Since the three assemblymen who were charged with corruption this year have so far refused calls to resign, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) today took it upon himself to suspend their pay and benefits.
Roberts said that his legal counsel informed him that he does have the authority to strip Assemblymen L. Harvey Smith (D-Jersey City), Daniel Van Pelt (R-Ocean Twp.) and Joseph Vas (D-Perth Amboy) of their $49,000 per year salaries and health benefits.
“The right to the presumption of innocence is a hallmark of our democracy, however, serving in the Legislature is a privilege, not a right. The Assembly is often referred to as the ‘People’s House,’ and I want the people to have full confidence in the integrity of its members,” said Roberts.
Van Pelt and Smith were netted in last week’s huge federal corruption bust for allegedly taking bribes. Vas has been charged by federal and state authorities who allege that, during his time as Mayor of Perth Amboy, he used city funds for personal benefit, rigged an affordable housing lottery, and used his insider status to flip his own property at a huge profit.
Roberts has already called on all three to resign.
“Their failure to step down is a disservice to their constituents and the Assembly, so this extraordinary step is necessary.”