Assembly Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) wants his committee assignments back.
Chiappone, charged with allegedly cashing legislative aides' checks for personal and campaign use, was stripped of his membership in three committees by Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) immediately after he was indicted by the state Attorney General's Office.
But Chiappone insists he's innocent, and news of his indictment did not doom his reelection in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans eight-to-one. Chiappone and running mate Charles Mainor – a police detective who was narrowly the top vote getter – got nearly three times the vote totals of their two Republican opponents.
"Naturally I'd like to have [the committee assignments] back," said Chiappone. "What the people basically said is what I've been asking them: give me the benefit of the doubt, give me the presumption of innocence."
Roberts is retiring from the Assembly. His likely replacement as Speaker, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), could not be reached for comment. Chiappone said he would like to have a conversation with both of them.
Chiappone said that most of his constituents were aware of the indictment.
"My district is very intimate. It's all of Bayonne, which I represent, and part of Jersey City… And I can tell you that running into people they'd comment about the case, say I hope everything works out for you, you're in our prayers, we know this is politically motivated," he said. "-In all honestly, I thought there could have been a backlash from the public. But there wasn't, and I'm very grateful for that. This was in spite of the fact that the mayor of my town, Mark Smith, didn't support me. And the political advertisements pushing the Democratic candidates left me off."
Before his indictment, Chiappone sat on three committees: Health and Senior Services, Regulated Professions and Independent Authorities, and Human Services.