UNION COUNTY — The Union County Alliance, the subject of much controversy the last few years, is struggling to get back on its feet with a new executive director and $232,125 in taxpayer dollars from the county to ensure it has enough money to do the job.
Last week the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a contract with the UCA for 2013, awarding a $232,125 professional services contract to “provide bi-partisan leadership and support for the continued economic advancement and growth of Union County.” Geoffrey Perselay has also been named as the new UCA Executive Director.
According to Perselay’s resume, he obtained a law degree from Seton Hall in 1970 and previously held high level positions both in the public and private sectors, including as chief of staff and acting commissioner of the New Jersey State Department of Human Services and county administrator for Hudson County. Perselay also was president of his own company, Correctional Health Services, from 2003 to 2011.
The new director also held a position in the county from 1978 to 1982 as Director of Intergovernmental Relations.
As director, Perselay established an office responsible for drafting, tracking and reviewing legislation and handled other duties, including applying for federal and state grant funds.
The UCA submitted a 2013 budget to the freeholder board laying out how the non-profit intended to spent the $232,125. Included was $127,000 for salaries, a $12,600 office lease, $35,000 for studies and reports, $20,000 in legal fees, and $15,000 to produce the association’s publication, Union County Directions, which is currently now being produced only online.
According to sources, former UCA director Mike Murray, who resigned last year, is producing the online version of the non-profit’s bi-annual newspaper.
It has been a year and a half since LocalSource revealed Murray was unable to substantiate or produce any records to support how the $322,125 a year the UCA was getting from the county was being spent.
Created in 1993 by former Union County manager Ann Baran, the UCA was originally charged with “revitalizing and strengthening the economy and quality of life in Union County.” This mission was fully embraced by the board of directors, many of which were bi-partisan and committed to working for the good of the county.
However, the UCA was never meant to be a mouthpiece for either the Democrats or Republicans. As the years passed the non-profit’s bi-annual publication, Union County Directions, began to focus predominately on the activities of the county political Democratic stronghold and less on strengthening the economy and quality of life in Union County.
There also was little or no accountability for the more than $300,000 the county handed over each year to the UCA at the annual reorganization meeting every January. In the summer of 2011 LocalSource looked into how the UCA was spending its money.
The 2009 tax returns for the association left many unanswered questions.
Specifically, in 2009 the UCA had $481,181 in expenditures. Money appeared to have been spent on conferences, conventions, meetings and a six-figure salary for Murray.
The director, though, was unable to substantiate any actual work he accomplished while pulling in the $115,000 salary annually, and in fact, after several other revealing articles about the operations of the UCA under Murray, he resigned from the position in January, 2012.
After more than six months with no one running the UCA and quite a large amount of money in its coffers, a retired county employee assumed the role of manager for the UCA, but no director, nor president, was named.
The UCA, which maintains rented office space on Westfield Avenue in Rahway at a cost of $12,600 a year, did receive money from the county last year. However, county manager Al Faella recommended $70,000 be slashed from the UCA contract because the non-profit had come under fire the year before, but there has been no evidence in 2012 that the association completed any projects that benefitted the economy of the county.
Also of concern was that the UCA website was rarely updated, there rarely was anyone at the UCA office. The county refused to comment on the issue. The only response LocalSource did receive from the county was that the UCA was a separate entity and they had nothing to do with how the non-profit operated or how funds were spent.