I question whether Glassboro Borough (Gloucester County) is appropriately awarding Conflict Public Defender positions to local attorneys without (apparently) entering into written contracts with them or publishing the awards in the newspaper.  So, I took some time today to write to the Borough’s auditor about this problem (see my letter below).

Funny thing. Not until I was almost done with the letter did I happen to check the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) website and learn that the auditor himself recently contributed $3,000 to the campaign of two incumbent Glassboro council members.  See the third page of the document that is on-line here.

This financial connection made me lose a bit confidence in the auditor’s ability to objectively review Glassboro’s policy!

–forwarded message

December 22, 2012

Nick L. Petroni, RMA
Petroni & Associates
21 W. High St.
Glassboro, NJ 08028
via e-mail only to [email protected]

RE: Borough of Glassboro–Conflict Public Defenders

Dear Mr. Petroni:

I understand that you are the auditor for the Borough of Glassboro in Gloucester County.  I reach out to you in that capacity because I believe that the Borough may not be appointing its Conflict Public Defenders in a proper manner.

As can be seen by the purchase orders (on-line here), the Borough is paying out thousands of dollars for Conflict Public Defenders.  (The purchase orders at the link above, submitted by Michael Silvanio, Esq. and  John C. Iannelli, Esq., are illustrative only, and represent only part of the $6,800 that was paid out so far in 2012 for Conflict Public Defenders.)

Yet, as can be seen by the Borough’s hand-written responses to paragraphs 2 and 3 of my OPRA request (on-line here), there are no contracts, resolutions or published newspaper advertisements relating to the Borough’s award of Conflict Public Defender jobs to Silvanio and Iannelli.  As you can see from the legal advertisements (on-line here), other municipalities, including nearby Franklin Township, formally award Conflict Public Defender positions and advertise those appointments in the newspaper.

Glassboro’s policy of having no apparent formal process for awarding taxpayer money to Silvanio and Iannelli is troubling for at least two reasons.  First, according to the purchase orders, both Silvanio and Iannelli are charging the taxpayers $200 per case or hour.  But, what writing establishes that the correct rate is $200 as opposed to $150 or some other number? (Note that according to its public notice, Egg Harbor is paying its Conflict Public Defender only $95/hour.)  Also, both Silvanio and Iannelli are frequent contributors to area political campaigns, as shown by the Election Law Enforcement Commission reports (on-line here) While neither reportedly gave money directly to Glassboro municipal candidates, their donations show that they are participants in local party politics, which is all the more reason that the public should be informed of the fact that these attorneys are being paid with public dollars.

I hope that you will evaluate the propriety of Glassboro’s practice.  If you find that Glassboro’s procedure is not legal or appropriate, I ask that your audit report recommend an amendment.

Very truly yours,

John Paff

cc. Mayor McCabe and the Borough Council, (via e-mail to the Borough Clerk at [email protected])

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]