Today’s news from

Sharpe James pleads not guilty, Ortiz becomes new Bergen County Republican Chairman, Kenny’s surgery delayed, Wilson accuses Corzine of operating in “total secrecy,” state Senator settles for over $1 million after hitting pedestrian.


“Federal prosecutors said they anticipate a lengthy trial for former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, which could stretch as long as three months and involve at least 60 witnesses.

James, 71, who served as mayor of the state's largest city for two decades, yesterday entered a not guilty plea to corruption charges contained in an 86-page indictment alleging he bilked the city for thousands of dollars in personal travel and vacations, while steering lucrative city land deals to Tamika Riley, a frequent travel companion.

The former mayor, who continues to serve as a Democratic state senator, would not answer questions as he left the federal courthouse in Newark following a brief arraignment before U.S. District Judge William Martini.

"God is good all the time," James said as he strode hatless and coatless through a heavy rainshower to a waiting, dark green Land Rover. "God is good all the time."” (Sherman, Star-Ledger)

“At his arraignment in federal court Monday, former Mayor Sharpe James pleaded not guilty to corruption charges and then listened as one of his lawyers defended himself against allegations that it would be a conflict of interest if he remained part of Mr. James’s defense team.

Prosecutors told Judge William J. Martini of United States District Court that the lawyer, Thomas R. Ashley, had represented two other people involved in the case against Mr. James and his companion, Tamika Riley…………..

Mr. Ashley, a well-known criminal defense lawyer here, once represented Mr. James’s chief of staff, Jackie R. Mattison, who was found guilty in 1997 of taking bribes. After Monday’s court hearing, Mr. Ashley said of the prosecutors: “I didn’t know they were going to try to have me removed. I anticipated it could be an issue. They were never too happy with my representation.” (Fahim, New York Times)

“This is a case of significant dimension,” said defense attorney Raymond M. Brown. “There are scores if not hundreds of people whose evidence has to be assessed by us.” (Sampson, Bergen Record)



“Doctors delayed yesterday's expected surgery on state Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny's dislocated right shoulder until later this week.

Officials would not discuss the specific reasons for the delay, saying only that it was the doctor's decision…………….

Law enforcement sources say the investigation is at a "stand-still" until they can speak to Kenny, who has not been able to talk to investigators because of his injuries. Kenny has reportedly told family members and friends that he does not remember what happened.

Kenny's law partner, Ed Florio, said the politician would give an interview once he can offer "meaningful answers."” (Renshaw, Jersey Journal)



The average age of the county committeemen and women who cast votes at the election for Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman was probably somewhere north of 60. But in the end, youth triumphed.

Thirty-five-year-old Robert Ortiz, an attorney, prominent Republican fundraiser and relative newcomer to the local political scene, won with 263 votes. Long time party activist Ben Focarino, 64 garnered 171 votes, while former New Jersey Christian Coalition Director Bill Thomson, 57, got 24.

Among the rank and file, the decision mainly fell between a fresh face to take the party in a new – any new– direction, or someone they knew and trusted…………….

But among the candidates themselves, there was no fighting, and absolutely no mention of Guy Talarico, the former Chairman who resigned last month. Throughout the campaign, all three had promised to work together no matter who won, and they pledged to keep that promise. Focarino and Ortiz spent much of the time across from each other, greeting guests in front of the two – yes, two –hot dog carts that they brought along to woo the rank and file. And when the results were read, all of the candidates sounded gracious notes.

“People keep saying that the Bergen County Republicans are dead and gone, but if you look out here tonight it’s absolutely not true,” said Ortiz, who called his opponents “consummate gentlemen.”” (Friedman,

“Bergen County Republicans quietly began a new era Monday, electing Ridgewood lawyer and national fund-raiser Rob Ortiz to head the county GOP…………..

"We're going to move forward together. We're going to stop re-creating the wheel and we're going to start winning seats," Ortiz said.

Ortiz campaigned for the chairmanship on a promise to unify the factional county party and reverse its reputation for embarrassing defeats and financial destitution.

In the last year alone, the Bergen County Republican Organization lost its last remaining seat on the county freeholder board, was outspent 11-to-1 by Democrats for countywide offices and was locked out of its party headquarters for failure to pay rent. ” (Carmiel, Bergen Record)



“Using the words of Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry, the state's Republican chairman yesterday accused Gov. Jon Corzine of trying to operate "in total secrecy" despite statutes that require government to function in the open.

GOP state Chairman Tom Wilson, in his most recent filing in a public-records lawsuit against Corzine, used the reference from Henry to emphasize his argument that e-mails between the governor and former girlfriend Carla Katz should be made public.

"The governor seeks to put his own private interests ahead of the public's interest," Wilson said in a brief filed in state Superior Court in Trenton. "This court must not permit the executive branch to insulate itself from scrutiny."

He quoted Henry, who said: "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."…………

In response to Wilson's most recent legal brief, Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said: "Governor Corzine has said before that this lawsuit is all about the Republicans' need for a campaign issue, not any real desire for transparency."” (Margolin, Star-Ledger)

“Wilson's attorney, Mark Sheridan, contends executive privilege is not all encompassing and that Corzine waived any privilege when he shared e-mail messages between him and Katz with his ethics panel, which determined the e-mail neither influenced union negotiations nor violated ethics rules.

"The governor cannot credibly claim to have had any expectation of privacy in materials he submitted to private citizens outside of the executive branch," the Republican filing states.” (Hester, AP)



“State Sen. Robert Singer yesterday agreed to a $1.175 million settlement to end a lawsuit by a 76-year-old woman seriously injured when he hit her with his SUV two years ago.

Singer (R-Ocean) and his insurer reached the settlement with the victim on the same day the case was scheduled for trial before Superior Judge Thomas O'Brien, said Norman Hobbie, the Eaton town attorney representing the injured woman.

Hobbie said his client, Barbara Sara, was walking across East Veterans Highway at Hope Chapel Road in Jackson when Singer's SUV hit her on June 15, 2005. Singer was traveling on Hope Chapel Road and had just turned onto East Veterans Highway.

Sara, who lived in Jackson at the time, suffered a concussion, a fractured arm, two fractured ankles and a fractured leg, Hobbie said. Immediately after the accident, she was in critical condition and re mained hospitalized for nearly four months……….

Under the settlement reached in Ocean County, there was no ad mission of liability.

"Although the total settlement of $1.175 million represents a significant amount of money, my client Barbara Sara feels that no amount of money can justly compensate her for the permanent injuries she suffered as a result of being hit by the defendant Robert Singer's SUV," Hobbie said………….

In 2001, Singer was involved in a two-car fatal accident in Lakewood. No summonses were issued, and Singer previously has said the operator of the other car was a drunken driver who was backing out of his driveway and driving on the revoked list in an unregistered, uninsured car.

The senator was involved in two other accidents, in 1991 and 2004. He said last year that the 2004 crash was a fender bender, and the 1991 incident involved "two intoxicated gentlemen who walked in front of my car.” (Spoto, Star-Ledger)



UPPER TOWNSHIP — State Sen. Nicholas Asselta got into a shouting match Monday with Mayor Richard Palombo and the rest of the Township Committee over the fate of the troubled Beesleys Point Bridge.

Asselta, R-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, is running for re-election this year against Democrat Jeff Van Drew, who is helping to broker a deal between the state and the Cape May County Bridge Commission to reopen the dilapidated toll bridge…………

On Monday, Asselta and his two Republican running mates, Assembly candidates Norris Clark and Michael Donohue, attended the Township Committee meeting to campaign against an unrelated issue, Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s plan to sell the state’s toll roads. The Republicans are going town to town to ask municipalities to pass resolutions opposing the sale or lease of state assets.

Upper Township is a mostly Republican town with an all-Republican Township Committee. Politically speaking, Asselta’s request should have been a mere formality. Instead, he and the Township Committee squared off over the bridge……………

Before yielding the floor to Asselta, the committee voted 5-0 to endorse Van Drew’s bridge proposal, much to the senator’s obvious chagrin.

“No disrespect intended to the senator, the congressman or the candidates, but I’d like to see the bridge open as soon as possible,” the mayor said. “It is a public-safety issue.”…………..

“Stop, stop,” the senator replied. “Why did it take three years to get it open? There’s still no deal struck about who will fix this structure. “This is a Bridge Commission that can’t keep their own bridges open,” Asselta said, noting the recent closings and weight restrictions placed on the Strathmere toll bridge.
” (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)



“A dean accused of improperly billing patients at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has stepped down from her leadership role.

Deborah Johnson yesterday resigned as the Associate Dean for Clinical Enterprise at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, where she will remain as a faculty member in the pediatrics department.

Her resignation comes less than two months after the federal monitor overseeing UMDNJ found Johnson improperly signed medical charts and so called "charge tickets" to bill patients she never examined between 1999 and 2002.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)



“In the Hamilton race for control of City Hall pitting Democratic Mayor Glen Gilmore against Republican businessman John Bencivengo, the dynamic involves that old struggle for the town’s identity, and the argument comes with particular urgency in a summer of countywide gangland violence that hit Hamilton hard last week.

Population near 90,0000, Hamilton looks like Jersey’s final, 40-square mile fortress of criss-crossing highways where every blue collar Davy Crockett backed up to the edge of the state can take a last, rifle-swinging stand at an affordable life for himself and his family………….

Hamilton looks like it can take care of itself, and the 50,279 registered voters say as much come election time with that peculiarly Hamiltonian independent streak: 12,567 are registered Democrats, 7,935 Republicans – and 29,777 are independents.

A lot’s happened in Hamilton in the time of Gilmore, the first Democratic mayor in almost 25 years, who announced his reelection bid earlier this year in a humble, front yard ceremony at the home of his friend, a retired Army colonel.

Being mayor is tough in Jersey’s eighth largest city, er… suburb…………..

But the more pressing matter for the challenger is the culture created by higher density development that he says has been a feature of the last seven plus years under Gilmore. Bencivengo says the mayor is helping to transform the tough nut burgh into a full-fledged city – an extension of Trenton. He contends that Hamiltonians would rather pay lower taxes, mow their own lawns and wave to policemen, rather than live in cramped quarters with a stunning array of government services, higher taxes, neighbors they don’t know and large expanses of public space.” (Pizarro,



“Camden Mayor Gwendolyn A. Faison yesterday expressed outrage at a new effort by City Council to change the city's municipal elections from nonpartisan to partisan.

The change would move the election from May to November, shorting Faison's four-year term by six months.

If City Council approves the measure, a referendum would be put to voters in the November election…………..

Faison says she believes she has been targeted because she is "not beholding" to anyone.

"They thought I'd be old and brain-dead by now. They know I know too much and can think." She added: "I'm not taking this one lying down." (Ott, Philadelphia Inquirer)



“State taxpayers would have to shell out $421 million to construct a retractable roof on the new Meadowlands football stadium — about twice as much as previous estimates — according to a report by consultants for the New York Giants and Jets.

And for that price, fans would receive "weather protection but not climate control," meaning the roof would keep them dry, but the stadium would not have heat or air conditioning. The roof also wouldn't be built until after the stadium's inaugural 2010 season, so it would not be fully integrated into the facility's design.

Both the Giants and Jets refuse to help pay for a roof that the teams say would provide them little economic benefit.

The report — which cost taxpayers $169,598.53 — could be the death knell for a roof proposal once touted as a way to attract Super Bowls and other major national events to North Jersey. The analysis was first commissioned last year, even though Governor Corzine backed off his push for a retractable roof in March 2006.” (Brennan, Bergen Record)



“A New Jersey lawmaker wants the state attorney general to investigate allegations pit bulls from New Jersey were used in dogfights involving the kennel allegedly run by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen on Monday asked Attorney General Anne Milgram to look into allegations outlined in the indictment against Vick and three associates, who were charged last week with running a dogfighting ring from a Virginia property owned by Vick.

"Such an investigation is highly relevant given the apparent nexus between the Virginia matter and dogfighting in our state," said Cohen, D-Union.

Milgram spokesman David Wald said the office would not comment Monday on Cohen's request.” (Hester, AP)



New Jersey motorists would say farewell to front license plates under a proposal from a key state lawmaker.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Parlin, said Monday he would introduce legislation in the fall that would require only a rear license plate.

"New Jersey is one of the few states that require tags in the front and back" of vehicles said Wisniewski, who chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Wisniewski said it makes sense to reduce license plate production costs and questioned whether front license plates currently serve any real purpose. He said rear license plates are responsible for "99 percent" of motor vehicle stops and vehicular identifications made by police……………

The president of the New Jersey Police Traffic Officers Association disputed Wisniewski's assertion — which the lawmaker attributed to law enforcement — that front license plates serve little purpose.

"I'm really opposed to it. He didn't talk to me about it," Washington Township (Bergen County) Police Chief William Cicchetti said, adding that officers at Click it or Ticket checkpoints look at front license plates.

"At a Click it or Ticket stop, they pull cars over," countered Wisniewski. "They can't walk around to the end of the car?” (Jennings, Daily Record)



“Businesses and individuals seeking to help revitalize Newark will have a way to contribute funds through a single, centralized charitable foundation dedicated to funding worthy causes in the state's largest city.

Community leaders are expected today to announce the launch of the Newark Community Foundation, the first citywide organization dedicated to collecting donations, managing endowments, and distributing scholarships and grants to arts, recreation and economic development.

The foundation will make it easier not only for corporations, which have historically donated to city causes, but also for families and businesses interested in giving back to Newark, said Hans Dekker, director of Community Foundation of New Jersey. The Newark foundation is an off-shoot of the state group.

So far, the foundation has received commitments of more than $8 million in seed money, which will grow as some of the contributions are invested and as more donors contribute, Dekker said.” (Addison, Star-Ledger)



As the former soldiers left a Department of Veterans Affairs sign-up drive in Vineland, Lou Green looked at the many rejected applications. “You claimed your house?” he asked one man. “If you claim your house, of course you’re going to be rejected.”

Green questioned others, finding out they had missed deductions or other things that would have helped them make the cut. One man had three heart attacks, but put his expenses down as $5,000. It was supposed to be $15,000.

The problems are common, Green said. It’s what has pushed the Korean War-era vet to work as a veterans advocate.

“Even officers from the VA don’t guide the application process,” he said. That’s where Green comes in.” (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)



“Linden's infamous Cadillac Deville is on the road again. The ostentatious black sedan, used by the city's former mayor until his defeat at the polls last fall, was privately sold Friday by a local car dealer who had purchased the Cadillac at public auction last month. Yesterday, the owner of C&J Auto Center of Linden said he will make good on a promise to donate some of the proceeds to the Linden Emergency Medical Services.

"We got $19,000 for the car, and we'll be giving $2,000 of it to the EMS this week. I was on the phone with them today," said Charles Pantano of C&J.

The buyer, he said, was Charles Mitchell of Roselle, an Essex County sheriff's officer who is mak ing an independent run for Union County sheriff this fall.

"I had no idea about the history of the car until after I bought it," he said last night. "I bought it be cause it's a nice car. I rides like a dream. … I think I got a good deal, and I think it's really wonderful the EMS is getting something."

Purchased in 2003 with $56,000 in tax dollars, the gas-guzzler was used exclusively by Mayor John T. Gregorio, the Democratic icon whose grip on city politics lasted nearly 30 years. While other town officials drove Fords and Chevys, the mayor's Cadillac stood out and figured prominently in independent Richard Gerbounka's successful campaign to unseat him last year.

The new mayor refused to drive the sedan when he took office.” (Murray, Star-Ledger)



“The Warren County freeholder board wants to know if residents feel they need more representation at the county level.

The board will hold a public hearing tomorrow on a possible ballot question that would expand the board from three to five members. Warren County is the only three-member board left in the state.

The board has varying views on expansion but the members have all said the people should decide. Freeholder John DiMaio introduced the resolution to hold the hearing at the board's last meeting on July 11.

DiMaio has been an advocate of a five-member board for years. In 2001, DiMaio and then-freeholder Assemblyman Mike Doherty (R-Warren) voted to put the question on the ballot. Voters rejected the measure by 290 votes. ” (Satullo, Express-Times)



“Mayor Bernie Platt and the township council endorsed an ordinance Monday that would prohibit Cherry Hill elected officials from participating in pay-to-play politics.

The endorsement came after months of delay.

The governing body also stated it will conduct a public hearing and final vote on the ordinance at a special meeting Aug. 3.

The abrupt announcement came on the same day Township Clerk Nancy Saffos publicly advised the council that a citizens group had collected enough registered voter signatures to put a pay-to-play reform ordinance on the ballot in November. The Cherry Hill Pay-to-Play Reform Committee submitted more than 2,600 signatures to the clerk's office July 2. It needed exactly 2,397 to be certified as valid for the ordinance to make the ballot.” (Grzyboski, Courier-Post)



“The battle between the school district and a student who was allegedly strip-searched during a school trip has yet to be settled.

Despite statements in June by both sides that they wanted a quick, out-of-court settlement, there is no deal on the table.

In June, Alfred Abate, 19, who allegedly was searched during a senior school trip to Disney World in April, filed an intent to sue notice against the Paulsboro School Board. The student is asking $250,000 in damages.” (Davies, Courier-Post)



“First it was mail.

Then an online forum.

Now a former borough councilman has taken his fight against council spending to

Dale Parichuk's new MySpace site is for a group called the Washington Borough Property Owners Alliance, and its aim is to keep taxes down.

The group was formed in 2002 to fight a property maintenance code and has reignited this year over new issues: a new public works garage, pool renovations and a tax abatement deal for a downtown developer.

"Under this regime, we're just spending too much money," Parichuk, who served on council from 1996 to 2000, said Monday. "The tax increase was totally wrong as far as I am concerned.” (Olanoff, Express-Times)



“An outspoken member of the Monroe school board discovered that a swastika had been drawn in mustard on her minivan while it was parked in front of her house on Briggs Avenue after a board meet ing last week.

The Monroe police department is investigating the vandalism as a bias incident because the board member, Rita Ostrager, is Jewish, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office bias crime unit has been notified, authorities said. Ostrager also said her van was keyed.

Ostrager said she believes she was targeted because she speaks her mind at board of education meetings, including Wednesday night's session — the same night her car was vandalized.

Also that night, Brian Hackett, a resident who has spoken in support of Ostrager, had his car smeared with ketchup, mustard and petroleum jelly.

"I'm the only one who speaks up. I've been trying to get the information to the public. The board and the administration don't like this," Ostrager said yesterday. "They're trying to limit the flow of information, but I'm not going to back down.” (Hayslett, Star-Ledger)



“Amid public concerns that the Trenton school district is too "top heavy," city school board members approved the creation of three high-level administrative positions yesterday.

The board's vote comes only a year after members voted to eliminate three positions of assistant superintendents in an effort to ease the budget crunch for the 2006-07 school year.

During an hour-long meeting, board members approved the hiring of two area assistant superintendents and a special assistant to aid Superintendent Rodney Lofton.

The two area assistant superintendents will be paid anywhere from $120,000 to $140,000 annually. The salary range for the special assistant to the superintendent will be from $90,000 to $110,000 a year………….

"Years ago we were talking about downsizing. I'm concerned about this change," said Tom Moore, president of the Trenton Education Association, while addressing the school board.” (Colon, Star-Ledger)



“Phillipsburg school board member Stanley Hughes on Monday announced that he will step down from the board.

Hughes has been a member since 1999 but said he hasn't been comfortable with the board for the past year and a half. His resignation is effective July 31.

"We're not doing enough for education," Hughes said during a break in Monday night's meeting.

Hughes, 79, said he thinks there has been too much "outside interference," such as town council's work with the district budget. Council recommended the district make personnel changes and cut the size of its administration.” (Eilenberger, Express-Times)



“Despite a last-minute effort by Councilman Charles Morgan to throw a curveball at the approval of the professional services agreement for the township attorney, the council last night voted 4-1 to approve the contract and ignore a 14-page memorandum Morgan distributed at the meeting.

Morgan cast the only no vote against township attorney Michael Herbert Sr. following a 40-minute executive session prompted by Herbert's objection to the memorandum, which he categorized as defamatory.” (Persico, Trenton Times)


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