NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The failure to alert the subject of an ethics complaint to a hearing, which was scheduled for this evening, June 26, pushed the New Brunswick Ethics Board to adjourn without tackling the matter.
Attorney J. Peter Jost—who is counseling the board in the wake of an ethics complaint filed against its regular lawyer—attributed the board’s decision to not hold a hearing to a “breakdown in communications.”
The agenda stated that Andrea Eato-White, a city housing authority staffer and parking authority commissioner, was due to face a public hearing, but she was nowhere to be found. She was eventually reached by phone during the meeting. When Jost asked if she was aware of the 5:30 p.m. hearing, she could be heard responding, “No.”
A complaint filed against Eato-White earlier this year alleges she failed to disclose $745 in prepaid expenses for a trip sponsored by the city’s housing authority.
Charlie Kratovil, a resident and editor of the activist community newspaper New Brunswick Today, filed the complaint against her.
Eato-White was supposed to note the expenses for that trip on her financial disclosure form, which she filled out in her capacity as a parking authority commissioner, Kratovil alleged in the complaint. The document also claims that Eato-White incorrectly listed the municipality in which she owns property.
New Brunswick’s code of ethics requires subjects of complaint to be notified and given 30 days to respond to any complaint, Jost previously said. They may also request additional time to gather documents and witnesses.
The complaint against her was filed during the winter.
Why, exactly, Eato-White wasn’t notified of tonight’s meeting in writing is unclear.
It could be because the ethics board has no formal secretary, Jost said.
“Maybe we need to talk about communication,” he said, “in terms of who is the board secretary and who is responsible for notification.”
Until now, a city employee has acted as the informal board secretary, he said. William Hamilton Jr., New Brunswick’s special counsel, has recorded meeting minutes.
Hamilton said he would raise the prospect of securing a board secretary to the city attorney. But that be a “budget item,” Hamilton noted.
Jost claimed he spoke with Eato-White several weeks ago and mentioned the June 26 date. But he said that doesn’t matter if she didn’t receive a written notification.
The ethics board could’ve decided to toss the complaint against Eato-White without holding a public hearing. Instead, it chose to call her before the panel.
She hasn’t retained counsel, Jost said. She may choose to fight or accept the complaint.
Her hearing will likely be pushed to July 24, although it could occur the following week, according to the board.
Jost hopes to assemble the full board, not just the minimum of four members, which is how many people showed up tonight. Both the chair and the vice chair were absent.
At one point, Hamilton called the subject of another complaint filed by Kratovil. Leonard Bier, the attorney for the parking authority’s board of commissioners, wasn’t scheduled to have his public hearing tonight—though he did file today a written response to the complaint against him.