Public Domain.

After a three and a half-year investigation, a member of the Woodlynne Borough (Camden County) Council was tentatively fined $2,300 by the New Jersey Local Finance Board (LFB) for voting seventeen times between 2010 and 2019 to approve his wife for Borough jobs and appointed positions.

In its November 24, 2021 Notice of Violation, the LFB, the chief enforcer of the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL), found that Councilman Pablo Fuentes “voted twelve (12) times on Resolutions that appointed his wife, Diana Talavera, to positions of employment with the Borough of Woodlynne over the period from 2010 through 2019 when he was involved as a member or chair of the Public Safety Department Committee in interviewing and recommending candidates for public safety positions.” The jobs to which Talavera was appointed include Class 1 Special Police Officer, Bailiff, Nuisance Officer, and part-time Court Reporter. The LFB also found that Fuentes “voted five (5) times to confirm the mayoral appointments of his wife, Diane Talavera, to ten (10) positions on the Emergency Management Board, the Recycling Committee, and the Planning Board during the years 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016.”

The LFB found that Fuentes’ votes “constitute[d] acts in his official capacity in matters where he had a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment, in violation of [the LGEL].”

The LFB assessed Fuentes $150 for each vote to appoint his wife to Borough employment and $100 for each vote to confirm his wife’s mayoral appointments to the Borough boards and committees. The total assessed was $2,300. As with all adverse ethics findings, the LFB advised Fuentes of his right to contest the fine by requesting an administrative hearing. The LFB’s final decision will not be issued until after Fuentes, if he chooses to contest the fine, has had his case heard by an Administrative Law Judge.

The ethics complaint against Fuentes was filed on March 27, 2018 by John Paff and the New Jersey Libertarian Party. According to the Notice of Violation, Fuentes did not respond to the complaint’s allegations.

Update 09/24/2022:

According to its September 15, 2022 response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, the LFB produced documents demonstrating that:

a) attorney Brian D. Lozuke, of the Cherry Hill law firm of Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C., contacted the LFB in December 2021 seeking to learn the deadline by which his client, Pablo Fuentes, could pay the fine or request an administrative hearing on the Notice of Violation. He learned that the deadline was January 24, 2022.

b) by letter dated January 24, 2022, Mr. Lozuke formally responded to the Notice of Violation and requested an administrative hearing.

c) by way of an undated transmittal letter, the LFB referred the case to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge.

d) on July 24, 2022, the LFB informed Mr. Lozuke that the Office of Administrative Law returned Mr. Fuentes’ case “due to [Mr. Fuentes’] failure to appear.” The LFB reminded Mr. Lozuke that the “payment of the [$2,300] fine is several months overdue.”

e) on July 24, 2022, Mr. Lozuke informed the LFB that he “will review and advise Mr. Fuentes.”

f) on August 15, 2022, the LFB informed Mr. Lozuke that it “has not yet received payment from Mr. Fuentes” and asked Mr. Lozuke to notify Mr. Fuentes “that per the Notice of Violation payment of the $2,300 fine was due within 30 days of his receipt of that notice.”

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