NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — After finding that a city Parking Authority commissioner improperly filled out her financial disclosure statements, the New Brunswick Ethics Board decided to give her 30 days to correct the matter before issuing a financial punishment.
Andrea Eato-White, a parking authority commissioner and New Brunswick Housing Authority employee, essentially received a “suspended sentence,” ethics board officials said in rendering their judgment during their July 24 meeting at the library.
Eato-White was the subject of a complaint filed earlier this year by Charlie Kratovil, a resident and editor of the activist community newspaper New Brunswick Today.
In the complaint, he alleged that Eato-White didn't submit a financial disclosure statement—which is meant to shed light on government officials' business connections—for 2015, the year she joined the parking authority board. What's more, the complaint alleged, Eato-White inaccurately listed sources of income, misidentified the location of a property she owns and neglected to note that she received reimbursement for a training trip from her employer.
During a hearing that took place at this week's meeting, Eato-White didn't dispute the facts.
Rather, she said, she was unable to file a disclosure for 2015 because she came on the board mid-year, after City Hall sent its roster of officials to the state. Eato-White claimed she was not advised to submit such a form.
Further, she said, she accidentally clicked the wrong municipality from an online menu when she tried to list her property, and wrote “earned income” or “unearned income” instead of naming the source of the money, as required by the state.
She has since tried to amend those mistakes, she said, and in some cases succeeded.
But she has yet to amend her 2016 form to include a reimbursement for a 2015 trip to Huntsville, Alabama, in which she said she underwent training to become a Section 8 housing manager.
“The board is constrained to find that Ms. Eato-White did fail to file a complete and accurate financial disclosure statement for 2016 and has not yet filed an FDS for the year 2015, in violation of the requirements of state and local law,” attorney J. Peter Jost, special counsel for the ethics board, read from a resolution. “However, in view of the circumstances in this particular case … and her attempts to comply with the statute, the board is going to allow Ms. Eato-White 30 days to complete the filing...”
Gathered in the basement of the library, supporters of Eato-White smiled and turned to one another upon hearing the decision. One woman, in a hushed tone, exclaimed, “Yes.” Eato-White then walked out with a faint smile.
Kratovil, who attended the meeting, was upset that he was not allowed to ask questions of Eato-White or submit written ones to the ethics board.
Following the judgment, the panel moved on to a complaint against Leonard Bier, attorney and consultant for the parking authority. In a separate complaint, Kratovil alleged that Bier botched several of his financial disclosure statements, as well. Kratovil also claimed that Bier improperly ran a reorganization meeting of the parking authority board in which he was awarded two contracts.
While Bier admitted to unintentionally leaving information off his financial forms, he rejected any allegation of corrupt or improper actions.
The board is still deciding the Bier case. It expects to hand down a decision in September.
Kratovil wanted to submit additional testimony during Bier's hearing, but the board didn't allow it.
“It is a shame that the New Brunswick Ethics Board refused to let me testify,” Kratovil later told TAPinto New Brunswick. “Instead, they repeatedly came up with twisted justifications to limit the information they could consider, leading to a one-sided proceeding that was biased in favor of these admitted ethics violators.”
Ethics board members said Kratovil had plenty of time to submit additional information prior to the public hearings.
TAPinto New Brunswick will publish more on the complaint against Bier and the longtime attorney's response after the next ethics board meeting.