Former Assemblyman Lou Manzo, a potential mayoral candidate in Jersey City next year, filed a petition with Monmouth County Superior Court to ask them to weigh whether Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s conduct during his 2006 Bradley Beach arrest should trigger him to forfeit his office.
No hearing date is set yet, and Manzo can’t release details until all parties have been served.
Healy was convicted of disorderly conduct in Bradley Beach last year, and has sought unsuccessfully to reverse the decision several times. He’s currently appealing it in the state Supreme Court.
But after an Essex County judge ruled that former Newark Councilwoman Dana Rone must forfeit her office earlier this summer, Manzo started digging and hired legal counsel to see whether the same standard should apply to Healy. Healy and Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said it shouldn’t, since Healy never invoked his office during his arrest.
But grand jury testimony, obtained by Manzo and last week published in the Jersey Journal, tells another story. According to several police officers’ testimony before the grand jury that initially indicted Healy, the mayor invoked his office several times, making comments like “I am the mayor of Jersey City. I was a judge, I was a lawyer, I am a good personal friend with your Chief,” and asking "can you sweep this under the rug?"
Healy has since denied making those comments, telling the Jersey Journal "I'm from Jersey City – I couldn't influence anyone down there. I have no juice in that community. It's completely untrue."
Manzo, for his part, suspects that Healy, who as mayor of the state’s second largest city and chairman of one of its most powerful political organizations is a major political force in his own right, has goten special treatment from the state’s political establishment that wasn’t granted to Rone.
“The politics that’s going on in the state over this is bizarre. Look at this, and it just points to the hypocrisy,” said Manzo. “Healy’s going to say it’s like apples and oranges and he’s correct. Dana Rone was treated like an apple – she’s an African-American councilwoman in Newark. And Jerry Healy was treated as an orange. He’s the mayor in Jersey City and also the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. They were both treated differently, and Healy’s actions were more egregious.”
Healy could not immediately be reached for comment.
Healy is up for reelection in May, 2009, and already several potential candidates are lining up to replace him. In addition to Manzo is Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop, Assemblyman and former Acting Mayor L. Harvey Smith, former Mayor Bret Schundler and community activist Dan Levin. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham may be interested as well, but has been silent on her intentions.
While Fulop has perhaps been one of Healy’s most vocal critics, he took issue with Manzo’s approach to the Bradley Beach matter.
“While the mayor’s shenanigans certainly don’t serve to benefit the people of Jersey City by what happened in Bradley Beach, Louis isn’t helping anyone but himself,” said Fulop. “I’ll be the first to say that the Bradley beach incident doesn’t help the people of Jersey City. But Louis doesn’t help Jersey City by dragging this around.”
Fulop pointed to past lawsuits Manzo has filed against Sen. Cunningham and former Jersey City Police Chief Ronald Buonocore, who in 2004 was a brief mayoral hopeful.
“If Louis wants to win elected office, he should win it at the ballot box, not the court house,” he said.
Manzo said he expects to have a hearing on the petition within the next 10 days.