As more information comes out regarding the arrest of former Assemblyman Ken Zisa, the Hackensack Chief of Police, worth watching – one way or the other – will be the way Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli handled the case. Before Molinelli became prosecutor, he was the Treasurer of the Bergen County Democratic Organization, where he was part of a close team of party insiders that included Zisa, a Democratic Assemblyman. Molinelli played a role in Zisa’s unsuccessful campaign for Sheriff in 2001. As Hackensack’s top cop, Zisa presumably had a working relationship with the prosecutor’s office. Molinelli most likely ceded key parts of the Zisa probe to the state Attorney General’s office, but past questions about the prosecutor’s ties to party leaders – including a planned vacation in Italy with then-BCDO Counsel Dennis Oury (now awaiting sentencing) and then-State Sen. Joseph Coniglio (D-Paramus), who is now serving a federal prison sentence after his conviction on corruption charges – nearly caused State Sen, Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) to block his renomination in 2007.
Also worth watching is how Hackensack Democrats transitions out of the Zisa scandal. Zisa’s brother is the Deputy Police Chief, his cousin is the City Attorney, and another brother was the longtime mayor. The Hackensack Democratic Municipal Chair is Lynne Hurwitz, a longtime Zisa ally who now serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Bergen County Executive Dennis C. McNerney. Bergen County Freeholder Tomas Padilla, who is not seeking re-election, is a Hackensack police captain with exceptionally close ties to the Zisa family.