Former State Sen. Bill Schluter, a member of the state ethics commission, thinks that Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany) should have come forward earlier with his allegation that Senate President Richard Codey (D-West Orange) tried to threaten and tempt him with state grant money to drop his pursuit of information on a legislative slush fund.
“I think he should have,” said Schluter when asked by PolitickerNJ. “Of course, it would have gotten him into trouble with the Democratic majority, but I don’t think you can be an elected official with violations like that.”
The exchange between DeCroce and Codey was reported in the Star-Ledger yesterday, which was tipped off to the two-year-old meeting by DeCroce, who said he had grown upset upon learning that the grant money had been distributed in a political way. Codey denied DeCroce’s story, saying he had only warned him against using legislative staff to pursue political OPRA requests. DeCroce offered to take a lie detector test, which the newspaper will take him up on and has offered one for Codey as well. Codey has not decided whether or not he will.
The committee Schluter sits on deals with the executive branch, not the legislature, but he has a history as an ethics watchdog. When he was a Republican state Senator in the early 1970’s, Schluter reported several members of the William Cahill gubernatorial administration who he felt had committed extortion. One wound up serving jail time, he said.
“You have an obligation, if you believe in honest in government,” he said.
Schluter stressed that he didn’t know enough about the exchange between the two leaders to say whether anything illegal occurred.
“I the legislative process, there are a lot of trade-offs for votes, and a legislator will go say ‘if you vote for my bill, I’ll vote for yours… There’s a shady area where it could go one way or could go the other. I would not want to say it’s the same as a quid pro quo as a campaign contribution being offered down the line,” he said.
But at least on its surface, Schluter said, it looks fishy.
“It’s not the same as trading for votes, because it was on a charge that DeCroce wanted stuff released, and Codey said don’t release and it and maybe this will sweeten it up. That’s a lot different than trading for votes,” he said.