Presented by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Good Wednesday morning!
The mystery of who wrote a fake article on Patch that suggested Ray Lesniak had something to do with the death of his late wife Selena has been solved. Or has it?
Let’s just get it out of the way that Selena Lesniak died of arteriosclerosis and there has never been a legitimate suggestion of any foul play. But that didn’t stop someone from posting an “article” on a Flemington Patch website under the pseudonym “Kendra McIntire” suggesting that Lesniak had something to do with it.
Lesniak sued Patch’s parent company but agreed to dismiss them from the lawsuit if they identified the poster. As David Wildstein first reported Tuesday, they recently did. According to Patch’s parent company, the post came from an account linked to Ken Balut, the former Perth Amboy council president and a retired cop.
I reached out to Balut yesterday and didn’t hear back. But despite what it now says in his lawsuit, Lesniak suspects he wasn’t the actual author. “It was done not only professionally, but from someone who knew me personally,” Lesniak said. “I didn’t even know this guy existed. So I believe he’s fronting for someone.”
Lesniak has a name in mind, someone with links to Balut. Indeed, this type of post fits the profile of someone New Jersey political insiders know well. But in the absence of anything other than circumstantial evidence, I’ll avoid naming this person.
While we wait to see if there’s more to this, it’s worth noting how irresponsible it was for a purported news outlet to let just anyone post something that’s indistinguishable from a news article with zero vetting.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “All of a sudden you go over to a company that has no historical knowledge or practice in place to do this and has to be trained to do it — it does not seem logical. It raises a red flag,” Peter P. Paradis, former deputy assistant inspector general for investigations at the USDA, on the Egyptian government’s selection of IS-EG Halal for exclusive halal certification
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Christine O’Brien, Karen Jezierny, Barry Brendel, Braxton Plummer
WHERE’S MURPHY? — On his way back from Italy
BRAD SCHNURE — The communications director for the Senate Republicans has been in the hospital following a shocking diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer — likely stage 4. He’s decided to retire. State Sen. Holly Schepisi has organized a GoFundMe campaign. And you can read about Brad’s ordeal straight from him here.
Writes Schnure: “Given everything that has happened … I was forced to make the extremely tough decision to take a disability retirement from work. It’s not how I expected to leave a job I love after more than 22 years in public service, but it’s something I realized the other day that I have to do, both for me and my family. I don’t know if I have weeks or months or maybe even years left, but I’m committed to doing everything I can to fight this.”
I can’t fathom what Schnure and his family are going through, but I hope they take some solace in all the people pulling for them.
JAFFER REQUIRED TO REIMBURSE NJ FOR BROKEN BARRIERS — “She broke barriers as a woman in politics. Here’s why she is leaving office,” by The Record’s Hannan Adely: “She was the first female Muslim mayor in the United States. Then she was the first of two Muslims — both women — elected to the New Jersey State legislature. Now, Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer, D-Montgomery, has decided that she will not seek reelection after just one term. In an interview with The Record and NorthJersey.com, Jaffer said she had face sustained harassment both online and in opponents’ attack ads because of her religious background. She will not seek re-election because she doesn’t want her family to put her family, including her young daughter, through another ugly election cycle. … ‘It’s a slow drip of messages, comments, emails, tweets, Facebook comments that give the impression that my participation is not welcome. There are questions about my intentions. Unfortunately, my political opponents have also used that type of messaging against me in the campaign for assembly last year. My opponents had television ads, text messages, everything saying Sadaf Jaffer is a radical, reject extremism don’t vote for her, that sort of thing.’
DON’T FORGET THE PORT AUTHORITY PATRONAGE WORKERS — “Port Authority union leaders want essential workers exempted from NYC congestion pricing fee,” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “A fresh set of troops have been unleashed in the bi-state battle over New York City’s proposed congestion pricing plan to charge up to $23 to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street. Port Authority employees said Tuesday they and toll revenues that bankroll the bi-state agency’s big construction projects, will suffer if the plan is implemented. … Union leaders representing Port Authority workers from police to PATH to airport workers and bridge and tunnel maintenance crews slammed the prospect of charging employees from New Jersey and New York’s outer boroughs an extra fee to commute to and from work. A blunter request was made to New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority from Port Authority Sergeants Benevolent Association President Rob Zafonte: exempt the bi-state agency’s 5,000 person workforce, which includes many essential workers, from the congestion pricing fee to be charged for entering Manhattan south of 60th Street.”
WHERE’S THE BEEF? EGYPT — “NJ business owner with stark change in fortune is at center of Menendez investigation,” by The Record’s Jean Rimbach: “Today, Wael Hana heads a multinational company headquartered in Edgewater. And he lives in an upscale apartment complex down the road. That’s a dramatic shift from his position several years earlier, when the Egyptian national — who has emerged as a potential key link in the ongoing federal investigation of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez — appeared to be in serious debt. Hana was years behind on his mortgage and taxes. He also owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for allegedly passing bad checks and falling short on a deal to procure millions of dollars of luxury cars for a New York business to ship overseas, court records reviewed by NorthJersey.com show.
‘Yet little more than three months after his Bayonne home was sold in a sheriff’s sale in 2019, Hana’s fledgling North Jersey business — IS EG Halal Certified — emerged as the sole entity authorized by the Egyptian government to certify meat entering the Arab nation as halal, or permissible under Islamic law. Other longtime halal certifiers in the U.S. were dismissed by Egypt without explanation in favor of Hana’s firm, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture said had no known experience in halal certification — or any prior relationship with the beef industry or U.S. Islamic organizations. The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service warned that the change could create market disruptions and noted that higher certification fees “will increase beef prices for Egyptian consumers.””
GRASSROOTS REFERS TO GRASS THAT GREW MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO AND BECAME OIL — “The future of East Coast wind power could ride on this Jersey beach town,” by The Washington Post’s Kate Selig: “Known as “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” this beachside city now has a new distinction: It has become the epicenter of opposition to wind energy projects off New Jersey and the East Coast. Residents of Ocean City and surrounding Cape May County, helped by an outside group opposed to renewable energy, are mobilizing to stop Ocean Wind 1, a proposal to build up to 98 wind turbines the size of skyscrapers off the New Jersey coast, which could power half a million homes. The future of East Coast wind energy could hang in the balance. If opponents succeed, they hope to create a template for derailing some 31 offshore wind projects in various stages of development and construction off the East Coast, a key part of President Biden’s plan to reduce greenhouse emissions that are driving global climate change. … Founded after Orsted received its initial state approval in 2019, Protect Our Coast describes itself as a grass-roots group, made up of ‘residents, homeowners, business owners, fishermen and visitors’ … But it isn’t completely a homegrown organization. Early on, the group received support from the Delaware-based Caesar Rodney Institute, a think tank that opposes many offshore wind projects and has ties to fossil fuel interests.”
THE WITCHER — “State suing Millville court over bias claims,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Eric Conklin: “The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights is suing the city’s municipal court over alleged bias against Hispanic defendants, a claim brought before state officials by a judge last year. The division contends Hispanic litigants were likely susceptible to missing work or altering childcare arrangements because they were not given a choice to appear before Judge Jason Witcher virtually, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday. Witcher last year, in an open session, accused the court of cherry-picking Latino-sounding surnames when scheduling in-person appearances, which the court at the time held on Mondays.”
DON’T WORRY. BLEE HAPPY — “Judge orders recount in Atlantic City council race,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Superior Court Judge Michael Blee has ordered a recount in a city council race in Atlantic City where just three votes separated the two candidates in the June 6 Democratic primary. Incumbent Latoya Dunston leads challenger Viana Bailey, 300 to 297, in a contest for the second ward seat. The recount will be held on August 18 at 5:30 PM. Former Atlantic City Council President Craig Calloway, a controversial local powerbroker supporting Dunston, assisted nineteen disabled voters, Bailey alleged in court filings. Bailey’s attorney, Richard Birch of Antonelli Kantor Rivera, argued that two disability certifications and voting records show that “certain voters cast votes but did not have their votes recorded.””
JERSEY FRESH LAWSUITS —“Hillsborough, Franklin hit with fresh lawsuits over new warehouse rules,” by MyCentralJersey’s Mike Deak: “The hot button legal battle over recently passed ordinances restricting warehouse development continues to heat up with two more lawsuits filed against both Hillsborough and Franklin. The lawsuits, filed in Somerset County Superior Court, target ordinances approved by the governing bodies in the two municipalities as warehouse construction has ignited a firestorm of community opposition. Hillsborough is now facing four lawsuits contesting its warehouse ordinance passed in June. Franklin, the epicenter of warehouse construction in Somerset County, is also facing at least a half dozen other lawsuits over ordinances adopted in both 2022 and 2023. Bridgewater is also facing a legal challenge to its warehouse ordinance. … Homestead Road LLC, which has a warehouse application on Homestead Road pending before the township Planning Board, alleges township officials ‘succumbed to political pressure from a vocal neighborhood group’ and adopted ‘poor conceived and unreasonable’ zoning amendments that ‘unfairly punish’ developers with pending warehouse applications.”
THE PREROGATIVE ACTUALLY BELONGS TO BOBBY BROWN — “Cape May County seeks dismissal of offshore wind lawsuit,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Eric Conklin: “Cape May County is moving to have portions of a lawsuit dismissed over its withholding of easement and road permits pertaining to the construction of an offshore wind farm. Michael Donohue, who is representing the county in a lawsuit by Ocean Wind LLC, contends the litigation cannot be filed under state law as ‘an action in lieu of prerogative writ,’ according to a letter submitted to the courts Monday. Because of the technicality, those counts should be dismissed, he wrote.”
CAST THE FIRST STONE HARBOR — “Stone Harbor council votes to censure mayor,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Bill Barlow: “A growing split between the mayor and Borough Council in this usually staid seaside resort resulted in a council vote to censure Mayor Judith M. Davies-Dunhour over comments made at the previous meeting. The fight centers on council’s decision to name Manny Parada borough administrator, an appointment Davies-Dunhour opposed. Parada started with the borough about a year ago and has served as interim administrator since council fired former Administrator Bob Smith in February.”
RED COUNTY GOES GREEN — “Jersey Shore county gets its 1st legal recreational weed store,” by NJ Advance Media’s Nyah Marshall: “Thanks to four local business owners, Ocean County residents will no longer have to travel outside the county to buy legal weed for recreational use. The Social Leaf opened its doors last month in South Toms River, becoming the first retail cannabis dispensary for adults 21 and over in Ocean County. On a recent Friday afternoon, over a dozen people were lined up waiting to receive their orders. … In Ocean County, where many towns opposed legal weed before statewide legalization, South Toms River emerged as one of the few places in Ocean County where local officials welcomed the legal retail cannabis market.”
PERSICHILLI TO BE CALLED OUT OF RETIREMENT — “COVID cases, hospitalizations are rising in NJ, but will new variant cause a surge?” by The Record’s Scott Fallon: “After months of very low activity, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in New Jersey, mirroring a national trend as a new variant has begun spreading globally and locally. But the number of New Jerseyans getting severely ill or dying from the virus remains very low compared to the post-holiday surge in January, Health Department data shows. Still, some public health experts are concerned. Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, said the latest data makes him worried over where New Jersey is ‘heading with COVID-19 in the next two months.’ ‘Given these trends and that the updated booster is not available until October, serious concerns exist about even greater spread in the foreseeable future,’ Halkitis said.”