Newark braces for Christie's announcement on Sharpe James, ethics committee chides Rivera-Soto, Corzine stops emailing, talks about raising tolls and says he will write a check to the state to cover hospital bills.
CASTING NEW LIGHT ON JAMES’S BANK ACCOUNT WITHDRAWAL
“Federal authorities plan to announce "a major development" today in the long-running FBI corruption investigation into former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, according to two law enforcement sources.
For weeks, a federal grand jury in Newark has been considering evidence involving city land deals and travel expenses that James billed to the city while he was mayor, The Star-Ledger has reported. That grand jury meets Thursdays, so each week that day has brought new whispers an indictment could be imminent.
The sources, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to publicly discuss the case, said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie and FBI officials have tentatively scheduled a news conference for this afternoon………..
In August, FBI agents raided a storage warehouse the former mayor had rented in Hillside and carted off crates of documents. The search followed reports in The Star-Ledger that James had charged more than $150,000 of travel and entertainment expenses on two city-issued credit cards in less than three years. The trips included jaunts to Brazil, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and the Virgin Islands.” (Shearn and Martin, Star-Ledger)
Mr. James, according to the state treasurer’s office, last week withdrew more than $500,000 from his $1.1 million retirement account at Essex County College, where he was the athletic director before becoming mayor in 1986. Many allies view the action as a sign that he is bracing for a long and costly legal fight.
Philip Thigpen, chairman of the Democratic Party in Essex County, said that Mr. James’s friends and opponents alike are anxious about what awaits the man who for years was the city’s most visible public figure.
“Nobody’s happy about it,” Mr. Thigpen said. “People are concerned because they know him and his family for years and don’t want to see anyone go through that kind of ordeal. And it’s not only him; it indicts an entire community. So we’ll just have to see if there are charges and how they play out.” (Kocieniewski, New York Times)
DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
“State Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto lost sight of the boundary between his roles as judge and father and should be censured for judicial misconduct, an ethics committee said yesterday.
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct found by clear and convincing evidence that Rivera-Soto violated judicial rules by invoking the prestige of his office when he interceded in a dispute between his son and another high school student.
While the justice was acting out of "sincere and understandable concern" for his son, the committee found, he "engaged in a course of conduct that created the risk that the prestige and power of his judicial office might influence and advance a private matter. Such conduct further engendered an appearance of impropriety."
Rivera-Soto's "actions in this matter blurred the line between his role as a justice and his role as a parent," concluded the committee in a presentment written by former Supreme Court Justice Alan Handler.” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
“Handler also condemned a letter that Rivera-Soto wrote to Charles Rand, the presiding judge of Camden County Family Court, complaining that a hearing in the case had been postponed.
He said that language the justice used in the letter, such as "I trust" and "I am certain that," "could be misconstrued as attempting to exert authority or influence."
"The tenor of the letter . . . is authoritarian, it reflects not only indignation, but, by implication, respondent's superior judicial office," Handler wrote.” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“J. Ward Larkin, whose son was accused by the justice, said Rivera-Soto should face the same 30-day suspension a Superior Court judge received last November for his actions.
"That's the minimum standard they've got to go to," Larkin said.” (Tamari, Gannett)
CORZINE NOW HAS AN EXCUSE FOR HIS TECHNOPHOBIA
“He’s logging off.
In response to a lawsuit filed by Republicans seeking public disclosure of e-mail messages he exchanged with the state union president who is also a former companion, Mr. Corzine said he had decided simply to stop using e-mail. He has insisted that his e-mail messages from a private campaign account to the union leader, Carla Katz of the Communications Workers of America Local 1034, are private, and therefore insulated by executive privilege.
To avoid any problems, he said, he has decided to rely on a mode of communication that was in vogue well before he was born in 1947. “We’ll go back to the 1920s, and have direct conversations with people,” Mr. Corzine said…………….
The dust-up over the e-mail messages stems from a lawsuit filed in May by Tom Wilson, the state Republican chairman, over Mr. Corzine’s dealings with Ms. Katz. They dated from 2002 to 2004, before Mr. Corzine was elected governor, but Mr. Wilson has long contended that their relationship and subsequent friendship and financial entanglements may have colored contract negotiations earlier this year between Ms. Katz’s union and the state.” (Chen, New York Times)
“Wilson decried Corzine's statements.
"The governor continued his stonewalling," Wilson said. "He seems to think he's still running a private company where he gets to set the rules and ignore them when it serves his purpose. He isn't doing business. He's leading a government established by and for the people." (Hester, AP)
“Corzine said he never discussed the negotiations with Katz and that any e-mails between them are either private or protected by executive privilege.
"If somebody's mother is ill and somebody wants to say something personal, it's perfectly reasonable," Corzine said of the e-mails. "Private conversations with individuals have moved more to e-mail than they have phone calls, and that's not unusual." (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
DOING A FAVOR FOR REPUBLICANS
“Gov. Jon Corzine declined to put a limit on any toll hikes yesterday, saying a decision on future toll rates will have to be made as part of the plan he is crafting to "monetize" the New Jersey Turnpike.
Corzine suggested that raising tolls at the rate of inflation every year over a period of decades could produce substantial revenues.
But, he said, any such calculation was premature.
"You can't make a statement on what is appropriate on the tolls unless you can say what are you going to be able to do, what benefits are you going to be able to provide," Corzine said.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
“When asked if his administration had met with consultants about such a campaign, Corzine said, "People have studied a lot of different aspects. I can't say that we haven't talked to people."
Republicans have bashed his still-unfinished plan, claiming it will bring steep and regular toll increases and involve the state losing control of the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike……………
"I don't plan on letting this be positioned solely by what its opponents want it to be," Corzine said.” (Hester, AP)
“Gov. Jon Corzine's 18-day stay at Cooper University Hospital after he was gravely injured in a crash three months ago will cost the multi-millionaire governor upward of $400,000.
By the end of this week the state will have paid out $80,716 to take care of 55 separate bills from Cooper to Horizon, the administrator of the state's health insurance program, according to Corzine spokesman Lilo Stainton. Corzine plans to write a check to the state for that amount, once the payments are finalized Friday…………..
"He'll end up paying what a rich guy without insurance would pay … the full rate," Stainton said.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
“Corzine, who has declined the governor's annual $175,000 salary, has been known to use his own millions to save taxpayer dollars. He has paid for helicopter rides around the state and upgrades to the governor's official residence.
It is "highly unusual," Vincz said, for employees to reimburse the state for medical care.
Nor is it exactly standard for someone to volunteer to pay hundreds of thousands of extra dollars for a hospital stay. He did it, Stainton said, because "he feels it's the right thing to do." (Moroz, Philadelphia Inquirer)
CORZINE MIGHT TESTIFY AT CORRUPTION TRIAL
“The attorney for a former high- ranking state commerce commission official on trial for allegedly misusing public funds wants a judge to force Gov. Jon Corzine to take the stand as a defense witness.
The motion to get Corzine to testify was made yesterday as the state Attorney General's Office rested its case against Lesly Devereaux, who was chief of staff to the Rev. William Watley when he served as commerce secretary. She is accused of illegally arranging state contracts for family members as well as running a private law practice out of the state Commerce and Economic Growth Commission.
Defense attorney Jack Furlong said he wants Corzine to testify to dispute the state's assertion that Devereaux resigned in June 2004 to stall the criminal investigation. In reality, he said, Devereaux resigned to work at Watley's St. James AME Church in Newark in a position Furlong contends was subsidized by Corzine.
He said Corzine, while serving in the U.S. Senate, donated money to St. James in early 2004 so Devereaux could work for the church's development corporation, although the job never materialized.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
GOP LIKES BODINE’S TASTE IN MAGAZINES
“In a blow to one of the state's most stalwart Republican county machines, former Burlington County GOP executive director Sean Kennedy said yesterday he was going to round up Republican support – for a Democrat.
Kennedy, who ran the party organization and local campaigns between 2003 and 2005, said he would support Democratic state Senate candidate Francis Bodine, currently an assemblyman, and Bodine's Democratic running mates.
Bodine switched to the Democratic Party after being bumped off the ticket earlier this year. He had wanted to run for Senate as a Republican to replace retiring State Sen. Martha Bark………….
"I believe Fran is the best candidate. I believe we need him fighting in Trenton as our senator," Kennedy said.
He acknowledged that Bodine has a tough road ahead of him.
"Let's not forget that this district is definitely a Republican district and that this is going to be an uphill battle for Fran and his team," Kennedy said.” (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)
THE OBVIOUS CAMPAIGN THEME
“VINELAND — State Sen. Nick Asselta, along with his fellow Republican Assembly running-mates Norris Clark and Michael Donohue, asked city council during its meeting Tuesday night to adopt a resolution opposing the "selling or leasing of New Jersey's toll roads."
Asselta said selling to private interests would mean tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Express would increase every year faster than the rate of inflation, hurting taxpayers.
This would, in turn, cause more traffic — including tractor trailers — on local, non-toll roads, according to the state senator………..
In addition, Asselta, Clark and Donohue sent letters Wednesday morning to the other 21 municipal governing bodies in the state's First District, including Maurice River Township and Millville. Attached to the letter was a copy of Asselta's resolution.
The letter states, "We strongly oppose any such plan — sale, lease, magnetization,' securitization' or anything else you want to call it — and, further, it makes no difference to us whether the entity given control of these assets is a private entity, a foreign company or a new public agency of some sort. Any way you look at it, this is a bad deal." ” (Laday, Bridgeton News)
“No snow, no shade trees and no fresh air. That's North Jersey in the next century — even if we drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels, scientists said Wednesday.
In just 60 years, our climate could be more like that in southern Virginia and North Carolina — with kudzu vines replacing maples, birches and beeches; mosquitoes spreading disease; and pollen spores saturating the air, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists report. By the end of the century, the state could be as balmy as South Carolina and Georgia, the study said.
"This is a clear and present danger not only for today but for years going forward," Governor Corzine said at a news conference at the State House in Trenton.” (Young, Bergen Record)
“The report was the result of a two-year effort by more than 50 scientists and economists, in conjunction with the Union of Concerned Scientists, to predict what could happen to the climate in the nine states of the Northeast if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
It said the entire Northeast ski industry would likely go out of business except in western Maine. Spruce and hemlock forests — as well as song birds such as the Baltimore oriole — would all but disappear from New Jersey to the Canada border.
The report said apple orchards in the Northeast would likely wither, and dairy farmers would have great difficulty protecting cows against the rising heat. Lobstermen south of Maine and cod fishermen plying the Georges Bank would lose their livelihoods.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
“In New Jersey, two of the state's premier crops, blueberries and cranberries, would be threatened if temperatures rise by as much as 14 degrees Fahrenheit by late century, as scientists predict if fossil fuel consumption continues to rise at current levels.
Some impacts of global warming have already begun because of heat-trapping gases already in the environment. Some impacts are expected to happen whether or not anti-global warming strategies are adopted.
For example, Boston and Atlantic City are projected to experience once-a-century flooding every year or two. Coastal flooding and erosion along the Eastern Seaboard is projected to occur regularly, costing billions. And, in Maine, Long Island Sound and other coastal regions, the lobster industry will be decimated by warmer sea waters, and cod are expected to disappear from those waters by the end of the century.” (Delli Santi, AP)
CAMPAIGN FODDER FOR GUARINO
“EnCap Golf Holdings, which failed to meet a Tuesday deadline for committing $16 million to ensure full cleanup of the Meadowlands landfills, has told the state it does not think it is obligated to hand over the money anytime soon.
The developer's hardball stance produced a rebuke late Wednesday from Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Romano, who wrote that the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission "does not accept and rejects the assertions." Romano added that state officials are "considering all their options" in light of EnCap's stance
The written jousting suggests that compromise between the state and the developer of the $500 million golf and housing project in Rutherford and Lyndhurst may now be difficult to achieve.” (Brennan, Bergen Record)
DAUL OF THE EAST
“A prominent Hackensack attorney who was charged with exposing himself in public agreed Wednesday to enter a one-year probation program.
Donald Onorato was ordered to relinquish his position as vice president of the Bergen County Bar Association and chairman of the district ethics committee, which investigates grievances against attorneys.
Superior Court Judge William C. Meehan also ordered Onorato to undergo an evaluation to determine whether he needs counseling.
"My client and I decided this was a reasonable resolution of this matter," defense attorney Raymond Flood said after the brief hearing in Superior Court in Hackensack.” (Markos, Bergen Record)
MORRIS COUNTY JAIL DOESN'T WANT TO BE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT PEN
“Morristown has quietly approached Morris County about using the county jail as a holding area for illegal immigrants if local police are deputized as federal immigration agents.
But the initial reaction to the proposal by county officials has been cool.
Freeholder Director Margaret Nordstrom said the town has put out feelers but the county governing board has not gotten a formal request. If it did, the county would most likely decline the offer, she said.
"The freeholders made promises when the new county jail was built that it would not take federal prisoners or outside inmates," said Nordstrom, referring to the county lockup in Morris Township, at the border of Morristown and Hanover. The jail opened in 2000.
"If we don't honor the promises of previous freeholder boards, why would anybody believe us in the future?” (Ragonese and McDermott, Star-Ledger)
REMEMBERING LADY BIRD JOHNSON
“Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes remembers Lady Bird Johnson as "a very gracious, very warm woman."
"That's the saddest thing I've heard in a long time. I'm sorry to hear of her passing," Hughes said last night when he learned of her death.
Johnson, wife of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, died yesterday in Texas at the age of 94. As a child, Hughes met Lady Bird Johnson and her husband several times. "My father (then-New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Hughes) and LBJ were good friends," he said.” (Ratcliffe, Trenton Times)
MENENDEZ TAKES ON UTILITY
“U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., on Wednesday urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to investigate charges against an electric power company, which could affect electricity prices in New Jersey, 12 other states and the District of Columbia.
PJM, which manages wholesale electricity for an area with more than 51 million people, has been charged with undermining the work of its market monitor, who has the responsibility of ensuring a competitive wholesale electricity market, the senator's office said in a press release.” (AP)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“FORT MONMOUTH — The U.S. Army's Communications and Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center wants to reassign a contingent of engineers to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., by this October, four years ahead of a federal deadline.
The group of 49 employees would be the first of about 750 employees reassigned to Aberdeen over the next three years. Cost of moving the 750 is estimated between $45 million and $49 million…………….
A half-dozen members of the state's congressional delegation were quick to condemn the move Tuesday.
Reps. Rush D. Holt and Frank J. Pallone Jr., both D-N.J., and Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., and Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both D-N.J., plan to send a letter today to Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin of the Army Materiel Command saying that no employees should be moved to Aberdeen until the Army secretary submits to Congress a report required by the BRAC commission that states moving the fort's mission will not have an adverse impact on the global war on terrorism.
"We feel that this advance team plan cannot take place without causing a degradation of service to the war fighter in the area of communications electronics," they wrote in the letter. "The Department of Defense has yet to provide any information to Congress regarding how this move could take place without disrupting the Global War on Terror." (Bowman and Brown, Asbury Park Press)
NO NUDE PICTURES OF MISS NEW JERSEY, BUT WOULD YOU SETTLE FOR FRANK LAUTENBERG’S COLON?
“As Amy Polumbo awaits today's decision on whether she retains her Miss New Jersey title, the pageant's state field director agreed with two voting board members that photos sent to pageant officials by an anonymous source are "just plain college life fun."
"There is no nudity in these pictures," said Silvia Barthold, who also is the wife of Co-Executive Director Lou Barthold, one of five board members scheduled to vote today whether the photos of Polumbo are sufficiently compromising to warrant stripping the 22-year-old Howell woman of her crown.” (Spoto and Larini, Star-Ledger)
“Prosecutors cannot revoke a guilty plea that settles charges in a criminal case simply because victims of the crime were not consulted about it, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
The court, in a 6-1 decision, found that while crime victims should be notified, it is more important to honor the constitutional due process rights of a defendant.
"The trial court should consider the concerns of the victim or the victim's family, but the court may not impinge on a defendant's constitutional rights," wrote Justice James Wallace.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto said the opinion was unfair to victims.
"Relegating victim's rights to a constitutional backwater renders them illusory," he wrote.” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
IN MORRIS COUNTY
“New Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi expects to swear in a deputy chief of investigations on Monday and said he hopes to strengthen prosecutions by having two senior assistant prosecutors assess every case that comes into the office.
Bianchi, who succeeded former Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio in the five-year appointment when he was sworn in on June 22, was formally introduced Wednesday to the seven-member freeholder board.
Bianchi highlighted some of his goals — and later elaborated on changes in the office — and told the freeholders that he has written to police chiefs around the county as a beginning effort to "rebuild those bridges" he believes were damaged under the prior administration.” (Wright, Daily Record)
IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY
“Plans to house up to 350 sex offenders at South Woods State Prison in Cumberland County have encountered several roadblocks.
Local officials, including State Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Cumberland County Freeholder-Director Doug Rainear, have said in the past the move to South Woods was essentially a sure thing.
But this week, they weren't so certain. Besides opposition from local residents, state workers are concerned about the long commute they will have to make to treat the sex offenders at South Woods. And at least one potential alternative site has emerged.” (Landau, Gannett)
CAN’T…. STOP…. MAKING… SANDRA CUNNINGHAM JOKES
“A northern New Jersey company is considering building a facility for the state's sex offenders in Hudson County, which could end plans for moving them to South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton.
Education and Health Centers of America obtained a court ruling this week that effectively grants it approval to build a 500-bed expansion of its current prison support facility near the Hudson County Jail. An EHCA spokesman said the organization was considering offering to house the state's sex offenders there.
“We got the ruling at the same time as we saw it bubbling up in southern New Jersey newspapers,” Bill Palatucci said Wednesday. “We are considering expanding the current facility to provide treatment for 500. Who we would be treating was always left up in the air, whether it would be for the DOC, Parole Board or civilly committed sex offenders.”” (Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)
“The Warren County freeholders approved an additional payment of $22,500 to the lawyer appointed to investigate allegations of misconduct at the county landfill…………
"It's for more time and effort," county Administrator Steve Marvin said after Wednesday night's freeholder meeting.
County officials have not set a deadline for Wolfson's investigation. He is looking into allegations that surfaced in a Jan. 3 letter from the Pollution Control Financing Authority's former attorney, the late James Broscious.
The letter alleges two commissioners on the county's landfill board — Laurel Napolitani and Angelo Accetturo — improperly influenced the deposit of $1 million into a bank where a third commissioner, Freeholder Director Everett Chamberlain, serves as director and vice president. All three maintain they did noting inappropriate and continue to serve on the PCFA board.” (Satullo, Express-Times)
IN ATLANTIC CITY
“The resort's recently fired Public Works director has let the city know he might sue.
David K. Callaway's tort claim says he may seek $2.5 million in damages because after Mayor Bob Levy fired him from the $75,750 job April 11, Callaway could not provide for his wife and six children, continue sending a child to college or continue “to perform as a healthy able-bodied male.”
Furthermore, he said he sought medical treatment for emotional stress, lack of sleep and back and leg pain.
He did not return a call seeking comment.
The city fired Callaway in April after a series of controversies that included driving a city-issued car to his brother's corruption sentencing in Camden, allegedly using city workers to cart debris from his Pleasantville home and apparently lying about whether he lived in Atlantic City.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
“A middle school principal has accused Capt. Paul Messina of demeaning behavior following an incident in which she claims Messina denigrated her, a school security guard and the police officers under his command.
More troubling, the principal said, was the lack of reaction from the police director and the mayor…………….
Klaus said her verbal confrontation with Messina occurred after an incident at the school in May in which several students attacked a security guard after he broke up a fight between two other students. That guard called another guard who helped disperse the students. When Klaus learned of the incident, she told the guard to report it to the police. He did, and officers came to the school on May 18 to question the students involved, she said.
Klaus said Messina showed up later. She said he was upset the guard had not called the police immediately. He was also upset at her for not contacting Howard White, chief of security for the district, about the incident, she said…………..
Klaus said Messina insulted the guard, and assumed an attitude that was demeaning and degrading.
"He talked to his men like he talked to the guard," said Klaus. "He was staring at me like I was a criminal."” (Loayza, Trenton Times)
“Deptford Patrolman John Gillespie took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and admitted he acted unprofessionally, but not criminally, in a confrontation with an angry motorist.
Gillespie is charged with aggravated assault and official misconduct for allegedly beating then-19-year-old Joseph Rao of Philadelphia following a February 2005 traffic stop.
When Gillespie asked the man for his driving credentials, the situation escalated into a name-calling confrontation filled with profanity, according to recordings taken from dashboard cameras in two patrol cars.
"I was completely frazzled," Gillespie said of Rao's refusal to give up his driving credentials. "I've never dealt with someone this combative and difficult to control right from the gate.”” (Huelsman, Courier-Post)
“Mayor Cory Booker has ordered all flags over municipal buildings in Newark lowered to half-staff in honor of the 26 people killed during the city's civil disturbances that began 40 years ago today.
Booker signed an executive order at yesterday's council meeting. It will remain in effect until July 17, the final day of the disorders.
While other city officials have recognized the riot anniversary in a variety of ways through the years — Booker went to marches when he was a councilman, and his predecessor as Central Ward councilman, George Branch, marked the event every year — it's the first time a Newark mayor has ever bestowed this tribute on the victims.” (Parks, Star-Ledger)
“The next step in the ongoing rift between Mayor Lee Eggert and the Tuckerton Volunteer Fire Company could be the fire company taking legal action against the mayor and the company being removed from the borough's insurance policy.
The feud came to a boil again last week after, Eggert said, he announced during the July 2 Borough Council meeting that a member of the fire company approached one of his employees, who was shopping with his family at the time, and asked questions concerning Eggert.” (Spahr, Press of Atlantic City)
IN WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP
“Nearly three years after being cited for an ethics violation for voting to promote her husband's boss to police chief, Councilwoman Michelle Martin has withdrawn her appeal.
Martin's attorney, Lauren Alterman, said that while she believed she would have won the appeal, pushing forward would be costly and unnecessary.” (Beym, Gloucester County Times)
“The former Rent Leveling Board chairman has found a way to stay involved without violating a judge's order that effectively kicked him off the board.
Bruce Hall accepted the township's offer to become a paid administrative clerk to the board, which is now down from five to three members.” (Eilenberg, Express-Times)