By VICTOR E. SASSON
The Record's first edition of the new year offers lots of stale old news.
Editor Marty Gottlieb leads the paper with yet another story about The Traffic Jam That Ate Fort Lee after Governor Christie's flunkies at the Port Authority closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge (A-1).
And there is yet another column from Staff Writer Charles Stile scrutinizing the impact of Christie's every action or inaction, every bite of food and every bowel movement on his White House aspirations (A-1).
Gottlieb sent a photographer to Times Square for the routine New Year's Eve image, but he couldn't find anyone from New Jersey in the crowd (A-1).
On A-4, a man from North Carolina -- not the Garden State -- is shown with a story about the Affordable Care Act.
Laughing out loud
On the Editorial Page, readers get their first belly laughs of the year from the Woodland Park daily's "editorial credo," which runs every Jan. 1.
The credo is signed by Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, the chairman of North Jersey Media Group, and son Stephen A. Borg, the president and publisher, who pushed his father aside several years ago; Editor Martin Gottlieb and Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin.
In the first paragraph, they renew their pledge to support policies on the Editorial Page that will improve life "in our region," not to mention the lives of the Borgs and their wealthy friends.
Ads dictate news
They also claim the newspaper's "cash register will not dictate the content of its news articles," despite volumes of evidence to the contrary that the editors lavish coverage on large mall retailers and stiff Main Street merchants.
At least the Borgs acknowledge they guide the paper's "editorial policy," though they don't acknowledge steering news coverage to their rich friends, including real estate mogul Jon F. Hanson.
First dump of year
Road Warrior John Cichowski long ago ran out of his own ideas and opinions -- as well as any responsibility to report accurately on commuting issues.
So, it's no surprise he starts the new year pedaling more complaints from every crackpot driver who sends him an e-mail in hopes of seeing their names in print (L-1).
The Addled Commuter just doesn't understand that a long overdue expansion of mass transit -- not wider roads -- is the only viable solution to increasing traffic congestion.
Private school news
The huge spread on the Local front about a 9-year-old from Orange who attends an expensive private school in Englewood continues the Borgs' embargo on news of the city's public schools, including Dwight Morrow High School (L-1).
The elder Borg has lived on Englewood's East Hill for decades, but his newspaper and its "editorial credo" have had little impact on improving the city's largely segregated schools or its struggling downtown.
Same old news
Today, Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza started the new year scrambling to fill pages with local news he didn't have, just as he did in 2013.
So, he ran another gee-whiz photo of a car, whose unidentified driver tried to climb a home's retaining wall just off Route 17 south in Waldwick (L-3).
Sforza leads Local today with a follow-up to the anticlimactic arrest of Joey Bariso of Lodi on charges he used a handgun to shoot his 85-year-old grandmother "several times as she slept on a couch."
Tuesday's story on the arrest of Bariso appeared two days after the fact, and ran on Page 1 over a second story on Christie failing to defend the state's stringent concealed gun law, which was upheld by an appeals court.
More brain fade
A major screw-up in another front page story on Tuesday wasn't corrected today -- more evidence of brain fade on the copy desk, which continues to labor under six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton, the Queen of Errors.
The story on a shared services agreement between Montvale and River Vale reported incorrectly in the seventh paragraph that Montvale and "River Edge entered into the agreement over the summer" (Tuesday's A-6).
Tuesday's Local front carried a heartbreaking report on the funeral for Teia Gallo of Washington Township -- one of three African-Americans adopted by a white family -- who was stabbed to death, allegedly by her younger brother, Travis Gallo.
Van Lenten case
As of Dec. 16, lawyers for North Jersey Media Group and the estate of Peter Van Lenten Jr., as well as other defendants, filed 184 more pages of amended answers, motions, requests for default, certifications, affidavits of service and other legal mumbo jumbo.
Van Lenten, 47, of Pompton Lakes, former vice president of information technology for The Record and NJMG, died on April 28, 2010.
So, NJMG's litigious general counsel, Jennifer A. Borg, is going after Van Lenten's widow, Lauren, and son, also named Peter, though it's not clear how they can be held liable for what Van Lenten may or may have not done.
The case is proceeding at the same snail's pace of most other civil litigation, serving only to enrich the lawyers involved.
NJMG is again using outside counsel, Pashman Stein, the Hackensack law firm that has been the subject of at least one favorable story in The Record's Business pages.
The suit, filed in April 2013, alleges Van Lenten conspired with outside computer and networking vendors and former employees to defraud NJMG.
Other named defendants include IC Systems Solutions and Computer Network Solutions.
On June 14, the court entered defaults against defendants Philip Nolan and Nancy Nolan, who were identified as principals of one or both firms.
Lack of oversight
"Between 2001 and 2009, over $2 million was paid to [defendants] ICSS and CNS on false or inflated invoices," according to the suit.
But in the very next paragraph, the complaint acknowledges "shortly after [Van Lenten's employment was terminated in April 2009], NJMG began a review of the IT Department's purchasing practices under Mr. Van Lenten's leadership."
"That review lead [sic] to the discovery of the false and inflated invoices submitted by [defendants] ICSS and CNS," the suit alleges.
Is the lack of review during Van Lenten's tenure a major flaw in the suit, and if so, who at NJMG was responsible for failing to do that oversight?
The suit also alleges that from 2001 to 2009, NJMG paid [defendant] ICSS in excess of $1 million for temporary workers, many of whom were retired company employees, "at rates far in excess" of what they were making before they retired.
In late 2011 -- in a footnote to the suit -- NJMG and the elder Borg settled a sexual harassment complaint filed by Tracey McCain, an Englewood woman who worked for Van Lenten.
McCain alleged that Malcolm A. Borg used company computers to disseminate pornography to Van Lenten and other managers and supervisors, knowing she would see them, because one of her jobs was to read and review her boss' e-mails.
The settlement was sealed by order of a Superior Court judge in Hackensack on Sept. 26, 2011, but likely involved the payment of money.