Sunday, August 07, 2005

ELEC: Handlin had to know Palughi's role in campaigns

Published in The Bayshore Courier on July 14, 2005.

ELEC: Handlin had to know Palughi's role in campaigns

Former county employee and FBI “person of investigative interest” Anthony “Tony the Rat” Palughi was paid to put up Handlin's freeholder campaign signs in 2001 and 2004.

Staff Writer

At a public appearance at an Aberdeen Township Council meeting on Thursday, July 7, Freeholder Deputy Director Amy Handlin was asked by a reporter whether or not the 13th District Republican assembly candidate would answer any questions about Anthony “Tony the Rat” Palughi.

Handlin responded succinctly: “No.”

Palughi, the former superintendent of the Monmouth County Division of Bridges, retired in March of this year, shortly after being named “a person of investigative interest” by the FBI.

While Palughi was an official employee of the county, many believe Palughi did little but serve as deceased former Monmouth County Freeholder Director Harry Larrison Jr.'s driver and run political errands for Larrison.

Currently, Palughi is rumored to be at the center of a federal corruption probe taking place throughout Monmouth County, specifically in the northern area of the county. But one year ago, Palughi's life was much simpler-and financially comfortable.

At the time of his retirement, Palughi earned a salary of $92,114. He picked up an additional $1,000 on October 2, 2004 from the Monmouth County Republican Committee for “campaign sign labor” for the 2004 freeholder and sheriff elections, according to Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) documents. The 2004 county elections saw the successful re-election of Handlin and Sheriff Joseph Oxley and the election of former Matawan Mayor and sitting Freeholder Rob Clifton.

Of the $1,000, $333.33 was an expense incurred on behalf of Handlin's campaign, $333.33 on behalf of Clifton's campaign and $333.33 on behalf of Oxley's campaign.

Of the three candidates, Handlin was the only candidate who had authority over Palughi's county position at the time he completed the 2004 campaign work.

Neither Oxley nor Clifton had any supervision of Palughi at his day job or direct knowledge of Palughi's job performance with the county at the time. However, Handlin, in a roll as a sitting freeholder, did have such authority and knowledge.

Indeed, Handlin voted twice, along with Larrison, current Freeholder Director Tom Powers, former Freeholder Ed Stominski and Freeholder Theodore Naronick, to retain Palughi's employment at the county: once on January 6, 1997 and again on January 7, 2002.

Less than three months prior to Palughi's January 7, 2002 reappointment, Palughi received $3,000 from the Monmouth County Republican Committee for “campaign sign installation” on behalf of the 2001 Republican county candidates, including Handlin. Of the $3,000 Palughi received on October 29, 2001, $750 of that amount was paid by the Monmouth County Republican Committee, as an in-kind contribution, on Handlin's behalf.

According to New Jersey election law, an “in-kind contribution” is an expenditure by a political party committee “on behalf of a candidate with the cooperation or prior consent of that candidate.” The political party committee must provide immediate written notification to the candidate within 48 hours of the cooperative expenditure that took place.

Therefore, according to election law, the Monmouth County Republican Committee had toreceive consent from Handlin in order for Palughi to complete and be paid for work on her two most recent freeholder elections.

According to ELEC's Compliance Department in Trenton, there are no prohibitions, from the commission's point of view, on county employees working for the campaigns of county office holders who appoint and reappoint that worker into his or her position. However, according to an official in the Compliance Department, counties and municipalities can stipulate ethics regulations to safeguard against such occurrences. Monmouth County has simply not proposed such a reform act as of yet. And, Handlin has refused to answer questions relating to such reforms.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home