Citing 'credible' allegation, Morris Commissioners pushing investigation into own member
By William Westhoven, Morristown Daily Record,2021-12-10
Four members of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners are pushing to continue investigating allegations of unethical conduct by one of their own.
After a county employee accusation against Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo was deemed "credible" by a special counsel who Mastrangelo allegedly refused to cooperate with, the board unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to refer the matter to the state Local Finance Board "for a detailed investigation and review under the local government law."
At issue are Mastrangelo's alleged interactions with a member of a county committee established to solicit requests for proposals for the purchase of a voting system, evaluate them and present a recommendation to the board.
According to the executive summary of a special counsel investigation, "while both the work session meeting and regular meeting were adjourned, the elected official approached a county employee member of the RFP committee, complained about the committee’s recommendation, and made comments that the complaining employee reasonably interpreted as threatening to his employment."
The employee reported the conversations to County Administrator John Bonanni, who asked county counsel to investigate.
Mastrangelo denied the allegations, adding "the claim is coming from a lifetime bureaucrat who was upset that I called him out at a public meeting."
The RFP committee explored the two proposals that were received from New Jersey state-certified vendors and recommended the purchase of an Election Systems & Software system, the summary states. That proposal was considered at the work session and regular meetings of the commissioners held on Aug. 11.
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The special counsel concluded that the employee’s complaints were credible and the official, later revealed to be Mastrangelo, "violated the county administrative code by improperly interfering with the administrator’s exclusive responsibility for personnel matters."
"The investigation further determined that such conduct compromises the county’s long-established system for soliciting and evaluating prospective acquisitions through RFP committees and could have a chilling effect on the staffing of future committees," the summary states.
The resolution adds that "despite attempts by the special counsel to interview Commissioner Mastrangelo, Commissioner Mastrangelo has failed to cooperate with the investigation, resulting in the investigation not being completed."
"We did fully cooperate," said Mastrangelo, a career IT professional first elected to the board in 2010. "Their attorneys did not provide the information we asked for. We're still waiting for that information."
Commissioners Stephen Shaw, Deborah Smith, John Krickus and Tayfun Selen passed the resolution unanimously. Mastrangelo and commissioners Kathy DeFillippo and Doug Cabana were absent from the meeting and vote.
With their terms expiring at the end of 2022, next year would presumably be an election year for Mastrangelo, Cabana and DeFillippo.
Friday, Mastrangelo released a statement calling the investigation "a politically motivated witch-hunt.
"In what only can be compared to a 'Deep State' effort to silence any inquiries, I am now the subject of an official complaint by a 40-year bureaucrat simply for asking to see the research that supported the recommendation of a proposed multi-phased $5.7 million expenditure for new voting system equipment," Mastrangelo wrote.
He also claims that unlike previous county voting-machine purchases, this time there were no public meetings or presentations to the board by the prospective vendors.
"Judging by the official reaction of the bureaucrats responsible for the recommendation, it is questionable whether comprehensive research was conducted," Mastrangelo wrote.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today .
This article originally appeared on Morristown Daily Record: Citing 'credible' allegation, Morris Commissioners pushing investigation into own member