In Theatrical magic, misdirection or deflection is an essential part of the process. Misdirection according to Nevil Maskelyne who wrote that it "consists admittedly in misleading the spectator's senses, in order to screen from detection certain details for which secrecy is required." (Our Magic, page 117, second edition copyright 1946)

Against the backdrop of the solar credit market collapse, the solar projects on municipal properties stalled and there developed an acrimonious relationship between SunLight General and Mastec Corporation. However, here is where the misdirection or deflection of accountability starts to come to light.

Lawsuits were filed in 2012 and 2013 against SunLight and the counties by Mastec, a company that believed itself a sub-contractor. However, because of the structure set up by SunLight with the counties, Mastec was not a sub-contractor, but by default the general contractor. So its initial liens and lawsuits against SunLight were found by the appellate court to be invalid. The court was sympathetic to Mastec’s claim, but Mastec was left with no recourse but to file for arbitration. In March of 2014, arbitrators decided in Mastec’s favor.

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A Municipal Bond filing is complicated to say the least, so it’s understandable if our representatives did not completely understand the process (even though the district representatives are attorneys, construction executives, and financial services professionals). The prospectus for the bonds clearly states that State has no liability regarding the issuing of the bonds, but if Morris, Somerset, and Sussex declared bankruptcy, can the State actually claim that these counties are not part of New Jersey anymore? This means that these bonds had to be approved by the State in order for them to be issued. Who approved the bonds at the State level?

Our representatives knew about the lawsuits more than two years ago and knew about the arbitration ruling a year ago. Why was no alarm bell sounded? Why did our representatives not let the public know its liability until nearly a year after the ruling against them? Why is SunLight still allowed to profit or benefit from the solar projects?

It seems to me that, for our representatives now to say that they had the best of intentions or that it was just bad luck, is like complaining that the fire department didn’t put out the a fire in your house after you set it, neglected to call them, and blocked the road to your own house. Now they’re calling for investigations and complaining about gag orders that the committee, which they are a part of, voted for.

The lawyers who argued these cases received over a million dollars of taxpayer money, and additional $500,000 in commissions were paid. I agree that there should be an investigation into this whole mess, but it should start at SunLight General then proceed to how three counties (one of which, Sussex, has no bond-issuing authority) agreed to get into this relationship and issue these bonds for a trading scheme.

Our representatives have two main responsibilities: first, to create laws and policies that are in the best interests of the people; and second, to be responsible for oversight. They are supposed to be watchdogs and insure that all branches of our government are acting in accordance with the people’s interests.

The representatives of these counties and districts have a responsibility to protect the people’s money. This cannot be ignored. As I said, an onion rots from the outside in and a potato rots from the inside out. Which rotten vegetable do you think this is? I think it’s rotten to the core. No matter what sleight of hand or misdirection is attempted, it still stinks.

Michael F Grace

NJ Democratic Assembly Candidate District 24