Ethics complaint against Angelini dismissed

TRENTON – The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards dismissed a complaint Tuesday brought against an assemblywoman over an alleged appearance of impropriety in connection with the state’s medical marijuana laws.

The panel dismissed the complaint brought against Republican Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, (R-11), Ocean by Ken Wolski of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana.

The case involved Angelini’s position as the head of a non-profit, Prevention First, that works to help children and families handle everyday situations, and which provides prevention education to keep children from trying drugs.

Wolski said in his complaint that the conflict arose from the state’s medical marijuana laws and the fact her agency can benefit from legislation on which she voted. He also referenced personal opinion commentary authored by her that appeared in a newspaper.

But James Wilson of the Office of Legislative Services told the committee that her situation fell under a so-called “class exception,’’ which allows the public official to express opinions on an issue if the resulting legislation would affect – not just one business – but an entire class.

Wilson pointed out as an example of the class exception that former state Senator Peter Inverso – the head of Roma Bank at the time – was still allowed to vote on legislation affecting the entire class of banks.

Wolski pointed out to the committee that her agency did benefit, in one sense, because even though it did not provide drug treatment services, it did provide training services for personnel.

“She is really training the trainers,’’ he said.

Wilson said that would not alter his opinion for the committee. “You must look at what you are reining in,’’ he said.  Constituents have the right to expect a representative to be able to comment on issues that come before the Legislature.

And committee Vice Chair John Harper said that if her agency was indeed going to be affected, than all similar agencies would similarly be affected, so she would be free to comment pro or con.

Ethics complaint against Angelini dismissed