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Hopatcong Mayor Violated Ethics Law, State Says

DCA said Sylvia Petillo broke a state local government ethics law when she used borough money to fund a mailing to residents advocating a referendum.

Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo broke a local government ethics law when she spent $2,316.11 of borough funds on a mailing to borough residents urging them to vote "yes" to a referendum last November, the state Department of Community Affairs said.

Petillo attempted to use her position as mayor "to secure an unwarranted privilege or advantage for herself or others," which violated N.J.S.A. 40A: 9.22.5(C), according to a state Local Finance Board notice of violation.

Click to the right for the notice of violation.

The notice wasn't a final determination, however, the state said. Petillo, whose $100 fine was waived because the violation didn't personally benefit her, the state said, has until July 25 to file for a hearing with the board to contest its ruling.

The second-term mayor said she plans to fight the decision.

"They did not explain what the violation was or how I profited by it," Petillo said when reached by phone Thursday. "They have not explained how it personally benefitted me and that's the issue. There was no personal benefit to me or anyone else."

Petillo also defending the mailing, saying she's sent out others that have helped Hopatcong residents over the years.

"When you're having a referendum, people need to understand why you're having a referendum and how it will benefit them," Petillo said later.

In a letter to borough residents before the Nov. 5 election, Petillo advocated a referendum that would .

But, according to the state, Petillo went too far when she twice said in the letter that she recommends residents vote in favor of the referendum. The statements didn't "have an objective factual basis," the state said.

The , 1,493-479.

Randall Paulenich of Hopatcong filed a complaint over the mailing with the DCA earlier in 2012, which led to the investigation and ruling, the state said.

Combining the boards was "a benefit to the taxpayer and a benefit to the applicant," said Petillo, who added the move cut down on legal fees and time residents spent shuffling between the boards.

The move also cuts down on confusion between the zoning and planning boards, which often didn't communicate well, Petillo said.

Roll Back Our Tax August 10, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Not only is the mailing of the announcement of "voting for" the combining of the two boards unethical but the legal representation by Attorney Ursin for both the Hopatcong borough and Hudson Farms could be construed as a "conflict of interest". Even though he didn't actually vote on any matters concerning the borough he was there as a "legal consultant" for the Mayor to advise. There is a documented case in Mendham which implies a conflict of interest "even though he (an architect who was a member of the zoning board) did not discuss or vote on the matter". http://www.njslom.org/magart_1207_pg18.html "In one unreported Law Division case, the court held that the adoption of a zoning ordinance was invalid because the council president, who had a conflict, presided over the proceedings, even though he did not discuss or vote on the matter. (Beacon Hill Farm,LLC. v. Marlboro, unreported 2006, 2006 WL 1161361). Furthermore, in a recent unreported Appellate Division case, Newmark v. Mendham (A-4857-05T1, 2007), the court held that recusal and absence from deliberations was still not enough to avoid the taint of conflict where the nonparticipating board member was the architect who prepared the plans for the subdivision and variance application submitted'.
Roll Back Our Tax August 10, 2012 at 01:43 PM
continued.... http://www.meislik.com/cases/newmark_v_mendham_bd_adj/ "The approved application included a plan drafted by an architect who was a current member of that zoning board. In the neighbor’s suit, it was alleged that the zoning board’s decision was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, and that submission of the plans prepared by the architect who was a member of the zoning board constituted a conflict of interest" The Court affirmed the lower court’s finding of a conflict of interest, agreeing that a mere recusal by the architect from judging the application in which he submitted an expert report does not remove an appearance of impropriety.
Michele Guttenberger August 10, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Roll Back thanks for the advice on the NJ League of Municipalities on what is a Conflict of Interest with the NJSLOM. How does a Citizen get the NSLOM to investigate these ethics issues. The court cases you stated seem to be very relative to our current issue with our Borough Attorney. I feel that there has been resolutions voted by our council that did not provide updated information about Hudson Farms for one - they never refer to Hudson Farms by their legal name when approving a Borough resolution - that being MMK Reinsurance Bermuda Ltd. I think the citizen should know the legal party name on Borough Resolutions. Also - these resolutions also state the former use of the property of Hudson Farms and not its current use. They have a Commercial Shooting License and have a private shooting club on this property. This information was omitted on the resolution information up for council vote. One of these resolutions was for sewer hook up for previous existing cottages on Hudson Farms when it was a camp. Should not they have disclosed whether these connections infringe on the shooting range free buffer zone of human habitat structures. I often leave this Town Meetings with many questions afterwards of what was really passed and voted on. I have to find information from other sources because it is not being supplied by our Borough officials. Omission of key info should be an ethics violation too.
The Watcher August 10, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Michelle isn't Galate the president of the NJ League of Municipalities?
Roll Back Our Tax August 10, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Of course she is Watcher....we all know that. http://hopatcong.patch.com/articles/quick-bio-council-candidate-marie-galate Elected and Appointed Positions: Previously elected to Hopatcong Borough Council 1997-1999; currently serving as a Hopatcong Borough councilwoman since 2007; current President of Sussex County League of Municipalities and past president of Sussex County League of Municipalities 2011; Past Vice President Sussex County League of Municipalities 2010; Former Council President Hopatcong Borough Council 2009; Original Founding Member Hopatcong Business Association; Former Secretary, Vice President and President Hopatcong Business League; Former Secretary, Vice President and President Hopatcong Republican Club; Council Liaison to Police, Fire, Emergency service, Ambulance squad, Senior citizen, Energy audit Committee, Real Estate, Board of Health (alternate)
Michele Guttenberger August 10, 2012 at 07:23 PM
We should ask Ms Galate at the next Town Meeting why she did not fulfill her obligations as President of Sussex County League of Municipalities on Ethic issues especially a Conflict of Interest with Ursin representing Hudson Farms and the Borough. She failed to follow her responsibilities as League President of Sussex County since that is one of the tenets of this position maintaining that a Code of Ethics is enforced among town officials. Maybe she should step down from this position. People should realize that it is more than a free luncheon when you accept to become an officer to an organization. There is a pledge to enforce the mission statement of that organization. Isn't she taking classes on this stuff and haven't we been paying her tuition fees on this? Another example of our tax dollars being wasted on local politicos.
The Watcher August 10, 2012 at 07:26 PM
President Hopatcong Business League; Former Secretary, why don't we have more business in town?
Roll Back Our Tax August 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I wish I could answer that Watcher. All I can say is "ignorance is bliss".
Roll Back Our Tax August 10, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Michele....maybe they'll use her as a "scape goat".
Michele Guttenberger August 10, 2012 at 10:49 PM
DINO Pezzino heard you went to the Mayor's Ball Game and chocked on the popcorn.
Michele Guttenberger August 11, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Who would of thought Galate. All our bets were that the Mayor was going to take down Bunce since she invited Democrat DINO Pezzino to the ball game. But I guess the Mayor has her term secured and so it is a jack rat race for council no party loyalty from Petillo's Republican PAC. Who ever can say YES without blinking wins.
The Watcher August 12, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Interesting observations Michelle!
Michele Guttenberger August 12, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Watcher - Interesting? Not really, just a display of the true Moral character of our Mayor. That behind the back of her Republican Council incumbent running mates she is inviting a Democratic contender to the Ball Game. Is she hedging her bets? Maybe she is concerned that Mara Modes might get in. I'm sure this would be devastating to the Mayor if she does. Mara is one of the people who fact checks everything and is always at city hall making OPRA requests. I'm sure if elected she would be cleaning out the closets and finding all those old skeleton issues that have been hidden away but still causing the "black mold" of our town. That would really cause chaos in our town. I had the pleasure of knowing her political views when I did my one day protest write-in campaign for Mayor when we had an uncontested race. Although Mara may not have the sweet charm and Church Lady following as our Mayor, she is a concerned citizen with very high ethics. I found out that she volunteers at a hospital rape center. I guess some people just don't boast about the volunteer work they do for their community. I told her because she doesn't brag she will never be a successful politician and she should just hang it up. "No one is going to vote for you." Of course she is not listening to my advice and so she is going in for the additional abuse by the fair mouthed people of Hopatcong and is running again for council under the Democratic ticket.
The Watcher August 15, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Looks like you were right Michelle John's not a smart person "DINO Pezzino heard you went to the Mayor's Ball Game and chocked on the popcorn."
Roll Back Our Tax August 21, 2012 at 01:12 PM
According to Wikipedia, Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) affects one percent of the population and has little to do with looking at themselves in the mirror. It has a lot to do with unrealistic fantasies of success, power and intelligence. Some NPD sufferers become cult leaders or mass murderers, the rest become economists and policy-makers. Despite having a highly elevated sense of self-worth, narcissists have fragile self-esteem and handle criticism unpredictably, so let’s keep this to ourselves because John Pezinno and the Mayor belong together. http://hopatcong.patch.com/articles/democratic-write-in-candidate-defends-mayor-on-ethics-charges In the meantime, let's check out John Pezzino's Facebook site. http://www.facebook.com/joggercong He's really into "girlie" magazines. http://www.facebook.com/pages/IFBB-Bikini-Pro-Juliana-Daniell/133845530017308 http://www.facebook.com/FemFitnessModels http://www.facebook.com/HotChicksWithAbs http://www.facebook.com/pages/IFBB-Bikini-Inge-D-C-Moeller/252247018148393 So he wants to align himself with the Republican party in this borough? Yes that's where he belongs. Keep him! Send us a thank you letter.
The Watcher August 23, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Thanks Randy sounds like your opinion of DINO (John) Pezzino aka real bad on truth fits like a glove.
Roll Back Our Tax August 23, 2012 at 09:09 AM
Watcher...well anyone that has pictures of women with big breasts on their Facebook site and then claims to be an admirer of body builders is suspicious to me. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1206927904061&set=a.1161339644383.25646.1554595270&type=1&theater John thinks he's the only cross bearer in this world. We all have stories of great challenges in life that we overcame. I for one grew up in a family with a brother who from birth was mentally retarded or shall I say "challenged". When my mother died at the age of 52, I who was 13 at the time and my sister 18 took care of my brother till he died at the age of 55. I can't begin to tell you the abuse I put up with in grade school about having a mentally challenged brother. But John calls himself a Christian yet he can't put down his sword because he's part of the Crusade to name call, add pictures on Patch using my handle, etc....all to discredit me. Anyone that needs to start a bogus site like RBOT RealBadOnTruth aka John Pezzino is under the narcissistic illusion "they're somebody" but in reality they hide BEHIND THE TRUTH and are a failure in my eyes. Now I am off to work. Need to pay my taxes. Sleep well John for the rest of the day.
Michele Guttenberger August 23, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.
Roll Back Our Tax August 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Hey Rock On...."And where do we go from here? Which is the way that's clear?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q_cq-qdYLI Please do tell us Mayor Petillo. Where do we go from here? As the Walls Come Tumbling Down....as the Walls Come Tumbling Down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PErUiAyVoGc Take the plea bargain deal. You don't want an investigation.
Roll Back Our Tax August 31, 2012 at 03:30 PM
So yesterday I had to explain myself to the Hopatcong Police Department regarding an investigation they were conducting on behalf of Mayor Petillo regarding a comment I made in a post using the words "anger" and "danger" in same paragraph. She found it "threatening". I have forwarded those series of emails onto the Ethics Committee and Attorney General's office for review. I believe she used her position once again for her "personal gain". Desperation breeds contempt and the Mayor is thinks she is one step ahead of me. In realty hope breeds despair and she will grasp at anything to discredit me.
Roll Back Our Tax August 31, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Yes toilets and garbage disposals....sanitizing the world and Hopatcong borough hall. I'll hang an air freshner up there before I leave.
The Watcher September 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Randy you're not the first and I'm sure you will not be the last
jazzman September 03, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Randy i think you need to be a team player to start,get into the circle,join the business asso. for protection....eat some hot dogs at the park,and maybeeeee get in on that parade stuff they have down there twice a year...did we even have a parade this labor day.... those parade watchers more like the lambs to the slaughter and votes to the queen
Roll Back Our Tax September 04, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I just got off the phone with the Ethics Board. They advised me that the Mayor's hearing will be held October 10th in Trenton. The agenda will be posted here on October 4th or 5th. http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/programs/lfb.html It's an open public meeting. Anyone is welcome to attend. But it will not be open to public comment. Department of Community Affairs Conference Room #129/235A 101 South Broad Street Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0803
The Watcher September 04, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Jazzman, nice to know someone else is "watching." Pretty impressive but in your advice I think you left out the heavenly events at the park. Randy, did you ever find out if the mayor appealed the ethics violation?
Roll Back Our Tax September 04, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Watcher...what do you think?
Michele Guttenberger September 04, 2012 at 05:53 PM
jazzman – There is mindset that lives on with some of the crony controlled clubs and orgs that march in these parades. I agree Randy must join an organization that believes in the people of their community and does great things without political reward. A group to hang out with and have a hot dog. They do exist in Hopatcong. There are grassroots groups like parents who are involved in their kids fund raising campaigns for school projects that are not being funded. I was forced out of our town’s crony rule clubs and committees for having different political views from the current political regime. So my solution was to join a national women's organization that supports and encourages STEM educational and anti bullying programs at local schools. That was a back door approach to serving my community that removes me from the local political fray. Now my advice is to join an org or club in town where the Mayor is not a member. These are clubs that really want to do something to make Hopatcong a better place to live. Once your club or organization becomes influenced by local government leaders who are also members, it is transformed to a political stumping camp for cronyism and it becomes difficult to lunch new programs and projects without partisan controls . This my own personal ethics issue I have with the Mayor.
Roll Back Our Tax July 12, 2013 at 02:23 PM
What ever happened to the 5 postponements of Sylvia's appeals? I counted (4) delays after December postponement up through April 2013 on the agendas posted here. http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/dlgs/programs/lfb.html#1......Guess the DCA got tired of waiting and the charges stuck.
Roll Back Our Tax July 16, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Maybe she should resign like they had to do in other states West Virginia - http://www.wvillustrated.com/story/22530512/ethics-settlement-will-send-beckley-mayor-packing "Mayor Emmett Pugh will step down on Dec. 31 under a settlement involving nine alleged ethics violations. While Pugh admits no guilt, he will reimburse the West Virginia Ethics Commission $7,000 for the cost of the investigation and agree to not hold public office for five years, The Register-Herald reported Friday". Ohio - http://www.19actionnews.com/story/20759921/mayfield-heights-mayor-pleads-guilty-to-ethics-violations "19 Action News is on the case of soon-to-be resigned Mayfield Heights Mayor Gregory Costabile. The Mayor wasn't in a talking mood when we asked him for a comment on his ethics law violations as he was walking into court Tuesday morning. Costabile was supposed to have an initial appearance, but in a deal with prosecutors, the case ended quickly".
Roll Back Our Tax September 30, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Wonder what happened to those appeals the Mayor made to try and clear herself? Wonder if now Hopatcong can have a voter recall? Wonder now if she's unable to hold public office for 5 years. Wonder....wonder...wonder. Maybe we'll soon know. Right JP??? https://www.facebook.com/HopatcongSpartaNJPatch/posts/334489373301463 ...."I know I'm going to make a few democrats angry with what I'm about to say, (it’s not my intention) but I'm compelled to comment. I don't believe for a minute that Mayor Petillo made a conscience decision to break the rules, I believe the mayors heart is in the right place, and she is really trying to do the right thing, BUT as the old saying goes its hard to soar like an eagle when your surrounded by turkeys. Galanti and Bunce, they want us to believe they’re team players, and experts in all things government, but why didn’t they stop this mailing? Did they want the mayor to fail? Or did they just not know the law? Too me that's even worst. For the record, I don’t approve of how they did this or the restructuring to create this new land use board, so with that being said, I feel sad for the mayor that they left her to take the heat alone, when we all know this was a group effort. Mayor Petillo, if I’m elected, I will bring to the table the view of the blue collar worker, I can put partisan politics aside to move Hopatcong forward for the betterment of all our citizens, but be forewarned I’m not a yes man, I take the publics trust very serious. I for one will be praying for a positive result in this matter, when this is behind us the next great thing I could hope for is that the people of Hopatcong allow me the privilege to serve them on the council. Good luck mayor and god bless". Will you vote for a recall if elected to Council when the subject comes up JP?

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