SUSSEX COUNTY – As Election Day 2015 nears closer, candidates have been sparring on particular issues. For Harvey Roseff, an Independent Candidate for Sussex County Freeholder, there have been a number of points that have been a part of his platform as he is on the campaign trail.
In a letter to the editor he asked for publication, Roseff downed both Republican Party and Democratic Party interests in the county, referring to those in the parties as “big, crony government caretakers,” and especially describing the solar project controversy within the county as a “Wall Street-style scam.”
It is one letter, however, that NJ Inside Scene refused to publish. NJ Inside Scene has a policy that it does not publish letters to the editors with statements it might consider defamatory towards other opposing candidates. The author of this story explained that to Roseff, after the publication believed statements made against one candidate appeared defamatory.
Roseff countered that his stance was not defamatory but news facts that should be reported. He stated other outlets had already published it.
NJ Inside Scene still refused to publish the letter in the form it was sent in and offered to present the views of both candidates for a story .
The letter is, however, published in full on Roseff’s website.
Roseff describes the leadership in Sussex County as “awful Party Boss leadership for years, even when the solar bailout was delivered from a Morris County Republican Party Boss.”
He feels that residents have been served a bill of goods, with the “transitional healthcare” program, centralized 9-1-1 program (which he says that residents “now pay twice for”), single bids on County Projects including one at Sussex County Community College, and one that has been on the platform of most candidates, the controversial solar project.
Roseff has especially taken exception against Carl Lazzaro’s platform. Lazzaro is one of his opponents on the Republican team who he had described in his letter as a “party designate who somehow now finds it appropriate to throw rocks at the solar bailout, yet it was he who put Fredon into this very same solar fiasco – foolishly reaching for a rainbow that flushed the taxpayer.”
Roseff said that as Fredon’s Mayor, Lazzaro signed off on a measure that Fredon Township would pay 9.35 cents/kwh, although Somerset County was able to pay 4.1 cents/kwh and Morris County 6.7 cents/kwh.
“All of Sussex County was to save $180,000/yr,” Roseff wrote, “and for this small risk-laden sum Lazzaro was willing to borrow an absurd $28 million.”
Roseff has referred additionally to Lazzaro’s signing of an “Amendment I” that waived the rights of consent for future solar project matters. The bankers of SunLight General, one of the Wall Street banking companies involved with the project, Roseff said, were seeking to avoid paying their first lease payment for this solar project, which left Sussex County residents holding the bag.
“Amendment I removed any remaining effective taxpayer protections against the Wall Street bankers of Sunlight,” Roseff also wrote. “Worse by signing Amendment I, Mr. Lazzaro also waived his right of consent to future solar project matters. He now asks for an investigation – but he held the door open for the foxes to enter the henhouse. He gave up his consensual power to stop the nonsense.”
Amendment I (Click here to read the document in full, and see Lazzaro’s signature, as well as all local officials listed below, and county officials) was dated Dec. 1, 2012. It consisted of signatures requested from Fredon Township, Town of Newton, Byram Township School District, Frankford Township Board of Education, Franklin Borough Board of Education, Green Township Board of Education, Hardyston Board of Education, High Point Regional School District, Kittatinny Regional School District, Newton Board of Education, Sussex County Community College, Sussex County Technical School and Sparta Board of Education officials– not just Lazzaro’s.
Click here for the full American Arbitration Association documentation between Power Partners Mastec, LLC against SunLight General Sussex Solar. The document explains that SunLight Capital formed to “take advantage of the solar boom and develop solar renewable energy projects,” and that SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Certificate) prices in 2011 were originally $600 per credit in New Jersey, but then dipped the following year to less than $100 per credit.
Following Power Purchase Agreement setups in 2011 for Somerset County, Morris and Sussex Counties were issued.
The project cost was estimated overall at about $33.6 million, with total construction costs about $30.3 million total. Bonds were proposed for $24.7 million and $1.3 million.
In a phone interview with NJ Inside Scene, Lazzaro said that municipalities were unaware of the bigger picture that Roseff has intended to paint him into and that municipalities instead looked to the county, namely its administrator, for guidance, when Amendment I came across for his signature.
“None of us [at the municipal level] were privy to confidential information at the county level,” Lazzaro said.
Lazzaro said when consulting with John Eskilson, then county administrator, Eskilson said that the unfinished project could be completed with another contractor.
At that stage, Lazzaro said, the solar project, which has since emerged with many complexities, had been sitting dormant in his municipality and others. At that stage, the solar panels were sitting on the roof of the fire department, for three to four months and unplugged, in other municipalities as well as Fredon, including Byram, Sparta and Newton. Along with all other municipal and school officials, at the advice of Eskilson, Lazzaro signed off on Amendment I. Lazzaro signed off at the advice of his township committee as mayor.
“What it meant to us,” explained Lazzaro, “was finishing the project. “We don’t have any control of the management of the project. We don’t have any say over the contractor.”
He said signing off at the advice of Eskilson, made the solar panels operable.
When asked if Fredon has experienced any savings from the project, Lazzaro told NJInsideScene.com the municipality was “maybe saving a few pennies.”
He said that if there was storage capacity on the solar panels, instead of the unused power being shuffled back into the grid that may offer savings back for the town if it could operate the building strictly off of solar power. That is something, he said, that may be considered for the future.
Solar Discussion at the New Jersey Herald Freeholder Debate
Roseff has been very public in his outspokenness on the topic of solar relating to Lazzaro. At the freeholder debate that The New Jersey Herald conducted in the video above, he also was vocal about it. At about 47 minutes into the video, was when the discussion began.
Jonathan Rose, Lazzaro’s running mate, complimented Lazzaro on his experience with budgeting and vouched that his experience could help with the solar bailout.
“We’re going to have a big problem with the budget next year because of that solar bailout,” Rose said, “I think Mr. Lazzaro is the man that can help fix that problem, and close that budget hole.”
In response to Rose’s statement, Roseff countered that the solar problem started four years ago, and again hammered that Lazzaro paid 9.35 cents per kwh versus the 4.1 kwh for Somerset. Roseff blamed that on Lazzaro during the debate.
“There’s no budget experience there that I want to see on the Freeholder Board,” Roseff said.
Lazzaro in reply cautioned Roseff to “remember at the time that the town of Fredon agreed to the contract it was less than nine cents, it came up there later on.”
Roseff was then given permission to ask one candidate a question. He challenged Lazzaro alleging that when Lazzaro signed amendment one that “he stripped away the protections from the taxpayers on the solar deal. Roseff also said that the developer raided construction funds to pay for financing and independent trustee bought into this deal.
“Amendment number one caused all of our problems today,” Roseff continued, then taunted Lazzaro with a question because of the investigation he has demanded and asked if he would be investigating himself.
After a pause, Lazzaro calmly replied, “No Harvey, I won’t be investigating myself. I’ll be investigating the people who were involved in the project.”
Lazzaro called out Roseff and said he took a document (Amendment I), cut and pasted it and placed it on his website, and “didn’t tell the whole truth.”
Lazzaro said that Roseff mismatched the documents on his website and connected his pasted signature to one it did not coordinate with.
“Our structure was done,” Lazzaro added, referring to the solar panels in Fredon, “but it wasn’t plugged in. And it couldn’t be plugged in until the township committee, not me, signed the document to say, ‘we need somebody to finish the project, so we can plug it in.’”
Lazzaro held up the documents, which he said accurately reflected the paper trail. Roseff still countered that he could show a different story.
When asked if there was a rebuttal, Rose came to Lazzaro’s defense.
“Mr. Roseff,” Rose began, “you’re the master of afterthought. You know, you’re attacking Mr. Lazzaro for something that happened four years ago, or three years ago,” then asked, “Where were you when this started? It’s easy to say in hindsight, ‘this isn’t a good idea,’ but where were you back then?”
Roseff replied that Rose was correct and he was not a signee on the document, and he did not vote to accept it. He then said that he did not enter a primary and throw rocks, and accused Lazzaro as one who was doing so and that had dug a hole.
Roseff said he still believed he had the “road map” for the situation.
Next, Lazzaro was given a turn to ask a question and asked Roseff what he has done in the last 20 years. He asked Roseff if he was out on an EMS or fire call on evening as he had volunteered his time doing. He also asked Roseff why he spent $50,000 in taxpayer money on a “losing lawsuit that was wrong.”
Roseff claimed that the lawsuit was not a lawsuit but a petition, to not exceed budget cap limits. He claimed that the $50,000 cost to the town to defend itself in the lawsuit that he and others filed will save the taxpayers in Byram Township $300,000 in the long run.
Harvey S. Roseff et al, v. Byram Township et al (case #A-5479-11T3)
Nowhere on Roseff’s website does he mention his involvement in the lawsuit in Byram Township as an accolade as he did in the debate, or even at all on his website.
But the website LAW 360 gave it a mention, noting that an appellate panel in New Jersey denied the case Harvey S. Roseff et al, v. Byram Township et al (case #A-5479-11T3).
Although Roseff and fellow plaintiffs Nelson A. Drobness, Merwyn Lee, Eugenia C Moran, and Joann Smith, presented their petition in a timely manner to demand a referendum about the budget ordinance and the council’s adoption of the ordinance to raise the budget by 3.5 percent, the panel agreed with a trial judge that stated in March 2012 that Roseff et al’s petition could not dictate budget ordinances be placed on the ballot for a referendum vote, which is backed through the legislature’s N.J.S.A. 40A:4-45.14. The panel also ruled that Byram Township’s counsel was in the right for denying the plaintiff’s petition – the reason that the quintet filed the lawsuit.
“For all of the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the trial court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint seeking to compel a referendum on this ordinance,” the appellate panel concluded (Click here for the full court document and appellate panel decision). Plaintiffs have also challenged the manner in which the Township’s officers rejected their petition for a referendum. Because we conclude that the ordinance was not subject to a referendum, there is no reason to address this claim.”
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