State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) wants the Senate leadership to allow a vote on his proposal to immediately suspend indicted elected officials, saying that temporarily replacing officeholders accused of crimes until due process has been completed would be in the best interests of their constituencies.
"This bill balances due process — not suspending an official until a grand jury of his neighbors has handed up an indictment — with the overwhelming public interest in removing these indicted public officials from their positions," Baroni said. "This bill strikes a fair, reasonable balance that will go a long way to helping us end New Jersey's culture of corruption"
Baroni says that his bill would deal with someone like Assemblyman Joseph Vas (D-Perth Amboy), who has been indicted on state and federal corruption charges, but Vas has refused and continues to serve in the Legislature.
There has been a public outcry for the resignations in Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, where mayors were arrested last Thursday on federal corruption charges. So far none have resigned; neither have two legislators who were also charged, despite calls for their ouster by legislative and party leaders. None of these officials have been indicted, and Baroni's plan would not kick in until a grand jury returned a formal indictment.
The Baroni bill would allow an elected official who is cleared of criminal charges to return to office.
Baroni's legislation proposes a constitutional amendment to suspend elected officials under indictment and replace them on a temporary basis until acquittal, dismissal or conviction. Constitutional amendments require voter approval, and the deadline to put the measure on the November 2009 ballot is Friday. Gov. Jon Corzine or the legislative leadership would need to call the Legislature back into session to get this done. Baroni first proposed the bill as an Assemblyman in 2005.
Under the proposal, officeholders would always be replaced with members of their own party.