On Monday, the executive committee of the Bergen County Democratic Organization will meet, ostensibly to talk about finances, review and renew party bylaws. But there’s little doubt that the main topic of conversation will be what to do about their County Chairman, Joseph Ferriero.
Ferriero has taken a background role in the party since being indicted on eight corruption counts in September, after which he took a leave of absence as chairman. But Ferriero has stayed involved in the party’s inner workings, and, according to several sources, is confident that he will be able to beat the charges against him and wants to keep his post.
Several prominent Democrats who have long been allied with Ferriero defended him in the immediate aftermath of the indictment, and many still insist that it appeared politically motivated. Still, even Ferriero’s staunchest backers are said to be coming around to the idea that his leadership of the party is politically untenable in a potentially dangerous electoral climate next year.
“My personal view of the issue is that the Ides of March are upon him. The only problem is that nobody wants to kill Ceasar yet,” said one party source aligned with Ferriero. He also compared Ferriero’s attitude to Colonel Kurtz – Marlon Brando’s character in “Apocalypse Now.”
The executive committee is made up of all 17 of the county’s legislative and county-wide elected officials, along with district chairs and seats appointed by the chairman himself.
Members of the committee, however, do not have the power to oust Ferriero. That’s where the bylaws discussion could come in. As it stands, the bylaws don’t provide for the removal of a sitting chairman.
“I would simply observe that the bylaws say he’s the chairman for as long as he wants to be,” said Freeholder David Ganz. “The state statute says you elect to a two year term, and the bylaws confirm that. I haven’t seen any movement to change the bylaws.”
Even changing the bylaws, however, requires Ferriero to sign off on the idea first.
One of Ferriero’s closest allies, Sheriff Leo McGuire, didn’t want to comment on the chairman question.
“I have no comment to make other than that we are continuing to work together for the betterment of the party,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen on Monday, in the future, but the fact of the matter is we’re going to have to work together to have a stronger, more unified BCDO.”
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Ferriero’s traditional foe, did not hesitate to offer her opinion: that Ferriero should resign.
“I think that people would like to get this put behind us as quickly as we can, and I’m hoping he will think of the good of the party and just resign,” she said, adding that she felt Ferriero would resign if he “knows that he doesn’t have the confidence of the party.”
There remains a split in the BCDO on the question of what to do about Ferriero, but it’s not about whether he should resign, but how to pressure him to do so. The executive committee may take a vote on Monday on a resolution asking Ferriero to resign. Some insiders believe that’s all they can do, while others feel that they should make a harder push to oust Ferriero.
“The harder you push, the harder he pushes back. And they have no second plan,” said one formerly pro-Ferriero insider.