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Honeywell Hearings Delayed By New Conflict of Interest Concern

Committeeman Bruce Sisler's employment with assemblyman raises questions.

What residents thought was going to be the first public hearing on the ordinance to rezone Honeywell's property on Wednesday night turned out to be another bump in the road in the two-plus year process.

For the second time this month, another possible conflict of interest of one of the committee members was brought to the attention of Township Attorney John Mills, delaying the process to redevelop the Fortune 100 company's corporate campus even further.

Two weeks ago, it was because of his wife's employment history with Honeywell, and on Wednesday night it was announced that Committeeman Bruce Sisler could also pose a conflict of interest.

Now the dozens of residents who showed up at the on Wednesday must wait until Sept. 6 to comment on the ordinance for once again, the first public hearing.

The conflict, as Mills announced at the beginning of the meeting, is that Sisler, who works for Assemblyman Anthony Bucco Jr., was employed at the time Bucco was a primary sponsor of a bill that upgraded the Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant program.

The connection stated at the meeting is that Honeywell applied for tax credits under the BRRAG program—which helps businesses preserve jobs, expand their operations and reinvest—after the bill was passed in January of 2011. This program allowed the company to stay in the township as it considered relocating to Pennsylvania.

Although this information was alleged in the release Mills received, a Honeywell spokesman said Thursday that Honeywell did not apply for credits under the BRRAG program, and never got any benefits from the legislation.

Instead, more recently in June, Honeywell —the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program—when the company considered moving to Pennsylvania again.

Even though Honeywell did not actually receive the credits from the BRRAG program, Mills said Thursday he still believes there is a conflict because the release implies that Bucco is in favor of doing anything to keep Honeywell in Morris Township.

"Whether or not Honeywell availed themselves under the grant program under BRRAG, the potential for an appearance that Mr. Sisler would be tempted to vote in a way that would be what his employer would expect, still exists," Mills said.

Mills found out about Sisler's potential conflict a few hours before Wednesday's meeting after receiving a press release from a resident with the information.

"The press release in my mind is kind of a tipping factor to raise the inquiry because it linked that legislation [Bill A3389] and Honeywell, and job retention and residential use of the Honeywell property, which is exactly what is in the ordinance that we're considering," Mills said.

While Sisler said resident Lee Goldberg sent the release, Mills would not confirm who it was from. He said there were no idenifying marks on the release that said what company it was from, but it appeared to be "legitimate."

Goldberg did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Thursday.

Sisler, who pointed out Wednesday that the BRRAG bill was not created to benefit Honeywell, but for the entire state of New Jersey, believes he should not have to lose a vote in the process and recuse himself like Grayzel did earlier this month.

"There is no conflict here," Sisler said. "This piece of legislation has not only bipartisan support, bipartisan primary sponsors, but it was passed out of the Senate 35-0, it was passed out of the Assembly 76-0, and was signed by the Governor for a piece of legislation that would keep businesses in New Jersey."

Sisler also pointed out that his responsibilities as the chief of staff for Bucco does not deal with anything relating to legislation.

"My purview is to do many different functions including distributing mail, reviewing calendars and schedules, dealing with constituent concerns," he said. "But no where in my job description does it have the legislative aid, or legislative issues under my purview."

The Morris Township Local Government Ethics Committee—comprised of three republicans and three democrats—will now review the case and issue an advisory opinion if Sisler should be able to keep his vote.

Mancuso praised Sisler at the end of the meeting and agreed with him that he doesn't believe there is a conflict present.

"I do not believe that there is a reason at this juncture for him to have a reason to step down," Mancuso said. "I understand Mr. Mills' position and I understand the law, and hopefully we will get the ethics committee to come to a swift and reasonble adjudication at this matter."

The zoning ordinance to develop Honeywell's 147-acre property for residential and office and lab space was reintroduced for the third time without Sisler's vote so the public hearing could begin on Sept. 6 if Sisler has to step down.

For the residents who were in August—originally planned for Aug. 1, 8, and 15—that were set in July when the ordinance was originally introduced, now have some more time when the next meeting convenes in September.

"We are now into September," Mancuso said, "and we will do everything we can to bring this to a prompt and reasonable and hopefully happy conclusion for everyone."

The next public hearing will be on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Morris Township Municipal Building.

Rob Burke August 17, 2012 at 01:05 AM
The go my Cheerios all over the floor! What's wrong with these officials? Mancuso goes on the record that Sisler is ethical and let's get the show on the road. I sure hope Mancuso doesn't plan to partcicate on the Ethics Committee on this issue. His bias is palpable. Worse, though, is that Mancuso is still in our government. Mancuso singlehandedly screwed us and our children out of the Ginty Carnival by hiding how much money he took in and what he did with it. (Hey Caffrey, I corrected the iPad this time, happy?) Mancuso didn't file carnival taxes in year 3. Or in year 4. Or year 5. Or year 6. Or year 7. Or year 8. Or year 9. Or year 10. Or year 11. Or year 12. Or year 13. Or year 14. Or year 15. Or year 16. Or year 17. Or year 18. Or year 19. Or year 20. So the State came a knockin and the carnival got shut down. Too bad, so sad residents and children. Mancuso produces a letter saying he used carnival money for scholarships and that's suppose to excuse his behavior? How about giving a full accounting? How much did you collect and where did ALL of it go? Frankly, Mancusos opinion of Sislers ethics is a laughable. As is the notion that we might care what his opinion is on the financial ramifications of the Honeywell Proposal. Theres an unknown amount of carnival money missing b/c of this guy. Why hasn't he resigned?
Rob Burke August 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
But Mancuso did also manage to use his "non profit" (wink wink - non profit means non disclosed, very well hidden profit) for a golf tournament at spring brook. Also, no financial accounting for that. Hope he played well...
Kerwin Fuffle August 18, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Mr. Burke, it sounds like you are "sizzling" over your spilt Cheerios. If you and local gadfly Lee Goldberg had just tended to your own "carnivals" instead of Honeywell's, this project would be well on its way to success! Ethics are in the eye of the beholder.
Rob Burke August 18, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Ethics are in the eye of the beholder????? No, ethics are established by the rule of law. But funny you should bring up carnivals again -- I agree, we should re-start the carnival. Just because Mancuso got caught stealing money from we the people and we haven't had the carnival since the state shut it down in '07 doesn't mean we can't ever have a carnival again. I say its time to restart the carnival. As far as Honeywell is concerned, I hope the project does well and our taxes go down and everyone lives happily ever after. But right now all I know is that Honeywell gives money to Bucco. Sisler works for Bucco Junior. Both Bucco's have made legislative efforts to keep Honeywell in Morris Twp. And the only tax analysis that's been done is a steady state snapshot in time the day after the project is built out fully -- and is based on Honeywell's projections. Sorry, but I prefer a fully informed, good faith, intelligent analysis with the ajor risks and variables identified and discussed, along with a forecast of the out years beyond year 1. I don't get campaign contributions from Honeywell nor have I even run for office -- and I never will. I want my elected representatives to do their jobs and vet this project properly. They haven't even really tried to yet.

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