Gill stops resisting Rabner, former Bergen County prosecutor questions Rabner’s character, Tom Moran on Nia Gill, Bloomberg leaves GOP, Weinberg uses senatorial courtesy, a Bergen County lawyer charged with exposing himself keeps his place on an ethics panel, Healy not likely to face jail time, watermelon delivery leads to investigation.
GILL “MYSTERIOUSLY” ALLOWS RABNER NOMINATION TO GO FORWARD
“As mysteriously as it began, a state senator’s opposition to the nomination of Attorney General Stuart Rabner as chief justice of the state Supreme Court came to an end yesterday, clearing the way for a confirmation vote tomorrow.
Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), whose refusal to sign off had delayed Senate action on the nomination, met with Rabner for more than an hour yesterday at her Montclair legislative office. Afterward Gill remained silent, but it became clear she had withdrawn her objection as the nomination was added to tomorrow’s Senate Judiciary Committee agenda…………..
It remained unclear what prompted Gill to change her mind.
With the roadblock removed, however, Rabner’s nomination and that of First Assistant Attorney General Anne Milgram to succeed him as attorney general are expected to move quickly to confirmation during what is expected to be the Senate’s last voting session until fall.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
“Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said, “I am excited for New Jersey that Stuart Rabner, a man of true integrity and decency, may soon be leading our great Supreme Court for the next generation.”
Adler had been singled out for criticism by Christie when the lawmaker had said he would not call for a hearing on Rabner without Gill’s approval.” (Baldwin, Gannett)
“While Ms. Gill declined to specify the reasons for her opposition, some other lawmakers, who were granted anonymity because they were revealing internal party discussions, said that she had been concerned about Mr. Rabner’s lack of experience as a judge. Ms. Gill, who is African-American, was also said to have questioned why a minority candidate apparently was not considered for the post. Mr. Rabner is white.
Despite Ms. Gill’s objections — whatever they may have been — Mr. Rabner’s nomination was never considered to be in serious jeopardy. However, the episode proved nettlesome and embarrassing for Mr. Corzine, who, 18 months after assuming the governorship, is still widely viewed as an outsider in the insular world under the State House dome.” (Jones, New York Times)
TOM MORAN: NIA GILL’S “INEXPLICABLE HISSY FIT”
“Stuart Rabner will get his Senate hearing after all, and no doubt will be confirmed as the next chief justice of the Supreme Court.
So in the end, Sen. Nia Gill’s inexplicable hissy fit over this nomination will not amount to much.
But we did learn something from the fight. Because Gill’s behavior was so maddening that it drew out U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the Republican most likely to run against Jon Corzine for governor in 2009. For the first time, Christie took off the restraints and went after the Democrats in Trenton with real gusto……….
The governor later noted he had defended Rabner that same day, praising his character and intellect.
True enough. But by then, the governor’s office knew Christie was busy loading his guns. And while Corzine praised Rabner, he didn’t take the next step of criticizing Gill’s behavior or the abuse of senatorial courtesy.” (Moran, Star-Ledger)
JUST WHEN RABNER WAS ABOUT TO RUN UNOPPOSED
“A former Bergen County prosecutor is questioning the fitness of Gov. Jon Corzine’s nominee to lead the state Supreme Court, claiming Attorney General Stuart Rabner “turned a blind eye to wrongdoing” while overseeing a controversial case in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The contention by William H. Schmidt, who served as prosecutor from 1997 to 2002, elaborates on allegations he initially lodged against the FBI and federal prosecutors in 2001, when Rabner was first assistant U.S. attorney, the second-ranking federal law enforcement official in New Jersey.
At the time, Schmidt accused both agencies of mishandling an organized crime-and-corruption case that revolved around a Lodi brothel………….
Schmidt says that during a series of phone conversations and face-to-face meetings, he told Rabner he had uncovered evidence federal prosecutors and FBI agents helped orchestrate the arrest of an innocent woman and that a “rogue” agent was compromising an investigation, among other claims.
Rabner, Schmidt contends, should have opened an investigation into the alleged misconduct. Instead, Schmidt says, Rabner did nothing………….
“The allegations that Schmidt is making are completely false, misleading and irresponsible,” said former U.S. Attorney Robert Cleary, who requested the Justice Department review.” (Mueller and Margolin, Star-Ledger)
NOT NEW JERSEY, BUT IMPORTANT
“NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the stunning step Tuesday of announcing that he has left the Republican Party and switched to unaffiliated, a move certain to heighten presidential speculation despite his repeated denials that he is running.
The billionaire former CEO, who was a lifelong Democrat before he switched to the Republican party in 2001 for his first mayoral run, said the change in his voter registration does not mean he is running for president.
The 65-year-old mayor has increasingly been the subject of speculation that he will run as an independent in 2008, despite his repeated promises to leave politics after the end of his term in 2009. He has fueled the buzz with increasing out-of-state travel, greater focus on national issues and repeated criticism for the way the country is run by partisan politics…………
The belief among some operatives is that Bloomberg’s moderate positions would siphon votes from the Democratic nominee. But some say it’s the opposite — he could spoil it for the Republicans.” (Kugler, AP)
WEINBERG HOLDS BERGEN COUNTY IN SUSPENSE
“Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, whose term expired last month, may have to wait until the fall to be considered again for a second term if state Sen. Loretta Weinberg doesn’t sign off on his nomination today.
The Teaneck Democrat delayed a confirmation vote on Molinelli this week, pending his answers to “a confidential matter,” she said during the weekend. She has declined to specify her concerns and has not returned repeated calls for comment…………
“I just wish she would tell us the reasons why so we could help resolve them,” said state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “At least she could be a little more forthcoming as to why she’s holding him up.”……….
Molinelli said he met with Weinberg for three hours in her Teaneck district office last week. He also said he “provided her with some information” Thursday.
Molinelli declined to characterize Weinberg’s concerns.
“She received the information I provided to her,” Molinelli said. “Now it’s just a matter of waiting.” (Carmiel, Bergen Record)
CHRIS DAUL OF THE EAST
A Hackensack lawyer remains vice president of the Bergen County Bar Association and chairman of a regional state ethics panel while facing charges of exposing himself in public.
As is common with less serious crimes such as lewdness, Donald M. Onorato will enter the Pretrial Intervention program, a form of probation available for certain first-time offenders, said Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli. A court appearance is scheduled for July 10 in Hackensack.
A defendant who successfully completes the program, which could last up to three years, has the criminal record eliminated………….
Bar association officials are vigorously defending Onorato, who was admitted to the bar in 1985 and has since been practicing civil law.
“The bar association has strongly expressed support for him,” said Joseph Rem, president-elect of the association.
“I believe he is innocent. His conduct was totally inconsistent with that of someone who was trying to expose himself.” (Markos, Bergen Record)
IF CONVICTED, HEALY’S REAL PUNISHMENT WILL BE EMBARASSMENT
“If found guilty of the disorderly persons charges against him in Bradley Beach, the maximum penalties Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy could receive are just over a year in jail and $2,500 in fines, officials said yesterday.
But since Healy – a former prosecutor and municipal court chief judge in Jersey City – has no criminal record, it’s unlikely he would go to jail, said Bradley Beach Prosecutor Jason Shamy.
The case stems from an incident that took place on June 17, 2006, at about 2 a.m. outside a tavern owned by Healy’s sister and brother-in-law.
Four prosecution witnesses – including the two arresting officers – testified Monday, painting a picture of a “drunk” and “disorderly” Healy who repeatedly interfered with a police matter and eventually had to be forcibly arrested…………
A conviction would have no legal bearing on Healy’s ability to serve as mayor, said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio.
“If convicted of these charges that would not result in a forfeiture of public office,” DeFazio said yesterday. “They are not crimes and they do not touch on his position as mayor.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
COULD A WATERMELON DELIVERY TURN INTO A SCANDAL?
“Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin has asked the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate whether two sheriff’s officers improperly delivered food to a political fundraiser for state Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Lawrence.
Larkin, a Democrat, said he was upset when he was informed of the June 13 incident, which was reported by the Star-Ledger on Sunday.
The officers unloaded half a dozen watermelons at Turner’s annual golf fundraiser at the Princeton Country Club, according to the report.
“My blood pressure went up 30 points,” Larkin said, adding that county sheriff’s officers are not allowed to engage in political activity.” (Trenton Times)
NJPIRG TAKES FIGHT TO INTERNET
“The New Jersey Public Interest Research Group is mounting an online petition drive to urge Gov. Jon Corzine to sign a six-point pledge authored by the group to protect the public in any sale or lease of the state toll roads.
More than 1,000 people have signed the petition, PIRG spokeswoman Abigail Field said yesterday at a news conference in Edison.
“The stakes are just too high for the governor to remain so vague,” Field said. “If you want us to trust you, you have to make a specific commitment.”” (Walsh, Star-Ledger)
FAMILY LEAVE BILL
“Governor Corzine won’t get his wish on paid family leave – at least for now.
A spokeswoman for Corzine said he has accepted that the Legislature won’t pass a bill by the end of this month to give employees the right to paid family leave.
The governor told the AFL-CIO convention in Atlantic City last week that he would like to see the controversial legislation pass by June 30.
The bill (S-2249) would give employees up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. Workers would receive two-thirds of their weekly wage, up to $488 a week, funded through salary deductions……….
John Rogers, a lobbyist for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA), said the group will continue to oppose the bill, regardless of its progress.
“I don’t look at the timing of a particular vote,” he said, noting that the legislative year continues until January.” (Morley, Bergen Record)
“ONLY IN NJ”
“The dispute that stalled Gov. Corzine’s nomination of state Attorney General Stuart Rabner as state Supreme Court chief justice has drawn attention to a quirky New Jersey tradition known as senatorial courtesy, which gives state senators unfettered discretion to block nominations.
It mirrors a practice used at the federal level but is unique to the Garden State, according to the New Jersey State Bar Association.
“It feeds into how people tend to think the worst about politics in New Jersey,” said David Rebovich, a Rider University political scientist………
Senate President Richard J. Codey said it’s here to stay.
“We have the strongest governor in the country, and this allows for, hopefully, a balancing of that power,” said Codey, D-Essex.” (AP)
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CONFIRMS LEVIN’S LIFETIME HEALTHCARE
“Despite growing criticism of one person holding multiple public jobs, the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Susan Bass Levin’s nomination to the Local Finance Board.
Levin, who is resigning as Department of Community Affairs commissioner to become deputy director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has also been chosen by Gov. Jon S. Corzine to serve a five-year term on the finance board, an arm of the DCA.
Though no one attacked the qualifications of Levin, who had been mayor of Cherry Hill before heading DCA, some questioned Monday why Corzine would nominate her for a second position that would keep accruing service time in the state pension system and will likely give her the roughly three more years she needs to qualify for free health care for life.
“While I have supported Susan Bass Levin for other nominations, I cannot support this particular nomination,” Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, said during the hearing. “Having nothing to do with the individual, but rather, having to do with the principle of something that has come to a great deal of public attention lately. It is clear to me that this is nothing more than pension padding and it is dual office holding.” (Volpe, Gannett)
ANDREWS STANDS ALONE
“U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews has asked House appropriators to approve nearly $115 million in funding for South Jersey projects next year, making him the only New Jersey lawmaker and one of only 31 members of the 435-member House to respond to a cable network’s request for earmark information.
Every other member of the 13-strong New Jersey delegation ignored the request from CNN for a list of special project requests, or earmarks…………….
Senators have always sought earmarks for their states and members of the House for their congressional districts. However, the earmarking process has come under fire from watchdog groups over the past six years. Budget hawks have blasted President Bush and the former GOP majority for directing unprecedented sums into GOP districts.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)
HE’D RATHER BE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
“It’s been more than 30 years, but Princeton alumnus and former U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist is returning to the university, and this time he’ll be the one doing the lecturing.
Princeton announced yesterday that the two-time Republican senator from Tennessee has agreed to join the faculty of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs for the upcoming school year.” (Egan, Trenton Times)
“New Jersey awarded $10 million in stem-cell research grants yesterday that Gov. Corzine hoped would help skirt federal restrictions on embryonic stem-cell work.
The state Commission on Science and Technology awarded money that Corzine had included in the current state budget.
The awards include:
$300,000 to Dr. Biagio Saitta of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden.
$2.5 million to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in conjunction with Rutgers for work focusing on genes and human embryonic stem cells.
The remainder will go to 16 researchers from university and nonprofit institutions in New Jersey.” (Hester, AP)
“The commission grants are the latest development in a state plan, years in the making, to create a vibrant, world-class stem cell research community in New Jersey. Earlier this week, members of the Assembly Budget Committee gave preliminary approval to borrow $450 million to fund the search for medical breakthroughs using stem cells. If approved by voters in November, the state would be authorized to award up to $45 million a year in grants for the research.” (MacPherson, Star-Ledger)
THINK TANK WANTS NEW JERSEY TO MATTER
“Immigration reform, the cost of higher education, treatment of veterans, terrorism and the war in Iraq rank among the top concerns for New Jersey voters in the 2008 presidential election, according to a New Jersey think tank.
The Hall Institute of Public Policy is soliciting issue positions from presidential candidates. It will make those available to voters in September…………
The responses stemmed from forums held at Monmouth University, the Richard Stockton State College of New Jersey, a cable television program at Montclair State University and a voter poll conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute…………..
During the forums, voters said they were concerned about the impact of illegal immigration reform on farms and at the shore. The number of students leaving the state to attend college and the need to protect the state against terrorism also led residents’ concerns, according to Hall Institute.
Other priorities included the need for affordable housing and a focus on protecting the economy, especially the tourist industry.” (Graber, Express-Times)
“Dozens of undocumented workers from around Bergen County gather each Thursday in a meeting hall in Palisades Park to learn about their rights at a time of growing tensions over illegal immigration.
At last week’s meeting, an immigration advocate from Morristown spoke about recent federal immigration raids in New Jersey, and what immigrants should do if government agents knock on the door………….
The meetings are a core part of the “Know Your Rights” campaign, arguably one of the most ambitious efforts in Bergen County to provide information to undocumented immigrants as well as learn about them…………..
The effort is significant because while Bergen County has seen a near-doubling of its day laborer population to roughly 2,000 in just five years, it lacks the vast support system for such immigrants that exists in more urban areas, such as Passaic and Hudson counties.” (Llorente, Bergen Record)
“State workers could continue receiving free taxpayer-paid health care if they join a fitness program under changes proposed yesterday to a new labor contract.
The proposed changes to the state workers’ contract came as the Assembly and Senate budget panels released this year’s $33.48 billion state budget proposal that calls for no new taxes.
Under an agreement made with Gov. Corzine earlier this year, state workers would have been required to contribute 1.5 percent of their salary to their health-care costs.
But that new contribution would be scrapped under the proposed changes so long as state workers join a specially designed fitness program that would encourage exercise and regular physicals and health checks.” (Hester, AP)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“Local officials and Fort Monmouth employees on Monday urged federal authorities to climb back into the ring to save the 90-year-old Army post, following reports that the cost to close the fort has doubled in two years.
But state and federal leaders were lukewarm about the prospect of congressional investigations into the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, despite new information about the cost to close the fort and an $8.5 billion overall increase in the cost of the largest base-closing round in U.S. history.
On the same day that New Jersey’s congressional delegation was being urged to renew the fight to save the fort, a delegation of business and elected officials from Maryland held a special reception at a Long Branch restaurant to assure a group of defense contractors that the state is “open for your BRAC business……….
“If they’re (New Jersey congressional delegation) not already doing it, they need to start stepping up to the plate and start fighting again,” said Janet Palughi, a fort employee. “I know they’ll probably say it’s etched in stone, but you know, you can etch something else into that stone.”” (Brown and Bowman, Gannett)
“The state’s cash-strapped medical university will slash salaries and raise tuition to help balance its budget for the first time in three years.
Trustees of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey yesterday approved a slew of measures to generate funds, including a hike in fees for private insurers, to balance the $1.5 billion budget.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)
THE WEED MAN
“Marijuana advocate Ed Forchion is launching a write-in campaign for the state Senate seat in the 8th District after learning yesterday that his attempt to get on the ballot as an independent candidate was rejected by the state.
Forchion, a Pemberton Township resident, tried to get on the ballot in the contest for the seat currently held by state Sen. Martha Bark, R-8th of Medford, by submitting nominating petitions to the state by a June 5 deadline for independent candidates………
His petitions were signed by 108 residents, eight more than the state requires for ballot positioning. Forchion, however, said when his petitions were reviewed by the state yesterday about 20 signatures were not from registered voters, meaning he doesn’t qualify because the state requires all petition signers to be registered voters.” (Reitmeyer, Burlington County Times)
THE PEOPLES’ REPUBLIC OF NEW JERSEY
“VINELAND — A 47-year-old city security guard running under the Socialist Party banner has withdrawn from the First District state Senate ballot race.
Tino Rozzo, who previously campaigned as a gubernatorial and congressional candidate, issued a press release Tuesday stating his intention to take his name off the ballot for November’s general election, after the Cape May Democratic Organization stated it intended to challenge the validity of the names on his nominating petition.
“(They) have the legal right to do that,” Rozzo said Tuesday evening in a phone interview. “But a lot of the alternative parties in New Jersey aren’t happy with the challenge.”” (Dunn, Bridgeton News)
OUT COME THE PITCHFORKS
“More than 300 residents crowded last night’s Haddon Heights Township Council meeting to voice their frustration with the latest increases in property taxes, increases they said were very steep.” (Dangremond, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“It’s absolutely absurd,” shouted Ron DiMedio, who said the annual property taxes for his Kings Highway home had jumped from $16,500 to about $24,000. “You’re telling me to get out of town,” DiMedio said.
IN WEST WINDSOR
” Less than two weeks before they form a new majority on the township council, two councilmen have created an advisory board to draft resolutions and ordinances in what the mayor labeled a “behind closed doors” move. While council member Charles Morgan said the move should come as no surprise to anyone who listened to what he said in a debate preceding the May 8 election and at a council meeting this month, Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and council President Linda Geevers feel blindsided by the sudden action. Geevers learned of the new committee after a call from a reporter.” (Perisco, Star-Ledger)
“New Jersey Sen. Leonard Lance spoke at Belvidere High School’s graduation Tuesday night, reminiscing about the time he spent in the town. The senator said he worked in the Belvidere courthouse in 1977…………… Lance, who serves as the minority leader in the New Jersey Senate, encouraged the graduates to look past troubled times and embrace the future. “We will overcome the terrorists,” Lance said, “We will no longer fear men in caves who wish us ill.” (Casselli, Express-Times)
“Washington Township school officials retaliated against a secretary who brought a discrimination suit against the district, a Warren County jury concluded after deliberations Tuesday. The jury awarded Brass Castle Elementary School child-study team secretary Robin Giorlando a modest $56,000 in damages.” (Quigley, Express-Times)
“A 2006 e-mail to a school official contradicts a Board of Education member’s contention that he did not submit false information for his biography on the district’s Web site, an issue that may land him in hot water with other members. The online profile of Scott Sarno, which is no longer displayed on the district Web site, stated he received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the then-William Paterson College. Sarno said last week that information was incorrect, but that he did not provide it to the district.” (Paid, Asbury Park Press)
“Assembly members Sean T. Kean and Jennifer Beck heard concerns and opinions Tuesday night about Gov. Corzine’s plan to sell or lease the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike and possible toll increases that would accompany a deal……… Residents who came out had some skepticism about possible sale or lease proposals and how that money generated would be spent by the state. “I came out because my instincts tell me you don’t burn your furniture to heat your house. It is such an absurd idea,” said Joe Cecere of Wall. “It’s very complicated, the devil is in the details.” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
“Plainfield’s embattled police chief faces yet another fight after the public safety director called for his removal as part of a department-wide shakeup. The director, Martin Hellwig, delivered his police reorganization plan to the City Council Monday, as Police Chief Edward Santiago stared intently a few feet away. Midway through the presentation in City Hall library, Hellwig said he would eliminate the position of police chief.” (Friedman, Star-Ledger)
IN BURLINGTON COUNTY
“The New Jersey Senate approved the nomination of Medford attorney Susan J. Claypoole for a Superior Court judgeship in Burlington County during a voting session in Trenton yesterday. Claypoole, 57, will leave her job as a deputy state attorney general to become the 17th judge on the bench in Mount Holly.” (Reitmeyer, Burlington County Times)
IN CAPE MAY COUNTY
“The Cape May County Regular Republican Organization recently met and unanimously voted to name Lower Township residents Gene Sole as its treasurer and Bob Nolan as second vice president effective immediately.” (Press of Atlantic City)