Eye On Riverdale

Investigation of Ethics Violations

By on June 16, 2016

NOTE: Eye on Riverdale is committed to providing accurate information to our readers by attaching the authentic documents related to the content of our articles. These documents are collected by contacting government agencies who are obligated to provide them through the NJ Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Please take the time to read the supporting documents contained in this article.

In January 2015 the Daily Record and the Suburban Trends both reported that Riverdale’s Ex – Mayor, William Budesheim was found guilty of 4 separate ethical violations.

Daily Record Article     Suburban Trends Article

Reporting by the two news outlets above, was limited to a summary explanation.  Eye on Riverdale promised a thorough investigation of what the charges were, the events that led up to the charges, and the process of the investigation itself.

Former Mayor Budesheim appealed those rulings which began an extensive investigation by the Board of Appeals (Office of Administrative Law) and the Attorney General’s Office. Their investigation lead to the discovery of 2 additional ethical convictions on the former Mayor that no one was aware existed.  On May 10th, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Michael Antoniewicz delivered his final verdict on all the charges, GUILTY on 4 of the total 6 charges.

Budesheim Summary Judgment of Appeals Verdict

As a result of our year and a half long investigation, below we are able to provide you a timeline of the events, actions, and decisons which we hope will provide clarity to the charges, the process, and the investigation itself.

The Beginning:

On August 29th 2012, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) received an anonymous complaint against former Mayor Budesheim, alleging the following:

  1. He appointed himself to the paid position of OEM Coordinator.
  2. He continued to receive salary payments for the position after he resigned.
  3. He did not have the qualifications for the position and failed to comply with the training, and continuing education, mandated by the State OEM.
  4. Additional acts of official misconduct not related to the OEM Coordinator position.

Copy of the First Complaint

For those unfamiliar, the DCA is a state agency that offers a wide range of programs and services that respond to issues of public concern including fire and building safety, housing production, community planning and development, and local government management and finance.

On February 16th, 2013, Morris County Crime Stoppers received a separate tip making similar accusations towards former Mayor Budesheim and his role and actions with regards to the position of OEM Coordinator and its related salary. This tip prompted an investigation by the Morris County Prosecutors Office of potential criminal activity.

Copy of Prosecutors Investigation and Second Complaint

Although the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office deemed the acts to be non-criminal in nature, on April 1st they transferred the investigation to the DCA stating that the matter “does raise some ethical and financial concerns for the borough.”

Copy of Morris County Prosecutor’s Letter to the DCA

When the DCA receives a complaint, from the Prosecutor’s Office or an individual, they review the information provided and decide whether or not there is enough to proceed with an investigation. Upon reviewing the complaints against  Ex- Mayor Budesheim, the DCA decided the investigation should not only continue but should be expanded to include every sitting Council Member at the time.

Once the formal investigation was launched, ALL parties including the Mayor and Council Members, received notification of the investigation.

  • Each was requested/required to complete a formal questionnaire.
  • Each was requested/required to provide a formal written response to the accusations in their defense.
  • Each was encouraged to supply any documents that would support their responses.

The DCA spent almost a full year reviewing all responses and supporting documents, at times requesting additional information.  Finally,after a thorough review of all the documents submitted, and evaluation of the facts and circumstances relevant to the complaints, the board provided their written determinations.

On December 12th, 2014, the sitting Council Members were sent notices that they were not found guilty of any violation and that, “while the former Mayor should not have appointed himself to the position of OEM Coordinator and should not have continued to collect a salary for a position he no longer held; the Council Members did not take action to authorize these violations.”

Copy of Council Members’ Exoneration Letter

Former Mayor Budesheim was also sent a letter on or about the same date, that notified him that he was, in fact, found guilty on 4 separate ethical violations. The Board levied fines against former Mayor Budesheim for each of the violations as follows:

  1. Appointing himself to the paid position of OEM Coordinator 2004. – $250
  2. Appointing himself to the paid position of OEM Coordinator 2007. – $250
  3. Appointing himself to the paid position of OEM coordinator 2011. – $250
  4. Continuing to receive a salary for a position he no longer held. – $500 (Maximum Allowed by the DCA)

Copy of DCA Letter to former Mayor Budesheim

The DCA does not have the authority to order former Mayor Budesheim to return the actual amount of salary which he received during his time as OEM Coordinator or the amount  he kept after resigning from the position.

When interviewed by the Daily Record in January of 2015 ex-Mayor Budesheim vowed to appeal the verdict,   and a hearing date was scheduled at the Board of Appeals offices located at 33 Washington Street, Newark NJ, on July 21st 2015 at 9:30am .

According to the Board of Appeals, days before this hearing was to occur the NJ State Attorney Generals office intervened and took over the case to consider whether or  not to consolidate the hearing with other complaints/charges being reviewed against ex-Mayor Budesheim.  After reviewing the case(s) against former Mayor Budesheim the AG’s office returned the case to the board of appeals along with 2 additional convictions to be heard in a consolidated format.

These 2 additional convictions were ethics charges brought forth by the DCA as a result of their original investigation and as a result the DCA also found the former Mayor guilty of:

  1. Using his position of power to veto a unanimous decision by the borough council to reduce the salary of the OEM coordinator. A salary the ex-mayor was receiving at the time resulting in his personal gain.
  2. Using his position of power to break the tie in a vote specifically addressing the former Mayors salary resulting in personal gains.

You can read more about these actions in the Summary judgement of the former Mayors appeal attached below.

As a result of the appeal and the actions of the AG’s office all 6 convictions were consolidated into a single appeal hearing addressing all of the charges.  Since neither party, Budeshem or the DCA, disputed the facts of the case, each agreed to a summary Judgement offered by the Administrative Law Judge Michael Antoniewicz.

FINALLY last month on May 10, 2016;  Administratve Law Judge Michael Antoniewicz delivered his final judgement and found the former mayor -GUILTY of

  • Appointing himself to the paid position of OEM Coordinator 2004. – $250 fine
  • Appointing himself to the paid position of OEM Coordinator 2007. – $250 fine
  • Appointing himself to the paid position of OEM coordinator 2011. – $250 fine
  • Vetoing the unanimous vote to reduce the OEM coordinator salary.  Fine unidentified*

Regarding the other two charges, in his defense, the former mayor blamed the Borough Attorney for advising him at the time that he could vote on his own salary.

Since this was indirectly tied to him keeping the salary after resigning the OEM position, ALJ Antoniewicz determined that he was not guilty because the advice provided by legal counsel should have been considered in the initial decision.

You can read the complete summary judgement here:

Budesheim Summary Judgment of appeals verdict

In the end, 4 of the six convictions of ethical violations were upheld and the fallen mayor was fined just in excess of $750.  A small price to pay when his actions, diverted over $100,000 in tax payer money to his own pockets.

We hope this provides a greater understanding of the incidents, the due process, the investigation, and the verdicts.

Comments

  1. Daniel Norris
    June 17, 2016

    Leave a Reply

    Nice job Riverdale. Too bad the violations did not hold a bigger consequence. (politicians always seem to get a break If we did this in corp America, we would be in much deeper water)

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