Two nights and two incidents, both ultimately leading to convictions of two elected officials from New Jersey’s two biggest towns.
But while Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy today wished Newark Councilwoman Dana Rone the best, and said he hopes she is successful in her effort to remain on the City Council when she faces a Superior Court Judge Aug. 5, his office specified that his conviction and Rone’s are different.
In fact, in the words of Healy press secretary Jennifer Morrill, the cases are polar opposite.
While the court found Rone guilty of disorderly conduct after it determined that she intimidated a police officer and attempted to use her Central Ward Councilwoman status to circumvent the law on Dec. 20, 2006, Healy in his Bradley Beach dust-up with cops in June of 2007 did not attempt to exert the influence of his office on the situation, Morrill said.
"In Newark, Rone was accused of using her authority over police officers operating in her city to gain a benefit for one of her relatives," Morrill said. "Mayor Healy, according to all parties, interceded as a ‘good Samaritan’ to break-up a domestic dispute and was acting as a private citizen outside of his official capacity."
Morrill maintains, therefore, that the state statute the Essex County Prosecutors Office is attempting to enact in the Rone case – which would force her to give up her council seat – has no application to Healy's own disorderly conduct conviction.
Under the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C: 51 -2, "forfeiture of public office is mandated for a conviction of any offense that involves dishonesty or any offense that touches upon the defendant’s office, or for a conviction for any crime of the third degree or greater."
Not only was Healy innocent of attempting to coerce by way of his elected office, he says, but he continues to maintain that he found himself the victim of what he later sized up to be a provincial conflict of interest.
All along, Healy has argued that the only witnesses who claimed he was combative and assumed, in their words, a "John L. Sullivan stance" on that June night were the two police officers outside what was at the time his sister’s Bradley Beach bar.
The mayor has repeatedly called into question the objectivity of the arresting officers, and claims he was the unwitting victim of family and political pressures within the local police department.
"The original domestic combatants in Mayor Healy’s case were the daughter and future son-in-law of Tom Volante, a former Bradley Beach Police Captain and the councilman in charge of public safety," said Morrill. "The police chief, Volante’s appointee, was his own first cousin. Both of the arresting officers were under the immediate supervision of the police chief and only three months prior had served beneath then Captain Volante."
On July 2, a state appellate court upheld the conviction of Healy, who's up for re-election next year.
"All parties in the Newark incident with Councilwoman Rone had the benefit of video and audio tape. The police department doesn’t have that technology down here in Bradley Beach," Healy said regretfully.