Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Passaic County Ethics Board Clears Official

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Passaic County Ethics Board Clears Official

Article excerpt

Freeholder Ronda Casson Cotroneo told the Passaic County Ethics Board on Thursday that she forgot to file her financial disclosure forms with the state in 2014 and 2015, but the board promptly let her off the hook when it ruled that the oversight was unintentional.

Cotroneo, an attorney who is the former president of the Passaic County Bar Association, testified that she was so busy with court appearances, teaching college classes, being a freeholder and a working mother, that she missed the deadlines to file the forms. The law requires all local government officers to file financial disclosure forms listing their sources of income and property with the state's Local Finance Board. Violators can be fined $100 to $500 per violation.

"It was completely unintentional and I apologize," Cotroneo told the Ethics Board when it met at the county administration building in Paterson. "I was juggling," she said, explaining that she taught classes at Fairleigh Dickinson University and was also "a soccer mom," coaching her daughters.

After hearing Cotroneo's testimony, the four-member Ethics Board met in closed session. When the board emerged about 20 minutes later, member Jim Marotta offered that Cotroneo had an excuse for not filing: she hadn't been properly notified by the state.

Marotta said that up to 2013, the state required officials to file financial disclosures on paper. But in 2014, the state switched to an electronic filing system done by computer, and there was no evidence that Cotroneo had ever been notified of the change.

"Forgetting to do something, absent notice, is not an ethical violation," Marotta said. "I don't believe there was any intent" to violate the law.

"I find no ethical violation, absolutely not," Marotta said.

The Ethics Board then voted 4-0 to exonerate Cotroneo.

"Of course, I'm happy," she said after the ruling. …

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