All clogged up?

An anonymous tip leads to DEP investigation; 2009 audit draft arrives

Town officials confirmed Tuesday that the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) is investigating an allegation that sewage from the Secaucus Animal Shelter bathroom is not being discharged into the sewage system, but is instead draining out into the Hackensack River.
The Secaucus Municipal Utilities Authority (SMUA) is cooperating with the investigation.
The Animal Shelter, at 525 Meadowlands Parkway, was built by Hartz Mountain Industries and not by the town.
According to Mayor Michael Gonnelli, DEP began its investigation after receiving “an anonymous phone call” about two weeks ago.
“It’s our belief that [the sewage] runs out into a sewer system and then it’s transported over to our SMUA system,” said Town Administrator David Drumeler. “The toilet at the shelter has worked fine, so there was no reason for us to suspect there was a problem. That said, we don’t know that there is a problem.”


This is the first general audit the town has received since last year’s audit revealed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing from the Tax Collector’s Office

When asked how the person who made the anonymous tip would know there might be a drainage problem at the shelter, Drumeler said, “I don’t know.”
Although engineer and Secaucus resident John Markovitch has not been identified as the anonymous tipster, he has for years complained about alleged engineering flaws, drainage problems, and ponding along Meadowlands Parkway.
Drumeler said the investigation is ongoing and town officials cannot say how long it will continue.

2009 audit received

Councilman Robert Costantino, who chairs the council’s Finance Committee said Tuesday the governing body has received a draft copy of the 2009 financial audit.
The mayor said he expects the final draft to be turned over this week, and Costantino said the council should be able to report on its findings within the next few weeks.
This is the first general audit the town has received since last year’s general audit revealed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing from the Tax Collector’s Office. That revelation led to a separate independent audit last year which confirmed that $777,725 was missing from the Tax Office.
In the wake of that revelation a number of changes were made within the tax office. In January, the council passed a resolution barring property owners from paying their tax bills in cash.
Employees in the Tax Collector’s Office now have assigned drawers that are used to collect checks. That way, at the end of each day it is clear how much money each employee collected. Before, one drawer was used to collect all tax payments that were made in person. Also, each employee now has a unique username and password to access the computer system in the office. Previously, everyone in the office shared one username and password.
The town’s auditors also now periodically confirm payment records with individual taxpayers.
Although the council dumped longtime town auditor Suplee, Clooney & Co, the company did the 2009 audit, as it was required under its professional service contract with the town.
The town’s new auditor, Bowman & Co., will conduct the annual audit starting with the 2010 fiscal year, the mayor explained last week.

More fine money in coffers

In its ongoing pursuit to collect on $850,000 in outstanding false alarm fines, the town has successfully been paid $301,985, according to Town Councilman Gary Jeffas.
The fines were racked up by various businesses located in Secaucus that have had more than three false fire or burglar alarm incidents and since April the town has been trying to collect on this debt.
The town is now in court trying to collect on the balance owed.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at

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