Today’s news from

Jon Corzine takes a mystery vacation, Anne Milgram institutes new policy forcing police to notify ICE if they arrest illegal immigrants for serious crimes, Sharpe James scraps expensive attorney, Clean Elections candidates get $3.5 million, Gov. Corzine hints at need for monetization.


“Gov. Jon Corzine left on an eight-day vacation late yesterday — to an undisclosed location.

His destination was so secret, the governor himself claimed to have no idea where he was headed.

"I don't know yet," Corzine said when asked by a reporter where he would be spending his time off. "My friend (girlfriend Sharon Elg hanayan, aides later explained) is going to surprise me. … Just going to get on a plane and go."

Coley did concede Corzine was not headed down the Shore. He also said Corzine would be out of state, and not so near as the Hamptons, where Elghanayan has a beach house and Corzine has spent weekends this summer.

The governor is not required by law to disclose his vacation plans, but public curiosity often makes it advisable to do so. ” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)



“Police in New Jersey are now under orders to ask suspects they arrest for serious crimes or drunken driving this question: Are you here legally?

Setting a statewide policy where none existed, Attorney General Anne Milgram yesterday made immigration checks a routine part of police procedure, requiring state and local officers to notify federal authorities when they have reason to believe a suspect is in the country illegally.

At the same time, the attorney general prohibited officers from inquiring about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or persons reporting a crime, so that unauthorized immigrants can come forward without fear of deportation.

The orders, which take effect immediately, come as questions continue to mount over the handling of a suspect in the recent killings of three college students in a Newark schoolyard. One of the chief suspects, Jose Lachira Carranza, was an illegal immigrant from Peru who was out on bail awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and child rape…………

The order drew praise from county and local police departments, although groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey cautioned that it could lead to abuse by local officers.

"There needs to be more training with regard to this and other related issues to ensure it doesn't go down a path of enforcing federal immigration policy or racial profiling," said Charles "Shai" Goldstein, executive director of the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network.

Milgram said the state will monitor departments periodically to insure compliance and issue an annual report on how often notifications are made. She stressed that officers are prohibited from racial profiling — treating suspects differently based on their ethnicity.

The attorney general yesterday also set limits on participation of state, county and local officers in a controversial program run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that deputizes police to enforce immigration laws. Milgram said officers can only act as federal deputies once an arrest has been made and cannot patrol towns simply to find illegal immigrants. ” (Hepp and Donohue, Star-Ledger)

“Under the new rules, when a person is arrested for a serious crime, including driving while intoxicated, local police "shall inquire about the person's citizenship, nationality and immigration status."

Under the old system, it was a discretionary call, with some local departments making those inquiries and some not.

Now, if an arresting officer has reason to believe the person is not legally in the United States "he shall, during the booking process," notify agents of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency known as ICE. They in turn could take action to further detain the suspect pending a deportation hearing…………

Milgram and U.S. Attorney Chris Christie acknowledged that the new policy would bring up the issue of housing more prisoners, as it has elsewhere. Christie noted there is no federal detention facility for illegal immigrants in New Jersey, so they will have to be housed in local jails on a contractual basis.” (Matza, Philadelphia Inquirer)

On the one hand, Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark has repeatedly said that he opposes the notion of involving city police in immigration matters, and Paula T. Dow, the Essex County prosecutor — whose office was one of several that did not check Mr. Carranza’s immigration status — was even more pointed, saying her policy was to notify immigration officials only upon conviction.

On the other hand, a growing chorus of officials — including the State Senate president, Richard J. Codey, a Democrat, and Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, the Republican minority leader — have recently urged the state to adopt a tougher stance. And on Monday, Representative Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado who is running for president on a conservative immigration platform, accused Newark officials of being complicit in the murders because of their lax approach.



“A federal judge yesterday allowed a law firm representing former Newark Mayor Sharpe James against corruption charges to drop out of the case after James claimed he didn't have the money to pay them.

Within hours, James retained another high-powered attorney to replace the firm and join his legal team as he fends off charges that he billed the city for lavish vacations and personal expenses and steered lucrative city land deals to a female companion.

Earlier this week, Raymond M. Brown of Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis filed a motion stating that James had informed the firm that he didn't have the "personal funds" to meet its projected budget for a trial. The trial, scheduled for Feb. 4, could last up to three months and include 8,000 documents and 60 witnesses.

Federal prosecutors said they were prepared to prove their case against any attorneys James chose and didn't object to the firm's request to be relieved. U.S. District Judge William Martini granted the motion without debate during a hearing in Newark.

"In all cases, there is a huge disparity between the government's resources and those of private individuals," Brown told reporters afterward. He declined to say how much the firm had planned to bill James for the trial………………

The two prominent criminal defense attorneys who will represent James — Thomas Ashley and Alan Zegas — declined to answer reporters' questions about how much they are charging him. Ashley previously had represented the former mayor; Zegas notified the court late yesterday afternoon that he was joining Ashley as the new co-counsel.

Ashley's representation of James had previously caused a controversy that Martini resolved yesterday, rejecting a move by prosecutors to knock Ashley off the case over potential conflict. Zegas represented Ashley in that dispute.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Germano argued that Ashley should be disqualified because he represented two other witnesses in the case during grand jury proceedings…………..

The two witnesses appeared in court to waive any potential conflict of interest and the attorney client-privilege they had with Ashley. The witnesses, real estate attorney Rachel Marshall and Newark activist Frederica Bey, who is also a real estate broker, retained new attorneys.

Martini was satisfied with those changes. He also said he found it "extremely unlikely" that prosecutors would actually call Ashley as a witness at trial and that other people could testify that James was in Martha's Vineyard for the trip.

"They were there together, but so what?" Martini said. He said there was no evidence that Ashley knew how James was paying for the trip or whether he was conducting any city business in Martha's Vineyard. ” (Whelan, Star-Ledger)



“Candidates participating in an experimental "clean elections" program have received $3,567,832 in state funding so far, the state Election Law Enforcement Commission announced yesterday.

The breakdown of funding, posted at the program's Web site (, also confirmed what party leaders had said Friday: 15 of the 20 eligible candidates have raised the 400 contributions of $10 each needed to be certified as "clean."

Under the law establishing the pilot program, that officially makes it a "success" that will be expanded in future elections. Candi dates who participate are prohibited from accepting contributions from the political action commit tees, unions, corporations and party organizations that provide two-thirds of the funding to the typical legislative campaign.

The program is being tried this year in three of the state's 40 legislative districts, each of which will elect one senator and two Assembly members in November. Most of the money — $3,072,987 — has gone to the 14th District, the only one of the three deemed competitive. It encompasses parts of Middlesex and Mercer counties. Five of the six major party candidates have already gotten the maximum public funding of $526,375 each by raising 800 contributions of $10.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)



“Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday christened the rebuilt Catto Elementary School in Camden — the first new school that impoverished city has seen in 15 years — but warned that similar projects in other blighted urban areas depend on the state coming up with money for them, probably through toll hikes.

Catto is a "demonstration project" combining construction of a new school with redevelopment of a distressed inner-city neighborhood……………..

But the governor also noted the $78 million project was "a big investment" given the state's limited resources.

"I don't want to promise something we can't deliver; we have to get the resources to do that," Corzine said. "Every once in a while your governor might come up with an idea that sounds like something you might not want to buy into in the first instance, but if you want schools and if you want safe streets and you want your highways and your sewers and the other things that make quality of life worth it, you have to think about how we go about making sure we have the resources."

It was a clear reference to his as-yet-undisclosed plan to cash in on future highway toll increases.

Republicans have criticized the governor for putting off discussion of his plans for the New Jersey Turnpike and other toll roads until after the legislative elections this year.

"It is deeply disturbing to me that after spending more than $4.5 million on studies … the administration still insists on keeping the public in the dark," state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) said.

Corzine told reporters after the school-dedication ceremony that he hopes to unveil his plan by the end of the year. ” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)



“Three Ocean County Republican lawmakers want to eliminate 13,000 jobs in the state's Democratic executive branch, instead of considering Gov. Jon Corzine's still secret plan to wring cash from the state's toll roads.

The trio wants to cut back the executive branch to the number of employees it had in 2000 by attrition over four years, a move they say will save $1 billion a year.

Sen. Leonard T. Connors and Assemblymen Brian Rumpf and Christopher J. Connors, all R-Ocean, are offering the job cuts as an alternative to Corzine's plan to monetize the toll roads.

The 9th District lawmakers wrote only to the 33 Ocean County mayors, seeking backing for their plan, which they say it would "downsize our state's enormous and costly bureaucracy."

The lawmakers say people are "leaving New Jersey in droves" because of soaring property taxes.

The predicted the "mass migration" will increase if their plan is not adopted, or if the toll roads are mortgaged to higher tolls on the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, and Atlantic City Expressway.” (Bennett, Asbury Park Press)


“New Jersey will have three governors in the coming week, and no one had to resign or go to the hospital to set the state's gubernatorial merry-go-round into motion.

Gov. Corzine was scheduled to leave Wednesday evening, Aug. 22, for a week of vacation, , spokesman Anthony Coley said. Corzine declined to specify where he was going.

The state Constitution calls for the Senate president to be acting governor when the governor is out of the state, followed by the Assembly speaker if the Senate president is also absent.

Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, was to be the governor from Wednesday evening until Thursday morning, when he was scheduled to leave the state for a few days, said his spokeswoman, Jennifer Sciortino.

Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden, was to take over from Thursday morning until Sunday morning, Coley said. Codey will resume the duties from Sunday morning until Corzine returns on Aug. 30………….

The order of succession will change after New Jersey gets its first lieutenant governor in January 2010.” (AP)



“Revelations that federal authorities have three separate probes under way in the city of Linden have left some local officials speechless — on the advice of their attorney.

The city council, at its first public meeting since subpoenas landed on City Hall desktops earlier this month, announced Tuesday that it will not discuss the FBI's arrest two weeks ago of building code inspector Matthew Valvano.

Citing the advice of city lawyers, the council also cut off questions raised by a resident about a separate federal probe into operations at Linden's Neighborhood Preservation Association.

"I want it to be clear that there will be a full and fair opportunity for the public to be apprised of everything, and if the city council is required to take any action down the road, the public will be informed," said City Counsel Edward Kologi yesterday………….

The focus of the Valvano case has been laid out in federal documents. The 49-year-old city resident was accused of accepting $10,500 in bribes from a contractor in exchange for favorable inspections and fast-tracked permits, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Aug. 9 in federal District Court in Newark. …………

City officials contend they know far less about what is being probed at the Neighborhood Preservation Association — which issues federal funds to repair homes for low- and moderate-income families. The city received a subpoena on Aug. 2 to turn over everything from the finances and operations of the program to the telephone records and e-mail exchanges.” (Murray, Star-Ledger)



“It will soon be back-to-school time for kids and teachers.

It's also Back To Bombardment Time for New Jersey voters.

Over the next 2½ months, you will face an onslaught of campaign slogans, hysterical attack ads and Orwellian buzzwords. The reason: All 120 seats in the state Legislature are up for grabs…………..

First up, a look at how both parties are framing the debate on property tax relief and reform:

"We have approved the largest amount of property tax relief in history."

This message will be the centerpiece of Democrats' quest to retain majority control. It's a technically accurate claim that glosses over some inconvenient facts and omits any mention of last year's failed crusade to fix the state's property tax woes……………….

Most of this "relief" is actually state aid for schools, municipalities and other mandated programs, all required under state law. The "relief" also includes nearly $4.4 billion in court-ordered aid for the poorest school districts. On top of that is this year's $2.2 billion rebate program.

Rebates do nothing to halt the annual rise in property tax rates, but lawmakers hatch schemes every year to pay for them — including tax hikes on the wealthy (in 2004) and a boost in the sales tax for everybody (2006). Ironically, school and municipal aid has been cut in recent years to help subsidize the checks.” (Stile, Bergen Record)



“After a meeting last night between newly-elected Bergen County GOP Chairman Rob Ortiz and his party’s slate of freeholder candidates, both sides say they’ve got a strategy in place to run a shoe-string campaign.

Just what that strategy is, of course, they would not say.

Over the past week, there has been some speculation of a split between Ortiz and the freeholder candidates.

While acknowledging that the local GOP was in dire financial straits, sources said that the freeholder candidates — Paul Duggan, Charles Kahwaty and Bob Yudin — were upset that Ortiz, who ran for the position largely on his fundraising credentials, would not be providing them with any significant funding………….

But after last night’s meeting, which was also attended by Sheriff candidate Harry Shortway and state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, the freeholder candidates seemed pacified.

“There’s no magic bullet. Nobody’s going to be there with a magic wand,” said Duggan. (Friedman,



“District 12 Republicans want 12 debates against their Democratic opponents, but they’re not likely to get all of them.

Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck and her running mates Declan O’Scanlon and Caroline Casagrande sent a letter last week to their Democratic opponents challenging them to debates in 12 different parts of the district. After not receiving a response from their opponents’ campaign, they followed up with another press release today.

“So far we are being ignored in our requests for debates. We hope that their silence will not be a trend throughout until Election Day,” said O’Scanlon, who’s running for Assembly……………

Karcher campaign manager Mike Premo would not agree to sign his candidate up for all 12 of the debates, but said he already has three scheduled through non-partisan groups and that Karcher would be happy to participate in more. Premo scoffed at the implication that Karcher did not respond to the letter because she was afraid to debate.

“It’s been a whole week and they haven’t had a response from us. Well, we’ve already committed to these three. I thought that kind of spoke for itself,” said Premo. “If they want to send out press releases, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean we’re going to stop and respond to every one.”” (Friedman,



“In exchange for their help in securing truck sales and contracts for his company, Matthew Appolonia periodically bribed three Monmouth County officials and three others in Shore area municipal governments, he acknowledged in federal court Wednesday.

Appolonia, co-owner of Howell-based International Trucks of Central Jersey, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini. He faces between 37 and 46 months in prison when sentenced in December.

Appolonia, his brother, Stephen, and a company salesman were indicted in February 2006 on bribery charges. Federal charges against Stephen Appolonia, another part-owner of International Trucks who also was charged with money laundering, are pending. The salesman, Robert Feldman, pleaded guilty to mail fraud. The company specializes in sales of trucks to municipalities and counties throughout the state.” (Sudol, Asbury Park Press)



“The end may be near for the immigration laws that turned little Riverside Township into one of the nation's unfriendliest zip codes for illegal immigrants.

In a move yesterday that came as a surprise to residents who have seen the Burlington County town's longtime Brazilian residents leave en masse, officials announced they will move tonight to repeal the ordinances that sought to penalize employers and landlords for hiring and housing illegal immigrants.

The move comes a month after a federal judge in Pennsylvania struck down a similar but harsher law enacted by Hazleton, a coal-mining community near the Poconos.

Riverside passed its law 12 days after Hazleton's made national headlines.

The motivation behind Riverside's about-face was unclear. The announcement was made public with none of the fanfare or outrage that turned the community into the subject of heated national debate and street demonstrations a year ago.

Officials published their intentions in an inch-high public-meeting notice in a local newspaper.

But local residents, who were caught off-guard by the news, said it seemed inevitable. ” (Panaritis and Wood, Philadelphia Inqiurer)



One day — maybe one day soon — democracy in New Jersey might look something like this:

Anyone with an Internet connection goes to his hometown Web site and (click) views the police report on the burglary that happened down the street.

And then (click) scans health-inspection reports for their favorite supermarket and restaurant.

And then (click) finds the municipal budget, and (click) sees who in the neighborhood wants to build a McMansion and (click) even learns how much town employees make.

Sound a little far-fetched? Maybe not.

A bill introduced in the state Legislature this year would change the way citizens interact with government by requiring towns, school districts and other taxpayer-funded agencies to put a potentially vast trove of public records and reports on the Internet.

The brainchild of an Atlantic County assemblyman, the bill could make available, at the click of a mouse, everything from dog licenses to restaurant inspections to municipal payrolls and budgets — all in the name of greater citizen access to the workings of government.” (Sheingold, Bergen Record)



“The leader of the New Jersey Senate called on New York yesterday to find a seat on its 17-member congestion pricing commission for a representative from New Jersey.

Senate President Richard J. Codey said 250,000 New Jersey commuters a day would be affected if New York approves congestion pricing.

"This is a collective failure on the part of New York's leadership to recognize New Jersey's important role in this decision-making process," he said. "The stakes involved in this process are far too important to be governed by purely parochial political considerations."

Codey yesterday called on New York officials to reconsider the appointments. ”…………..

"If you're thinking about the regional impact of this, New Jersey should have some say," said Jeffrey Zuppan, senior fellow for transportation at the Regional Plan Association, an independent group. "But the reality is officials in New York are probably not going to think about changing this intricately constructed compromise." (Feeney, Star-Ledger)



“Gov. Jon Corzine tapped experts from some of Wall Street's most prominent firms yesterday to oversee the $82billion fund that bankrolls pension payments for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey teachers and government workers.

Senior officers from JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, whose résumés include stints at Bear Stearns, Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley, are among the four new appointments Corzine announced to the State Investment Council.

The new members will serve on the council on an interim basis pending confirmation hearings be fore the state Senate later this year.

The four appointments serve to replace three departing council members and to occupy a new seat created through a recent restructuring of the council.

The appointees are: W. Montgomery Cerf, Montclair, managing director and senior banker at JP Morgan. Jose R. Claxton, Summit, director of sales and client service for Latigo Partners, LP, a hedge fund. Erika Irish Brown, Teaneck, senior vice president, head of diversity lateral recruiting at Lehman Brothers. James C. Kellogg, Bay Head, president of the J.C. Kellogg Foundation” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)



“Warren County landfill board members likened an audit of their former chief financial officer to the reviewing of a cashier's drawer at the end of a shift. While stopping short of alleging the drawer was missing money, they do say it could have been much better organized.

N. Angelo Accetturo, who chairs the Pollution Control Financing Authority of Warren County, said an independent accountant's report shows "several questionable past practices."

"Some of the areas of concern are missing financial records, a regular practice of awarding financial bids without seeking competitive quotes and payment to prior commissioners for unnecessary travel costs without adequate documentation," said Accetturo, speaking for the board.

The report, released during a special meeting yesterday, turns the tables on former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Long, who earlier this year accused Accetturo and board member Laurel Napolitani of bid-rigging by depositing $1 million of landfill funds into a bank where fellow board member and Warren County Freeholder Everett A. Chamberlain serves as a director.” (Frassinelli, Star-Ledger)



“This fall's incoming high school freshmen were to face a daunting challenge — if they couldn't pass the state's High School Proficiency Assessment, they wouldn't graduate.

No excuses, no safety net.

That hadn't been the case for nearly 20 years. A controversial Special Review Assessment had allowed an alternative to the dreaded test, but critics considered that program less rigorous and much abused. It was slated for elimination.

Now, state officials and others are hedging a bit with the release of yet another report on the potential impact of eliminating the SRA.

State Board of Education president Ronald Butcher said yesterday the board is leaning toward "major revisions" of SRA that would still leave a safety net to thousands of students failing the standard high school test each year.

"You can't just come in and say to kids, 'There is one shot; take it or leave it,'" Butcher said. "There have to be alternatives."” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)



“New Jersey's Department of Children and Families joined the modern computer age Wednesday — two years late and nearly $44 million over budget — by launching a statewide system to track families under its watch.

Officials say the computer system should help caseworkers keep better tabs on children under state supervision. It's designed to prevent another tragedy like that of Faheem Williams, whose death four years ago prompted a massive overhaul of children's welfare services in New Jersey. DYFS workers had lost track of Faheem and his brothers after 11 complaints over more than a decade.

"It's bringing the Division of Youth and Family Services into the 21st century like the rest of us already have been for a while," said Susan Lambiase, the lead attorney for New York-based Children's Rights, the child-advocacy group that filed a class-action lawsuit against New Jersey in 1999 on behalf of foster children.” (Lu, Bergen Record)



At one Passaic County gas station, a 12-year-old sometimes mans the cash register. He's the operator's son, and he often accompanies his father to work on summers and weekends – his dad's way of teaching him about responsibility and the value of hard work. The boy isn't allowed to pump gas or sell cigarettes, his father says, and he often simply plays with his 5-year-old brother.

No big deal, right?

Think again.

“New Jersey law prohibits children younger than 14 from performing many jobs — even if the employer is Mom or Dad. Exceptions to the no-work law are at-home jobs, agricultural pursuits (such as farms), newspaper carriers or acting.” (Shapiro, Herald News)



“Veteran Ocean County reporter Sam A. Christopher remained at a Neptune hospital following an Aug. 18 car crash near FirstEnergy Park.

Christopher, 79, of Lakewood, suffered multiple leg and internal injuries in the crash, Sgt. Frank Work said…………….

In 1947, Christopher became the first Asbury Park Press reporter to work in Ocean County, filing stories via teletype from a desk in the county courthouse in Toms River. His career in journalism began when he was a Lakewood High School student, filing sports stories for the Lakewood Daily Times.

He later owned and operated the Daily Times from 1956 until 1976, when it was sold to the Ocean County Observer. He continued to work for the Observer as a full-time reporter for more than two decades, and still writes his weekly "Times Talk" column, as well as military and business features.” (Pais, Asbury Park Press)



“Committeeman Greg Blaszka says he's always acted in the best interest of the community and, despite a state ethics violation, won't give up his seat early.

During a committee meeting last week, resident Pete Grenyo said one violation for a public official is too many and called for his resignation.

A state board decided Blaszka should not have participated in discussions about or voted to reinstate a defeated school budget last year because his wife was a nonunion employee of the district.

"Decisions I've had to make over the last six years, I'm confident that I'm making them to the benefit of the residents," Blaszka said Wednesday. ”(Eilenberger, Express-Times)



“Democrats will skip an annual candidates forum this fall hosted by the Belmar Homeowners Association, with one councilman calling the organization's leadership "clearly partisan."

Instead, Democrats have asked The Coast Star, a weekly newspaper, and the League of Women Voters to host and moderate a debate Oct. 22 at Taylor Pavilion, one day before the association is scheduled to host its forum there.

"We think this clandestine action is underhanded and unprincipled," the association said in a written statement Wednesday. "When Lord Acton said, "Absolute power corrupts,' he was making an observation that a person's sense of morality lessens as his power increases. We think it has in this case."

Democratic Councilman Matthew J. Doherty, whom the association has described as Mayor Kenneth E. Pringle's "pit bull," said he is behind his party's decision to cut ties with the forum, which first began when the debates started in 2004.” (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)



“Cumberland County Surrogate Arthur Marchand and County Sheriff Michael Barruzza have agreed to give back a portion of their 2008 raises to satisfy concerns from the freeholder board about their salaries.

The two officials will forgo $1,774 from the minimum salary of $96,850 the freeholders are required to pay them under state law for the 2008 fiscal year.

County Clerk Gloria Noto did not join Barruzza and Marchand in returning a portion of her raise.

Marchand said he made his decision to take politics out of the situation.

"When someone talks about me, I want it to be associated with the surrogate's office," he said. "I don't want it to be associated with salary."

The state required the salaries of the three constitutional officers — the clerk, surrogate and sheriff — be 65 percent of the salaries of Superior Court judges under a 2002 bill, which at the time meant a raise of nearly $30,000.

A 5.7 percent raise in the 2008 state budget means the judges now earn $149,000, and for the first time since 2002, the officers are entitled to another raise.” (Landau, Daily Journal)



“CHERRY HILL — Jim Fifis, who rose from a dishwasher's job to oversee one of South Jersey's best-known restaurants, has died. Mr. Fifis, 68, was a partner with his three sons at Ponzio's in Cherry Hill.

He died of natural causes Wednesday………….

The Cherry Hill resident represented a generation of "Greek pioneers" who came to America to provide a better life for their families, said his son, Christopher Fifis of Lumberton.” (Courier-Post)



Today’s news from