Chiappone vows innocence as Roberts, Corzine call on him to resign

Assembly Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne), who along with his wife was indicted this afternoon for allegedly funneling staffer’s paychecks into his 2005 reelection campaign ad for personal use, declared his innocence and said he has no plans to drop his reelection campaign.

“I’m still running,” he said. I’m very upset and disappointed with the charges. I’m still processing it at this time. For me, quite honestly, nothing changes. I don’t intend to resign. I’m innocent of the charges. I intend to not come off the ballot – I’m sure that’s what, god knows, who prompted this investigation wants, but that’s not happening.”

Minutes after Chiappone talked to PolitickerNJ.com, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) issued a statement announcing that he is suspending Chiappone’s salary and stripping him or his committee assignments. Roberts also urged Chiappone to resign.

Gov. Jon Corzine has also called for Chiappone’s resignation.

“This indictment is disappointing and disturbing and Assemblyman Chiappone should do what’s best for his constituents and the Assembly and resign from office,” said Roberts. “The presumption of innocence is a foundation of our democracy, but serving in the Legislature is a privilege, not a right. It’s clear that Assemblyman Chiappone can no longer represent his constituents effectively.”

Chiappone was on the opposite end of the ethics issue two weeks ago, when he wrote a letter to Governor Corzine requesting a review of development projects that were implemented under former Mayor Joe Doria between 1998 and 2007. Doria’s home and office were raided on “Corruption Thursday,” leading Corzine to demand his resignation, but he has not been charged with a crime.

Chiappone said that he was in Trenton yesterday to discuss the investigation with the assistant attorney general but had no idea charges were coming down the pipe.

“I have to fight now in a court of my peers for my reputation. I hope that I prevail over wheat I feel are wrong charges,” he said.

Chiappone said that the charges that he issued checks to legislative aides that were subsequently put into his personal and campaign bank accounts were “incorrect” but that he could not rebut them publicly just yet.

“Anything I say now could be misconstrued or used inappropriately,” he said.

Chiappone will be required to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

“The news of Assemblyman Chiappone’s indictment is simply intolerable. As I have repeatedly said, it would be impossible for any individual serving under a cloud of uncertainty to govern effectively. In the best interest of the public, Assemblyman Chiappone should step aside immediately,” said Corzine. I applaud Attorney General Milgram’s continued efforts to fight corruption at every level of government. Since I have been Governor, the Attorney General’s office has prosecuted 201 cases of public corruption. We will continue to set the highest standard for integrity.”

Chiappone vows innocence as Roberts, Corzine call on him to resign