Thursday, April 2, 2015

Menendez front page is a wink and nod at insider deals

The 7:40 a.m. NY Waterway Ferry took about 10 minutes to reach midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, but driving to the Weehawken terminal from Hackensack during rush hour ate up 45 minutes.


The defendant is supposed to come out swinging, not the editors of The Record.

But today's front page -- nearly all of which is devoted to Bob Menendez's legal problems -- calls into question The Record's objectivity in reporting a 14-count federal bribery indictment against the state's senior U.S. senator (A-1).

In a sidebar, Staff Writer Mary Jo Layton, quoting "several white-collar defense experts," claims "federal prosecutors face many hurdles in making their corruption case" against the Democrat (A-1).

This is a virtual rewrite of Herb Jackson's front-page story a few weeks ago, after CNN reported top Justice Department lawyers had "signed off on the charges" (A-8).

What else would defense lawyers say? 

They have to justify the huge retainer they demand from defendants like Menendez, and the hundreds of thousands in legal fees that follow when the cases go to trial.

A bad taste

A U.S. senator enjoying a lavish, jet-setting lifestyle courtesy of a friend -- allegedly for promoting the friend's "business and personal interests" -- leaves a bad taste in the mouth of taxpayers and certainly appears to be improper, if not illegal (A-1).

The Borg family, which owns North Jersey Media Group, publisher of the Woodland Park daily, also treats their business associates and friends favorably.

In recent years, The Record has run at least two stories promoting business associates of the Borgs without disclosing those ties.

And in January, Publisher Stephen A. Borg announced a sale-leaseback deal with a close family friend involving the company's printing plant on 16.67 acres in Rockaway Township.

Borg said the agreement was with a fund sponsored by the Hampshire Cos. of Morristown, but didn't mention that Jon F. Hanson is its chairman and founder or that his father, Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, and Hanson had jointly purchased a private jet in 2011.

Hanson is a major fund-raiser for Governor Christie, and advises him on sports and entertainment policy.

The Rockaway Township deal is worth about $30 million.

Branching out?

The byline of Jay Levin, The Record's local obituary writer, appears today on a front-page story about bunnies that just about the only relief  from the Menendez saga.

Levin's second byline is on the Better Living front feature called "The Name-Dropper" (BL-1).

Family dynasties

The upbeat story on the nearly 40-year reign of the Parisi family in Englewood Cliffs makes such dynasties sound like a good thing instead of one of the worst aspects of home rule (L-1).

Staff Writer Kim Lueddeke even mentions how the Zisa family "once dominated Hackensack so thoroughly that some called the city 'Zisaville'" (L-5).

But Lueddeke shouldn't have stopped there, because Hackensack still is haunted by Ken "I Am The Law" Zisa, its corrupt police chief, and the millions of dollars it took to fight all the lawsuits filed against him.

Today, Staff Writer Todd South reports on a lawsuit filed against Hackensack Police Director Mike Mordaga by Capt. Thomas Salcedo (L-3).

Wednesday's paper

On Wednesday, South reported the Union County Prosecutor's Office is handling the investigation of a March 9 pedestrian fatality in Hackensack that involved a detective from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

South's story on Wednesday's L-2 quotes Mordaga as saying "that it's quite common practice to have outside agencies review such incidents."

Avoiding any conflict of interest also is cited in the story.

Blogger's role

Of course, The Record doesn't acknowledge that Eye on The Record looked into the death of Hue D. Dang, 64, of Hackensack, and questioned the decision not to charge Detective Sgt. John C. Straniero, whose unmarked car knocked down and fatally injured the woman.

Eye on The Record also questioned Hackensack police saying they didn't know where the woman was standing, even though their own report and other evidence strongly indicated she was in or near the Jackson Avenue crosswalk when she was hit -- a crosswalk they never mentioned to The Record.

I called the state police and emailed the state Attorney General's Office about those concerns, leading to the case being given to the Union County Prosecutor's Office on Monday.

Wedesday's L-1 carries another story about a pedestrian in North Bergen who was fatally injured by the car of a West New York police officer.

This story, like the March 11 account about Dang's death, doesn't mention whether any charges will be filed. 

More Christie B.S.

Wednesday's front page gives Christie a soap box to justify his withholding $1.8 billion from state pension funds.

But the editors shoved back to A-3 complaints from Democrats that Christie is being far from honest about the fiscal health of the Transportation Trust Fund.

Wednesday's A-2 carried an embarrassing correction of a front-page story on the effort to recall Mahwah's mayor.  

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