury hearing. Both the Union City Democratic Organization (UCDO) and the Union City Urban Enterprise Zone’s (UEZ) Grand Jury hearing is set for July 12 at 1 p.m. A Grand Jury is a confidential hearing meant to determine whether there is enough evidence to bring a criminal case to trial. Originally, the city’s corporation counsel, Donald Scarinci, said that no individuals were going to have to testify before the Grand Jury on this date. However, on July 10, Scarinci was notified that five individuals have been asked to appear: Amada Avila, the coordinator of the UEZ; Wendy Wulstein, the city treasurer; Michael Licameli, the city clerk; Eileen Garcia, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Leggiero’s private secretary, and Sergio Panunzio, the UCDO treasurer. The subpoena issued to the UCDO requested any documents connected with the time that Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia was chairman of the organization. The state also has asked for records connected to Hart Associates, a political consulting firm. The UEZ subpoena asked specifically for all financial records connected to the UEZ or Strategic Message Marketing, a public relations firm, and Patrick Politano, the firm’s principal player. According to Scarinci, the individuals will probably only be asked questions about the documents. They are probably being asked to testify that there are no documents being withheld from the state, he said. It is not known if anyone else will be asked to appear before a Grand Jury. “[The Official Corruption Unit] will review the materials,” said Scarinci. “They then may or may not subpoena more people.” A closed session was held before the July 11 Board of Commissioner’s meeting to discuss these appearances and the documents that will be turned over to the state.


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