Three top Bergen County Democratic officials — Sheriff Leo McGuire, Surrogate Michael Dressler and Freeholder David Ganz — are standing with indicted party chairman Joseph Ferriero, saying there is no reason for him to resign as County Chairman. Gov. Jon Corzine, U.S. Rep. Steven Rothman (D-Fair Lawn), Democratic State Chairman Joseph Cryan, and State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) have already said Ferriero should resign.
Ferriero, who has taken a leave of absence from his post, was indicted last week on federal fraud charges. His partner in a firm that helped local governments obtain grants, Dennis Oury, was also named in the same indictment.
McGuire confirmed that a group of Democratic leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss Ferriero's status. "I’m not sure who’s meeting tomorrow, but I think it will be larger than five or six," McGuire told PolitickerNJ.com.
All three officials pointed to a similar message: that Ferriero has only been charged with a crime, not convicted of one.
"We all have the presumption of innocence and I’m sure that this investigation will take its course and certainly we know that Ferriero is not an elected official," said McGuire. "It’s a little bit different from the Al Steeles, Wayne Bryants, Etc. who were elected by the people. This is a little more of a family matter.
Ganz, who is up for re-election this year, seemed particularly angry with the calls for Ferriero's resignation.
“Steve Rothman ought to know better. He’s a lawyer, a former surrogate, and he knows the constitutional presumption of innocence. A resignation implies guilt, and to that extent I’m surprised that the Governor and Cryan would say that as well. I don’t feel that way," said Ganz. "The Governor’s not a lawyer, but he should know better too. And I have to tell you, I feel very strongly about that.”
Dressler wants the Ferriero case to run its course. "When it’s finished we’ll determine where we are," he said.
"You get somewhat concerned when people start asking for resignations in a case like this. What makes this system here in the United States different than the British system – we fought a revolution for representative government. There’s a difference with our system and the British system – there’s a presumption of innocence until the person is proven guilty. We have a situation here where yes there’s been an indictment and the chairman has taken a leave of absence until he has his day in court, and he’s entitled to his day in court. Everybody’s presumed innocent, including the Bergen County Democratic Chairman," Dressler explained. "The revolution was fought over this, and for people to start saying this person should resign, that person should resign, there is the presumption of innocence."
Ganz was critical of the merits of Ferriero's indictment.
"I’ve read the indictment. Counts 2-8 seem to be “he mailed it, he mailed it again, he mailed it again, etc. It comes down to the first count… it seems to me the allegation is that somehow Joe Ferriero conspired to prevent Dennis Oury from releasing information in his grants firm," said Ganz. "If this is the best that he’s got after this long of an investigation and the thousands of dollars expended, I don’t think it’s very much.”
McGuire says that Lynne Hurwitz has been put in charge of the campaign, and that Ferriero is "no longer involved in the day-to-day operation."
"The campaign is continuing to do well. We have great candidates who have done a spectacular job," said McGuire.