The dreaded vote of confidence
A senior aide to Gov. Jon Corzine who testified he passed on illegal campaign contributions to the mayor of Guttenberg resigned yesterday, a day after the mayor was convicted of corruption.
Deputy chief of staff Javier Inclán told Corzine by phone yesterday afternoon he will step down, according to the governor's office. Corzine spokeswoman Deborah Howlett said the governor had not asked him to resign.
"The governor accepted Javier Inclán's resignation. He understands why Javier reached the conclusion that he did that it was necessary to resign," Howlett said last night.
Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna also resigned yesterday.
On Tuesday, Delle Donna and his wife, Anna, were found guilty on charges of pocketing $40,000 in illegal gifts from a local bar owner trying to thwart town inspectors. Inclán, the mayor's former protegé, testified during the trial he twice handed Delle Donna envelopes containing illegal cash campaign contributions collected from the bar owner. Inclán was not charged in the case.
Corzine had defended Inclán during the trial, praising him through a spokeswoman after Tuesday's verdict for having the "courage" to testify. (Claire Heininger and Josh Margolin, Star-Ledger)
Christie’s act of sabotage?
It's almost as if it were a fiendish plot.
Perhaps U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, a Republican, is trying to sabotage the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Then this would all make sense.
But otherwise I can't figure out just what Christie was up to Sunday, when he publicly picked a fight with Democratic Morristown Mayor Don Cresitello over the question of illegal immigration.
Christie used the occasion of a forum at a church in Dover to renew a very public fight he and Cresitello had arising out of a rally the mayor held last July at the town hall. Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn to hear Cresitello and the other speakers call for local authorities to gain powers under a 1996 federal statute that permits local law enforcement to assist the feds in enforcing immigration law.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered across the street. When the rally organizers played the national anthem, the protesters tried to drown it out with various jeers and catcalls. This led Cresitello to denounce the "Marxists and communists" across the street. (Paul Mulshine, Star-Ledger)
Can we see those?
Rep. Rob Andrews renewed his call Wednesday for U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg to release his federal income tax returns, taking up the issue of high gasoline prices to make his point.
Noting that Lautenberg listed stock in five energy companies in his latest Senate financial disclosure form, Andrews said it's important for the senator to reveal the details of those holdings and that releasing his tax returns was the best way to accomplish that.
Lautenberg recently delivered the weekly Democratic radio address on the subject of oil, telling his audience that "we need you to help us keep the pressure on President Bush and the Republicans who are intent on rewarding their oil friends while they stick the American people with the bill."
On Wednesday, Andrews seized on the remark made by the man he is challenging for the Democratic senate nomination.
"Before we evaluate who has the best plan to deal with the energy crisis," Andrews said, "we need to know which side they're on." (Richard Pearsall, Courier-Post)
Two more step forward
A city councilman and a former city director made new, separate allegations Wednesday that Mayor Scott Evans offered bribes in exchange for help in his election campaign.
Former Neighborhood Services Director David Tayoun and City Councilman George Tibbitt both claimed that Evans approached them within the past four months about working for his election campaign and offered public jobs if they agreed.
The accusations were made following a report Wednesday in The Press of Atlantic City confirming a discussion between Evans and Domenic Cappella's campaign manager about a deal that would boost Cappella's city salary if he dropped out of the mayor's race. Each side accused the other Tuesday of proposing the deal and both sides said they refused the alleged offers. (Michael Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
So that’s that
GUTTENBERG – Mayor David Delle Donna resigned his office yesterday, a day after he was convicted on corruption charges in federal court.
Delle Donna, 50, will also be forced to give up his $90,000-a-year position as coordinator of maintenance and custodial services at High Tech High School in North Bergen, according to the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office.
"I was very disappointed that it has come to this," Delle Donna said yesterday in a telephone interview following his resignation, which he delivered to acting Town Clerk Alberto Cabrera at noon.
"It has been my honor to represent the people of Guttenberg, as their mayor, for the past seven years," Delle Donna wrote in the letter, in which he also misspelled the last name of his town clerk. "I have served honorably and faithfully from the first day, January 1, 2002, until this day."
Democratic committee members in Guttenberg now have 15 days to submit the names of three people to the Town Council to select an acting mayor. If the council does not choose one of those people within 30 days of the vacancy, the committee will simply select an acting mayor to serve until November, when a special election will be held. (Michelangelo Conte, Jersey Journal)
Guv needs to get tough on Bergen judges
A bitter, petty political battle over appointments now has parts of Bergen County government on the brink of paralysis.
Governor Corzine tried to broker a compromise late last year, and with limited success. This time, he needs to play some old-fashioned hardball to end this ruinous game of political blackball.
Squabbling by Bergen County's Senate delegation has stalled replacements of 12 Superior Court judges, nearly a third of all seats assigned to the county. One seat has sat empty for four years.
Cases are piling up — nearly half of all criminal cases last year took more than three months to resolve, according to state court records. The backlog is one of the highest in the state and jumped by 11 percent last year. (Charles Stile, The Record)
Avoiding the “f-word”
Leonard Lance doesn’t like to use the F-word, but some pundits say it applies to him in his bid for the Republican nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district.
“I never use the word ‘frontrunner’,” said Lance, a veteran State Senator from Hunterdon County. “I think it’s a dangerous word, and I campaign as vigorously as I can.”
While Kate Whitman, the daughter of former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, has raised the most money in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Ferguson, Lance appears to have raised enough to assuage doubts about his fundraising prowess. And he has secured the organization lines in two counties where 67% of Republican primary voters live. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
Dems appeal ballot ruling
Forcing 11 New Jersey counties to redo their ballots for the Democratic primary would be an "error" and should be reversed by the state's highest court, according to court papers filed Wednesday.
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee is asking the Supreme Court to hear a case that challenges a ruling made this week. The Appellate Court decision requires the three Democrat U.S. Senate candidates to get an equal opportunity for top billing on ballots in all 21 counties.
This could create confusion among voters, according to lawyer William Northgrave, who filed the document on behalf of the state Democratic organization.
Because the candidates can still be bracketed with those running for office at the state and local levels, there is concern these candidates could end up scattered on the ballot. (Pete McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)
BRIDGETON — Tina Kell has the support of both State Senator Jeff Van Drew and State Senator Steve Sweeney to be Cumberland County's next prosecutor.
This comes after a decision last week by Cumberland County Prosecutor Ron Casella to demote county trial chief Kell to a lower-ranking position of assistant prosecutor.
Casella's term expired earlier this month and opinions over whether he should be re-appointed have divided the county.
"Senator Sweeney and myself feel Tina Kell has the qualifications and integrity that's required to be prosecutor," Van Drew said Wednesday, confirming both he and Sweeney are in favor of Kell being appointed prosecutor.
If Kell becomes prosecutor, the nearly 20-year veteran of the county prosecutor's office would be Cumberland County's first female prosecutor.
As far as Kell's recent demotion, Van Drew said the state attorney general should look into the situation to make sure it is not a case of retribution. (Matt Dunn, Bridgeton News)
Over his dead body
Plans to put tolls on routes 78 and 80 won't get far, Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, said Wednesday.
"It's not going to happen," Codey said, on the heels of Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, floating the idea to add tolls on those roads and raise existing tolls to fund a decade's worth of transportation projects. "I think it went the way of the Titanic."
On the same day Gov. Jon S. Corzine's top transportation official said new funding is urgently needed to pay for road, rail and bridge projects, Codey said tolls do need to be increased — "absolutely, positively," he said — partly to pay for the New Jersey Turnpike widening he approved while serving as governor. (Jonathan Tamari, Gannett)
The 5th Ward stretches across the center of the city, an area of disparate neighborhoods that face different problems.
Some residents say they face high unemployment. Others worry about prostitutes on their streets. In other areas, homeowners are concerned with illegal rental units.
On May 13, voters will go to the polls to decide who will represent them on the City Council. Incumbent Juan Torres is defending his seat against political newcomers Julio Tavarez, a technology teacher at School 15, and Ricardo "Richie" Perez, a court officer in state Superior Court.
The challengers are running on a platform of change, but Torres said their promises are unrealistic when you're one member on a nine-member council.
Whoever wins will represent an area that runs west to east from Lou Costello Municipal Pool on Grand Street to East 31st Street. (Alexander MacInnes, Herald News)
PATERSON – While his opponents sought to depict him as a cowboy, Ward Two Councilman Aslon Goow in a debate at Passaic County Community College tonight argued that he puts his combativeness to work for the city.
"They all talk about professionalism, decorum," said Goow. "We shut down the mayor’s brother’s liquor store, and kicked gangs off of Union Avenue and Jackson Avenue. The Second Ward has the lowest crime rate in the city, and has an aggressive representative.
"Don’t let them con you," he added.
Challengers Elizabeth Rosado, wife of seven months of former Councilman Jerry Luis Rosado; and mason contractor John Larko fought each other as much as they tag-teamed in an effort to weaken the two-term incumbent.
Larko argued that Goow and Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres have engaged in "childish feuds," while seniors cry when they receive their tax bills and Paterson crime continues to be reminiscent, in Larko’s words, of the Bronx in the 1980s. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
Moving without moving
More than 160 voters who believed they were in Montclair's largely African-American 4th Ward received notice this week that they are actually in the 3rd Ward.
With a little more than two weeks until the nonpartisan municipal election, the sudden shift has left voters and candidates angry and confused.
The 4th Ward voters were actually moved into the 3rd Ward after a boundary line shift necessitated to balance wards following the 2000 Census. The ward maps were redrawn. But somehow, officials said yesterday, the voters were never informed. (Philip Read, Star-Ledger)
CAPE MAY POINT – The stakes are high for 230 year-round residents who will soon decide who will lead this community for the next four years.
Most municipal elections here hinge on issues such as paving streets or whether yard waste was picked up in a timely manner. This year, the town is fighting for its life with rumblings from Trenton about how towns this small should merge with their neighbors. The state is backing that up with costly mandates that may determine the fate of small towns with few resources.
"The most important thing of all is maintaining Cape May Point as an independent community," said Deputy Mayor Carl Schupp. "We're going to fight like crazy, because there's no reason or justification for doing that. It can only hurt people in the Point by costing us money and independence."
Four are running for the three seats on Borough Commission in the May 13 election, including Schupp, 74, of Oxford Avenue. He has been in office for eight years and, if he wins, is the likely successor to retiring Mayor Malcolm Fraser. (Richard Degener, Press of Atlantic City)
EnCap Golf Holdings is in default on its tax-sharing agreement with Rutherford, borough officials formally declared Wednesday.
A seven-page letter sent to Michael Cohen, who manages the EnCap project for developer Donald Trump, gives EnCap until next Wednesday to offer "supporting reasons and documentation" to dispute the finding. The Borough Council unanimously approved the letter Tuesday night.
The borough also "immediately" demanded $1.2 million in impact fees, land taxes and legal and engineering expenses.