Congratulations to Assemblywoman Evelyn Williams, who may have set a new record: she lasted seven days from the time she took her oath as a legislator until the time of her arrest on shoplifting charges. Two days later, she was fired from her job with the Essex County Corrections Department for filing for and receiving illegal pension checks from the state Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.
Some Democratic insiders suggest that Williams’ stay in the Legislature could be extraordinarily brief; there has already been discussion among party leaders about pushing Williams to resign. Essex County Freeholder-elect Donald Payne, Jr., the son of the Congressman, and Freeholder Bilal Beasley have been mentioned as possible replacements. Williams won a November 15 special election convention to replace the late Donald Tucker, defeating Freeholder (and former Assemblyman) Ralph Caputo by a wide margin.
Democrats say Williams is almost certainly a lame duck — if she refuses to resign, Essex Democrats are likely to back another candidate in the June primary and November special elections to fill the remainder of the two-year term Tucker won posthumously last month. Watch for at least one ally of the freshman Assemblyman to seek to diffuse the shoplifting charge by pressuring managers at the Valley Fair in Irvington not to prosecute Williams. Williams is no stranger to controversy: she was the School Board president when the state took over the Newark public school system in the 1980’s, and as an Essex County Jail employee in 2002, she escorted an inmate who had been a member of a major drug ring, to attend an outdoor concert.
Addressing the Assembly after taking her oath of office just seven days ago, among those Williams singled out to thank was Jackie Mattison, who had served in the Assembly until his 1997 bribery conviction Mattison, who was Chief of Staff to Sharpe James, had over $150,000 in cash hidden under the floorboards of his home. Mattison served nearly three years in a federal prison.