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Highlands Chairman Rilee Credibility Is Questioned

As promised, I wanted to followup on an important claim I made last Thursday night in public testimony after the Highlands Council voted to remove Executive Director Swan.

Here’s what I said to Chairman Rilee: (watch it, at time 1:37:40)

I’d just like to make one point. In response to Councilman Dressler’s question, you indicated that you had problems and concerns with Ms. Swan before, before you assumed, before you underwent Senate confirmation.

As you will recall – and I’ll go back to the transcript to document this – as you will recall, during your confirmation hearing I questioned your veracity and I questioned your integrity.

You did not disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee any concern with Ms. Swan or any concern regarding the direction of this Council or with respect to the Master Plan.

And tonight, you’ve said exactly the opposite.

And that’s fundamentally dishonest.

And you, sir, have no integrity.

Here was Rilee’s reply, where, in an angry exchange, he engaged in more lies:

You tried to play that game at the Senate as well.

Sir, you often [me interrupting: “there’s a transcript“]

There is …

You often make statements and then send a followup letter that says “I retract” [me interrupt: “I don’t retract anything, don’t lie again“]

Senator Smith asked me if I had dealt with Eileen Swan. I answered that I did. And then he asked me if I ever got my answers and I said no I didn’t.

So, I did go back and listen to the Rilee Senate Judicary Committee May 19, 2011 confirmation hearing (you can listen here). I wrote about the hearing here.

Senators Smith, Weinberg and Sarlo asked repeated focused questions about Mr. Rilee’s prior negative comments as a local official and on his current views on the Highlands Act, the Council and the Master Plan. Smith and Weinberg repeatedly asked about the questionnaire Rilee filled out and asked him: What changes would you make ?

Rilee’s repeated vague and evasive answers frustrated Smith and Weinberg.

But Rilee did specify 4 policy related problems he had, which were: 1) inappropriate infringement of home rule; 2) taking of private property without just compensation; 3) flawed science with respect to mapping; and 4) lack of funding to compensate property owners.

Senator Smith concluded by asking Rilee this specific on-point question:

What is your opinion of the current Executive Director?

Mr.Rilee replied:

All my dealings with her have been very friendly, very professional. I think she is a very nice person.

Like I said, there have been some answers we didn’t get, but I’m not sure if they were finalized. That goes to some of my answers about not knowing what’s been done through the Council because I think that’s been a work in progress. It’s not something that was defined in 2009 – it’s been a work in progress since, so it’s hard for me to answer some of those questions.

I have, personally, no issues with the Director at all. All of my dealings with her have been very professional, very friendly.

So, under oath, during his May 2011 confirmation, Rilee told the NJ Senate he had “no issues at all” with Swan.

Yet 9 months later, he now tells fellow Councilman Dressler (a former Judge) that he had issues with Swan BEFORE joining the Council.

Both replies can not be true.

[for the record, Rilee is lying again. I did not retract my claims at the Judiciary Committee.

I did send the Committee a followup note after listening to the tape to clarify that I staffed the Highlands task force as a DEP employee – I was not a member of the Taskforce. My testimony was not clear and could have been misinterpreted on that technical issue.

I also sent the Highland Council a note to correct and clarify portions of my recent testimony concerning the Tennessee Gas Pipeline exemption.

I wrote about BOTH clarifications here and wrote a comment on the NJ Spotlight story to clarify that as well.

Where I come from, it is important to correct or clarify any ambiguity, misunderstandings, or errors you create or become aware of.

Taking responsibility is a sign of integrity where I’m from.

Apparently not to Mr. Rilee.

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