Sources: Chiappone to be charged today

Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) will be charged by Attorney General Anne Milgram today, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation.

It is unclear what the exact nature of the charge(s) will be, though Chiappone has been subpoenaed by Milgram’s office over payroll records, and aides who worked for him in 2004 and 2005 have been questioned by investigators about payments they received.

The Jersey Journal reported in April that Chiappone was the target of a state investigation over whether he forged signatures on aides’ paychecks and cashed them.

Reached by phone, Chiappone said that he has no idea whether charges are going to be filed against him and has not heard from the Attorney General’s Office.

“I have no idea,” he said. “But let me check. Thank you for the call.”

David Wald, a spokesman for the office, would not comment on the impending announcement.

In a move widely seen as a way to keep his assembly seat, Chiappone resgined from the Bayonne City Council earlier this year. His district-mate, Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, was charged with allegedly accepting bribes from a federal informant in last month’s corruption bust.

Chiappone said that he met with officials from Milgram’s office yesterday, but that they did not indicate that he would be charged.

“This has been the ongoing investigation for the last four months. We had a meeting with them yesterday regarding some of the issues, and this is totally unexpected,” he said. “Quite honestly, we saw issues that might be ELEC related in regards to campaign reporting, but nothing that was criminal.”

Chiappone could not say whether the charges would change his mind about running for reelection, though he suspected that it was a way to get him to quit. His district, the 31st, is one of the most Democratic in the state.

“It’s premature for me to say, but I think this is part of an effort to get me off the ballot. I was thrown off the City Council April 13 – a week before the investigation started – and I’m not one of the good ole’ boy,” he said.

 

Sources: Chiappone to be charged today