Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Guadagno, who was Christie's Lt. Gov. in his first term has resided mostly in the background. I don't recall her name being in the news over the past 4 years. Not until Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's allegation that the Lt Gov. pressured Zimmer about support for the Rockefeller Redevelopment bid in conjunction with Hoboken receiving funds from federal Sandy relief. Coincidentally, a local newpaper/business publication, U.S. 1, a reference to the road US 1 in Central NJ, had a Page 1 story entitled, "Bully Pulpit", One Man's Struggle with the 'Culture of Fear' in the most recent edition.
The author is Dan Aubrey who was involved in arts and cultural activities in Trenton, the capital of NJ. Apparently, Mr. Aubrey had a "run-in" with Kim Guadagno. So, I read the article to see if it would shed more light on our Lt. Gov. It does, and it isn't favorable.
More after the jump.....
U.S. 1 is a local newspaper, focusing on local business and cultural programs in Central NJ centered around the Princeton area. It is provided free at many local businesses and office around Princeton. We occasionally pick up a copy to find out what is going on in the area with regard to the arts. The paper does a good job covering the local music, art and film scene. I don't recall too many political stories. Mr. Aubrey's lengthy article closes with the statement that "The opinions expressed belong to Dan Aubrey and do not reflect the views of the U.S. 1 Newspaper or it's publisher".
I suggest you read the article yourself to draw your own conclusions:
Apparently Mr Aubrey came to the attention of our Lt Gov. over his testimony about an archaeological site in Trenton near the State House called Petty's Run. Guadagno wanted to eliminate the site while Mr Aubrey testified it should be kept. As described by the State press release about the now protected site:
Petty's Run contains features of the early historic period of industrial activities in Trenton and Colonial America, including remnants of a plating mill built in the 1730s, a steel mill built in the mid-1740s, and Trenton's first cotton mill, built in 1812. Archeological work already done at the site has yielded valuable insights into industrial development, beginning with a pre-Revolutionary War iron mill through the post-Civil War period.Mr. Aubrey indicates he has been involved with the NJ State Council on the Arts from 2003-2011. Apparently there were few problems until Guadagno took office in 2010.
From 2003 to 2011 I was involved the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Public Arts Program. First as an individual on a few month contract, then a part-time Rutgers University managed program that enhances art management skills (I was interested in public art), and then as an agent for a non-profit organization that had previously provided services to the council.
The public arts project contracts contained mainly designated funds — a combined worth of approximately $300,000 total — and a small percentage for management — $12,000 maximum. My relationship with the programs began during the McGreevy administration and continued through Cody and Corzine, and then the current one.
While there were numerous other activities I also established Co-Works, a non-profit arts organization designed to partner with other agencies. Projects included management of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Writers-in-the-Schools Programs for three years in the early 1990s.
During the administration’s first year, 2010, the lieutenant governor for some unclear reason began a campaign to remove the executive director of the State Council on the Arts — a person hired and fired only by the council — and pointed to an alleged ethics violation: the director followed through on a request by a volunteer council member to have the state ethics division review a proposal to allow council members be able to request a second complimentary ticket when reviewing performances of organizations.So, Guadagno, a former county sheriff and federal prosecutor, wasn't happy with the Arts Council and decided she got get some press coverage about waste, fraud and abuse. But she didn't go after the big players or political corruption - she went after the Arts Council. It didn't turn out so good:
‘Sound and fury, signifying nothing ...”Back to Mr Aubrey:
Those words from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” come to mind when assessing Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s 2011 performance in her battle with the state arts council. State investigators found nothing — nada, zilch — to prosecute, despite Guadagno’s charges of fraud. It was a sloppy power grab, nothing else.
Last spring, Guadagno was breathing fire at Assembly and Senate budget committee hearings. Based on an incomplete state audit, she made three charges:
• That the arts council improperly awarded three contracts totalling $300,000 to Co-Works of Hamilton, “a clear and inexcusable breach of public trust.” She alleged fraud and called for the resignation of arts council executive director Steve Runk.
• That the council answers to no state official or department regarding its activities.
• That none of this would have happened if her office had more oversight of the quasi-governmental agency that falls within her office of Department of State — and therefore lawmakers should grant her office more power over the arts council.
None of it was true. The state could find no evidence of wrongdoing.
It should not be a surprise. The Star-Ledger’s Peggy McGlone reported back in May that most arts council activities — from purchases to staff promotions — are approved by Department of State staffers. Guadagno’s staff at state, not the council, has sole authority to cut checks.
If Guadagno has any class at all, she’d apologize to the arts council and Runk. One thing is certain: The end of the state probe effectively puts to rest the argument that she deserves greater power over the arts council.
About an hour later I received a call from the attorney general’s office. A deputy attorney general announced that I was breaking the law by working under an illegal contract and needed to return the money.Eventually, after being accused of malfeasance by the State, Aubrey had to hire an attorney at his expense to defend him against State charges:
Sensing that “unnecessary heavy-handed” signature style, I dismissed the accusations and informed the deputy about my previous conversation and decision to end the contract and return the funds.
However there were some perplexing questions. Why after several years of receiving contracts from the state was it suddenly illegal? Why was only one contract noted when there were several? Why would a deputy attorney general call someone who was supposedly breaking the law to have a discussion about it with them? And could this have anything to do with Petty’s Run? I just shook my head.
As part of ending my involvement with the projects, I contacted a state official with whom I normally communicated with and related what had just transpired. The reply was that this was the way that this administration worked: to smear and bully people — just as the lieutenant governor had done with the arts council. Hmm.
Yet I was secretly worried that somehow dirty politics or tricks would be used to vindicate the person who now needed a victory. Actually I continue to fear that somehow something will be cooked up to set me up.
After talking to people in the arts and in law, I obtained legal representation from a Hackensack-based law firm that was experienced in state law and used former federal prosecutors — at $500 per hour. And on one brutally hot summer day I took all my files for a trip across New Jersey to the law firm that one of the other “accused” would also use.
Upon asking me questions and looking over the contracts and clear financial reports — I used separate bank accounts for projects to provide absolute transparency — one of the attorneys summed the situation up with, “This would be ludicrous, if the person making the claims wasn’t so powerful.”
In the end there was smoke but no fire.
Then one late October day I got an E-mail from one of the “accused” and was told that the case had been closed and — except in my case stolen time and $7,000 in legal fees — the findings were what everyone had said from the beginning: the contracts were legal and there was no wrong doing.
That conclusion made me wonder how it all started. Did my involvement with Petty’s Run set up a desire to “get him” and found a bonus when it could get the arts council too? But in truth it doesn’t matter: there was a public smearing and an ensuing witch hunt.
The Star-Ledger, which had been with the case from the start, also wrote the end: “The quiet conclusion was an anti-climatic end to a melodrama Aubrey believes could have been avoided if Guadagno sought information instead of intrigue. He said Guadagno’s dramatic testimony was filled with inaccuracies and misinformation that could have been clarified in a short meeting with him and the arts council staff. It could also have saved him months of worry and the financial burden of hiring an attorney to guide him through the investigation.”
Then as 2011 closed out the Ledger ran a final statement, an editorial titled “Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s Groundless Crusade Tarnishes N.J. State Arts Council,” where the editors called the entire affair “a sloppy power grab, nothing else.”Interestingly, two members of the NJ Lege who apparently rescued Petty's Run have had their own issues with Mr. Christie:
But the Ledger’s note that Guadagno’s actions were “nothing else” is wrong. There is a something else and it is appearing in the E-mails of Governor Christie’s staff, especially in the glee of seeing people hurt.
The bill to rescue the site was initiated by two Trenton-area Democratic members of the state assembly: Bonnie Watson Coleman (who at that time had claimed to be bullied by Governor Christie, who would later put her to a “Willie Horton” type of context) and assemblyman Reed Gusciora (later to be labeled “numbnuts” by Christie).Yes, calling a State Legislature "numbnuts" is great for comity.
Funny thing, guess who is on the state panel to look into Bridgegate, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman....
Of course, Guadagno doesn't recall her conversation with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer the same way Ms. Zimmer does. Denial
Of course. Just what Zimmer claimed the Lt. Gov. stated when they had their conversation.....Surprise, Surprise, Surprise....