Test of a salesman
“Governor Corzine has a long road ahead to win an already skeptical public over to the idea of selling or leasing state assets like the New Jersey Turnpike. So say political observers and veterans of similar public campaigns, as Corzine and his team are wrapping up the plan they like to call “asset monetization.” Corzine is ratcheting up his public appearance schedule again, as he continues to recover from his car crash injuries. Eventually, strategists say, the governor will most likely start showing up in radio and television appearances and in coffee shops and diners, to pitch his proposal to the public.
He’ll have to convince people that not only is the plan a good one, but that they can trust him and his administration — and their successors, whoever they may be — to carry it out.
In a state with a rich history of political corruption like New Jersey, that second part may be just as hard a sell, observers say. New Jerseyans are deeply wary of politicians making promises, after examples such as the tobacco settlement and Schools Construction Corp. scandals, in which millions upon millions were spent, with little to show for it.” (Lu, Bergen Record)
Money train campaign
“The 13 members of New Jersey’s delegation in the House are sitting on more than $14.2 million in campaign cash with the next election more than a year away, new disclosure reports show. Six congressmen, including Democratic Reps. Steve Rothman of Fair Lawn and Bill Pascrell of Paterson, have more than $1 million apiece in the bank, according to reports covering April through June that were due Sunday at the Federal Election Commission.
Rothman had nearly $1.9 million on hand June 30 after raising $222,000 during the quarter………… Pascrell had just over $1 million after raising $213,000 during the quarter…………..Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, raised $127,000 during the quarter and had $476,515 in the bank on June 30. Pallone had more than $2.9 million on hand June 30 after raising more than $307,000 during the quarter. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-Haddon Heights, had nearly $2.3 million after raising nearly $355,000 during the quarter.”
When Democrats took control of Congress this year, Pascrell was given a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax bills and international trade agreements. Pascrell has been an outspoken opponent of treaties that he believes hurt American labor, and union political action committees have given him nearly $40,000 so far this year.
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, raised $127,000 during the quarter and had $476,515 in the bank on June 30. Garrett is a member of the Financial Services Committee, and his PAC contributions include a combined $16,000 from banking and insurance companies with $3,000 each from Chubb Corp. and the Independent Insurance Agents of America.” (Jackson, Bergen Record)
Dun takes FBI reins
“The wall of Weysan Dun’s new office high above Newark is like an illustrated résumé……………. Dun, 52, took charge last week as special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark Division. With more than 350 agents in five offices from Atlantic City to Paterson, the Newark field office is one of the largest in the country, with a caseload that ranges from public corruption investigations and bank robberies to terrorism and black market arms sales. It is a busy place, say those who have served there.
“It’s extremely active,” said William Megary, who headed the office for nearly three years. “It has some of the highest-profile cases in the FBI.”
It also haas seen a lot of turnover. Dun is the sixth special agent to head the office in six years, not including two interim appointments.” (Sherman, Star-Ledger)
Healy is who he is
“If you had to build a politician uniquely suited to handle the rough-and-tumble world of northern New Jersey politics, the result would probably look and act a lot like Jerramiah Healy.
The son of Irish immigrants who toiled as a bartender and ironworker to help pay for college and then law school, Healy has maintained his blue-collar persona as he has ascended in the white-collar world.
Perhaps too much so, according to his critics. Whether it’s being fined for violating a noise ordinance (1999), photographed half-naked on his porch at 3 a.m. (2004) or getting into a scuffle with police officers (2006) in Bradley Beach, the 56-year-old Healy has a tendency to make news for things other than being the mayor of New Jersey’s second-largest city.
Even so, he must be doing something right: Last month he was unanimously elected head of Hudson County’s powerful Democratic machine.” (Porter, AP)
All too human
“A clinic made a mentally ill client clean bathrooms and called it “pre-vocational therapy.” A hospital reaped $553,000 by charging the state for therapy when in fact it was merely feeding patients lunch. On more than a thousand occasions, at least two mental health providers claimed they treated the same patients on the same day — a rash of double-billing that cost $100,000. These findings, from a recently released state audit, demonstrate how poorly the Department of Human Services has monitored its outpatient therapy programs for people who leave psychiatric care, better known as “partial care” and “partial hospitalization.”
The mistakes and lack of oversight cost the state $3.2 million in overbillings from July 2004 to February 2007, according to the audit by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services. Because of the problems, state officials say they are now revamping oversight of the $77 million program, which serves about 12,000 mentally ill patients at 31 hospital-based centers and 113 clinics.
“We are sending auditors out and making significant changes … as we speak,” said Deputy Human Services Commissioner Ann Kohler.
The services have long been an essential part of the mental health system because they provide a lifeline to patients with severe mental illnesses who are leaving in-patient psychiatric care or trying to avoid hospitalization. They help patients learn how to find and keep a job and a place to live, and provide counseling to prevent relapses.
But until recently, the state allowed hospitals and clinics to operate with few regulations. They could set their own fees — from $150 to $1,000 per patient, per day. Patients remained in the programs indefinitely without any indication they were improving, officials say. This lack of oversight was first highlighted in a 2005 report by the Task Force on Mental Health created by then-Gov. Richard Codey.” (Livio, Star-Ledger)
Newark looks at its past
“What started as a traffic stop on a balmy summer evening on July 11, 1967,snowballed into one of the worst riots in New Jersey history — and spawned spasms of violence all over the Garden State and beyond. This weekend marked the 40th anniversary of the Newark riots — six days of murder, chaos, looting and street battles between residents and the police.
It all started when word spread in the predominately black Central Ward that cabbie John W. Smith, 38, had been arrested and severely beaten by police after following a cop car too closely.
An angry mob of residents congregated outside the 4th Precinct Station — where Smith was being held — and demanded he be released. Police refused, and then confronted the mob, ordering it to disperse. The angry crowd responded by hurling bricks, bottles and any other projectile within reach at the station and the parked police cars. Four police officers were injured. Fifty squads of helmeted police wielding nightsticks eventually broke up the crowd, but instead of going home, rioters looted stores in the Central Ward.” (Cunningham, Herald News)
“While sales of plastic lumber continue to increase nationwide, the industry is on the verge of collapse in New Jersey, the very state that pioneered the technology………….The problem began in 2003, say industry officials and researchers, when former Gov. James E. McGreevey eliminated $14 million from the budget of the state’s Commission on Science and Technology. At the time, the commission was providing about $500,000 a year in grants to the Rutgers center. Pulling the plug nearly shut it down, and it still may be forced to move out of state.
Thomas Nosker, principal investigator at the Rutgers polymer center, said he believes the state won’t attract any new manufacturing plants unless funding is restored and the center is secure.
“There are all sorts of incentives that other states are offering that we’re just not seeing in New Jersey,” Nosker said. “They’ve got to do something. If they don’t, the center of this technology will move elsewhere, and that would be a real shame. It’s just like a girlfriend: If you neglect her, she’s going to leave you.”
State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), chairman of Senate Environment Committee, said the remedy to the local industry’s woes lies in two pieces of pending legislation he is backing.” (Cupolo, Star-Ledger)
“HADDON HEIGHTS — As a property tax storm continues to brew in this small borough, members of the town’s Homeowner Association and others are expected to show up in force at a Tuesday meeting to dispute a recent reassessment. The borough’s council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Atlantic Avenue School on Atlantic Avenue. Association members and many residents say they want to get questions answered about the reassessment and sharp rise in property taxes.
“Somebody needs to pull the plug on these assessments before the tax increase takes effect,” said the association’s spokeswoman Rickie Roberts, whose taxes may jump from $11,837 to $14,396 on a home she shares with her husband, Brian. “I think it’s important for us to let them (council members) know within the limits of the law that the pressure is here and we’re not going away.”
In past interviews, borough officials have said that the reassessment was needed to more closely match taxable values with market values and to distribute the tax burden more fairly among all taxpayers. The revaluation is the borough’s first in 10 years.
But many Haddon Heights residents are challenging the reassessment, which was ordered by the county and approved by the state. Members of the Homeowner Association say that disparities in the way some assessments were determined have caused wide discrepancies, pinning the majority of the property tax burden on residents who live on the borough’s east side.” (Forde, Courier-Post)
“BRIDGETON — The man who preceded Lanuel Ferguson as public safety director thinks the city made a mistake hiring the retired state police major in a full-time capacity instead of appointing a police chief. And that’s no slam against Ferguson, Mario Brunetta said on Friday.
Nor is it “sour grapes.”
Brunetta, who served as part-time public safety director for a little less than a year, says he didn’t want the full-time job, and never expressed interest in it. Brunetta just doesn’t feel the move was necessary.
The former Vineland police chief, who retired last year after 43 years as a police officer, feels the city should have appointed a chief from among the department’s senior officers — and done so with confidence after former chief Jeff Wentz’s retirement became official July 1.
“I know they can do the job. I see they are intelligent enough, they are logical enough. They have that police knowledge,” he said. Brunetta served on the six-man committee that was charged with exploring whether to hire a civilian director or a chief.” (McCullen, Bridgeton News)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
Embattled James still Sharpe
“A day after being charged in a sweeping corruption case, former Newark Mayor Sharpe James seemed ready to do what he has always done best — campaign and work the crowds in a city that re-elected him five times. Yesterday morning, James swept through City Hall, shaking hands and declaring his innocence. “They got nothing,” he said. “That’s why I’m here. To say ‘hi’ to my people.”
“They got nothing,” he said. “That’s why I’m here. To say ‘hi’ to my people.”
On Thursday night, just hours after posting $250,000 bail, James, 71, could be found on an NJ Transit bus on Elizabeth Avenue greeting fellow passengers and complaining about how he was treated during his arrest.
In an 86-page indictment returned by a federal grand jury Thursday afternoon, James was accused of using his city’s coffers as his own personal ATM. He allegedly charged expensive vacations to the Dominican Republic, luxury cruise accommodations in a penthouse suite aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship that sailed six weeks after he left office, trips to the red light district of Rio de Janeiro, as well as travels to tennis and basketball tournaments across the United States — often accompanied by one of seven women.
The Democratic state senator and former mayor, who is married, also traveled with friends at the city’s expense, had his Rolls-Royce shipped to vacation spots and charged for other trips to boat shows.” (Wang and Filichia, Star-Ledger)
James in dry dock
“After using a city credit card to trek throughout the Caribbean and South America, former Newark Mayor Sharpe James is now a man without travel documents. James, as a criminal defendant, has been fingerprinted, photographed and was required to hand in his passport. He is prohibited from leaving New Jersey without permission.
The Democratic state senator is expected to face arraignment within the next two weeks, officials said, when he will likely enter a plea of not guilty. Charged by a federal grand jury on Thursday with steering discounted city land to a female travel companion and abusing his city credit cards for personal expenses, James, 71, could face more than seven years in prison if convicted.
The case against James has been assigned to U.S. District Judge William Martini, who will preside over the trial in Newark — if James elects not to enter into a plea bargain.” (Shearn, Star-Ledger)
Protector and profiteer
“Through his 20 years as this struggling city’s mayor and most vocal booster, Sharpe James has been portrayed as both a protector and a profiteer. Whether he is convicted of the fraud charges filed against him on Thursday, legal experts said, will most likely hinge on which description proves more convincing.
“It’s never easy to be a political official accused of charges that amount to personal greed,” said Alan Zegas, a lawyer who represented Mr. James’s chief of staff, Jackie Mattison, when he was convicted in 1997 of taking bribes to help an insurance broker win city contracts. “But there are a lot of people in Newark who think that Sharpe James is responsible for progress. And if the jurors are of a mind that in order to attract business and development you have to conduct yourself in a certain way, then that’s something for the defense to work with.”
Federal prosecutors have accused Mr. James, who left office last year, of misusing his office, saying he billed taxpayers for at least $58,000 in personal travel and entertainment including stays at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami, the rental of a Rolls-Royce and trips to go shopping for a new yacht. They also accused him of illegally helping a female travel companion buy city land at such drastically discounted prices that she quickly resold it for more than $600,000 profit.” (Kocieniewski, New York Times)
Bryant digs in
“State Sen. Wayne Bryant, who has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and public corruption charges tied to his job at a state-funded university, has no plans to change that plea, his attorney said yesterday. Speaking to reporters following a brief closed-door meeting to update U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson on the case, Bryant’s attorney, Carl Poplar, said there had been no discussions with prosecutors about striking a plea agreement.
“We are proceeding as if we are going to trial,” he said.
A trial date has been scheduled for January, but Poplar said he that he expected to file a motion to dismiss the charges against Bryant in early September, when motions in the case are due. Bryant, who is accused of steering millions in state funds to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in return for a bogus, pension-boosting position at the school, declined to comment as he entered and left Wolfson’s courtroom yesterday.” (Moroz, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Corzine on comeback trail
“Gov. Jon Corzine stands on his left leg — the limb injured when his femur ripped through muscle and skin during his near-fatal car crash. Then he squats. These are not squats from high school gym class, but one-legged Bulgarian split squats that focus weight on his seriously injured limb……………….. For the first time since the accident, the governor last week gave a reporter an exclusive look at one of his intense rehabilitation sessions. The lengthy workout showed Corzine pushing himself through grueling leg lifts, painful stretches and aerobics that could intimidate a younger, uninjured man.
He commits three hours each day to rehabilitation.
Corzine, who is 61, marched in July Fourth parades in Paramus and Montclair, impressing onlookers who knew that just three months earlier he was hospitalized in the intensive care unit with a ventilator pushing air through his lungs. Doctors counted 15 broken bones and described crushing chest injuries. The weight on his 6-foot-2-inch frame was withering away.
The governor left the hospital in a wheelchair after 18 days. But his recovery did not end there. In many ways, it was just beginning.” (Campbell, Star-Ledger)
Park and ride
“In March 2003, Somerset County park commissioners and their secretary director, Raymond Brown, took a limousine to Atlantic City and back, with two bottles of champagne en route. Somerset County taxpayers picked up the $985 tab. The next year, they did it again. And then again………… The limo trips were among 72 questionable expenses cited in a highly critical report investigating the park commission’s practices.
The Somerset freeholders released the 71-page report on July 5. While the timing was not a surprise, Brown said, the report’s contents have thrown his agency “into turmoil.”
In an interview at park commission headquarters in Bridgewater, he and Assistant Director James Dunwiddie acknowledged mistakes, but said many of the problems highlighted by the investigation already have been corrected. They disagreed with other findings, and continued to defend practices such as providing homes and cars and using limousines.
“We realized there were lapses and issues that needed to be focused on and tightened up,” Brown said.
He and other county officials repeatedly emphasized changes at the commission were sparked by the arrest of Joe Lucas, a mid-level parks official charged in 2005 with taking kickbacks. Brown said he had contacted the county prosecutor’s office with suspicions about Lucas.” (McCarron and Tyrrell, Star-Ledger)
Look Homeward, Menendez?
“Has U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez turned his back on Hudson County now that he is one of 100 members of one of the most exclusive and influential clubs in the world? There are some in the Hudson County Democratic Organizational grousing that when civil war was eminent, Menendez could have stepped in and healed the party. Because he did not lay hands on the HCDO, there is a sense that the senator has become aloof……………..Well, has he denied his roots and has he turned his back? By phone, Menendez was asked if Hudson is in the rear-view mirror. “I live in Hoboken and will continue to do so,” he said from his Senate office.
“I continue to attend functions in Hudson. I was recently at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind (in Jersey City), attended a Memorial Day ceremony with the Korean War vets, and I will be in Jersey City again on Aug. 27, when we’re sponsoring a veterans benefits outreach day,” he added.
The senator noted that he always works hard for the county and that during the last appropriations cycle, Hudson did well – to the tune of $107 million in programs.” (Torres, Jersey Journal)
“A Republican convoy is hitting the road this month to campaign against a state proposal to lease public highways.
State Sen. Nick Asselta, R-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, and his two Assembly running mates, Norris Clark and Michael Donohue, attended council meetings in Vineland and Ocean City this week. They urged the councils to pass resolutions opposing Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s plan to lease the Garden State Parkway, the Atlantic City Expressway and the New Jersey Turnpike to pay off state debt.
Republicans hope to gain some political traction over the issue. They plan pit stops in the other towns in the sprawling 1st Legislative District.” (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)
LoBiondo “disturbed” by lack of Iraqi political will
“When House lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would compel President Bush to start withdrawing troops from Iraq after four months, only four Republicans supported the measure, while 10 Democrats opposed it.
All six New Jersey Republicans voted against H.R. 2956, which would require Bush to effect “a transition to a limited presence” in Iraq by April 1, 2008. The Garden State Republicans, however, did not come to the floor to defend Bush’s policy in Iraq, including the president’s determination to surge 30,000 additional American soldiers and Marines into Baghdad, al Anbar Province and Diyala Province.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., issued a statement revealing his own impatience with the Shiite-Kurd-controlled government in Baghdad.
A report issued by the Bush administration Thursday found that the Iraqi regime had not struck needed political accords, such as a new law for sharing of oil revenue among all Iraqis, that might have helped draw disaffected Sunnis back into Iraqi political life.
“I am extremely disturbed and increasingly impatient that the political will of the Iraqi Prime Minister and his government does not match the military will and unwavering dedication of our servicemen and women,” said LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)
“In New Jersey, still one of the top five destination states for new immigrants, the lack of federal reform has left many municipalities grappling for solutions to immigration-related issues — from Passaic, where the city has sanctioned a day laborer hiring center, to Freehold, where officials have vigorously fought one.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres of Paterson, a city with a long history of immigration, said it’s a problem best addressed at the federal level. Allowing each municipality to resolve the issue in its own way, he said, is a formula for chaos.
“When you do it on a local level, you have no consistency in the rules,” Torres said. “When you have so many municipalities, how many different rules do you have: based on what side of the street you live on? Or your nationality? Or the color of your skin? Or political party? I don’t see that as good governance.”Mayor Samuel Rivera of Passaic said even when he has tried to take a hands-off approach and leave the issue up to federal authorities, they have not responded.” (Henry, Bergen Record)
Healy blasts congressional subcommittee
“Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy took aim yesterday at the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee for failing Wednesday to vote down an amendment that restricts the amount of gun trace data the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can share with local enforcement.
Known as the Tiahrt Amendment, the law restricts the information that can be shared with local law enforcement to the investigation of specific crimes. Critics say more general data would be enough. The nationwide Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which includes Healy and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had set its sights on getting the amendment defeated this year.
“New Jersey and Jersey City have strict gun laws,” Healy said. “But without the ability to see where the illegal guns used to commit crimes in Jersey City are purchased, we are at a major disadvantage, and the elected officials who support such restrictions are doing the public a grave disservice.” Healy is also championing a “one-gun-a-month” law in New Jersey.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
Wrong data used in base closing
“Department of Defense officials knew by July 2005 that the data they used to calculate the cost of closing Fort Monmouth were wrong and would lead them to underestimate the project’s price tag by hundreds of millions of dollars. A 32-page memo written on July 8, 2005, by Fort Monmouth officials and obtained by the Asbury Park Press shows that the officials warned DOD that the incorrect data had been submitted in several areas and would lead to wrong conclusions.
But the DOD refused to recalculate the cost with the correct data, the record shows. In fact, the day before the federal panel charged with making the decision voted to close the 90-year-old fort, the then-Under Secretary of Defense assured the panel’s chairman in writing that there was “no evidence” to support claims the closing costs were wrong.
And despite repeated written requests by the Asbury Park Press over the past week, two DOD spokespeople refused to say who made the decision to disregard the correct data.” (Bowman and Brown, Asbury Park Press)
Pallone on BRAC; “I told you so”
“Congress’ investigative arm has so far taken a close look at two of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions and has found what it calls “challenges” in both of them. Among those challenges: Cost increases of tens of millions of dollars, gaps in communications from senior-level officers that could affect mission readiness and insufficient planning for personnel training. Those findings don’t surprise Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J., a longtime critic of the BRAC process.
“I don’t believe in the BRAC. I never voted for the BRAC. I think it’s inherently a flawed process,” he said. “The problem is, there is no accountability,” Pallone said. “Who is the BRAC responsible to? No one. Essentially, it’s a way of ensuring that the Army and the military can do what they please and never worry about the cost.”
The reports issued by the Government Accountability Office focus on decisions affecting the Air National Guard and the Navy’s new aviation fleet readiness centers. The centers are meant to streamline the maintenance and repair of naval aircraft.” (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
McGuire due for scouring
“Federal environmental officials yesterday ordered the U.S. military to clean up contamination of hazardous materials at McGuire Air Force Base after years of failed negotiations.
“As a responsible party, the Department of the Air Force will be required to clean up the extensive contamination at the base,” said EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “The Department of Defense will be held accountable for rectifying contamination that has occurred at this base due to the operations over the last 60 years.”
The base, which covers 3,500 acres in the Pinelands in New Hanover and Wrightstown, opened in 1937 as a facility for the U.S. Army. Contaminants there include PCBs, pesticides, volatile compounds and metals. Petroleum and jet fuel were found in the soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater, according to the EPA.” (Spoto, Star-Ledger)
Plainfield also soul-searching 40 years after
“This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the riots that ripped through Plainfield’s working-class West End, when black civil unrest erupted in violence from July 14 to 20, leaving one white police officer dead and businesses burned. More than 100 National Guardsmen were sent in to quiet the streets. The riot’s effect left a deep gash in Plainfield that some say has not completely healed.
When Lillian Jamar drives down South Second Street in Plainfield’s West End, she’s reminded of July 19, 1967, when she was stopped by a state trooper. That part of the city had been the scene of several days of rioting.
Police had cordoned off much of the neighborhood as they began searching homes for rifles stolen from a nearby weapons manufacturing plant, and believed to be in the hands of Plainfielders.” (Friedman, Star-Ledger)
Miss New Jersey leery of Internet
“Among the many lessons learned over the past three weeks, Amy Polumbo said she has experienced firsthand how the Internet can be damaging for not only children but also for adults.
“There are people out there who want to destroy you,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s a scary place if you don’t use it properly.”
Now entering her senior year at Wagner College on Staten Island, the theater major was crowned Miss New Jersey on June 16. But 10 days later, a letter and packet of photographs containing copies of pictures she had posted on her private Facebook.com page would become a source of contention. Blackmailers threatened to make the pictures public if Polumbo did not relinquish the crown that qualified her to compete in the Miss America pageant. Copies were sent to Miss New Jersey officials as well as Miss America pageant officials.
“I’ve dealt with obstacles in my life, but this was one that I had to face in the public eye,” Polumbo said.” (Gladden, Asbury Park Press)
Controversial mayor’s raise proposed
“MORRISTOWN — The town council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a salary ordinance that would give Mayor Donald Cresitello a $12,000 raise. If approved, Cresitello’s new salary would be approximately $38,000. The mayor’s salary has been a source of contention among council members and many taxpayers.
Council members Timothy Jackson and Michelle Harris-King are strongly against the increase. At a June meeting, Jackson and Harris-King tried limiting pay raises for Cresitello, as well as several town employees, to just 3.5 percent. However, their motion was voted down. Harris-King had made a motion to limit the raise to $1,000, but that also was defeated.
Others on the council, including Anthony Cattano, Raline Smith-Reid and Richard Tighe, have said Cresitello deserves the pay hike. They described him as a hardworking mayor who has moved forward on the town’s redevelopment projects and was responsible for two municipal budgets with a zero percent municipal tax hike.” (Hassan, Daily Record)
Council to clerk
“TRENTON — The city council is accepting resumes for the city clerk position, prompting speculation in local forums and blogs about who will fill the position………….There has been a lot of speculation lately that At-large Councilwoman Cordelia Staton has been promised the job, which has some folks positioning themselves as possible replacements for her seat.
Council President Paul Pintella said the only person on the council who has indicated an interest in the position is East Ward Councilman Gino Melone. However, Melone said he was told by Pintella that Staton had expressed an interest in the position.” (Loayza, Trenton Times)
“TRENTON — Police Capt. Paul Messina has pleaded guilty to one internal police infraction in connection with the photos that surfaced of him earlier this week sleeping while on duty inside police headquarters last month, the department announced yesterday.
Although the internal affairs investigation is not complete and no charges had been filed, the police department said in a statement that Messina agreed to plead guilty to the charge of inattention to duty. The offer was made in a letter Messina sent to the internal affairs bureau Monday — the day the photos surfaced on the Web site http://www.captsleepy.com.” (Shea, Trenton Times)
Cop found not guilty
“Suspended Deptford Ptl. John Gillespie sobbed Friday as the jury said he was not guilty of charges that he choked a handcuffed motorist during a 2006 traffic stop. A team of supporters, many of them in law enforcement, broke into a loud cheer as the verdict was read.
“Thank you. Thank you, Jesus,” Gillespie yelled as he clutched a Bible and pictures of his wife and two children. “I told you the truth would come out.”
Gillespie then turned and hugged his wife. “It’s all over,” he said. “We can move on with our life.”
Gillespie, 35, faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the two most serious charges of official misconduct and aggravated assault. Jurors also considered a lesser charge of simple assault.” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)
Police department fractured
“A jury’s acquittal last week may have ended the 17-month-long legal battle for a Deptford Township patrolman, but the trial revealed a broken police department which now must look to heal.
Three officers were accused after a Feb. 2, 2006, car stop resulted in an assault allegation, but as one of them defended himself this month, new allegations surfaced that two high-ranking officers tried to intimidate others from testifying on behalf of Ptl. John Gillespie.
“There is some division here,” Police Chief John Marolt said during a recent interview. “We’re going to work on it … to bring unity within our department.”
Exactly what that means is uncertain at this point, Marolt said, but it could include bringing in a third-party to review the department and its 71 officers.” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)
Democracy in action
“Residents of five towns in Gloucester County have something that others don’t: The ability to propose local laws and let the public vote on them, or stop the town government from enacting laws they don’t like. It’s called the power of Initiative and Referendum a government reform policy that’s been a part of America’s fabric since the late 1800s. Lately, more residents in the county are putting it to use.
Turn a “dry” town to one that features restaurants that sell alcohol. Force contract workers to limit the election campaign donations they make. Or recall an elected official who’s not serving the public’s best interest.
There are many ways for voters to keep the government in check by using the power placed in their hands, said Heather Taylor, spokeswoman for the Citizens Campaign.” (Beym, Gloucester County Times)