Charlie Promises to End New Brunswick’s “Cover-Up Culture”

Charlie Kratovil, the award-winning journalist running for Mayor of New Brunswick, has made a name for himself investigating problems with the drinking water in his city.  Now, his latest scoop has him concerned for public school children and outraged at Board of Education officials.

According to a report released yesterday, excessive levels of lead were found in water samples taken from four different city schools in late June and early July: Paul Robeson Community School, McKinley Community School, New Brunswick Middle School and New Brunswick High School.  One reading was as high as 1110 parts per billion, or 74 times the legal limit for lead contamination, but the results were not shared with the public until yesterday.

“This information should have been shared with the public immediately,” said Kratovil.  “It was wrong to keep this disturbing report under wraps for over a month, and it is disingenuous to pretend that these results were anything other than cause for serious concern.”

This morning, Charlie published an article outlining and analyzing the results and putting them in the context of several misleading statements made by a school district official at the August 21 Board of Education meeting, which was captured on video by New Brunswick Today.

At that meeting, Charlie unsuccessfully requested the results of the district’s annual water testing, only to be told they were “very good” and “really good” by Frank LoDolce, the district’s head of facilities.  Even as the results were finally released yesterday, Superintendent Aubrey Johnson described them as “extremely favorable.”

LoDolce had promised those results would be published on the district website prior to the start of the school year, but the district missed that deadline by a full week.

It wasn’t until yesterday during his weekly appearance on WCTC’s “The Tommy G Show” that Charlie first learned the results had finally been posted online.  Their release came after an article in New Brunswick Today pointed out the missed deadline, and Charlie filed an OPRA request seeking a copy of the report.

What was depicted in the results was far from “very good” or “really good.”  In fact, these were the worst lead testing results received by the district in recent years, with 29 different water sources, almost 9% of those tested, found to exceed the action limit for lead.

“New Brunswick’s parents, students, faculty and staff deserve much better than this. Simply put, they deserve the truth,” said Kratovil, who won two awards from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists for his coverage of “Watergate,” a scandal that saw a longtime city worker admit to public corruption for failing to notify authorities about problems with the city’s drinking water.

“When I’m elected, I will put an end to this cover-up culture once and for all.  Under my leadership, the New Brunswick Water Utility will conduct regular testing of the drinking water in all school facilities and promptly release the results to the public without delay.”

While some of the problems at the tainted faucets may have been rectified prior to a second round of testing, Charlie believes the district still owes the public a thorough explanation of what actions they’ve taken to address the problems.  He also wants the district to offer blood tests for students who may have been exposed to extremely high levels of lead.

Thus far, officials have given no details of any remediation efforts undertaken and have not specified if any water sources were taken out of service.  At least two locations, one at the Robeson School and one at NBMS, showed excessive lead levels in both rounds of testing.  Additionally, two individual test results from NBHS appear to be missing from the report on the second round of testing without explanation.

Charlie is encouraging anyone who shares his concerns to attend the New Brunswick Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 7pm in the auditorium of NBHS, located at 1000 Somerset Street.

 

Charlie Kratovil to Celebrate Labor Day by Announcing Plan to Raise Wages

WHO: Charlie Kratovil
WHAT: Announcement of Plan to Raise Wages
WHEN: Monday, September 3 @ 1PM
WHERE: Outside the Rutgers Public Safety Building (intersection of Commercial Avenue and George Street)

As of July 1, New Brunswick’s city government employed nearly 150 workers at wages of less than $15 per hour. Tomorrow, as we celebrate Labor Day, mayoral candidate Charlie Kratovil will announce his plans to raise their wages in an effort to combat runaway inequality, improve the city’s ability to recruit and retain quality staff, and show solidarity with campaigns to raise the minimum wage for all workers.

Charlie has been a longtime advocate for and supporter of the labor movement, and an ally in the “Fight for $15.” He intends to make New Brunswick’s government a leader when it comes to supporting working people and their families.

Earlier this year, Charlie successfully advocated against the proposed privatization of the New Brunswick’s 9-1-1 dispatchers, and suggested that the city government instead partner with Rutgers University to keep this critical function in the public sector. The city ultimately took Charlie’s advice, the dispatchers became Rutgers employees, and as of August 30, the city’s 9-1-1 calls are now being fielded at the state-of-the-art Rutgers facility located on Commercial Avenue.

Judge: Mayor Candidate’s Lawsuit Against Rutgers Board Members Can Proceed

Charlie Kratovil Calls on Governor to Ask For Resignations From Out-of-State Board Members

New Brunswick Mayor candidate Charlie Kratovil’s lawsuit seeking to remove four members of the Rutgers University Board of Governors can proceed following a Judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss the case.

Kratovil, an alumnus of the university and founder of the New Brunswick Today newspaper, filed a civil action on June 11 (docket #MER-L-1254-18) asking the Court to oust five out-of-state members illegally holding positions on the powerful board in violation of a 2011 state statute.  It was announced the following day that Joseph Rigby, a board member who resides in Maryland, would resign his position.

Hon. Mary C. Jacobson, the Assignment Judge in Mercer County, issued an August 6 order denying an attempt to dismiss the suit and requiring that the other four board members file a responsive pleading to the litigation on or before September 10.

“I was pleased to learn that Judge Jacobson has ordered the defendants to respond to the merits of my lawsuit,” said Kratovil.  “In an effort to delay their ultimate day of reckoning, these illegal office-holders had attempted to have this case thrown out on a technicality, only to back off and ultimately concede that the Judge should deny their motion.”

The Court’s order comes as the Rutgers administration is under fire for spending over $11.5 million on “golden parachutes” for ex-officials who were fired or quit their jobs, the abrupt departure of its New Brunswick Chancellor, and criminal scandals involving current and former members of the university’s football team.

But it’s not just student athletes who are accused of breaking the law.  In 2011, then-Governor Chris Christie signed the residency requirement law, NJSA 52:14-7 (also known as the “NJ First Act”), yet he subsequently appointed several members to the Rutgers Board who did not live in New Jersey and had no intention of moving here.

According to Rutgers’ own website, four members of board, including its Chair and Vice Chair, still maintain their primary residence out-of-state:

Chairman Sandy Stewart (New Hill, NC)
Vice Chairman Mark Angelson (New York, NY)
Gregory Brown (Barrington Hills, IL)
Susan McCue (Alexandria, VA)

Each out-of-state board member had one year from the date that they took office to re-locate to New Jersey before they became eligible for removal under the law.

“Chris Christie signed this act to punish rank-and-file public workers, but he apparently felt that his own political appointees were above the law and could just ignore it,” said Kratovil, who is currently campaigning to become New Brunswick’s 63rd Mayor.  “If municipal public officials like our teachers and firefighters must abide by this law, then certainly the appointees who run our state university should have to follow it as well.”

“We desperately need new leadership at Rutgers, and I am urging Governor Phil Murphy to ask for the immediate resignation of these illegal office-holders so that qualified individuals who are ready and eligible to serve our community can be selected from among the 9 million residents of New Jersey and installed without further delay.”

The board’s hands-off approach was evident at their July 24 special meeting, where a 20-year agreement with RWJBarnabas Health was approved over the objection of unions representing thousands of Rutgers employees, without any voting members of the Board of Governors physically present.

Ten voting members, including three of the defendants in the lawsuit, were supposedly on the conference call.  However, the board refused to take a roll call vote on the measure despite a point of order raised by Kratovil, leaving it a mystery which board members actually voted for the deal.

Eight voting members are required to be “in attendance” for the Board of Governors to have a quorum, meaning that the controversial deal hinges on the questionable votes of the out-of-state members.

Wednesday: Charlie Kratovil Addresses City Market Board Meeting

On Wednesday, Mayor Candidate Charlie Kratovil will address the New Brunswick City Market Board of Directors Meeting, bringing focus to a critically important issue for tens of thousands of New Brunswick residents who cannot drive or do not own vehicles, as well as many businesses and institutions that depend on transit to connect them to their workforce, customers, and visitors.

City Market is a non-profit dedicated to promoting New Brunswick’s central business district as a great place to live, work and visit in addition to fostering economic growth, attracting new business, and improving the economic vitality of the City Center by providing supplemental cleaning services, physical improvements, marketing and events.

Charlie’s presentation will cover how we can enhance the various bus systems serving New Brunswick, improving the quality and consistency of service, as well as simplifying and centralizing access to the information about these systems.

WHAT:  City Market Board Meeting

WHEN:  Wednesday, July 18, at 9:00 am

WHERE:  Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub, 61 Church Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

On June 26, Charlie addressed the Middlesex County Transportation Coordinating Committee on this same topic.  You can watch video of that presentation here.

Mayor Candidate Scores Win in Police Transparency Lawsuit

Assignment Judge Rules in Favor of Candidate Charlie Kratovil

Middlesex County’s Assignment Judge ordered the New Brunswick city government to produce records related to the March 20 arrest of a police officer, overruling the administration’s decision to deny requests filed by a reporter who is running for Mayor of New Brunswick.

The July 11 ruling in Kratovil v. City of New Brunswick (docket #MID-L-3668-18) marks another victory for Charlie Kratovil, the award-winning journalist who founded New Brunswick Today, the city’s bilingual community newspaper.  Kratovil declared his candidacy for Mayor last month, shortly after filing the lawsuit.

During the brief hearing on July 11, Judge Rivas took issue with the city government’s interpretation of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which the city had argued should prevent the release of several critically important public records in a criminal case against Edison Police Officer Paul Pappas.

Pappas was arrested on March 20 after he allegedly slashed the tires of a car parked in downtown New Brunswick.  According to a report by NJ.com’s Craig McCarthy, multiple sources indicated that Pappas was on-duty and drove an unmarked Edison police vehicle to commit the crime.

Even though authorities determined the crime was a domestic violence incident, Pappas was released on his own recognizance that same night by the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD), where his brother is employed as a Lieutenant.

The day after the arrest, Kratovil requested a number of records, including audio and video recordings related to the criminal case.  But New Brunswick supplied only the redacted arrest report, which includes few details and cites an additional report that the city refused to release.

“The public has a right to know how the NBPD handled this case of alleged police misconduct, and whether or not the defendant was given special treatment,” said Kratovil.

Initially charged with criminal mischief by the NBPD, Officer Pappas has since been accused of more serious crimes by county authorities, including stalking and using his access to confidential police databases to target his victim, as well as profiting from a no-show job scheme that allegedly involved at least four other Edison officers.

The March 21 records request, filed under the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), requested copies of all criminal complaints, summonses, warrants, CAD reports, incident reports, arrest reports, other reports, 911 recordings, radio transmissions, MVR recordings, and other video/audio recordings related to the criminal mischief charge against Pappas.

After unsuccessfully urging the NBPD to reconsider their unlawful denial of the request in April, Kratovil was left with no choice but to pursue the matter in Superior Court.  The lawsuit was filed on June 4 in Middlesex County Superior Court.

“The city was wrong to claim that the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act allows them to keep secret the NBPD’s records of Officer Pappas’ arrest.  We are pleased the Court rejected their argument and we look forward to receiving the records,” said Kratovil’s attorney, Walter Luers.

It’s not the first time that Luers and Kratovil have teamed up to use the legal system to fight secrecy at the NBPD.  In 2014, an OPRA lawsuit filed by the duo led to the disclosure of police jurisdiction maps that the city government had tried to keep under wraps.

Charlie Sits Down For Bilingual Interview With Carlos Ramirez

Carlos Ramirez is just 16 years old, but he’s already made a name for himself as one of the most fearless and determined reporters covering New Brunswick.

After getting his start as a journalist working at New Brunswick Today, the bilingual publication that Charlie launched in 2011, Carlos created his own popular news page on Facebook and he continues to be one of the top reporters at New Brunswick Today.

On July 15, Charlie sat down for a live interview with Carlos, who asked him serious questions about the issues facing the Hub City and translated all of the questions and answers into Spanish for his audience.

Watch the full interview below:

EN VIVO: Entrevista con Charlie Kratovil, candidato a la alcaldia de New Brunswick.

Posted by Carlos Ramírez Nj Noticias on Sunday, July 15, 2018

NJ Revolution Radio: “This activist has a real shot at making a big change”

On July 11, Charlie sat down with Brian Powers to discuss the campaign on NJ Revolution Radio, a new media outlet focused on progressive politics here in the Garden State.

Here’s what they had to say about the campaign:

Charlie Kratovil, the founder and editor of the New Brunswick Today newspaper, is running for Mayor of that city in the November election. Charlie has helped uncover corruption and won awards for his work at the newspaper, and now he has some big plans to lift up the community there, including launching a city bus system.

Running free of corporate party control has some disadvantages, but because he has served the community for so long this activist has a real shot at making a big change in our “Hub City”.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Charlie Kratovil to Address County Transportation Coordinating Committee

Mayor Candidate Charlie Kratovil will address the Middlesex County Transportation Coordinating Committee, bringing focus to a critically important issue for tens of thousands of New Brunswick residents who cannot drive or do not own vehicles, as well as many businesses and institutions that depend on transit to connect them to their workforce, customers, and visitors.

Charlie will cover how we can enhance the various bus systems serving New Brunswick, improving the quality and consistency of service, as well as simplifying and centralizing access to the information about these systems.

WHAT:  Middlesex County Transportation Coordinating Committee Meeting

WHEN:  Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 7:00 pm

WHERE:  Board of Freeholders Meeting Room, 1st floor, 75 Bayard Street, New Brunswick

Home News Tribune: “Kratovil Approved For November Ballot”

The city’s official newspaper, the Home News Tribune, featured the news that Charlie has been approved for the November ballot on page 2 of their June 22 edition.

Here’s what they had to say:

Charlie Kratovil has been informed by the Middlesex County Clerk’s Office Division of Elections that his candidacy for Mayor of New Brunswick was approved and his name will appear on the Tuesday, Nov. 6, ballot. Kratovil announced his candidacy at a kickoff event on June 6.

Click here to read the full Central Jersey Daily Rundown for June 22, 2018.

NBToday: “Editor Challenges Mayor Cahill with an Ambitious Platform”

Pauline Rappilly Ferniot and Ilya Arbit have both worked for Charlie at the bilingual community newspaper New Brunswick Today, but their latest assignment had them covering his campaign to lead the city government.

Here’s some of what these talented reporters had to say in the most comprehensive article yet about our historic campaign:

Kratovil proposed to create an effective & user-friendly public transportation system based on a plan he presented to the city earlier in the year. This plan would allow for connections between the people who aren’t able to afford a car and potential job opportunities. However, Kratovil also vowed that it would help with his other declared goal – “make the air we breathe cleaner by eliminating pollution from our mass transit system.”

Kratovil criticized the New Brunswick Parking Authority which he believes to be the primary obstruction to an effective public transportation system in the city. Kratovil called for the immediate dissolution of the existing authority and instead proposed to form a transportation division charged with creating a more robust and comprehensive transportation system, one that will focus more on alternative means of transit such as pedestrian traffic, bicycle traffic and other forms of transport in demand by the public.

“Jersey City, the second most-populated city in the state, saved almost a million per year by getting rid of their Parking authority,” said Kratovil.

Kratovil’s well-publicized investigative reports into the New Brunswick Water Utility led to prompt action being taken by the government. Kratovil stated that if elected, he was making a promise to residents that if there would ever be a problem with the drinking water in the future during his term, “everyone will be informed immediately, no more cover-up.”

Kratovil further went on to describe a proposal to create an anti-corruption task force to investigate each municipal institution. As watchdog editor of New Brunswick Today, Kratovil regularly investigated and reported on allegations of corruption in city government.

The New Brunswick Housing and Redevelopment Authority is another entity that Kratovil vowed to drastically reimagine. He pointed out that the authority does not act in accordance with fulfilling its original mission. If elected to the office of the mayor, Kratovil indicated that he would separate the housing authority from the redevelopment authority in order to allow the NBHA to refocus on the mission of providing affordable housing for the residents of the city without mixing its business with the interests of developers.

Kratovil also indicated that if elected as mayor, he would “advocate and abide by a two-term limit for all officials at the municipal level.” Kratovil said that he believes that many problems the city has had “would be solved by getting fresh faces and new blood in the system.”

Kratovil’s final point of his platform was a call to establish a system of civilian review of the New Brunswick Police Department, similar to the one currently in existence in New York City.

Residents and supporters gathered outside of City Hall appeared impressed with Kratovil’s announcement and platform.

Click here to read the full article, which includes great quotes from several supporters.