REPUBLICAN SOLAR FIASCO COSTS SOMERSET COUNTY TAXPAYERS MILLIONS In 2011, the Freeholders in Sussex, Morris and Somerset Counties (all Republicans by the way) entered a convoluted plan to finance solar project installation throughout municipalities in their respective counties. The plan was based on rosy projections of the value of solar energy credits, timetables for construction that were untenable, and the guarantees by the counties (meaning taxpayers) for the bonds being issued to construct the projects. This plan fell apart as the values of the solar energy credits plummeted and construction was more complicated than anticipated, resulting in delays. A third party brought in to manage the project -SunLight - and the company contracted to install the panels - Mas-Tec - got entangled in a complicated legal mess that ultimately resulted in Mas-Tec winning a 52 Million Dollar arbitration claim against Sunlight. So, as guarantors of the issued bonds, the counties were brought into the legal squabble as participating parties. When it became apparent SunLight could not pay its obligations, the counties were left holding the bag. They ultimately made a settlement with Mas-Tec so SunLight would not go into bankruptcy, creating another set of problems (Sun Light was able to obtain Federal Solar Energy Credits which may have been lost in any bankruptcy). In Somerset County, this resulted in additional taxpayer exposure of 6.75 Million Dollars, financed over many years. And the counties are still liable for paying the original bonds. Somerset County Freeholders have portrayed the settlement as a win for the county. It is hardly that. It does end a potentially protracted legal battle, but this was a battle that should never have needed to be fought. Had there been better planning, oversight and financial safeguards built into the original agreements this never would have occurred and taxpayers would not be on the hook for these additional dollars. If all this sounds complicated, it is. And this is one of the reasons why the project failed. In fact, Sussex County brought on outside counsel to review the whole process (from Sussex’s perspective but there is plenty of overlap into how Morris and Somerset proceeded) and the findings were included in a 62-page report that basically blasted the entire concept and how it was developed and implemented. There is no record of Somerset County doing an independent review of this project. Without it, Somerset County Residents have 6.75 million questions that need answering. Not just a press release from the people who put the whole debacle together in the first place.
On Saturday, October 13th, the Somerset County chapter of Moms Demand Action (MDA), a grassroots movement fighting for public safety measures that can protect children from gun violence, held a community forum to discuss ways to address recent events and prevent them from happening in the future. The incumbent Republican Somerset County Freeholders were invited to attend as well as their Democratic Challengers, Shanel Robinson and Sara Sooy. The Republicans, at the last minute, chose to ignore the invitation and not attend. Robinson and Sooy were present. “We are disappointed but not surprised that the Republicans did not show,” stated Sooy. “Shanel and I attended to listen to the passionate concerns the moms expressed and their thoughts on this serious issue.” “This was not a political event. We were all there to learn from each other. Sara and I shared our thoughts but most importantly we listened. It is a shame that officials, elected by Somerset County residents, chose not to attend,” Stated Robinson. Instead, the Freeholders sent a letter that many felt was ambiguous and failed to address the concerns voiced by the MDA. The letter was read to the group. “In not attending, the Freeholders missed an opportunity to be involved with the community in a meaningful way. Sara and I were grateful to take part in this discussion and look forward to doing so again in the future,” said Robinson.
“They're stealing our money” charged Peg Schaffer, Somerset County Democratic Chair, when she saw the all Republican Freeholder Boards “special issue” Newsletter. While the Newsletter includes some information regarding other members of the Board and its calendar, the primary focus of the Newsletter is to tout the alleged “achievements” of the two freeholders up for election this year. New Jersey law is clear that this Newsletter is a reportable political communication. The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) deems a communication “political” if it’s circulated within 90 days of the election to an audience eligible to vote containing reference to the “governmental achievements or objectives” of a candidate and is circulated with the candidate’s consent (N.J.A.C. 19:25- 10.10b). This special issue meets the test and is thus a reportable contribution to Freeholder candidates Scaglione and Caliguire. By law they are required to disclose who paid for the Newsletter and report it as a contribution. The special issue was mailed and paid for by the Freeholder Board, whose sole source of income is public money i.e. our money. Both the report to ELEC and the Newsletter should read “PAID FOR BY DOLLARS STOLEN FROM RESIDENTS OF SOMERSET COUNTY.” Schaffer called upon Scaglione and Caliguire to properly report the expenditures and repay the dollars. The link to the Newsletter is below. https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/Home/ShowDocument?id=31150 This charge has been forwarded to ELEC, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s office.
Two Democrats who are running for Somerset County Freeholder this year would rather be running for county commissioner. Following the passage of a bi-partisan bill by the state Senate that would replace the title freeholder with county commissioner, Democratic candidates Shanel Robinson of Franklin Township and Sara Sooy of Bernardsville have challenged the current members of the Somerset County freeholder board to adopt a resolution supporting the bill’s passage in the General Assembly. In a press release, the Democrats say the term freeholder dates back to the 18th Century and referred to office holders being comprised of debt-free property owners – which at the time were exclusively white males. They further note that New Jersey remains one of the last states in the country to still use the term. “Words and titles definitely matter, but this isn’t only about replacing a term rooted in racism and sexism,” said Robinson. “In a larger sense it’s about your willingness to adapt and change with the times, and it’s also about the fact the average taxpayer has no idea what a freeholder is or does. Updating the title to county commissioner is a smart way to promote transparency and increase civic participation.” “This is another missed opportunity by those in charge of Somerset County government to step up and modernize with the times,” said Sooy. “The Board of Chosen Freeholders has a tremendous role in addressing our everyday infrastructure needs, shaping educational opportunities for college students, and prioritizing projects that could produce sustained economic development in our communities. We need to increase awareness among taxpayers of that role, and by retiring this ridiculously outdated title, we can begin that conversation anew.” 'Race Card' The Republican response to the Democrats came from Al Gaburo, chairman of the Somerset County GOP, who downplayed the importance of the issue in an Aug. 2 email to this newspaper. “If the state legislature decided to pass a law changing the title of a countywide office holder in New Jersey they are free to do so and obviously the county would comply,'' he said. "However, the fact that the Democrat freeholder candidates think this is the issue keeping taxpayers up at night demonstrates how wildly out of touch they are with reality.'' He added that while Robinson and Sooy "shamefully try to play the race card,'' their opponents, Republican incumbents Patrick Scaglione and Mark Caliguire, "will stay focused on holding down county property taxes, maintaining our Triple A credit rating, and investing in key priorities like preserving open space, improving education and fixing roads and bridges.” The four are vying for two, three-year terms on the all-Republican freeholder board in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election. A copy of the bill that would change the freeholder title, S-402, can be found on the web at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S0500/402_U1.HTM FULL ARTICLE HERE: https://somersetcountydemocrats.nationbuilder.com/admin/sites/1/pages/254/blog_post/edit
July 18, 2018 Statement Against HateSomerset County Democratic Committee The Somerset County Democratic Committee is outraged at the racist flyers posted in our County. Although the flyer does not mention the President, it is his incendiary, divisive, racist statements that have given voice to these white supremacists. His unwillingness to denounce the Charlottesville neo-Nazis has encouraged and normalized public displays of bigotry. We call upon our Republican elected officials to do more than pass toothless resolutions and to take steps to stop this behavior. Our first amendment does not protect hate speech. Full Article Follows: Continue reading
Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair Peg Schaffer welcomed President Donald J. Trump back to New Jersey this afternoon at a rally protesting the President’s family separation policy. https://www.insidernj.com/photo-week-somerset-county-democratic-chair-peg-schaffer/ Continue reading
More than 300 Somerset County Democrats voted unanimously to nominate Franklin Deputy Mayor Shanel Robinson and Bernardsville resident and Somerset Hills School Board member Sara Sooy for Somerset County Freeholder. “I’m so proud to have Shanel and Sara representing the Somerset County Democrats as we work to bring Democratic values to the county level,” said SCDC Chair Peg Schaffer. “They are proven elected officials with long records of success they will extend to the county government.” Shanel Robinson is running for the second time, after coming within 1500 votes of winning a seat on the Freeholder Board in 2017. Shanel is an Air Force Veteran, two-term Councilwoman in Franklin Township, Information Technology executive, Christian minister, and grandmother. She is committed to taking her famous commitment and energy combined with applying what she learned in her previous run to put her over the top in 2018. “Democrats have proven in Franklin and many other Somerset County towns that we can deliver for our residents,” said Robinson. “Sara and I have both delivered positive results for our constituents at the local level, and we’re excited to bring that success to the entire county as Freeholders.” Sara Sooy is a lifelong resident of Bernardsville, and works as a commercial banker. She has served two terms on the Somerset Hills School Board, and is receiving her Executive MBA from Rutgers University in May, 2018. Sooy has also served as a Commissioner on the Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women since 2015. “I am honored to run with Shanel, as we work to bring new voices and ideas to reenergize the Somerset County Freeholder Board,” said Sooy. “As Freeholders, we will take a value-added approach through sustainable investments for the people and businesses of Somerset County.” Anyone interested in volunteering to support the Robinson/Sooy ticket can reach out by calling (908) 953-9300 x33 or emailing [email protected]