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Random Notes on NJ Government

Bound Brook Council member cited for ethics violation.

After a more than two-year investigation, a member of the Bound Brook Borough (Somerset County) Council was tentatively fined $200 by the New Jersey Local Finance Board (LFB) for failing to report his ownership interest in two parcels of real estate in the Borough on his 2018 financial disclosure filing.

In its March 30, 2021 Notice of Violation, the LFB, the chief enforcer of the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL), found that Councilman Anthony Pranzatelli, when completing his 2018 Financial Disclosure Statement (FDS), “failed to properly disclose his ownership of . . . 307 West Main Street . . . and an interest in 108 East Maple Avenue . . . in violation of N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.6(a)(5).” The Notice of Violation noted, however, that Pranzatelli “amended his FDS for 2018 to include his ownership interest in the subject real estate properties . . . subsequent to the Board’s invesigation of this matter.”

This is the second time in recent history that a member of the Pranzatelli family has been cited for ethics violations by the LFB. On November 27, 2018, Beverly Pranzatelli, Anthony’s wife and a former member of the Borough Council, was tentatively fined $100 for voting in favor of a resolution which designated a redeveloper for a Main Street property while her in-laws owned that property and while Anthony had an interest in a business located on that property. In that matter, the LFB determined that Beverly’s July 22, 2014 vote violated the LGEL because it “constituted an action in her official capacity in a matter where she had a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair her objectivity or independence of judgment.”

In its March 30, 2021 letter to Anthony, the LFB “determined to not find” him in violation for failing to file his 2017 FDS. According to the Notice of Violation, the Borough Clerk had erroneously marked Anthony as “inactive” on the Borough’s FDS Roster. The LFB reminded Anthony, however, to “please remember to file [his future] FDSs by the statutory deadline of April 30th each year to avoid possible future violations.”

As with all adverse ethics findings, the LFB advised Anthony of his right to contest the fine by requesting an administrative hearing. The LFB’s final decision will not be issued until after Anthony, if he chooses to contest the fine, has had his case heard by an Administrative Law Judge.

In order to find out whether Anthony will contest the fine within his 30-day appeal window, I have scheduled an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to be filed in mid-May 2021. The same request also asked for records to show whether Beverly appealed her matter or paid the fine. Both articles will be updated upon receipt of the LFB’s response.

By law, local government officials can be fined between $100 and $500 for each LGEL violations. The ethics complaint that resulted in the LFB’s determination against Anthony was filed on December 13, 2018 by John Paff and the New Jersey Libertarian Party.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to paff@pobox.com