Could Ballantyne’s NJSEA chairmanship be in jeopardy?

Could John Ballantyne’s chairmanship of the New Jersey Sports Exposition Authority be in jeopardy?

It certainly looks possible.

According to a report published over the summer on the website New Jersey Globe, Gov. Phil Murphy is pondering whether to appoint former Lyndhurst Mayor and Commissioner and former Bergen County Democratic Party Chairman Louis Stellato to the very same position to which he appointed Ballantyne.

The governor not only appoints members to the authority — with the oversight and approval of the state Senate — he also chooses the board’s leader and vice-leader.

Stellato’s appointment to the NJSEA took effect in July after “some delay.”

Stellato didn’t exactly mince words on his desire to become chairman.

“Yea, eventually. Like I said, it’s going to happen,” Stellato told the New Jersey Globe “I’ve got to get my toe in the water … I’m imagining that’s the governor’s call. The governor makes the appointment of the chairman in that particular commission.”

Ballantyne has overseen the NJSEA’s dealing with the Keegan Landfill. He was a very strong supporter of Murphy’s in the 2017 election and Murphy, in turn, promptly rewarded him with the chairmanship of the NJSEA in April 2018, just three months after taking office.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to be named as the Chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority,” Ballantyne said at the time of his appointment. “I look forward to working with the NJSEA leadership and Board of Commissioners to ensure the region remains a vast force for driving commercial, industrial and economic growth at one of the most widely recognized sports and entertainment organizations in the country.”

However, that all happened before Ballantyne, a one-time union leader, was canned from his labor position.

Since that time, Ballantyne and several other now-former union leaders have filed a whistleblower suit alleging they were removed from their positions for speaking out about union-based financial improprieties.

The status of that suit couldn’t be determined.

Now, since the governor has refused to comment on the Keegan Landfill and other NJSEA matters, it has been impossible for this newspaper to confirm whether Murphy supports Stellato’s potentially meteoric rise to the chairmanship of the NJSEA after having, to this point, attended but one public meeting. (That number could have been two had last week’s scheduled meeting not been canceled because of what the NJSEA said was a “threat of violence” toward the authority and its members.

It is also unclear whether Murphy is satisfied at how Ballantyne has handled the Keegan crisis. When West Hudsonians began attending NJSEA meetings early in 2019, Ballantyne would, from time to time, answer questions from members of the public at meetings about the landfill.

Occasionally, however, he would clash with the public, including Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos. He would also get very testy with others — and had threatened to have NJ state troopers assigned to meetings remove a handful of people whom he deemed “out of order.”

However, everything changed once the Town of Kearny filed suit to request the courts permanently close the Keegan, Ballantyne said, by order of the NJSEA’s counsel, has could no longer publicly address questions about Keegan, but instead referred the public to the authority’s website, where “answers” could be found.

Of course, questions weren’t always answered on the website, certainly not in a prompt manner.

Who is John Ballantyne anyway?

According to his biography on the NJSEA website, Ballantyne formerly served as executive secretary-treasurer from 2015 to 2018 for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters (NRCC), as a trustee on the Northeast Carpenters Funds, the Carpenters Benefit Funds of Philadelphia & Vicinity, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters Funds, the Carpenters Local No. 491 Funds and the Carpenter Contractor Trust.

In his role as executive secretary-treasurer, Ballantyne lead one of the largest trade unions on the East Coast, with more than 40,000 members throughout Delaware and New Jersey and parts of Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania.

He oversaw the NRCC’s business strategy, critical financial planning as well as contract negotiations, development of contractor relations, training and recruiting efforts to ensure that the organization can work cooperatively with contractors and maintain the superior quality of workmanship that contractors have come to expect from union carpenters.

From 2008 to 2015, Ballantyne served as the assistant executive secretary-treasurer, where he was responsible for strategic planning, internal/external communications, contract negotiations, contractor relations, supervision of office staff and development of training materials and reports.

During this time period, he also served as the President of NRCC, a Local 253 Delegate and a Trustee to the New Jersey Carpenters Fund Executive Finance Committee and the Buffalo Carpenters Pension Fund.

From 2009 to 2011, Ballantyne served as the Assistant Supervisor and Chief Compliance Officer for the New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters (NYCDCC), In Ballantyne’s capacity as Chief Compliance Officer, he was responsible for the implementation of an effective Compliance and Ethics Program, which included identifying deficiencies and implementing necessary improvements within the Program.

Ballantyne is said to be active in his community and also serves on the Board of Directors for Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Prior to his appointment to the NJSEA 17 months ago, Ballantyne was vocal about his support for Murphy.

“(The governor is) someone that, as we moved forward over the last three years building a relationship with, we recognized shared the same core principles of our union — to make sure that people had a fair opportunity in the workplace, that they had a voice in the workplace. That certainly, coupled that with a stronger and fairer economy, recognized that through a union is where people will find their way into the middle class,” Ballantyne said at a 2018 event in Edison.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.