Chris Christie lays out charges against 11 public officials, few public appeals for resignations about Assemblymen but lots of talk behind the scenes, Democrats will likely revisit dual office-holding ban to strike grandfather clause.
“In a sweeping corruption scandal stretching from a small South Jersey school district to the corridors of power in the state's northern cities, federal agents charged 11 public officials yesterday with taking bribes in exchange for help securing public contracts.
The arrests, carried out yesterday morning, followed an 18-month FBI probe that penetrated almost every layer of government.
Among those charged were state assemblymen, mayors, city council members, school board members and the chief of staff for Newark's city council president. A 12th defendant, a private individual, allegedly collected payments for one of the politicians.
"Today we witnessed another example of the disease that affects the state of New Jersey: the disease of public corruption," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said.
Beginning in the Atlantic County community of Pleasantville, just west of Atlantic City, FBI agents were "taken on a corruption tour of New Jersey," Christie said, "almost as if there is a corrupt-public-officials underground."
The defendants include the mayors of two cities: Mims Hackett Jr., 65, of Orange and Samuel "Sammy" Rivera, 60, of Passaic. Hackett is also one of two state assemblymen who were arrested. The Rev. Alfred E. Steele, 53, is the Assembly's deputy speaker and, until resigning under pressure yesterday, was a Passaic County undersheriff………….
The 12 defendants — all wearing handcuffs, some in leg shackles — appeared briefly yesterday afternoon in federal court in Trenton before their release on $200,000 unsecured bond, which must be paid only if they miss a court appearance……….
Nearly all declined comment, scurrying away from the courthouse as reporters swarmed them. Rivera, the Passaic mayor, paused long enough for one sentence.
"I'll have my day in court," he said. ……….
The elected officials gave no immediate indication they would resign their posts. Democratic Party officials in Essex and Passaic counties, however, said party leaders expected both assemblymen to leave office before their terms are up. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the behind-the-scenes maneuvering……….
Hundreds of the encounters were either audiotaped or videotaped, and the complaints contain snippets of what appears to be incriminating conversation.
"We either gonna get this job together or go to jail together," Jayson Adams, 27, a former Pleasantville school board president, is quoted as saying after allegedly accepting $15,000 in payments. ” (Whelan and Mueller, Star-Ledger)
NOT A HEROIC PORTRAIT
“The ironic presence of a framed portrait of Washington crossing the Delaware was not lost on two courtroom artists crouched over their easel with erasers and pastels Thursday. In their rendering, they took some license in centering the framed and famed heroic portrait of 12 men braving the elements over the heads of the 12 men in the docket, who crowded together, resembled another band of ragtag shipmates.
The trouble was they weren’t crossing the Delaware, but stranded this side of the river in handcuffs and leg-irons in Trenton’s Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building, in the uncomfortable position of fighting off U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.
Magistrate Judge Tonianne Bongiovanni acknowledged the charges of either conspiracy to extort corrupt payments or attempting to extort corrupt payments that Christie’s office brought against the men – 11 of them elected or former elected officials from Pleasantville to Passaic, among them dual-officeholder Mims Hackett, an Assemblyman and the Mayor of Orange, Assembly Deputy Speaker (and Passaic County Undersheriff) Alfred Steele, and Passaic Mayor Sammy Rivera.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
FEW PUBLIC CALLS FOR RESIGNATIONS SO FAR
“New Jersey’s legislative leadership expressed frustration with the arrests of Assemblymen Alfred Steele and Mims Hackett, but Senate President Richard Codey, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce stopped short of calling for the resignations of the two legislators accused of accepting bribes.
ut several legislators, including State Sen. Ellen Karcher, Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, and Assemblyman Michael Panter — all Democrats — said that Steele and Hackett should resign.
Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nellie Pou, who is Steele’s running mate in the 35th district, talked of ethics reform but stopped short of commenting on Steele specifically.
“I was shocked, saddened and troubled by today's news involving Assemblyman Steele,” Pou said. “I believe all public officials should and must be held to the highest ethical standards. The public deserves no less. I will not be making any further comment until I have an opportunity to speak directly with Assemblyman Steele.”
Roberts said that he was “absolutely sickened by today's news involving the arrests of two Assembly members,” and called the charges against Steele and Hackett “extremely serious.” But the Speaker said he would wait to speak with the Democratic Assemblyman before making further comment.
Codey, who is Hackett’s running mate, acknowledged the “serious, serious allegations,” made by federal prosecutors today, but said that he wanted to let the legal process play out.” (Editor, PoliticsNJ.com)
“At the Statehouse, Assemblyman Alfred Steele may be best known for stepping in to deliver the invocation before late-night budget sessions.
Yesterday Steele — an ordained minister who prefers the title "Reverend" over "Assemblyman" — was among 11 public officials arrested in the FBI's corruption sting.
"It caught everyone by surprise," Democratic Party spokesman Richard McGrath said.
Neither (Alfred) Steele (D-Passaic) nor Assemblyman Mims Hackett (D-Essex), who also was arrested, is a heavy hitter in Trenton. Hackett chairs the State Government Committee, which handles ethics legislation. Steele holds the ceremonial title of deputy speaker and is widely regarded as one of the Legislature's nice guys.
Neither lawmaker would comment yesterday, and there was no immediate word on whether they would remain in the Assembly and continue their re-election campaigns. However, at least one party official in each of Essex and Passaic counties said Democratic leaders were expecting both to resign. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
Both Assembly seats are in heavily Democratic districts, and there is little chance of the party losing them. But the arrests further tarnished the reputation of the party in power in New Jersey and provided yet another opening for Republicans to pummel the opposition in the weeks leading up to Election Day.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
STEELE AND HACKETT
In the ethically murky realm of New Jersey politics, where it is common practice for state lawmakers to collect multiple government paychecks, Assemblymen Alfred E. Steele and Mims Hackett Jr. are known as minor players who have refined their skills at working the system to find job opportunities for themselves and their relatives.
In addition to drawing a salary for the Assembly seat he has held since 1995, Mr. Steele is paid to be a Passaic County undersheriff (he is also a minister at Seminary Baptist Church in Paterson). Assemblyman Hackett, who draws another paycheck as mayor of Orange, is frequently cited, even by Democratic colleagues, as an example of New Jersey’s long tradition of nepotism because he has used his office to provide “stipends” to his wife, sister-in-law and at least two of six children.
Despite their reputations, Democrats and Republicans said it was surprising that Assemblymen Steele and Hackett had become the latest legislators to face corruption charges brought by the United States attorney for New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie. They are the two highest ranking of the 11 local officials arrested on Thursday, charged with taking bribes in exchange for promising municipal contracts to undercover agents posing as insurance brokers.
“These were low-key guys who spoke only when they had something to say, but generally were respectful and respected and kept out of trouble,” said Joseph Cryan, chairman of the state Democratic Committee. “Frankly it’s a real surprise that these two folks would even be alleged to be in something like this.” (Kocieniewski, New York Times)
NOW DEMS PREPARE TO REVISIT THE BRAND NEW DUAL OFFICE HOLDING BAN
“News that two of his colleagues in the Assembly – among others – had been indicted on corruption charges in federal court Thursday sounded like a leaden cymbal clash in the lead up to festivities at the Democratic State Conference at Bally’s in Atlantic City.
But State Democratic Chairman Assemblyman Joseph Cryan gave no indication he believes the party, as in the one he belongs to, shouldn’t go on, even as he acknowledged that the state needs stronger ethics reforms.
Meanwhile, a Republican outfit ridiculed for months as the most obvious institutional wreckage left over from a sagging Bush presidency, found an opening.
Cryan was grimly soldierly.
"I’m saddened and disappointed at today’s news, and I hope the people involved as they consider their future strongly consider the interests of the Democratic Party," the chairman said.
Across the aisle, Assemblyman Bill Baroni, a candidate for state Senate in the 14th District, sent up a trumpet blast for reform.
"There is no bigger crisis than what we are facing right now," said the Republican. "We need a ban on dual office holding. We need an end to wheeling. We need to ban pay-to-play."…………..
While speaking on the Assembly floor last June, Cryan questioned the legality of taking the vote away from citizens who had already selected a candidate with the knowledge that he or she was a dual office holder, favoring a grandfather clause in the Legislature, today nodded in the face of the indictments.
"The legislation we passed was different from the governor’s initial call for an all-out ban on dual office holding, and I think today’s events require that we revisit that legislation," said Cryan.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
MAYBE JUST A LITTLE HYPOCRISY IN THAT
“Alfred E. Steele, a New Jersey assemblyman and deputy speaker, was a key sponsor of ethics reform legislation last year.
The bill included a line that said that state officials or workers should not "accept any gift, favor, service or any other thing of value" that could be viewed as "influencing him in the discharge of his official duties."
On Thursday, Steele — also a Paterson pastor whom people describe as a motivator and moral beacon — was among 11 New Jersey public officials arrested on bribery charges. Charged with accepting $14,000 in bribes, Steele resigned on Thursday from his positions as the Passaic County undersheriff and chaplain, said sheriff's spokesman Bill Maer.” (Llorente, Bergen Record)
ETHICS COMMITTEE RECONSIDERS CONIGLIO COMPLAINT, WON’T DROP STACK MATTER
“The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards will revisit a complaint filed against State Sen. Joe Coniglio that they had previously dismissed.
Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan had filed a complaint to the committee earlier this year, accusing Coniglio of helping Hackensack University Medical Center, which had recently hired him as a plumbing consultant, lobby for state aid. The complaint was dismissed after Coniglio said he did not make any requests for the grants and merely voted on them.
But after Coniglio received a target letter from the US Attorney over his role in securing state grants for HUMC, GOP State Sen. Diane Allen asked the committee to take another look at the accusation. The panel met this morning and discussed a letter to the Department of Human Services that had surfaced advocating for the grants. It was signed by Coniglio and two fellow 38th district legislators: Assemblyman Bob Gordon and Assemblywoman Joan Voss.
“We’ve asked him to account for the quite clear contradiction and whether he told the committee the truth,” said State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, who sits on the panel.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
“The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards yesterday declined to dismiss an ethics complaint against Assemblyman Brian Stack, D-Union City, over a $100,000 state grant awarded to the day care center where his estranged wife, Katia, works as executive director.
A motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds Stack received no direct financial gain failed by a vote of 5-5. Instead, committee members voted unanimously to seek more information about the circumstances surrounding the grant and the potential effect it may have had on Katia Stack's salary………..
In both instances, committee members were bitterly divided, with many arguing the complaints against the two lawmakers lacked merit.
"I keep coming back to the issue that in order for there to be a violation there has to be a direct monetary gain by the member," said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, sponsor of the unsuccessful motion to dismiss the complaint against Stack. "I am unable to find a direct monetary gain for Assemblyman Stack."” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
IT COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN
“All of the sudden, the world has discovered me,” says Mark Meyerowitz, the 52-year-old West Orange Republican who is suddenly on the political radar screen following the arrest this morning of Assemblyman Mims Hackett, his opponent in the race for State Assembly.
Hackett, who is also the Mayor of Orange, was charged with taking a accepting a $5,000 bribe to deliver a town insurance contract. He was allegedly promised an addition $25,000 after the contract was approved.
If Hackett remains in the race – two influential Democratic officials said tonight that they think he needs to go – then Meyerowitz, a financial planner with little political experience, could become a first-tier challenger in the November mid-term election. In the Essex-based 27th district, where popular Senate President Richard Codey heads the ticket, suburban white independents represent the majority of voters.
He could also benefit by the independent candidacy of Edward Marable, a Democratic Councilman from Orange and a Hackett rival. Marable filed for the seat in June.
While Meyerowitz says he can sense some new energy in his campaign today, he still wants to see how the fledgling scandal plays out.
”I don’t think Senator Codey or whoever’s running this thing is going to really let him stay on the ballot,” he said.
He’s also careful not to appear gleeful over the political opportunity that comes from Hackett’s situation. ”I’m not happy about the way it comes about, nobody ever likes scandal,” said Meyerowitz, noting that he has never met Hackett.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
SHOCKWAVES IN THE SOUTH
“PLEASANTVILLE – Two area Assemblymen running for state Senate called on their arrested colleagues to resign immediately, while Atlantic County Republicans accused their Democratic opponents of funding the political organization that allegedly corrupted five Pleasantville officials arrested Thursday…………. S
tate Sen. James "Sonny" McCullough, R-Atlantic, and five other Republican candidates – County Executive Dennis Levinson, freeholder candidate John Bettis and Assembly candidates Vince Polistina and John Amodeo – all spoke at a neighborhood watch meeting in the south side section of Pleasantville and tried to link their opponents to the suspected officials.
They brought reports from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission that showed campaign contributions from Craig Callaway's political organization to Atlantic County Democrats, including $3,700 in October 2005 from Maurice Callaway, one of the five Pleasantville officials arrested, for a "vote by mail effort."………..
He said the contributions came at a time when Jim Carroll was chairman of the county Democratic Party and he moved to replace Carroll with someone who would fight the Callaway organization. Whelan noted that voter turnout in the Assembly election that year dropped from the turnout in the June primary – an indication, he said, that the Callaways gave him no help.” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)
TECHNICALLY, ARRESTED PLEASANTVILLE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS COULD STAY ON
However, state law would allow the two to continue serving the board, even after they were arrested Thursday and charged with accepting bribes in exchange for promising public service contracts from the Pleasantville School District.
New Jersey statute 2C:51-2a states that any public official convicted of a third-degree offense or higher, or convicted of an offense that "was related directly to the person's performance in, or circumstances flowing from, the specific public office, position or employment held by the person," shall forfeit that office.
But because the statute calls for a conviction, Pressley and Velez can still hold their respective offices, including approving financial decisions for the district, while the charges of corruption against them play out in federal court.
"The only other factor is public pressure," said Mike Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. "There is no legal requirement for them to step down.” (Hardie, Press of Atlantic City)
“THAT IS BAD, THAT IS REALLY BAD”
“PLEASANTVILLE – Reaction to the news that two Board of Education members and a City Councilman were among the 11 public officials across the state arrested Thursday morning on charges of corruption ranged from disappointment to anger.
Parents, employees and students condemned the alleged actions of the board as poor examples to set for a community that is often portrayed in a negative light.
(The board) should be setting standards for the younger generation," said Columbus Hitch, a school crossing guard for the district. "The younger ones follow their leadership, and they say, 'If they can get away with it, why not us?'"
"Ban them from the school (district)," said Talia Jones, also a sophomore.” (Hardie, Press of Atlantic City)
“I FIND IT FUNNY THAT THE GUY WHO WAS ALWAYS CALLING THE COPS ON US HAD THE COPS CALLED ON HIM”
“He's survived five strokes and four marriages. He named two of his sons Samuel — and both are now cops with the Passaic Police Department.
In 60 years of hard living, he's gone from professional wrestler to cop to convicted felon to mayor. Talk to the people of Passaic about their mayor, Sammy Rivera, and they will agree on one thing: He sure is colorful.
Whether he's also corrupt is about to be decided by the criminal justice system, following his arrest Thursday for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe from an insurance brokerage that actually had been set up by investigators.” (Cowan, Bergen Record)
"That's shocking, very shocking," 26-year-old Marisol Garcia said outside the municipal building on Passaic Street yesterday. "You don't expect a person like that to commit crimes. He's a human being, but being the mayor, you expect different things from him."
In addition to his get-tough-on-crime reputation, Garcia said, the mayor had worked hard to pave potholes and braved political fallout to open a center for day laborers like her Salvadoran husband.
Rivera was twice elected mayor despite admitting he helped cover up the fatal 1980 shooting of a drug dealer while serving as a police officer in Puerto Rico. The state attorney general tried to prevent him from being seated in 2001 based on that conviction but was denied by the courts.
Still, reaction to Rivera's arrest ranged from surprise to disbelief among downtown Passaic shoppers and commuters.
"He did a lot for Passaic, so that's kind of shocking for him to be arrested," said Massiel Concepcion, 18, a student at Passaic County College who attended high school with one of Rivera's children.”………….
Josh Quinones, 26, a barber who works around the corner from Rivera's home, credited the mayor with cleaning up an area park. But he complained that Rivera's use of police officers in schools took jobs from security guards. And, he said, the mayor sometimes called police on the barbers who gathered outside the shop for a smoke.
"I find it funny that the guy who was calling the cops on us had the cops called on him," Quinones said.
ORANGE WILL NOT SUFFER (ANY MORE THAN IT ALREADY HAS)
“The bribery charges against Orange Mayor Mims Hackett Jr. sent shock waves through the Essex County city yesterday and a chorus of calls for him to resign as mayor and state assemblyman.
Some council members said they were waiting to learn more about the charges and to speak to Hackett personally.
“We've got everything under control," North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason said. "The city will not suffer." Until more details become available, "we're in an holding pattern," Eason, a political ally of Hackett, said in describing how a majority of the seven-member council feels about the mayor.” (Ben Ali, Star-Ledger)
CLINTON IS STILL COMING
“U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton will visit Atlantic City today and, surprise, surprise, refrain from collecting any campaign cash during her sojourn to South Jersey.
Hit the poker tables, maybe?
Clinton, making her sixth visit as a presidential candidate to New Jersey, plans only to speak at the annual conference of the Democratic State Committee and will not raise money, according to Richard McGrath, spokesman for the state party, and Mo Ellithee, senior spokesperson for the Clinton campaign………..
Coming from New York, Clinton naturally has an opportunity to run a strong presidential bid in New Jersey, says Ross Baker, the Rutgers University professor of political science.
"She has a lot of potential strength with suburban women, women in Somerset County or West Essex and places like that, who have voted Republican in the past and might have cast votes for Christie Whitman, but find Republicans, on social issues, much too hard line," Baker said.
But Baker cautions that Clinton cannot take the Garden State primary on Feb. 5 for granted.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is generating unusually strong financial support from middle-class African Americans in New Jersey and from Democratic donors around the country, Baker explained. Obama, D-Ill., could prevail in New Jersey, despite endorsements of Clinton from Gov. Jon S. Corzine, D-N.J., and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.” Cahir, Gloucester County Times)
“IT’S LIKE CATCHING SALMON IN THE NORTHWEST DURING MATING SEASON”
“IT'S LIKE CATCHING salmon in the Northwest during mating season. The rivers are choked with over-eager fish waiting to spawn. In New Jersey, the halls of government are choked with officials all too eager to throw themselves into a legal net if they get even a whiff of some chum. ………….
Still, the 12 arrests were a surprise to some. Steele, in addition to his jobs as a pastor and legislator, was an undersheriff in Passaic County. He resigned the nearly $90,000-a-year job Thursday. Steele's arrest stunned both Democrats and Republicans in Paterson…………
Jonathan Soto, a former Passaic city councilman, had a penchant for code. It's alleged he wrote in a text message seeking payment: "will need that green broccoli for the 1st entree."
So much for the health benefits of vegetarianism.” (Doblin, Bergen Record)
“Spare us the expressions of outrage and concern. It's not enough.
Spare us the back-channel complaints that U.S. Attorney Christopher J Christie is a GOP hatchet man out to dismantle the Democratic Party as he prepares a run for governor in 2009. That doesn't change the seedy, troubling details packed in the criminal complaints against 11 public officials that were unveiled Thursday.
Spare us the back-channel fuming about sanctimonious Republicans hurling cheap shots from the sidelines. Their failed history of reform and "pay-to-play" boondoggles of the past decade aren't relevant right now.
And spare us the litany of micro-reform measures that have been touted as real, meaningful change.
This is a Democratic Party problem and it's their responsibility to confront the issue of corruption head-on. The Democratic leadership should see this as an opportunity to clean house, or, in the parlance of a political operative, "get ahead of the issue."” (Stile, Bergen Record)
MORAN ON OCEAN GROVE CONTROVERSY
“Here's an idea: Maybe New Jersey should stop subsidizing anti-gay bigotry in Ocean Grove.
It may seem odd, but that is what's going on today. A Methodist group that received a big tax break through the Green Acres program after promising to open all its facilities to the public has now decided that gays need not apply.
That new policy came after two lesbian couples in their 60s and 70s asked permission to celebrate their civil unions in a beachfront pavilion owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, the local Methodist group.
Talk to these ladies and you come away wondering why on earth anyone would want to pick this fight and disturb the harmony that helps make Ocean Grove such a jewel for gays and straights alike.
"When we moved in here, people we didn't know brought over casseroles for us," says Harriet Bernstein, 65, one of the lesbians who was turned down. "Our grandchildren were going to be here for this. We were very excited."
The pavilion, a simple wooden structure, is a kind of spiritual center for this beachfront community. Many people have been married there over the years, including Jews and other non-Methodists. It's a place to meet. Kids ride their bicycles through it, steering around the wooden pews.
Until now, the attitude in Ocean Grove had been large-hearted. Established in the 19th century as a summer retreat for Methodists, its beaches, its community auditorium and its pavilion have long been open to everyone………..
Scott Rasmussen, leader of the Methodist group, tried to keep a lid on the passions by telling everyone that he personally loved and respected all people, including gays, as Jesus taught.
You had to believe he meant it sincerely. But to the victims of this discrimination, and to many straight people who spoke in their support, the words sounded hol low.
Because to love them without respecting them as equals is something like the love we feel for a favorite dog. And that is clearly not enough. ” (Moran, Star-Ledger)
OUTRAGE IN HAMILTON
“HAMILTON — Republican mayoral candidate John Bencivengo faced scathing criticism yesterday from local postal union members who called his attempt to market a hand cream to protect against anthrax a shameless attempt to profit on tragedy.
"He lied to people to sell a product based on fear," said former National Association of Letter Carriers President Mark P. Van Wagner. "That's bad, but then he makes it worse by not taking responsibility for it.”
Van Wagner and Steve Bahrle, Trenton area president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 308, said yesterday that Bencivengo's attempts to sell Skin Guard, a cream that he claimed in 2002 would protect postal workers from anthrax, was "disingenuous" and not the actions of a man who should run the township.
"He should own up to it and apologize," Van Wagner said.
Bahrle also said Bencivengo should take responsibility.
"I think he should reimburse anyone he sold it to," said Bahrle. "I think its an absolute low blow to the postal workers and to Mayor (Glen) Gilmore."” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
“NEWARK — By 9 a.m., the line of hopeful and expectant faces extended several blocks, took a 90-degree turn, then extended for several more. Many who were waiting had turned out in skirts, suits and ties, many others in baggy jeans, construction boots and oversize T-shirts.
Each had come downtown, in a city with an unemployment rate almost twice the statewide average, in hopes of securing one of 1,200 jobs at the Prudential Center Arena, the new home of the New Jersey Devils hockey team, which cost more than $300 million and is scheduled to open here next month.
Such is the state of joblessness in Newark that on Thursday, the first day of interviews, nearly three times as many people showed up as there were jobs available. Organizers were expecting 5,000 additional job seekers on Friday.” (Miller, New York Times)
“Tired of being criticized, two Orange City Council members have lambasted their former colleague — retired South Ward Councilman William Lewis — for being a know- it-all who routinely comes to council meetings to berate others and suggest everyone is incompetent.
Following criticism the entire council received Tuesday night from Lewis, West Ward Councilman Hassan Abdul-Rasheed and North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason lashed back at Lewis.
Abdul-Rasheed said Lewis believes Orange cannot function without his input and insight. It is troublesome that Lewis uses both public meetings and press releases to repeatedly make "deplorable and slanderous" remarks about other elected officials, Abdul-Rasheed said.
Eason said she felt the same way.
Lewis was a vocal opponent of two 20-year tax abatement agreements that a majority of the city council awarded Tuesday to jump- start $110 million worth of private condominium developments in the city.
"I expected more give-and-take with the council, since I served with many of them, and have no interest, other than to best prepare the council to do its job," Lewis told the seven-member governing body early Tuesday evening. ” (Dilworth, Star-Ledger)
IN SOMERSET COUNTY
“A Somerville consulting firm has concluded that the home of Somerset County Park Commission Executive Director Ray Brown is worth $2,500 in monthly rent, and freeholders are demanding that he begin paying that amount by Oct. 1, officials said yesterday.
That fair-rental value is $1,500 more per month than the rent Brown is now paying to live in the $1.5 million home in the Martinsville section of Bridgewater, located on 21 acres of land. The parks director also should be responsible for utilities, rental insurance and other maintenance and repair fees at the home, officials said.
The rents for county-owned homes where park employees live are being reviewed following an independent report that criticized the commission's financial and management operations. Freeholders had requested the appraisal of the homes so the cheap or free rents that county employees had been paying would be adjusted as soon as possible.” (Kim, Star-Ledger)
“Hamilton Township police said yesterday they have identified some "people of interest" in the vandalism at U.S. Rep. Chris Smith's local office last week.
Computer cords were ripped out inside the Kuser Road office — crashing the office's computer system — and Smith's name was defaced on a sign bearing his name on the front of the office after a "public eviction" protest staged by anti-war activists on Aug. 29.
"We have some people of interest who were in the office during the demonstration that we will be looking to talk to," Detective Lt. James Kostoplis said yesterday. The investigation is ongoing and detectives want to interview all who were present at the demonstration, he said.
Some of the protest was filmed by the protesters themselves and posted on http://www.youtube.com, which police are reviewing.
In the footage, a woman can be seen moving in and out of the computer room and eventually walking out of the office, and sources tell The Times the woman was Sarah Wellington of Highland Park.
Wellington has not been charged with anything, and during an interview with The Times on Wednesday she denied any involvement in vandalism and said she did not see any of the group members do any damage to Smith's office.” (Shea, Trenton Times)
FORT DIX TRIAL
U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler rejected defense complaints that such a jury would be biased. He agreed with federal prosecutors that the trial presents an exceptional case and could create apprehensive jurors.
Several factors led to his decision, including pretrial publicity, he said.
"Clearly, there is extraordinary media attention," Kugler said during a pretrial conference with defense lawyers.
Keeping the names of jurors sealed is an unusual step, but it has been used in a number of federal cases, including some involving allegations of terrorism and organized crime.” (Gold, AP)
IN OCEAN TOWNSHIP
“OCEAN TOWNSHIP — The township is weighing the option of suing former Mayor Terrance D. Weldon for violating his oath of office in accepting $64,000 in bribes from developers.
"We actually have a firm that has approached us about litigation and we are considering that," Mayor William F. Larkin said at a Township Council meeting Wednesday night. "There is actually a firm that wants to represent us without cost."
The law firm Franzblau Dratch of Livingston has represented Essex County successfully in a case that went to the state Supreme Court to affirm the right of government entities in seeking legal damages from corrupt officials. In that specific litigation, Essex County sued First Fidelity Bank because one of its corporate officers had bribed former Essex County Treasurer Joseph P. Galluzzi in steering municipal bond contracts to the bank.
Larkin made the revelation in responding to public criticism from Larry S. Loigman, an outspoken township resident and lawyer. Loigman wanted to know why township officials have not expressed outrage at a federal judge's decision to sentence the former mayor to 58 months in prison, which Loigman considers too lenient.” (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)
“The Monmouth County Republican Party chairman said a Democratic candidate for freeholder received advance tee times at county-owned golf courses and was "one of the primary abusers of a privilege offered only to former and current elected officials."
But the candidate, John D'Amico, a former freeholder, said the issue raised Thursday by GOP leader Adam Puharic has little relevance to voters heading into the November election.”
D'Amico and running mate Stephen Schueler are vying with Republican incumbent Robert D. Clifton and running mate Jeff Cantor for two three-year terms. Republican Anna C. Little is not seeking re-election.
"In the campaign, tee times I might have had years ago are not the issue," D'Amico said Thursday. "Our record is what it is. It's the plans for the future and how you're going to implement them; that's what people are looking for. Republicans have been in control for 20 years and haven't gotten the job done." (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
“A special election for city commissioner is shaping up as a three-way race with the deadline for nominations one week away.
Local businessman David Vanaman, a former commissioner, is the latest entrant…….
Outside the post office on North High Street on Thursday, candidate Eric Soler was collecting signatures at a stand being shared with Independent Democrat freeholder candidate Robert McQuade………
City Commissioner Molly Hollingshead said she also has collected the required number of signatures, but has not turned them in yet.” (Smith, Daily Journal)
“Roselle Mayor Garrett Smith cast the deciding vote for introduction of an ordinance that would hike his salary by $53,000 — to $65,000.
Smith said the raise, which would take effect next year, reflects the increased hours and responsibilities he assumed last February after firing Business Administrator David G. Brown II.” (Rothman, Star-Ledger)