Today’s News from

Martin downplays his jury influence, national Democrats target Ferguson, Republicans coalesce around monetization, criticism of Cory Booker, Newark attempts to

Martin downplays his jury influence, national Democrats target Ferguson, Republicans coalesce around monetization, criticism of Cory Booker, Newark attempts to reclaim languishing land from sweetheart deals, Newark’s poor record keeping, Healy’s appeal, 14th district candidates love “clean elections,” others don’t, Milgram taps former federal prosecutor as second in command.



“State Sen. Robert Martin conceded to a judge on Monday that he might have overstated his role and probably wasn't as accurate as he could have been when he described himself in a legal article as being "extremely influential" over fellow jurors on a slip-and-fall trial one year ago.

Martin, R-Morris Plains, was questioned for nearly 21/2 hours about his conduct as jury foreman during an open courtroom hearing in Morristown — ordered by a state appeals court — in response to a 24-paragraph commentary about his jury service that he wrote for the Dec. 4, 2006, edition of the New Jersey Law Journal.

After Martin's appearance, Superior Court Judge W. Hunt Dumont and attorneys questioned four of five other jurors on the case with Martin. Their recollections were fuzzy on whether Martin explained any legal concepts to them, but three remembered Martin's helpfulness in suggesting a method of calculating the damages that were awarded to the plaintiff…………

In hindsight, he said, he should have been more precise in his choice of words and perhaps overstated things when he used the term "abstract legal concepts."

"It could have been more precise and accurate. I'm sorry," Martin said while being questioned by Gold. "I should have had you proofread it.” (Wright, Daily Record)

Martin yesterday described how he tried to downplay that he was a senator, concerned that fellow jurors might be a bit star-struck. He dressed casually and asked the judge's court clerk to call him "Mr." instead of "Senator."

But jurors said they hadn't put him on any pedestal.

There was "a lot of back and forth" between all the jurors, said Anthony Stella Jr. "Everybody kept asking questions of each other." Not one of the jurors said Martin had any special role on the jury beyond foreman.



“The House Democratic campaign on Monday questioned U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson's record of support for veterans, illustrating House Democrats' bare-knuckle attempts to keep Ferguson on his heels between now and November 2008.

But Angie Lundberg, spokesman for Ferguson, claimed the DCCC "totally misfired" with its attack related to veterans' issues. And at least one veterans group agreed.” (Cahir, Express-Times)

The national political action committee for the Veterans of Foreign Wars endorsed Ferguson for re-election in 2004 and 2006, Lundberg noted. The New Jersey chapter of the VFW named Ferguson its outstanding legislator for 2005.

"This partisan attack is as ridiculous as it is wrong," Lundberg said. "And when it comes to our nation's veterans, Congressman Ferguson's record is clear, consistent and solid."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a fundraising arm of the House majority, now considers Ferguson one of its top targets.

"Politicians like Congressman Ferguson who make a show of the Fourth of July after having voted to slash veterans' benefits and to deny our soldiers a bonus should spend some time reflecting on their misplaced priorities instead of misleading New Jersey families," said Carrie James, a DCCC spokeswoman.



“Taking orders from the top down, Republicans have latched onto a core election issue to oppose Gov. Jon S. Corzine's vision to use the toll roads to bail the state out of mounting debt.

"It's the issue of the campaign. The Democrats are going to try to put it under the bed until after the election," said Assemblyman Michael Doherty, R-Warren County. "If the governor believes in the idea, then he should roll it out…………

Corzine has yet to disclose specifics of a proposal and has repeatedly said he will unveil the plan for discussion in all 21 counties when complete.

But whether that comes before November or not, state Republicans at both a political and financial disadvantage plan to push the issue to the forefront of the legislative races.

If Corzine releases a plan, "You'll have discord in the Democratic party," said state GOP Chairman Tom Wilson.

If he delays the proposal, Wilson said, Democrat incumbents still voted for a budget which Republicans argue, because of language included, gives the governor a blank check to prepare for "asset monetization."

"It will certainly be a major issue," Wilson said.” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)



“The rumors and tall tales, born in Internet chat rooms and anonymous mailings, gain traction in barbershops, on basketball courts and after church on Sunday.

Mayor Cory A. Booker is not really black.

One of his top aides moonlights as a cocaine dealer.

The city is about to lay off African-American crossing guards and replace them with low-wage immigrants

“From what I hear, Cory Booker doesn’t even live here,” Esta Williams, 75, said during a raucous Municipal Council meeting last month where dozens of residents called for his removal from office. “I hear he lives in a fancy house in the suburbs.”

In the year since his inauguration, Mr. Booker has enjoyed national celebrity as a rising black political star, but here at home, he and his chief aides find themselves at war with an amorphous enemy of innuendo that preys on this city’s deep-seated mistrust of outsiders and fear of change.

Underpinning the rumor mill are more credible complaints about the mayor’s policies and decisions, forming a stream of dissent that threatens both his confidence and his political coalition…………….

Like many elected officials, Mr. Booker has tried to take on the most contentious issues early in his term in hopes that dissent will have subsided by re-election time: he struggles to contain a high murder rate and a budget shortfall that could force layoffs of up to 20 percent of the municipal work force. But the critics have become a vexing distraction

Mr. Booker, who often appears unnerved when confronted by naysayers, has been talking with his advisers in recent weeks about strategies to counteract the tide of discontent and to burnish his image.

In early June, at a homecoming event in Harrington Park, where he grew up, Mayor Booker denounced his detractors as “dark angels,” a group of people he said had been acting out of fear and self-interest.” (Andrews, New York Times)



“Newark Mayor Cory Booker is looking to reclaim acres of city land sold by the previous administration at cut-rate prices to developers who have not built the new homes they promised.

City lawyers have identified more than 250 lots and have sent out letters to 32 builders, informing them that the city will "invoke the full range of remedies," including taking back the land………..

Several of the developers enjoyed "cozy relationships" with former Mayor Sharpe James, "and have been sitting on the properties for years," Booker said in an interview………..

During the past seven years, under the James administration, more than 5,000 city lots were sold at cut-rate prices, in some cases to developers with close ties to the mayor or city hall.” (Shearn, Star-Ledger)



“Newark cannot account for how it spent $10 million in federal Community Development Block Grant money during an 11-year period because of poor record keeping, according to a report released yesterday from the federal Office of Inspector General.

The report also questioned whether almost $1 million could have been put to better use and concluded that the city should pay back almost $250,000 that was used for ineligible reasons…………

The administration of Mayor Cory Booker, which was not in office during the period that was audited, disagreed with many of the findings in a rebuttal to the report, but did admit to some instances of poor record keeping and poor oversight that it was now trying to repair.

"We are currently evaluating the internal controls. We do not anticipate this to be a continuing problem for the city," said Booker spokeswoman Lupe Todd. "We anticipate providing the necessary paperwork or supporting evidence where applicable.” (Mays, Star-Ledger)




“Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy has filed a notice that he will appeal his Bradley Beach disorderly persons convictions and predicted yesterday a new judge will see things his way.

"I am innocent of the charges, and a police officer who abuses his authority and position should not go unchecked," Healy said in a statement. "Everyone deserves to be treated with respect by the police – even in Bradley Beach.

"The state's witnesses were inconsistent and they brought reasonable doubt into the case," Healy added. "The burden of proof being what it is, and the amount of reasonable doubt throughout the trial, I know we have a good chance on appeal………….

But the arresting officers said Healy was "clearly intoxicated" and "belligerent," and when Bradley Beach Police Officer Terry Browning asked him to leave the scene so he could interview the woman involved in the dispute Healy refused. Eventually, the officers physically subdued the 56-year-old mayor using pepper spray.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)



“A former federal prosecutor best known for leading investigations into health-care fraud has been appointed to the No. 2 post in the New Jersey Attorney General's office.

John Vazquez, 37, will step into the job that newly minted Attorney General Anne Milgram had held for 17 months. Milgrim, who was sworn in as Attorney General on Friday, announced Vazquez's appointment yesterday.

Vazquez, of Boonton, Morris County, most recently served as a special assistant to former Attorney General Stuart Rabner. As special assistant, Vazquez conducted numerous probes into political corruption and white-collar crime.

As first assistant, Vazquez will oversee day-to-day operations of the 9,500-person Department of Law and Public Safety, which includes the division of criminal justice, state police, consumer affairs, and gaming enforcement.

"I pledge continued focus on our department's top priorities – attacking street gangs and rooting out public corruption," Vazquez said.” (Wood, Philadelphia Inquirer)

“John Vazquez, 37, of Boonton was the health care fraud coordinator in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark when it investigated the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Saint Barnabas Health Care System.”



“The state's "clean elections" pilot program reached another benchmark yesterday when both candidates in a highly competitive Senate race announced they have qualified for the maximum public funding.

The 14th District was chosen to test whether public financing and sharp limits on private campaign contributions can work in a race where both parties have a real chance of winning. Assemblyman Bill Baroni (R-Mercer) and Democrat Seema Singh, a former ratepayer advocate, are running for the seat held by Sen. Peter Inverso (R-Mercer), who is retiring.

Both said yesterday they have collected the 800 contributions of $10 each needed to qualify for $534,376 in public financing, the most available under the experimental program.

At a Statehouse news conference, Baroni announced that his two Assembly running mates — Tom Goodwin of Hamilton and Adam Bushman of Jamesburg — also have qualified for the maximum public financing.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)



“Candidates in the 14th Legislative District have gushed about the state's pilot clean-elections program and the influx of cash it will bring, but in other districts trying it for the first time, the project has not drawn such rave reviews……………

But candidates in the state's two other pilot districts are not as thrilled with the program, which some say is unwieldy and requires far too much time to monitor the myriad rules.

"It is very cumbersome and confusing," said Republican Assemblyman Allison Littell McHose, who is running for re-election in the 24th District.

McHose, who reluctantly filed her intent to participate in the pilot project this week, said the potential for abuse was large and compared the program to gun control, saying the restrictions make it hard for honest people to get guns, but won't stop determined criminals.

"When bad people want to be bad, they will get around it," said McHose, who voted against the legislation creating the clean-elections program.

Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the 37th District incumbent who said yesterday she will participate, said the paperwork alone is causing her angst.

"From what I have learned about it so far, it seems they could have simplified the bureaucracy," she said. "We have to fill out three sets of paperwork and the people donating have to be willing to stand around and complete a form when they give money.” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)



“In the middle of a fiscal crisis that forced the sale of assets, Passaic County officials spent just more than $10,000 to attend the annual New Jersey Association of Counties convention in Atlantic City.

Payment vouchers obtained by the Herald News show that the county paid $10,202 for costs related to the three-day convention held in June in Atlantic City.

Costs covered hotel bills for the three nights of the convention, registration fees, a full-page ad in the convention program and a booth displaying facts about the county in a trade exhibition. Last year, the county spent $10,147 on the same convention…………

In some cases, those who attended the convention could point to tangible lessons. Economic Development Director Deborah Hoffmansaid she got valuable information about how to gain access to Brownfield sites, an important part of a Brownfield redevelopment program run out of her office………….

But some officials gave more vague explanations about why the convention was important, stressing the value of networking and talking to fellow officials, without pointing to specific benefits that taxpayers would notice.

"I don't know if there was anything groundbreaking," said County Administrator Anthony De Nova. "Just the meeting of county administrators, that's an important thing where I get to sit down and speak to my colleagues and find out how they might be dealing with situations that I might be dealing with.” (Kindergan, Herald News)


ATLANTIC CITY — City Council candidates churned through more than $83,000 in the most recent council election, continuing a trend of expensive elections in the resort.

State files show that the candidates who disclosed their spending raised an average $12,104 and spent an average $9,280 in the run-up to the June 5 primary election.

The files show the money was spent on everything from advertising to get-out-the-vote drives. And it shows a clear line between the haves and the have-nots.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)



“Passaic County Improvement Authority Chairman Pat Kramer resigned on Monday, saying that he will not serve on a board he thinks is about to make a major mistake in buying the financially troubled Passaic County Golf Course.

"I can't support a project that I don't believe in, and I don't believe in this project," Kramer said. "That's the real reason I believe it's time to go………

Since the proposed sale of the county golf course became an issue, Kramer has been the sole voice of dissent on the improvement authority. In his resignation letter, Kramer said he doubted the authority will be able to turn around a golf course that loses $920,010 annually into a moneymaking enterprise that can pay off bond payments of more than a million dollars a year starting in 2011.

Last week, the authority voted to signal approval for issuing up to $22 million in bonds to buy the course. The item was added to the authority's regular agenda just hours before the meeting. Kramer, who had given prior notice that he could not attend, said he was never informed that the purchase would be discussed that night.

"I frankly did find that offensive," he said." (Kindergan, Herald News)


“The modern New Jersey voting machine is tricked out like a luxury sedan: It can read to you, speak 12 languages and, eventually, will commit your thoughts to paper.

And like a top-shelf ride, your voting machine has needs — such as air conditioning.

Bergen County is one of several counties statewide that are paying big bills to cool its voting machines, heeding manufacturer's instructions that electronic tools of democracy are best kept chilled………….

But as e-machines evolve, gaining an audio system and, by next year, a printer to produce a paper trail of votes, the cost of maintaining them also increases.

That part isn't covered by the state.

Bergen County's 1,200 Sequoia voting machines ran up a $44,000 electric bill in the last year, the result of their need to be charged monthly, for 24 hours at a time, according to county spokesman Brian Hague.” (Carmiel, Bergen Record)



“Amid continued fretting about a Pennsylvania law that allows New Jerseyans to buy fireworks that are illegal in the Garden State, New Jersey State Police have confiscated nearly 8,000 pounds of fireworks ahead of Independence Day.

State police Sgt. Jeanne Hengemuhl said a state police crackdown at the Delaware River crossings with Pennsylvania led to 50 arrests and 7,800 pounds — nearly four tons — of confiscated fireworks valued at $21,000.

Pennsylvania law bans fireworks sales to Pennsylvania residents who lack special permits but allows sales to out-of-state residents…………

She said the arrests involved not just New Jerseyans but people from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware, with the largest seizure being 600 pounds.

"We were shocked at some of the things we saw," Hengemuhl said.” (Hester, AP)

But Bill Wiemer, a vice president of Phantom Fireworks, which has more than 40 outlets in Pennsylvania and 11 other states, took issue with the State Police method of stopping and arresting motorists along the highway.

"It is my opinion that it is illegal for State Police to interfere with interstate commerce," Wiemer said. "Simply to stop someone on the highway is an outrage."



“SANDY HOOK — Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J., wants the U.S. Department of the Interior to investigate a controversial lease agreement between the National Park Service and a Rumson developer for the redevelopment of FortHancock.

Pallone said he has had enough of the Park Service giving developer James Wassel's Sandy Hook Partners more time to prove they have the financing to redevelop 36 dilapidated former military buildings near the tip of Sandy Hook.

"This entire process has been a debacle," Pallone wrote to Interior Department Inspector General Earl E. Devaney on Monday. "I seriously question why this agreement remains in place if Mr. Wassel cannot meet any of the promises he made back in 2004."” (Penton, Asbury Park Press)


“Striving to cut air pollution, New Jersey issued a new mandate Monday: Diesel drivers, stop your engines.

The state Department of Environmental Protection shortened the time that truck and bus drivers can idle their vehicles as part of a campaign to reduce the number of tiny toxic soot particles emitted by diesel engines.” (Nussbaum, Bergen Record)



“New Jersey environmental officials filed a lawsuit Thursday against Mallinckrodt Baker seeking payback to the state's residents for land damaged by pollution.

In approximately 120 lawsuits, known as natural resource damage claims, the state Department of Environmental Protection is going after companies involved in spills or other types of pollution that damaged natural resources.

New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Richard Engel said the suits are intended to force companies to go a step further. He said companies such as Mallinckrodt are taking steps to ensure the pollution is not a threat to human health. Now the DEP wants those companies to restore the land to its original condition before the pollution, he said.

"We are committed to holding accountable those polluters whose actions have sullied our rivers, land and groundwater, diminishing public enjoyment of these natural resources," DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson said. "Working closely with the attorney general's office, we will aggressively pursue these claims through the court system until the public has been justly compensated for its losses."” (Quigley, Express-Times)



“BUENA — The borough's Municipal Utilities Authority has hired Mary Ann Chalow as a part-time employee less than two months after she resigned as Vineland's chief financial officer amid allegations she falsified personal expense vouchers.

In May, Chalow entered a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders. The MUA board voted at its meeting last week to hire Chalow, Chairman John Brunini said Monday

The MUA board voted at its meeting last week to hire Chalow, Chairman John Brunini said Monday.

Chalow will be paid $10,000 per year to handle accounting duties, such as inputting purchase orders into the authority's computer system, Brunini said.

"Her résumé is unbelievable," Brunini said of Chalow. "I'm just happy to have her there because of the knowledge that she has."” (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)


“BELVIDERE | Town council voted Monday to appoint an interim chief financial officer because the person who holds the job has been barred from public office after pleading guilty to official misconduct.

Catherine Gangaware faces up to 364 days in Warren County jail for stealing about $12,000 from two other townships where she served as treasurer. Town officials say there is no indication of misconduct by Gangaware in Belvidere.” (Satullo, Express-Times)



“A watchdog group is suing Union County, claiming authorities are charging improper access fees to inspect public records, specifically vouchers showing thousands of dollars worth of travel and dining expenses racked up by public officials.

The lawsuit filed Friday by the Union County Watchdog Association in Superior Court in Elizabeth challenges what the group described as an hourly labor cost the county is charging to let people view the expense vouchers submitted by county officials.

"I think the fee is being charged to slow me down, to stop me from looking at how these people waste taxpayer money. I don't want copies. I just want to see the vouch ers," said Tina Renna, president of the group.

Pointing to one voucher for $930, she said officials often try to hide expenses that involve excessive spending of taxpayer dollars on dinners, travel and even parties.” (Murray, Star-Ledger)



“An ebullient new mayor and two new councilmen took office Monday in Evesham, their swearing-in marking a startling shift in power in the prosperous Burlington County community.

"Monday Night Football was fun," Mayor Randy Brown, a former NFL assistant coach, said after the township reorganization meeting Monday. "But this was even better than Monday Night Football."

Brown's running mates, Chris Brown, no relation, and John McKenna, also took their seats on the council for the first time. The three Democrats won an upset in May against Republican Gus Tamburro, who had been mayor of the township of 50,000 people for 16 years.

The newcomers promised change and outlined immediate shifts they'll bring to the community. All have agreed to contribute their salaries, about $23,000 combined, to a part of the government that they determine best needs it.” (Laughlin, Courier-Post)



“For months, residents have petitioned local politicians in Deptford and Washington Township to enact ordinances to restrict the amount of money contractors are allowed to donate to a candidate's campaign.

The idea slowly gained recognition and support as hundreds of residents in both townships signed petitions to have the issue of pay-to-play — the practice of accepting contributions from contractors in exchange for municipal jobs — put on the local council agendas………

According to the petition, if township council fails to adopt the ban at the local level, the issue would be placed as a referendum on the ballot to let the voters decide.” (Huelsman, Courier-Post)



“A nonpartisan citizens group submitted more than 2,600 signatures to the township clerk Monday to put a proposed pay-to-play reform ordinance on November's ballot for voter consideration.

For the effort to be successful, at least 2,400 of the names collected must be from registered voters in the township………..

Professional contracts for services such as legal, engineering and accounting work fall outside the state's competitive bidding laws. Community watchdogs believe this opens the door to government waste and higher taxes since contracts can be awarded to professionals at inflated prices.

The ordinance the reform committee is championing was crafted by the Center for Civic Responsibility, a Metuchen-based nonpartisan organization that started a movement called the Citizens' Campaign in an effort to get everyday people active in government.” (Grzyboski, Courier-Post)



“Those in the legal community in Ocean County and throughout the state say Judge Eugene D. Serpentelli will leave a plethora of legacies when he retires today after a career as the state's longest-serving assignment judge ever…………..

If you ask Serpentelli — assignment judge since Feb. 27, 1985, a judge since 1978, and an attorney since 1964 — about the high point in his career, he doesn't discuss well-publicized legal battles, but says it is "making a difference in people's lives.

"The high-profile cases come and go, like the Tiger Lady," he said.” (Hopkins, Asbury Park Press)



“Three Borough Council members were sworn in to four-year terms and the governing body chose new officers at Monday's organization meeting.

Incumbent Brendan Tobin, who won his second term in May's nonpartisan election, joined running mates Gary Baldwin and Duane Morrill in a short swearing-in ceremony.

The trio handily won election under the Ethics in Government banner, defeating the Tinton Falls First slate led by incumbent Kim Barrett along with Richard Calvert and Charles Lomangino.” (Brown, Asbury Park Press)



CAPE MAY — Mayor Jerry Inderwies, in his annual State of the City address Monday afternoon at City Hall, said the town is in good financial condition with one of the lowest tax rates in the state.

Inderwies, however, also complained about what he said were special-interest groups derailing city plans and accusing officials of not conducting business in the open.” (Degener, Press of Atlantic City)



“JACKSON — At first, Ann Updegrave disapproved of the town's decision last July to switch from a Township Committee to a Town Council form of government, she said.

But on Monday, a day after the councilwoman and former committee member was sworn in as council president for the next year, she expressed a different opinion.

"Now that it has changed, I think things are running very smoothly," Updegrave said during the council's organization meeting Sunday. With a council running the town, the mayor communicates with all the township department directors and then reports back to the governing body. When the committee was in charge, every member of the governing body was free to contact every department, she said.” (Reiss, Asbury Park Press)

  Today’s News from