Homeland Security Director probed, Anne Milgram poised to become AG, Corzine and Christie share the spotlight, Weinberg continues to block prosecutor's nomination, Booker faces angry Newark residents.
IT'S LIKE DE JA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
“State prosecutors are looking into whether Homeland Security Director Richard Cañas sought to have two state workers compensated for helping him move into a new home last year, according to two law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Investigators have yet to interview Cañas, a member of Gov. Jon Corzine's cabinet, as part of an investigation of New Jersey's counterterrorism agency initiated by the state Division of Criminal Jus tice in response to an anonymous letter alleging state workers were authorized and paid to help with the move.
The inquiry into finances and payroll at the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness has already led to the office's chief administrator, Anita Bogdan, being suspended with pay following a five-hour interview……………
The probe is focusing on the weekend prior to Cañas' first day on the job, April 3, when he drove a truck filled with his belongings to a temporary home in Mercer County, according to the two officials, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
Prosecutors are trying to determine whether Cañas called Bog dan looking for help unloading the truck and whether Bogdan ar ranged to have two state employees pitch in, the officials said. They are also investigating whether Cañas later instructed Bogdan to compensate the employees for their work. ” (Hepp and Margolin, Star-Ledger)
ANNE MILGRAM – BAKER EXTRAODINAIRE
“Some years ago, when assistants to District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau of Manhattan were debating the merits of law school graduates who had applied to work in the office, the conversation turned to pastry.
They were reviewing the résumé of Anne Milgram, who had a sterling recommendation from the federal judge for whom she worked as a clerk, and who had studied at Cambridge before graduating from New York University’s School of Law. It was while at N.Y.U. that she worked as an apprentice pastry chef at Le Cirque.
“I remember someone asked, ‘Does she want to be a lawyer or a baker?’ ” said Linda Fairstein, the former head of the sex-crimes unit in Mr. Morgenthau’s office. Now, Ms. Milgram, 36, a hobbyist baker who is known for giving lavish dinner parties — her dessert specialty is molten chocolate lava cake —is poised to become the top law enforcement officer in New Jersey, with hearings scheduled Thursday on her nomination as attorney general. She would replace Stuart Rabner, Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s nominee for chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
Ms. Milgram’s nomination is the latest turn in a career that has packed a life’s worth of noteworthy cases into barely a decade. Besides her work during three years in the domestic violence unit of Mr. Morgenthau’s office, Ms. Milgram, who declined to be interviewed for this article, helped win some of the nation’s first convictions under special laws intended to protect victims of human trafficking in her four years working at the Justice Department in Washington.” (Jones, New York Times)
IT MUST HAVE BEEN A LITTLE AWKWARD
“It may have been a preview of the 2009 governor's race. Or maybe it was just dinner.
Gov. Jon Corzine shared the podium at a business lobbyists' event in West Windsor last night with U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, the Republican viewed as most likely to challenge Democrat Corzine's re-election.
Corzine joked about the rumors of Christie's aspirations, noting the federal prosecutor had managed to speak at meetings of all 17 of the Business and Industry Association's employer-legislative commit tees that discuss politics.
"I wonder what that was all about," Corzine quipped.
Christie never once mentioned Corzine in his own remarks to the gathering……….
"I don't rule out more than one election in advance," Christie said afterward to reporters.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
“In gubernatorial election years, the Democratic and Republican nominees customarily make a joint appearance at the dinner, meaning Wednesday night's event at the Hyatt Regency could have been a preview of things to come in two years.” (Volpe, Gannett)
WEINBERG CONTINUES MYSTERY BLOCK ON PROSECUTOR
“A state agency is looking into unconfirmed allegations about the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office at the request of state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the senator said Wednesday.
The Teaneck Democrat, who is holding up a confirmation vote for Prosecutor John Molinelli, said she is seeking to ensure prosecutorial decisions are conducted in a manner that is "above reproach."
The senator has provided few details about her reasons for the "senatorial courtesy" hold. She said her silence resulted from caution, respect and a desire not to spread allegations that have not been confirmed. ………
Asked whether her concerns were linked to a complaint that Molinelli's office did not pursue last year involving a Teaneck campaign flier containing religious innuendo, Weinberg said it was "not the predominant issue."
Molinelli said he was not told of any issues relating to his office's conduct. Weinberg may make her concerns public, he said, because they don't center on him.
"It would not impugn Mr. Molinelli, because I don't believe it has anything to do with Mr. Molinelli," the prosecutor said.
Molinelli said he'd respond to any allegations, but said that the only forum for such a response is the Senate Judiciary Committee, and that without Weinberg's approval, he can't appear before the panel.
"I don't have a seat at that table," he said.(Carmiel, Bergen Record)
BOOKER TO FACE RECALL?
“More than 300 Newark residents crammed into city council chambers last night to vent about pending layoffs, city services and the leadership of Mayor Cory Booker, who took office a year ago.
Wearing white T-shirts with the word, "Recall" and "We supported Booker and all we got was this lousy T-shirt," the residents delivered a blistering assessment of the new mayor's first year in office. Extra police officers were on guard to patrol the audience, which was so large that it filled the upper balcony of the council chambers.
The audience was also stocked with current and former city hall employees.
Frank Hurtz, one of the leaders of the protest movement, said they plan to initiate an effort to recall Booker.
"It's recall time," said Hurtz to an audience that broke into applause. "The time for Cory Booker has passed. We are calling tonight for the firing of the carpetbaggers he brought into this town.” (Wang and Mays, Star-Ledger)
NO SEATBELT AND 90MPH. WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO INVESTIGATE?
“A New Jersey State Police probe into a Garden State Parkway crash that nearly killed Gov. Corzine nears its conclusion, 10 weeks after it began, authorities said.
Results of the lengthy probe into the April 12 wreck, which State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes has called the most-investigated accident in state police history, could be publicly released soon, according to authorities………..
Some experts say the investigation of the crash, in which Corzine's SUV spun into a guardrail, has taken longer than similar probes.
"The accident wasn't all that complicated. It shouldn't take them that long," said Chuck Pembleton, past president of the National Association of Professional Accident Reconstruction Specialists. "It's not like they had to do a lot of investigating."
State police disagree.
"There has been no delay in any part of this investigation," said Sgt. Stephen Jones, a state police spokesman. "The end product will be the result of a thorough and expedited inquiry to all the circumstances of this crash.” (Wood, Philadelphia Inquirer)
NEW JERSEY DEMOCRATS THANK BUSH FOR STEM CELL VETO
President Bush's veto Wednesday of a bill that would have eased restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research did little to blunt New Jersey's commitment to supporting the controversial science.
Instead, it provided more encouragement to state officials.
"To all the researchers out there that are frustrated by the president's inaction, I say: 'Welcome to New Jersey,' " said Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, a leading advocate on the issue.
The Assembly and Senate are due to vote in Trenton today on a $450 million bond issue that, if voters approve in November, would fund 10 years of research grants for a variety of stem cell research, including embryonic. The state awarded $10.5 million on Tuesday, and $5 million in December 2005. The state has also committed $270 million for facilities, including $10 million for an umbilical cord blood collection center in Allendale.” (Jackson, Bergen Record)
“One of the attorneys representing Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy in his disorderly persons case in Bradley Beach lashed out at the Shore town's decision to pay the air fare for two prosecution witnesses to fly in from Florida.
Joseph Kealy, an attorney with Schumann Hanlon of Jersey City, also noted that one of those witnesses had an outstanding warrant for his arrest at the time of the incident involving Healy outside Barry's Tavern on June 17, 2006.
That person, Jeff Barnes, was arguing with his girlfriend, Jacqueline Volante – the two are now married – when Healy, according to the prosecution, intervened when a police officer showed up. Barnes was not arrested at the time on the warrants, a fact that Kealy raised objections to yesterday…………….
About the borough's decision to pay for their airfare to attend the trial, Kealy said: "I have never ever in all of my years defending criminal cases encountered a single case where a municipality funded the travel expense for a state witness in a disorderly persons setting."” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
“Gov. Jon Corzine and Democrats in the Legislature today plan to celebrate the end of a rancor- free budget season by producing a $33.5 billion spending plan that includes big tax rebates.
But tucked within the budget that the Senate and Assembly expect to pass is a gremlin that will gobble up hundreds of millions in tax dollars for decades to come: the state's failure to keep up with soaring pension costs.
The spending plan contributes about $1 billion for public employee pensions. While it's far more than previous governors have included for pensions, it's only about half what actuaries say is needed to keep up on the payments………….
"All you're doing is shifting that cost onto future taxpayers," said Bob Kurtter, an analyst who monitors the New Jersey budget for Moody's Investors Services. "Who is going to pay for services that you, as a New Jersey resident, benefited from in 2007?”………
In just four years, the annual cost of making up for skipped payments into the state's two largest retirement accounts rose from $38 million to $841 million. That figure is included in the $2 billion now owed; by paying only half that total, the budget to be voted on today is expected to add at least another $67 million to the bill for each of the next 30 years.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
PUT DOWN THE BLACKBERRY
“New Jersey drivers, prepare to drop those cell phones. And those BlackBerrys.
The state Assembly and Senate are expected today to approve legislation that would allow police to pull over and ticket drivers for talking on handheld cell phones or text messaging on the road…….
Though New Jersey banned drivers in 2004 from talking on handheld cell phones, the violation was a secondary offense, meaning police could not pull over drivers unless they saw them violating another law……..
The bill "sends a clear message to drivers that we need them to pay more attention to the road than their cell phones and their BlackBerrys," said a sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D., Gloucester).
Under the legislation, drivers would be permitted to use a hands-free device to talk on the phone. Violators would be fined $100, and police would start enforcement four months after the bill is signed.” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)
”Lawmakers will add more than $8 million in arts funding to next year's budget, but only a fraction of that money will go to the state Council on the Arts, the agency that distributes grants through a competitive process.
And that has some in the arts world smelling pork. Just $900,000 of the new money is directed to the arts council, while $7.4 million is being doled out to 15 individual institutions — including many already receiving money from the state — and a host of local unknowns with political connections……..
Funding pet projects rather than the general fund has caused some tension within the cultural community, as some leaders be lieve a united effort to restore last year's cuts to the arts council should take precedence over individual requests.” (McGlone, Star-Ledger)
“The Legislature has a lot more to consider today than just the $33.48 billion state budget.
Hoping to make this their last voting session until fall, the Assembly and Senate are poised to endorse November ballot initiatives that would ask voters to devote more sales-tax revenue to property-tax relief and to approve hundreds of millions in new bonds to pay for stem-cell research and open-space preservation.
Legislators also are expected to grant final approval to bills that would extend the state's oversight of Camden, authorize a program to monitor sex offenders, ban politicians from holding more than one elected office, and slash greenhouse-gas emissions.
If that weren't enough, the Senate also is expected to confirm Gov. Corzine's nominations of Attorney General Stuart Rabner to be the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and Anne Milgram, currently Rabner's number two, to take over as attorney general.” (Moroz, Philadelphia Inquirer)
CARLA KATZ, THE “PRIVATE CITIZEN”
“The state workers' union leader who once dated Gov. Corzine and received lavish gifts from him when they broke up plans to ask a judge to keep private e-mails between her and the governor……….
But Katz contends the e-mails shouldn't be released because she is a private citizen and her union local is a private agency.
"Any communications that I allegedly sent or received from the governor's personal e-mail account are claimed to have been sent by me as a private citizen with the full understanding and expectation that they were private communications," Katz wrote in a certification that was to be filed today in state Superior Court, Mercer County.” (AP)
SOAP OPERA DIGEST
“James E. McGreevey is leaving it to his estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, to prove to the courts that he loved her.
Matos McGreevey claimed in court papers she filed last month that when McGreevey proposed marriage, he offered her love, a long marriage and a family.
McGreevey said in court papers filed yesterday that he offered her marriage — period.” (Lucas, Star-Ledger)
KARCHER AND BECK COMPETE FOR THE HIGH GROUND
“As State Sen. Ellen Karcher prepares to introduce a bill banning dual office holding in the senate tomorrow, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck from her statehouse vantage point down the hall refuses to see the legislation as little more than Democratic Party tomfoolery.
Beck, who’s challenging Karcher for Karcher’s 12th district seat in the senate, fired what Democrats interpreted as an Aaron Burr-like blast at Assemblyman Michael Panter last week when Panter introduced the assembly version of the bill, which passed.
Now the bill’s over in the senate where Karcher expects the upper house to also sign on to what she sees as an important reform measure.
The politics here are inescapable.
Around the Garden State, the robot-motion safety dance of general election politics goes on in most districts, but the 12th is a war-zone –a Gettysburg of critical high ground where the Democrats in the coming months are expected to throw a lot of sandbags and firepower to ensure that the party doesn’t lose territory.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
Republicans say the Democrats have fashioned a weak-kneed bill that does away with dual office holding but for those elected officials currently in office.
To that the Democrats have an answer: Republican State Sen. (and Egg Harbor Township Mayor) James “Sonny” McCullough, who is in a battle in the 2nd district to hold onto a seat he filled earlier this year for retired Sen. Bill Gormley.
"Frequently in politics I’ve been criticized because I’ve supported a bill that people say doesn’t go far enough," says McCullough’s challenger, Assemblyman Jim Whelan. "But Sonny McCullough has an opportunity to make an impact right away."
Whelan wants McCullough to immediately step down from one of the dual offices he holds. McCullough calls Whelan’s and the Democrats’ entreaties "a joke." (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
“For now, $200 million in proposed funding for the continued preservation of open space has calmed clamoring by legislators and environmentalists across the state who called for Gov. Jon S. Corzine to support a 30-year funding source for the Garden State Preservation Trust.
But the stop-gap measure scheduled for a vote in both houses today doesn't ensure that the fight won't be revived……………
Republicans suggest Corzine was trying to link long-term funding for the program to his proposal to lease state assets, but Corzine has held that is not the case.
"The governor says no, but the facts speak for themselves," Lance said, adding that Corzine has discussed the two matters "in the same breath." (Graber, Express-Times)
THE BATTLE OF THE GORMLEY RIVALS
“ATLANTIC CITY — A political activist filed a criminal complaint against the city's business administrator, claiming he was harassed after last week's City Council meeting.
Don Hurley, a former city police officer, went to the city Police Department after the June 13 meeting, claiming Domenic Cappella made a “tirade of threats” to him. But Cappella said he does not understand the allegations.
Cappella said that during the meeting Hurley accused him of being a “rubber stamp” for the mayor. After the meeting, Cappella said he was handing something to City Council President William Marsh when Hurley came over.
“I told him, ‘Hey, Don, believe me, I'm not a rubber stamp,'” Cappella recalled. “He said, ‘Get out of here, you're a short-timer.’”…………….
Hurley posted a statement on the Web site of his brother, radio host Harry Hurley, and said he would not comment beyond that.
On the site, he says Cappella “utilized his position of public office to attack and injure me, solely because I exercised my rights as a free citizen of America to protest bad public policy.” (Cohen, Atlantic City Press)
“When Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres needed to balance Paterson's budget, he turned to sales of vacant city-owned properties and tax liens to generate revenue. His argument for selling the land at a cut-rate price to developers looking to invest in the city was that it would eventually return the properties to the tax rolls and breathe new life into the struggling city.
Yet more than two years after those sales, more than a third of the properties acquired by developers continue to languish with unpaid taxes, including some of those owned by Lakewood developer Glen Fishman and his companies.
On June 27, the city will hold its annual tax sale, auctioning off unpaid property and sewer bills to investors who can either collect the money themselves (with interest) or foreclose on the land. More than 4,900 properties across the city have unpaid taxes totaling more than $10 million…………
A Herald News analysis of the sale list shows that the top five tax delinquents owe more than $600,000 combined. They include Grand General Stores Inc.; Dornoch Jasper and other companies associated with Fishman; Y & I Madison Avenue, owner of the former Leader Dye factory; Bunker Hill's Brisar Industries; and the Bonfire Restaurant.” (Meagher, Herald News)
“Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez have weighed in on the state's side in the federal-state dispute over who should handle a sinkhole investigation at Ford's former dump site.
In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the senators urged the EPA this week to rescind its order to Ford Motor Co. to continue doing cleanup work in the former mining area despite a state order to test to see if there are underground voids that might cause sinkholes near homes…………..
At issue is who should pay for more testing and potential relocation of residents. The EPA is overseeing Ford's cleanup of lead paint sludge at the site, which is adjacent to a residential neighborhood off Margaret King Avenue.
"While we appreciate your desire to keep this cleanup moving forward, the physical safety of the residents needs to come first," the senators wrote EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg. "EPA must ensure that all the work being conducted at a Superfund site is performed keeping the health and safety of the residents foremost in mind.” (Barry, Bergen Record)
“The Corzine administration is giving Trenton city government an additional $21 million in aid this year, but with the proviso that the state will have oversight on how the money is spent.
The aid is earmarked to help Mayor Douglas Palmer's administration overcome a looming $26 million budget deficit. It comes in addition to $16.5 million in so- called "in-lieu-of-taxes" relief that the state provides annually in place of revenue that the city cannot collect on state-owned property. Palmer said state-owned property makes up 2.5 square miles of the 7.5-square-mile city…………
"I balked at it when we were negotiating, but the bottom line is they know we need the money," Palmer said yesterday. "I don't like the message it sends, like we did something wrong."” (Hester, Star-Ledger)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“Two Shore area congressmen Wednesday called for a federal investigation into the two-year-old decision to close Fort Monmouth and send most of its research mission to Maryland.
Reps. Frank J. Pallone Jr. and Rush D. Holt, both D-N.J., requested that the Government Accountability Office — the investigative arm of Congress in matters relating to the use of public funds — look into the process leading up to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission's decision to close a number of Department of Defense research centers, particularly Fort Monmouth.
Among the questions the two want the GAO to investigate is whether any Army or Defense Department officials broke the law in preparing the Pentagon's recommendations for the largest base consolidation in U.S. history. Those recommendations were submitted to the nine-member BRAC commission and Congress.
The call for an investigation follows several Asbury Park Press reports on the planned closing of Fort Monmouth. In a series of articles which began Sunday, the Press showed the cost to close the fort has nearly doubled in two years — from $780 million to $1.5 billion — and that the 2005 BRAC decisions accelerated a known shortfall of scientists and engineers developing the technology to fight future wars.
"We need some kind of congressional authority to essentially ratify that all the things that the Asbury Park Press and we've been saying all along are true," Pallone said” (Bowman and Brown, Asbury Park Press)
Democratic State Sen. Loretta Weinberg is a strong favorite to win re-election in a Bergen County district the GOP has not won since 1971.
For Republicans to stand any chance at all, their candidates say they’ll need to qualify for public financing from the Clean Elections pilot program.
But right now they’re not even close.
“We have a long way to go,” said Republican Assembly candidate Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz, who thinks that his campaign could be successful if his slate has $300,000 to spend against the incuments. "That's the key element to our success."
To qualify, each candidate will need at least 400 individual $10 donations by September 30 – which will net them about $50,000 each. And if they gather 800 total contributions of $10, donations, they’ll each receive $100,000.
According to the last filings available online, State Senate candidate Clara Nibot has pulled in nine $10 donations, while her running mates, Simaszkiewicz and Frank Cifarelli, have seven and ten, respectively.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
“The state's pilot clean elections program is closer to becoming a reality statewide as three more 14th District candidates have reached the first contribution milestone.
Republican Assemblyman Bill Baroni, who is running for state Senate, announced yesterday that he and running mates Tom Goodwin of Hamilton and Adam Bushman of Jamesburg, both seeking Assembly seats, have surpassed 400 donations of $10.
That mark entitles each candi date to $46,000 in public campaign funds. Each of the three Republicans will also continue to receive $1,200 per $10 donation up to 800 donations for a total of more than $534,000 in campaign money………
The trio joins South Brunswick Democrat Seema Singh, who is op posing Baroni, as the only candi dates in any of the three pilot districts to reach 400.” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
NOW WE UNDERSTAND WHY MORRISTOWN’S ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ARE ORGANIZING
“Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello is a to-heck-with-the-critics kind of guy.
In April, less than six months after town residents voted by a 5-1 margin against a pay raise of up to 100 percent for the mayor, his administration came back with a nearly 50 percent increase to his $26,000 part-time salary. Cresitello argued he was "worth more than the amount I'm paid.
Now he's taking his bare-fisted attitude to the national stage, in a quest to deputize some of Morristown's police as federal immigration officers. The move, under federal review, makes him one of the nation's first mayors to seek such an active role in the battle over illegal immigration.
If the effort fails, Cresitello risks his political future.
He doesn't care. By Cresitello's reckoning, illegal immigrants are to blame for everything from stagnant blue-collar wages and dangerously overcrowded housing to rapes and murders, including several attacks in Morristown, whose population is almost one-third foreign-born.
"America is being raped, is being abused," he said. "I am fighting for the protection of the residents of Morristown." (McDermott and Frank, Star-Ledger)
“Attempts to curtail pay-to-play in two towns took a step back this week when Teaneck officials couldn't agree on details of a proposed ordinance and Wood-Ridge officials refused to address the issue. But Teaneck residents could still see pay-to-play reform even if the Township Council continues to wobble on the proposal.” (Fallon, Bergen Record)
THE GHOST OF ROBERT STEARS
“The Burlington County Bridge Commission put in place a series of reform measures in an effort to regain the public's trust, shaken last year when an employee admitted he routinely overbilled the commission.
The package of resolutions the three-member commission approved during its Monday night meeting are part of an ongoing reform campaign called "A New Era, A New Span."
"The reforms we announced today will go a long way toward restoring the public's confidence in the commission," said James E. Fletcher, the bridge commission's lone Democrat………….
“The shiny black Cadillac Deville was a symbol of government excess, even an embarrassment to many in the City of Linden.
Purchased with tax dollars four years ago for $56,000, the luxury sedan was personally used by then- Mayor John T. Gregorio until his 30-year reign ended last November. The car played well in the campaign of independent Richard Gerbounka, who eventually took the mayor's job — then refused to drive his car.
Yesterday, the city put the 2003 Cadillac up for public auction at a Union County garage in Elizabeth, hoping to unload it and the controversy that followed the car.
"I want to see the car out of Linden, out of the media and out of the public gossip. It's an embarrassment," said John Zowoyski, a Linden resident, at the start of the 10 a.m. sale.” (Murray, Star-Ledger)
IN OCEAN GROVE
“On summer Sunday mornings, the boardwalk pavilion in Ocean Grove serves as a place of worship. At other times, it has been a venue for bands and gospel choirs, a shelter from sun and rain for beachgoers and an idyllic seaside setting for weddings.
But when Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster tried to book it for their civil union ceremony, they say they were turned down by the Camp Meeting Association, the Methodist organization that owns all land in the Ocean Grove section of Neptune Township, including the pavilion.
"I was shocked," said Bernstein, who has lived in Ocean Grove for a decade. "It was the first time in all my years living here that I suddenly felt marginalized.”
On Tuesday, Bernstein and Paster filed a formal complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. It contends the Camp Meeting Association violated their rights under the law that created civil unions and banned discrimination against persons entering them. That act took effect Feb. 19………….
Scott Hoffman, chief administrative officer of the Camp Meeting Association, said it stopped renting the pavilion for weddings as of April 1. Beyond that, he said the complaint was being reviewed with the association's lawyer.
"Because it's a legal proceeding, that's about the extent of what we can do in talking about it," Hoffman said.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
IN RIVERSIDE TOWNSHIP
“Officials in Riverside Township have agreed not to enforce an anti- illegal immigrant ordinance until a lawsuit challenging the legality of the local law is settled, according to court papers.
The Burlington County town last July passed a law fining employers and landlords who hire or rent apartments to illegal immigrants.
The ordinance drew protests from immigrant rights groups, prompted hundreds of immigrants to move out of town in fear, and made the tiny town a flashpoint in the national debate over immigra tion.
In October, a coalition of Riverside business owners, landlords and residents filed suit in state Superior Court against the town, contending the measure is too vague, unfairly puts businesses at risk and violates civil rights under state law.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
IN FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP
“A recall effort to oust Franklin Township Deputy Mayor Ellen Ritchie met a crucial deadline yesterday with the delivery of a stack of signed petitions to the township.
Leaders of the Committee to Recall Ellen Ritchie, a bipartisan group of local activists, delivered 1,859 petitions to Township Clerk Anne Marie McCarthy yesterday morning — one day before the state-mandated deadline…………
If McCarthy verifies the re quired numbers of signatures, Ritchie will have a five-day window to step down before a special recall election — the first in Somerset County — is called about three months later. Ritchie said yesterday she has not considered resigning and would run in a recall election if one is held.
"Months of often vicious talk and comments laced with venom … has hardened my resolve to fight with all my energy to keep my office," Ritchie said.” (Abdou, Star-Ledger)
“A criminal conviction for viewing child pornography on a Newark Housing Authority laptop computer will cost the authority's former general counsel about $2,000 a year in pension benefits, under a ruling handed down by the state pension system's board of trustees yesterday.
Trustees of the Public Employees Retirement System voted unanimously to cut the pension that Frank L. Armour, 66, has been receiving since he retired as the housing authority's general counsel in March 2004.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
“When a Republican councilman asked the administration for a copy of a recent traffic study, he thought it would be a simple request. After all, the $91,000 report was paid for by township taxpayers.
But after several requests dating back to last year, Councilman Tom Goodwin finally resorted to the Open Public Records Act to try to pry loose the study. But even with OPRA, generally only resorted to by citizen activists and members of the press, Goodwin was unsuccessful.
Finally, after several months and three tries, Goodwin received the study. Tuesday, Goodwin and his fellow Republican council representatives boiled over at what they say is a concerted effort by the administration and specifically Business Administrator John Mason to conceal information from them.
"It's shameful," Goodwin said. "Particularly in this situation where you have to do multiple requests on the same items. We are ignored. They thumb their noses at us and it creates a distrust of the administration."
Mason said yesterday there is no attempt to withhold any information. He tries to get the council anything requested as quickly as possible, he said, but it often takes longer than the council might like.
"We do our best to produce answers in as timely a fashion as we can," he said.” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
NAKED IN EDISON
“The Edison police officer fired last year for running away naked from a car accident should be allowed to return to his job on the police force, a Middlesex County judge ruled Tuesday while reducing disciplinary charges.
Superior Court Judge Melvin Gelade decided that Ioannis Mpletsakis should have been penalized with a 30 day-suspension without pay instead of termination for the off-duty crash two years ago.
Mpletsakis, who had been earning $72,096 annually, was dismissed from the force in July 2006 after Municipal Court Judge John Leonard convicted him of hindering his apprehension in Dunellen court. Gelber appealed the decision and the conviction was overturned by Gelade in January.
Gelade ruled the actions by Mpletsakis, 27, when he ran naked from his BMW after it slammed into a box truck on July 20, 2005, was conduct unbecoming of a police officer, but the town had no grounds to fire Mpletsakis and will now have to pay a portion of his legal fees………….
Mpletsakis contended he was naked at the time of the accident because he had been swimming prior to the crash and took his shorts off to prevent his car seat from getting wet.” (Adarlo, Star-Ledger)
“Finding enough jurors to hear testimony in the case against suspended Deptford Township Ptl. John Gillespie has been difficult this week.
After going through more than 150 candidates, the trial had to be delayed until next week in order to bring in a new pool of potential jurors……..
Gillespie was charged after a Feb. 2, 2006 traffic stop involving a 19-year-old from Philadelphia. Joseph Rao claims that after being pulled over for running a stop sign, he was handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car. He claims he was then beaten by Gillespie and another officer.” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)
“The Police Benevolent Union, Local 213 is not taking a position on the merits of a probe into a complaint a gay officer filed last fall against four ranking officers, a representative said Wednesday.
Officer Rick Kott, the local's delegate to the state union, said a report last week that the local sent a letter to city officials is incorrect.
Kott said a letter sent on behalf of the four officers came from the Police Supervisors Association. Association members also belong to Local 213. The local was not asked to assist and did not, he said.” (Smith, Daily Journal)
IN BURLINGTON COUNTY
“Burlington County residents who want to find out more about the $223.8 million budget proposed by the county Board of Freeholders for 2007 can now turn to the Internet. The freeholders have posted their spending plan and other related information online for the first time on the county Web site, which is at http://www.co.burlington.nj.us/. (Reitmeyer, Burlington County Times)