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Huber and Barnett Violate State Financial Disclosure Law

By on Nov 3 2013.
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Springfield Democratic Party Website Screenshot

Springfield Democratic Party Website Screenshot

Deputy Mayor Rich Huber and Committeeman David Barnett have not filed their Financial Disclosure Statements as required by the State Local Government Ethics Law according to the Division of Local Government Services.  Huber, who is running for re-election with David Amlen, recently released a campaign mailer criticizing his opponent for similar violations but has kept silent on his own non-compliance.  Barnett, already embarrassed by charges filed against him by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for “aiding and abetting an accounting fraud”, is now facing another scandal over failure to file the mandated statements that the State requires.

The deadline to file the annual form according to N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.1 et seq. is April 30th of each year.    This year, a slight change offered a grace period according to Local Finance Notice #2013-14.  For the 2013 filings, the State Division of Local Government Services created an online system for the submission and tracking of statements.  The changes were explained in Local Finance Notice #2013-13 and they stressed that Township Committee members “have personal responsibility for annually filing their FDS forms.”

In Notice #2013-13, the Division explains that, “Municipal clerks, county clerks, and other local government designees who have responsibilities concerning the FDS distribution and filing process are not required to complete FDS forms on behalf of LGOs, nor are they required to ensure that LGOs satisfy their statutory obligation to annually file a FDS. The failure of any LGO to comply with the annual filing requirement subjects the LGO to the penalties and disciplinary action provisions set forth in N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.10 and 40A:9-22.11.”  In this case, the Springfield Municipal Clerk is indicated as the local officer responsible for distribution of the statements.

Public records show the Clerk sent multiple e-mails to Huber and Barnett as far back as February 25, 2013, months in advance of the submission deadline, and absolving her of any responsibility for their failure to follow the law.  Another e-mail sent by Donnelly to Huber and Barnett included the two Local Finance Notices which explains that the Disclosures must be filed online and upon submission, an electronic record will be generated with a receipt that must also be delivered in order to be deemed Filed.  Because of the changes to the system and initial technical difficulties that were later resolved by the State, the deadline was extended until May 31, 2013 and Donnelly also reminded Huber and Barnett on May 13, 2013.

The Division of Local Government Services has regularly updated their roster of officials who have submitted the disclosure statements online.  The most recent roster shows thousands of government officials across the State have satisfied the requirements by law and twenty-eight Springfield officials have filed their statements, but Huber and Barnett are missing from both the alphabetical list and the list by government agency.  Some residents are furious with Huber and Barnett for their negative campaigning and apparent hypocrisy in criticizing Fernandez while they have their own blemished records.  One resident commented, “It’s appalling that Huber can talk about honest and open government and suggest Fernandez is hiding something when he is hiding is own financial disclosure statements from the public.”

The form is designed to assure “standards of ethical conduct and financial disclosure requirements for local government officers are clear, consistent, uniform in application, and enforceable on a statewide basis.”  It requires elected officials to list the sources of income, fees, honorariums, gifts, reimbursements, prepaid expenses and business interests for themselves and their spouses.  By not completing this form, elected officials could keep prohibited and unethical activities that generate money or kickbacks under the radar.  Huber and Barnett are more than six months past the initial deadline.

The intent of the law being flouted by Huber and Barnett is that “the public will be better served with enhanced transparency.”  The Division explains “ignorance of the requirement to file the FDS is not considered ‘good cause.’ ”  Failing to file carries heavy fines pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.10.  This has been a bad year for the Huber and Amlen administration.  They were called out for a string of false campaign claims.  They were absent during two days of power outages during the Labor Day weekend.  In April, they were called out for alleged improprieties surrounding the construction of a fence by a political operative.  One of their political appointees resigned as municipal Prosecutor after his overtime on his watch skyrocketed due to his inexperience.  At their first meeting of the year, Huber and Amlen outraged residents and disregarded public feedback by appointing Committeeman David Barnett as the Finance Chairman after his United States Securities and Exchange Commission fraud charges were discovered.

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