Friday, June 19th, 2009

The Morris County Freeholders today leveled harsh criticism at Gov. Jon Corzine for nominating former Bergen County State Senator Francis X. Herbert, who now resides in Rockaway, to become Morris County superintendent of elections just days after the freeholder board had asked the governor to withhold making any such any nomination.

That post has been vacant since the November death of longtime elections superintendent RoseAnne Travaglia.

Freeholder Director Gene F. Feyl, in a letter to the governor dated June 12, said the freeholders are interested in merging the functions of the superintendent’s office into the bipartisan board of elections as 13 other New Jersey counties have successfully done. Such a consolidation would produce “significant economic savings and improved efficiencies in the elections process,” wrote Feyl, who noted this year’s county budget does not include funds for a superintendent of elections.

“Governor Corzine is burdening our county with an unnecessary position that will undoubtedly result in services being reduced in other, more critical areas,” Feyl said. Since Mrs. Travaglia’s passing, the superintendent’s office has been effectively managed by a dedicated career employee and not a political appointee, Feyl said.

“During this period, Morris County has successfully conducted several elections without relying on such a position,” Feyl said. “The governor’s action Thursday flies in the face of his repeated calls for government to achieve cost savings with minimal impact on services.”

According to Feyl, the governor’s action undermines Morris County’s efforts to streamline county government.

“Since 2005, Morris County has reduced its workforce by over 300 positions, while the state has continued to add workers to its payrolls,” Feyl said. “As local and county governments struggle to maintain services by eliminating and combining positions, we are appalled to learn that in today’s catastrophic economic climate the governor would force such an unwarranted and purely political appointment upon the taxpayers of Morris County.”

Merging the elections functions of the superintendent of elections and the board of elections requires legislation. In his letter to the governor, Feyl asked for Corzine’s assistance in getting the legislation adopted, and welcomed the chance to speak with the governor to explain the freeholders’ position in more detail. Feyl said neither Corzine nor the governor’s office has responded.

Feyl refutes accusations from Democratic leaders in the county who contend the seven Republican Freeholders want to consolidate the position to avoid having it filled by a Democrat. “If you view this as a form of political chess, the move by the governor could be considered a stroke of genius,” Feyl said. “But, unfortunately for the governor and more unfortunately for taxpayers in Morris County, this is not a game and we are not pawns. This action will burden our county budget once again with another unnecessary expense.”

Feyl said the governor should be focusing on Trenton’s problems instead of continuing to add to the cost of local governments.