How could this happen?

NO EXCUSE

When I was a freshman or "plebe" at West Point, we were permitted only 4 responses to any given question:  

                                                                        1) Yes, Sir  
                                                                        2) No, Sir 
                                                                        3) Sir, I do not understand 
                                                                        4) No Excuse, Sir

That fourth answer is such a tough one to embrace. The natural inclination in the face of any failure is to try to make excuses. Over the course of my time at West Point it slowly became ingrained in me:  It doesn't matter what the extenuating circumstances might be. Sometimes "stuff" just happens, it doesn't change who is responsible. 

So when I think of the entire controversy related to the dirt pile on my property, and I replay in my mind all of that led up to its being there ...  as much as it pains me to admit it,  there's only one logical answer: 

                                    No Excuse, Sir 

This was a major failure and I take responsibility for it. 

However, at the risk of sounding too much like an excuse,  there is much more to this story.....


THE  FACTS

Bound Brook officials (Pilato, Ruscetta and O'Donahue) entered into negotiations with Arthur Fletcher's company G&A Holding to jointly profit from the fill operation. The negotiations took place the last week of June and the first two weeks of July 2008. They were centered around the formation of an "Agency Agreement" whereby Fletcher would conduct a soil recycling operation and the town would profit $5 per load. [reference]  Fletcher would also pay  to repave the intersection of Vosseller Ave and West Main St. On July 7th, 2008 Bound Brook even sent out the Borough Engineer to meet with a paving contractor on site to discuss the job. During this time period, Fletcher was bringing in 80 to 100 truckloads of fill material every day. 

Bound Brook officials were operating under faulty information from the DEP. The DEP's initial assessment was that the site was above the flood hazard area elevation. Bound Brook officials relied upon this information in their dealings with Fletcher. Astonishingly - DEP tried to cover this up, and prevent disclosure of their mistakes. However, the facts came out in litigation and they are simply undeniable. 

The fact that the DEP screwed up doesn't change the fact that there was a huge pile of dirt on my property that needed to be moved. 

The fact that the Borough of Bound Brook had attempted to profit from the pile doesn't change the fact that there was a huge pile of dirt on my property that needed to be moved. 

The fact that Arthur Fletcher Sr, Arthur Fletcher Junior, G&A Holding Inc,  have shirked their financial obligations doesn't change the fact that there was a huge pile of dirt that needed to be moved. 

The fact that I wasn't even in the country when this all began doesn't change the fact that I am responsible. 

My primary objective for the past four years was to get the pile of dirt moved and put this behind me. 

Now that this is done, I don't mind sharing the facts with the world for their own assessment. 


TIMELINE OF EVENTS

To understand the sequence of events, please direct your attention to this timeline. 

March, 2008 - Brook Industrial Park - through its property manager Rich Dobrzynski entered into a lease agreement with Fletcher's company G&A Holdings. The lease was for the storage of vehicles and construction equipment in a gated yard  located on the lot adjacent to Brook Industrial Park. The lease did not say anything at all about storage of fill material. 

April 2008 - Brook Industrial Park and G&A Holdings amended the lease to allow for the temporary storage on the property of 1 to 2 truckloads of dirt, supposedly excavated  from basements and pools. 

Early to mid June 2008 - Fletcher began bringing in 10 to 15 truckloads of fill material per day to the site. (Unfortunately, I was out of the country on a business trip at this time. 10 to 15 trucks per day was not an unusual occurrence give the site preparatory work that was going on for the Army Corps of Engineers Project in the area - NO EXCUSE). 

On June 13 - a sink hole developed on West Main Street. Tom Ruscetta from code enforcement came to investigate the site. He discovered the trucks coming in to deposit the soil and met with Fletcher for the first time. Ruscetta called the DEP to investigate. 

On or about June 15, 2008,  DEP investigator for Solid Waste -  James Scully visited the site.  Scully's  conclusion was that the operation was not a violation of solid waste, and the operation should be further reviewed the by DEP's Department of Land Use because it may be subject to flooding. [reference] .

June 16, 2008 DEP investigator Robert Clark (Land Use) visited the site. He determined that the land area in question was above the Flood Hazard Elevation. [reference] and was therefore not restricted by the DEP's regulations for Land Use. (YES, YOU ARE READING THIS CORRECTLY, HIS DETERMINATION WAS ULTIMATELY WRONG)

June 26, 2008  Clark informed Scully via email that the site was above the flood hazard elevation.  [reference]. ]. 

June 28th, Scully visited the site again and conveyed this [FALSE] information to both Fletcher and Ruscetta. He specifically stated that "DEP had no issues with the operation".   . [See Ruscetta deposition, page 88]     The inaccurate information was conveyed by Ruscetta to Borough officials  because this was germane to their ongoing negotiations for an "Agency" agreement.  . [See Ruscetta deposition, page 37]  

July 2nd, 2008 - I returned from China and I met Arthur Fletcher for the first time. I conveyed in no uncertain terms that I was not in favor of his operation. It violated the terms of our lease. I had no interest in being a landlord for a dirt operation. I stated that if he wanted the operation to continue - he would have to purchase the property. I said the only way that I would allow the operation to continue in the interim would be if the Borough of Bound Brook, DEP and EPA were on-board with the operation.[see schleck dep, page 32,37,38]

July 2nd to July 7th, 2008 - I made contact with US- EPA, Pietro Mannino (EPA Region 2, site manager), and the Borough of Bound Brook (Ruscetta and Pilato). I came to understand through Ruscetta that DEP had already made multiple visits to the site, and they had no objections. EPA confirmed they had no objections. 

July 7th, 2008 - Joint meeting was held on the site with Fletcher, Ruscetta, Borough Engineer (Tom Keady), and a representative for Somerset County. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the scope of work related to Fletcher's repaving of West Main St as part of the Agency Agreement. In witnessing the cooperative spirit of all parties involved, a concluded that the Borough of Bound Brook was 100% in favor of the operation. I understood the Borough would receive $5.00 per truckload in and out as host fee. This would offset wear and tear on the road, and would be a money making operation for the Borough. 

July 9th, 2008 - I did a standard google search and back ground check on Fletcher. I learned that he had a criminal past, and I found multiple sources who purported to have been stiffed for payments by him in the past.

July 10th, 2008 - I informed Tom Ruscetta of what I had found regarding Fletcher. Ruscetta said the Borough was already aware of this, and were not overly concerned. 

July 14th,2008 - I had a conference call with Jamie O'Donahue. He confirmed that he was aware of Fletcher's criminal background but he was not overly concerned. He said something to the effect that "you don't exist for 20 years or so in this industry without having some sort of mark against you." While I don't have a source for this conversation, you can see him on youtube where his remarks a week later are consistent with this view. [video1] [video2] [video3] 

Then, on or about July 14th, 2008 - Mr. Defendorf  a DEP employee assigned as liaison to the Army Corps of Engineers - questioned DEP's original finding regarding the Flood Hazard Area. Investigator Bob Clark of DEP  rechecked his original work and discovered his error:  [see follow on entry in Clark Report - 30 days after initial visit] the property was in fact part of the flood hazard area as defined by NJ law - he  notified the town of  Bound Brook. Upon learning this fact, the Borough reversed directions and they backed out of the deal with Fletcher. That was July 22nd, 2008. At that point over 1,500 truckloads of fill had been deposited on site. 

From July 22nd to August 19th 2008 - Despite multiple cease and desist letters, DEP orders etc Fletcher Jr, Fletcher Sr and G&A Holding delivered another 1,000 loads of fill to the site. 


Jamie Schleck