PSE&G said it would invest $883 million in solar over the next five years. That's big news for solar, but perhaps the bigger news was the presence of the event's keynote speaker, Chris Christie. The event marked the first time he showed up at a PSEG event since becoming governor.
Why's that a big deal? It's no secret that Christie had turned a cold shoulder to PSEG and its CEO, Ralph Izzo, whom Christie saw as a Jon Corzine ally. Christie never called Izzo "numbnuts," or anything, but sources say the governor had been shunning Izzo.
Things have changed in recent months, however, as the two worked together on a solution to the stalemate over the restructuring of Rutgers University. Izzo is chair of the Rutgers board of governors, a position to which he was appointed by Corzine, and Christie needed the board's cooperation to push the restructuring deal through. A source with knowledge of the situation said those talks helped thaw the relationship. The first fruit of their new bond was Christie's attendance at last week's event.
Much ado about audit
The Office of the State Comptroller's report, released last week, made for riveting reading, at least as far as audit reports go.
Four of the top staff at the Middlesex County Improvement Authority received "management incentive" payments, including Executive Director Richard Pucci, who pulled in more than $100,000 over two years. Authority officials told OSC part of the rationale for the payments was to retain these managers. But OSC stated, "We did not find evidence of any threat of management turnover." You think? Pucci has been at MCIA since it was created in 1991. Also, Pucci was described by MCIA Chairman Leonard J. Roseman as a "unique leader, who does not come along often" — but with a state unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, there are probably a bunch of leaders who could be hired if Pucci bolted.
The report contrasted Pucci's 2010 compensation of $249,366 with the pay for the county administrator — the person basically running the entire county, not just the MCIA piece of it — of $153,400. The report also noted the governor only makes $175,000.
But MCIA bit back in its response, which was longer than the audit report. For the comparison with the governor, MCIA noted the state's top elected official also gets security, housing, transportation — though MCIA top staff get car allowances — luxury boxes at entertainment and sporting events, and more.
MCIA's response also stated Middlesex County has a higher bond rating than the state. Then there was this: "The OSC field survey team consisted of well-intentioned employees who had minimal management experience, and on numerous occasions readily admitted they had no knowledge how improvement authorities operate."
MCIA also noted the "more than 20 months and thousands of hours of review by the OSC field survey team" and that "no significant exceptions related to MCIA's financing practices" had been revealed. MCIA also provided a chart filled with zeros to show MCIA board members do not receive a salary, auto allowance, meals and more.
On the last page, MCIA reacted to an OSC finding about the authority's holiday parties for the county's nursing home staff, costing more than $12,000 over two years. MCIA noted state guidance allows state tax dollars to be spent on meals and refreshments for patients, students, dignitaries "and even inmates in state institutions," which seemed to imply an argument of: if the inmates can get it, why can't we?
Dream job for consultant
American Dream Meadowlands, one of New Jersey's most high-profile real estate projects, has been making use of one of the state's most high-profile reform programs.
Developer Triple Five has retained an environmental consultant to oversee a minor cleanup near the dormant megamall, said the Department of Environmental Protection. The work falls under the Licensed Site Remediation Professional program.
DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said Triple Five has submitted a remediation plan for a "lightly contaminated" tract at the Meadowlands property. A report prepared for the project points to contaminants at the nearby site of a former radio tower, which Triple Five plans to build on to erect indoor water and amusement parks.
Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org.