State Comptroller requests documents

The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) last month requested documents related to the Redevelopment Agency and Rahway Arts District (RAD). The state office asked for documents dating back to January 2009. The inquiry was included in the correspondence of last week’s Redevelopment Agency meeting agenda (Pages 14-15).

As a matter of policy, the office does not comment on pending or potential investigations, OSC spokesman Peter McAleer said in a brief telephone interview last week.

ca7d8-img_5053At Wednesday’s Redevelopment Agency meeting, Commissioner Michael Staryak questioned whether it was standard practice for OSC to make inquiries, particularly as far back as 2009.

Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said the office likely wants assurances that funds to the Arts District were done in accordance with rules and regulations. The City Council in 2010 shifted the $130,000 collected annually in Special Improvement District (SID) taxes from the Rahway Center Partnership to the Arts District.  The city formed the Arts District by ordinance and designated SID funds, all done by resolution, including $300,000 in payments through shared services agreement with the agency for startup costs for Hamilton Stage for Performing Arts, he said.

OSC doesn’t just pick out where to inquire, Pelissier told commissioners, and “must have been initiated by a complaint by an official about funneling money” to the agency, arts district and consultant. Asked after the meeting to clarify the reference to “an official,” Pelissier speculated that it could be former Mayor Rick Proctor because he requested similar documentation when he was in office. Proctor did not respond to an email message seeking comment.

The agency received an auditor’s opinion affirming using money from a bond ordinance toward the startup and marketing costs for Hamilton Stage. Pelissier said plans were vetted with an attorney before money was distributed and a consultant, Madison-based Front of House Services, was contracted.

Redevelopment Agency attorney Frank Regan said OSC also requested documents from the RAD and City Council to “triangulate” the response and answers. OSC doesn’t necessarily act only when a complaint is filed, he added, but has in the past looked into other matters on its own, including pension issues as well as the Passaic Valley Water Commission.

The State Comptroller in April issued a report examining comp time and overtime for administrative employees in 14 towns where the law was not followed, including Rahway.

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