Middlesex County News

New Brunswick’s Ethics Board Probes 3 Complaints

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The city’s ethics board is busy.

At its meeting this week, the six-member panel formed subcommittees to scrutinize three complaints surrounding people who perform work for or sit on various municipal entities. That list includes the ethics board’s own attorney, a New Brunswick Housing Authority staffer who also sits on the parking authority’s board of commissioners and the parking board’s attorney.

A two-person team will spend the next month examining each complaint. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 24.

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“Then they come back and make, essentially, a recommendation to the board,” attorney J. Peter Jost told members on March 20, “as to whether to proceed with the matter or to dismiss it.”

Jost, a Clinton-based attorney, is counseling the board in the wake of an ethics complaint filed against its lawyer, Anthony Vignuolo.

Charles Kratovil, a resident and the editor of the activist community newspaper New Brunswick Today, filed the three complaints earlier this year. He moved this month to amend two of the submissions.

The complaint against Vignuolo alleges that he violated state law and the city’s code of ethics last year by not filing a financial disclosure statement detailing his sources of income.

He hasn’t returned a message left at his office by TAPinto New Brunswick.

Vignuolo beat a similar charge earlier this month filed by Kraotvil at the county level. Middlesex County’s ethics board—which Vignuolo also represents—voted to dismiss the complaint, a decision Kratovil intends to appeal with the state.

Another complaint centers on financial disclosure statements filed against Leonard Bier, attorney for the New Brunswick Parking Authority.

The complaint alleges that from 2008-15, Bier “repeatedly failed to disclose” a $106,611 pension he receives from the state.

In a letter last year, Bier acknowledged the omission and vowed to correct as much of the record as possible. He told TAPinto New Brunswick yesterday that the electronic state filing system only goes back three years, which means he’s incapable of amending some prior financial disclosure statements.

The complaint against him also alleges that Bier failed for a number of years to disclose a rental condo he owns in Florida. Furthermore, the document alleges that Bier improperly presided over a parking authority meeting during which the agency approved contracts with his firm and a tenant of his.

Bier declined to provide additional comment at this time.

Finally, the third complaint alleges that Andrea Eato-White didn’t disclose $745 in prepaid expenses for a trip sponsored by the New Brunswick Housing Authority.

Eato-White, who works for the agency, was supposed to note the expenses on her financial disclosure form, which she filled out in her capacity as a parking authority commissioner, the complaint alleges. The document also claims that she “inaccurately” listed where she owns property.

Responding to an email yesterday from TAPinto New Brunswick, Eato-White said she was not aware of this week’s ethics board meeting. After receiving a copy of the complaint, she has yet to comment on the issue.

Under New Brunswick’s code of ethics, subjects of complaints must be notified and given 30 days to respond, Jost said. They may also request an additional 30 days to submit documents, build a defense and gather witnesses.

“Unfortunately, these things do not happen quickly,” Jost said.

But the complaints might not spur public hearings. The board could decide to toss none, one or all of the matters.

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