The New Jersey NAACP said today that state Sens. Raymond Leniak (D-Elizabeth) and Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Branchburg) were pushing legislation to end the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) to benefit their law firms’ clients.
“These Senators are representing the interests of towns that have retained them as lawyers. They are pushing legislation demanded by shortsighted local governments that are paying the Senators’ private law firms to represent them. This is a clear violation of the trust placed in them by the public,” said NAACP Housing Committee Chairman Mike McNeil in a statement this morning.
The group identified at 40 municipal clients to the two senators’ firms — Weiner Lesniak; and DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer — and asked them to disclose all past and present municipal clients and to recuse themselves from the COAH debate.
Camden County NAACP President Colandus “Kelly” Francis also complained that civil rights advocates were not given a chance to testify at last week’s Senate Economic Growth committee hearing on the legislation, even though they heard from municipal officials and the League of Municipalities.
Lesniak said that senators are required to disclose all municipal clients with the the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
“It’s available to them. If they knew anything about what they were talking about, they could just check it out right there,” he said. “It shows if you don’t if you don’t have the facts on your side you can’t make a good argument… Making reckless charges and being ignorant of the law says a lot about the people making those charges.”
Lesniak said that testimony on the bill was cut off last week because another committee needed to use the room, and that Francis and other opponents will have a chance to speak at today’s hearing.
“Did he also object to the fact that representatives from the disabled and handicapped community testified as well?” he said.