Today’s news from

Lynch loses pension, Sen. Kenny expected to stay in hospital for several days, Giuliani top fundraiser in New Jersey, McGettigan curses out Levinson, Kuehner considers dropping out of Assembly race, Booker seeks state approval to fire 400 Newark city workers.



“A state board yesterday stripped former Senate President John Lynch of all pension benefits from his two decades as a state lawmaker, slashing about $19,000 a year from what the Democrat can collect when he finishes a 39-month prison sentence for corruption and tax fraud.

Declaring that Lynch, once one of New Jersey's most powerful politicians, could not have committed his crimes if not for his legislative post, the trustees of the Public Employees' Retirement System ordered him to forfeit all pension credit for the 20 years he served in the Senate.

That leaves Lynch eligible for a pension based only on the 12 years he served as New Brunswick mayor, a change that cuts his public retirement benefit from $22,380 per year to just $3,192.

The penalty, approved 7-0, is one of the most dramatic the panel has imposed for an ethics transgression.

Lynch last September pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion charges. He admitted taking between $120,000 and $200,000 in corrupt payments from a sand company seeking use of state land between 1998 and 2002, his last four years in office……………

With the cost of public pensions rising steeply, lawmakers and pension trustees have recently taken a hard line on benefits for public officials convicted of ethics transgressions, including former Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto (D-Hudson), former Essex County Executive James Treffinger and former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)



“State Sen. Bernard Kenny, D-Hoboken, broke multiple bones and landed in intensive care a Jersey City Medical Center yesterday after he tripped in a pothole during his morning jog near his home, according to police and a member of the lawmaker's legislative staff.

Kenny, 60, is listed in fair condition and, as of last night, he remained in the surgical intensive care unit as doctors considered surgery to stabilize a broken right fibula (calf bone), according to a statement issued by the Kenny family last night.

Kenny also has four fractures in his pelvis, a fractured nose, and suffered a dislocated right shoulder, according to the statement. He also has numerous lacerations and contusions about his head and face.

He has been medicated to treat his pain and is resting comfortably, according to the statement.

The injuries are expected to keep Kenny in the hospital for "at least several days," and the recovery period should be a "long time," a legislative aide said.” (Renshaw and Chen, Jersey Journal)

“State Sen. Bernard Kenny's daughter yesterday called reports from police about her father seriously injuring himself by tripping in a pothole "the weirdest story."……….

Kenny's daughter, who asked that her name not be used, said she doesn't understand why her father would have been in the street. Kenny takes regular morning walks, she said, but always stays on the sidewalk and crosses at street corners.

"He would never cross in the middle of the street," she said. "He's the most straight-edge person in the world. I would get in trouble for that.” (Chen, Jersey Journal)

Sen. Joseph Doria (D-Hudson) said it was typical for Kenny to go for a morning jog.

"He's a big-time jogger. He's been doing it for years," Doria said. "He sometimes does it with his dog."

Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said, "On behalf of the entire Senate, I want to wish Senator Kenny all the best for a healthy and speedy recovery."

"My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now," Codey added. "Hopefully, everyone will keep him in their thoughts and respect his privacy while he begins his recovery process."

Hoboken Mayor David Roberts issued a statement wishing the senator "a speedy recovery."

"Bernie is a dear and loyal friend," Roberts said. "My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family." (Schwaneberg and Marisco, Star-Ledger)



“New Jersey is a Democrat-majority state, but it's a Republican presidential candidate who's attracting the most campaign cash from the state's donors.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose political star rose after the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks, got more money than any other Republican or Democrat seeking the presidency in November 2008.

Giuliani raised nearly $2.5 million from the start of the current electoral cycle after November's election through June 30, according to campaign finance reports candidates submitted this week to the Federal Election Commission.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., wasn't far behind Giuliani. She was the second-biggest recipient of Garden State contributions, raising nearly $2.4 million………..

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who got $1.4 million from New Jersey donors, was the third-largest recipient among 19 major-party candidates who raised money in the Garden State.

Patrick Murray, a Monmouth University pollster, said Giuliani's greater success among donors doesn't translate to greater success among voters.

"He's an adopted favorite son of the state because of 9/11 and because of the unique impact 9/11 had on New Jersey. So there's a lot of affection," Murray said Wednesday.” (Chebium, Gannett)



Opponents in the Atlantic County executive race are now making the hotly contested contest a little bit salty.

The latest verbal exchange between incumbent Republican Dennis Levinson and Democrat James McGettigan occurred Tuesday, when McGettigan used profanity during an interview with Internet reporter Virginia McCabe.

“Tell Denny Levinson to go —- himself, he’s a pathological liar and you can quote me,” McGettigan said.

McGettigan admitted making the statement, calling it the “catch phrase of the day.”

“I didn’t mean to blurt such a thing out,” McGettigan said. “I can’t take it back. I slipped. I said it.”

Levinson on Wednesday called McGettigan “unbalanced.”

“They ought to take his weapons away,” Levinson said of McGettigan, the county sheriff. “He is in meltdown right now. Perhaps they should take away his shoe laces, too. I am appalled and disgusted, as any decent person would be.” (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)



“Egg Harbor City Mayor Joseph Kuehner told The Press Wednesday he is leaning toward dropping out of the 2nd District Assembly race so he can have more time to tend to his new business and his ailing father.

Kuehner, a Democrat, said he has not made a final decision but he has told his running mate – Assemblyman Jim Whelan – he is considering getting out of the race. Kuehner said the combination of starting a new business and caring for his father, who had a stroke last month, has left him questioning whether he has enough time to devote to the Assembly campaign.

“It’s been a tough couple of months,” Kuehner said. “I’ve been trying to balance it all. As the campaign starts to heat up, I don’t want to drag the team down.”

Kuehner said he plans to continue to serve as Egg Harbor City mayor.” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)



“The city of Newark is seeking state approval to eliminate as many as 400 City Hall job titles, far fewer than the 1,000 job cuts Mayor Cory Booker said would be necessary to plug a looming budget deficit.

The plan being submitted to the state Department of Personnel calls for cutting hundreds of administrative or desk positions in departments throughout the city. The administration announced late yesterday that it was planning on making the cuts, confirming fears that have swirled around City Hall for months.

"We need to save about $50 million in personnel costs," said Booker. "We believe right now, we have identified approximately 400 titles that will lead to approximately 400 people."………….

Booker would not rule out the possibility of more layoffs later this year, but said the city is looking at other ways to save, such as possibly closing a library or reducing other services.

"We still have a budget shortfall of $30 million going into 2008," Booker said. "We may try some various big sacrifices. We may say a library might have to close. We may have to go back to the DOP and have another round of layoffs……………….

Michael James, the president of Newark Council 21, a union representing 1,200 white collar professionals who will be hardest hit by the layoffs, said the pain of the city's fiscal problems are not being shared by the slew of new employees the mayor has brought in.

"My folks get to rub shoulders with the people they're bringing in and these folks are making twice and three times their salaries," James said. "They're about twice as angry about the people being brought in and everything else.” (Wang, Star-Ledger)



“David A. Waks, 66, a Superior Court judge and former mayor and councilman in Wayne credited with restoring integrity to a corruption-ridden town hall, died Wednesday after a battle with lung cancer.

Waks had once described himself to a reporter as an "ornery cuss" but told voters they could count on him to be fair-minded, even-handed and flexible. He was known for his honesty, compassion, intelligence and hard work.

His wife, Joan, said he got involved in politics to fight for rent control and "was against 'pay-to-play' [awarding government contracts to political donors] before anyone knew what it meant."……………..

He was remembered Wednesday as a champion of ethics and as a responsive public servant. In one telling incident during his two-term tenure as mayor in the late 1990s, when a resident called to complain about a missed trash pickup, Waks got into his car and went to pick up the garbage himself, said Timothy Collins, a superintendent of public works in the township.

"He was not a photo op kind of guy," said Collins. "He was an in-the-trenches kind of guy. … He was one of the greatest individuals I have known in my entire life."” (Alexander and Travers, Bergen Record)



“Former Councilman Ali Sloan El, banned forever from political office in New Jersey, rolled out of Camden and began arrangements to head south for prison yesterday, shutting the door on a bygone era.

"I'm done with politics, being elected," Sloan El said, before leaving. He already had big plans for his return from prison. "When I come out, I want to encourage and train future politicians."

The 53-year-old ex-councilman was bound for Edgefield, S.C., where he must report today to begin serving 20 months in federal prison on a bribery conviction.

His departure marks the changing of the guard in Camden at many levels and on a scale few can recall………………

Dubbed "the people's champ" for his stands on social issues, Sloan El made his name and career outside of the political establishment.

And, unlike many convicted politicians, Sloan El was never known for having money or clout. In the state's most destitute city, Sloan El wore his own poverty – his car was once repossessed and he bummed rides to Council meetings – as a badge of honor.

Instead, he was known for his charity, for walking his Second Ward district like a beat cop, for taking strangers down on their luck into his own home.

Sloan El had a novel explanation for why he took $36,000 in bribes from a contractor in exchange for steering him Camden waterfront construction work: He said it was to pay for his fight against the Camden County Democratic political organization and its leader, Norcross, not to line his own pockets.” (Ott, Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Attorney Rocco Cipparone has said "some was used frankly for personal purposes," but Sloan El said the money was used to cover the mounting costs of an election campaign.

"When you run out, what do you do when Satan comes in the back door," he asked recently. "I had to win."

Christopher Christie, U.S. attorney for New Jersey, released a statement on the day of Sloan El's sentencing in April, calling him "a fraud who sold his office for personal gain." But all along, Sloan El was up-front, admitting he took the money before Christie's office was prepared to announce the charges against him and later accepted a plea agreement.” (Strupczewski, Courier-Post)


“Former Clayton Police Chief Frank Winters, who once stood on a railroad crossing and stared down a diesel engine to protect borough schoolchildren, was indicted Wednesday on charges he scammed Mothers Against Drunk Driving out of more than $150,000.

The state Attorney General's Office has accused Winters and his wife of conspiring to have MADD buy products they sold from a private company in order to "pad their own bank account" and spend the money on jewelry, trips and other luxuries.

Winters, 61, and his wife, Bernice, 56, now face charges of conspiracy and theft by deception, both second-degree offenses, and filing false and fraudulent state income tax returns, a third-degree offense.

"To steal from a non-profit public service organization dedicated to saving lives, as this couple is alleged to have done, is outrageous," Attorney General Anne Milgram said. "But when you add that Frank Winters was a police chief sworn to uphold the law, his actions are an unconscionable violation of the public trust and a betrayal of the people of the state.” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)



“A West Windsor man who rose to prominence with stories of his dog's heroic exploits while searching for victims of the World Trade Center collapse has been indicted in New York for allegedly stealing federal Sept. 11 relief money.

Scott Shields, who has claimed that his Golden retriever Bear was responsible for finding the most victims of any search and rescue dog working the World Trade Center debris known as the pile, allegedly bilked the Federal Emergency Management Agency out of some $38,906 in rental assistance funds, according to the indictment from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Shields' attorney, Jonathan Marks, said yesterday his client is innocent of the charges, which also include mail fraud.

"Scott asserts his innocence and we fully expect we will go to trial and hope we will be vindi cated," Marks said.

The charges arose out of a claim Shields filed with FEMA for hous ing costs he said he accrued while he worked at Ground Zero after the World Trade Center collapse. Shields has said for years that he and Bear were one of the first canine responder teams to reach the pile and that the pair worked for weeks searching for victims………..

nterviews with several people who know Shields or who have had contact with him in past years paint a different picture than the one he portrays of himself.

According to several people, Shields started out with good in tentions and has done some good things, but has become an "opportunist" who has fabricated much of the public portrait of himself and who has taken in dozens of organizations, officials and media outlets, including The Times, which published an interview with him in 2005.

"Most of what this guy says is not true," said Chris Lyons, a search-and-rescue specialist who met Shields while searching for a young girl in 2003. Lyons has devoted a lot of his personal time to debunking what he calls the myth that Shields has created for him self.” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)



“A Perth Amboy redevelopment project owned by one of Mayor Joseph Vas' supporters got a $2 million boost from Middlesex County when the freeholders agreed last week to a loan and grant to help fund the conversion from an old factory to low-income housing.

freeholder Director David Crabiel said Vas turned to the freeholders because recent court rulings jeopardized the funding for the $7.8 million project. After consulting with county attorney Thomas Kelso, Crabiel said the board agreed to a $1 million loan and a $1 million grant, using funds previously earmarked to build housing for senior citizens on the land where the county once operated a vocational school in Perth Amboy.

The county's funding package will help developer Ali Rada transform an old vacant clothing factory on Sheridan Street into 89 units of low-income housing, officials said.

Vas said he went to county officials for help with the Sheridan Street redevelopment because preliminary phases of the construction had begun when the state appeals court ruling jeopardized the funding………..

Federal campaign finance reports also showed Rada contributed $2,000 to Vas' failed attempt to win the Democratic nomination to run for the 13th District Congressional seat in 2005. Rada's father, Abed also contributed $2,000, according to the report…………

Middlesex County officials previously set aside $1 million in the trust fund to build senior citizen housing on the former county vocational school site in Perth Amboy. That project stalled, however, due to a lack of funding from the city Housing Authority, officials said.” (Walsh, Star-Ledger)



“Two weeks after taking the helm of an institution buffeted by scandal, newly installed University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey President William F. Owen Jr. quoted the late soul singer James Brown.

"I feel good," Owen told faculty, students and administrators during a visit to UMDNJ's Stratford campus on Wednesday in which he mixed sly humor with a sober assessment of the university's fortunes.

Pledging a new style of leadership, Owen vowed to give schools at the sprawling university greater autonomy from the Newark-based administration, while holding academic leaders firmly accountable for their performance…………

Owen plans to conduct a thorough "scan" of UMDNJ — intensive interviews with faculty and staff — as a prelude to devising a strategy for "accelerating our success."

Displaying a slide of a chimpanzee at the wheel of a toy car, Owen exhorted his audience to help him chart a new course, citing a quote from baseball legend Yogi Berra.

"If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else," he said. (Greenblatt, Courier-Post)



“County freeholders expect a showdown when they meet with the Somerset County Park Commission this morning for the first time since threatening to take over park operations.

Freeholders yesterday said they had received a "disturbing" lack of response from the park commission after declaring on Tuesday the 50-year-old, semiautonomous agency must adopt a program of changes or face dissolution.

"I haven't heard from anybody," Freeholder Rick Fontana said. "I haven't heard from the commission at all."” (McCarron and Tyrell, Star-Ledger)



“The Somerset County freeholders have ordered the county park commission — which is under investigation for its spending practices — to follow its rules on the use of county cars, but one freeholder yesterday said the policy itself needs to be scrutinized.

The county's policy spells out who is entitled to drive a county car full time, but it sets no restrictions on where the cars can be driven. In addition, gasoline is free and unlimited, and taxpayers pay for automobile insurance on the 25 vehicles issued to government workers for round-the-clock use.

"We're not saying this policy is fine. We're saying it needs to be reviewed. … We were going to do it, we have to do it," Freeholder Richard Fontana said……….

Somerset County government and the park commission each authorize a number of employees to take cars home each day. There are 15 park commission employees with free, full-time use of a vehicle; 25 general county government employees; 65 members of the county prosecutor's office staff; and eight in the sheriff's department……….

Led by then-Freeholder Rose McConnell, the board reviewed and reduced its number of take-home cars in the early 1990s.

"When (the freeholders) first reviewed the policy, about 80 people took cars home," Fontana said. "It was really ratcheted down.” (Rundquist, Star-Ledger)



“The $91 million that New Jersey received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security yesterday is the most the state has received from the agency since 2004, state officials said.

The seven-county region surrounding Newark was awarded $53.5 million in federal homeland security funds, and another $37.5 million will be shared by the entire state to bolster New Jersey's ability to deter and respond to a terrorist attack or disaster.

"Protecting families and communities is the most important role of government and this funding will be put to good use based on where the greatest risks are," Gov. Jon Corzine said.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)



“A Deptford man and former FBI intelligence analyst who worked under two vice presidents was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years for passing secret U.S. documents in an effort to topple the Philippine government.

Leandro Aragoncillo addressed the court before the sentence, and apologized, asserting that he acted to help bring Filipino people out of poverty.

"I never intended to cause harm or injury to the United States, its government or its people," he said.

Prosecutors and U.S. District Judge William H. Walls agreed that Aragoncillo did not mean to hurt the nation, but said nevertheless his "nefarious" actions caused harm.

"There's no doubt you did betray a position of trust that very few people are privileged to occupy," the judge said.” (Gold, AP)



“The Camden County Prosecutor's Office will be able to pay Camden police executive Arturo Venegas with money from drug raids, officials said.

In a letter dated Tuesday to acting Camden County Prosecutor Joshua Ottenberg, New Jersey Criminal Justice Director Gregory Paw granted permission for the use of forfeiture funds to pay Venegas' salary for one year.

Venegas is a state appointee and the state had agreed to fund the position when it was created last year. The state has since backed out…………….

The presidents of the police department's two unions and City Council President Angel Fuentes said the money for Venegas' $175,000 salary should have come from other sources.

"It's irresponsible is what it is," said Bill Murray, president of the Police Supervisors' Union. "It's a waste of hard-earned money. This is not grant money, this isn't money someone gave us. This is money Camden cops have risked their lives and worked hard for."

Fuentes called the decision a "slap in the face" to police officers.

John Williamson, president of FOP Lodge 1, noted that forfeiture funds are normally reserved for departmental needs not met by an operating budget.” (Strupczewski, Courier-Post)



“New Jersey auto insurers don't make quite as much as they did before a new law to spur competition took effect, but they still reap high profits in a state with the nation's most expensive rates, a new survey has found.

Insurers earned $725 million in 2005. That's down 6.3 percent from the previous year, but was fourth-highest in the nation, according to the Auto Insurance Report, an industry newsletter. The companies' profit margin ranked 22nd in the nation, but was substantially higher than the national average.

Brian Sullivan, author of Auto Insurance Report, said the new law has spurred competition and helped New Jersey shed its image as one of the nation's worst markets for auto insurance. Before the law took effect, New Jersey insurers had the nation's third-highest profit margin.

"If you are a regulator or a politician or a consumer, it's exactly what you wanted to see," he said. "You are moving from an extreme state to an average state that looks like everyplace else.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)



“A former Englewood mayor remembers it as a potential disaster averted. A Realtor recalls a minor disturbance that brought home-buying to a standstill. Activists say it was an inevitable reaction to a period of racial inequality.

Forty years after the tumultuous summer of 1967, different factions have different memories of the week of July 21, when policemen in riot gear faced off against black protesters in the 4th Ward.

Englewood's disturbance was nowhere near as dramatic as the rioting, looting and gunfire that swept through Newark and Detroit. A store was set on fire, and shots were reportedly fired, but few were hurt, and there was no major damage to downtown.

But in the years that followed came major changes.

The Republican leadership was overthrown. Substandard housing was razed and low- and middle-income housing went up in its place. The city's downtown grew into a thriving marketplace.” (Kremen, Bergen Record)


“Drug testing rules proposed by the state Board of Education would make it harder and more costly for districts to randomly test students, local and White House officials testified Wednesday in Trenton.

The rules would not require districts to test students, but would stipulate that those that do screen teenagers must conduct and analyze the tests at state-licensed laboratories, or become state-licensed labs themselves. Any costs associated with drug testing would fall to the district.

Currently, most of the 20 districts in the state that screen students rely on school nurses to conduct and analyze the tests. Results that aren't clearly negative are sent to a lab for further evaluation.

School administrators from Pequannock and elsewhere told the Board of Education that the department's rigorous certification requirements could dismantle testing programs in the state — programs they say deter drug use.” (Padawer, Bergen Record)


“The Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders will consider at its July 25 meeting lowering the copying fees associated with requests for public records.

Under a proposed policy, the first 10 pages of requested documents would be free. Anything over 10 pages will cost 15 cents per page.

The board's current policy charges the maximum fee allowed under state statute: 75 cents for the first 10 pages, 50 cents for the next 10 pages and 25 cents for anything beyond.

The change in the Open Public Records Act policy resulted from a request by The Express-Times to waive the fees being charged for the public to access freeholder board correspondence.

"The Board of Chosen Freeholders is sympathetic to the needs of taxpayers and to those entrusted to report on the activities of public bodies," county counsel Joseph Bell wrote in a July 18 letter to The Express-Times.” (Satullo, Express-Times)



“A former supervisor at the Tropicana Casino & Resort who says his lung cancer was caused by decades of exposure to secondhand smoke is suing the casino, contending it fired him for speaking out in favor of a smoking ban.

Vince Rennich was fired from the Tropicana in March, when he was the most vocal supporter of a proposed smoking ban that the City Council was considering. Originally set to ban all smoking in the city's 11 casinos, the council later agreed to a compromise in which 75 percent of the gambling floor had to be smoke-free. It took effect April 15.

"They tried to silence me," Rennich said. "It's not going to work. It was wrong, and I'm going to prove it. I'm still speaking out against smoking throughout the country.” (AP)



“The Republicans’ Township Council ticket has been temporarily reduced to two after incumbent Councilman Mark Hanko opted to withdraw from the campaign last week, he confirmed Wednesday.

Hanko said his plans to open a new consulting business and the renovation on his Egg Harbor City bowling alley, Strike Zone Lanes, will make him less accessible to work on township issues.” (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)


“Jersey City Firefighter Patrick Healy saved a 58-year-old man who was unconscious after a heart attack Sunday evening at the Healy family-owned bar and eatery in Bradley Beach, Bradley Beach police confirmed.

At around 5 p.m., Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy's 23-year-old son was working at his aunt's restaurant, and served a hamburger to Edward Locher, 58, said Kathleen Barry, the owner of Barry's Tavern, and a witness.” (Pearson, Jersey Journal)



“HADDON HEIGHTS – Opinions are divided over Council President Trish Sheilds' call for the resignation of the borough's tax assessor in the wake of a controversial property revaluation.

At the beginning of a contentious meeting Tuesday night, council members said they would present a resolution that would call for Thomas Glock to resign. But the council later unanimously agreed to postpone the action………..

Sheilds' recommendation comes amid a dispute over the first property revaluation here in 10 years. The revaluation, which was ordered by Camden County and approved by the state, was conducted last year and updated the assessed value of local properties.” (Forde, Courier-Post)



By a 4-to-1 vote, City Council rejected an ordinance Tuesday night that would have eliminated the chief's position in favor of a full-time public safety director to oversee the police department.

Two weeks ago the measure passed by a 3-to-2 vote. Only Councilman Nicholas Salvatore held his ground and voted in favor of the public safety position as he did the first time.

Lanuel J. Ferguson, a retired state police major from Mercer County, was hired for the director's position at $70,000 a year, plus a car to travel back and forth to work for two years, and began working before the final vote was taken.

"He (Ferguson) has a contract," said retired Vineland Police Chief Mario R. Brunetta Jr., Bridgeton's former public safety director. "The city will probably have to live up to that contract or buy him out."” (Quaranta, Daily Journal)



“Talk about a disgruntled worker.

George Rogers thought he was going to be fired from his job, so he devised a plan to save his job. Poison his boss, start a fire at the office and ultimately become a hero by saving people from the inferno.The day was Sept. 8. The year was 1934. The place was a few miles off the Asbury Park coastline on the Morro Castle ship.

This is just one of the many tales from the sea on display at the new Museum of New Jersey Maritime History located on Dock Road and West Avenue. Its doors officially opened on Sunday, and a long-awaited dream came true for former Mayor Deborah C. Whitcraft.” (Hunter, Gannett)

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