Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale is leaving his post to take a job at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Speziale announced moments ago.
“After nine years of service as Sheriff of Passaic County, I am announcing my resignation as Sheriff, but will commence employment with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, as First Deputy Superintendent of PAPD on Wednesday August 11, 2010,” Speziale said in a statement to PolitickerNJ.com.
“It was an honor to serve as Sheriff and I will always be thankful to the citizens of Passaic County for the opportunity of protecting their homes and neighborhoods and creating a better quality of life for the citizens of Passaic County,” Speziale said.
“I look forward to serving in my new capacity with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and will continue my service with law enforcement on behalf of not only the citizens of New Jersey, but the citizens of New York as well.”
Speziale’s stand-down comes in front of a November election one year after Republicans stunned the Democratic Party establishment in Passaic and swept three freeholders and a clerk out of power. Up for re-election to a fourth term against GOP challenger Felix Garcia, the incumbent sheriff had amassed a formidable warchest of $1 million, which the sheriff says he plans to donate to charity.
“For my sick wife – cancer UMDNJ, the needy children, baseball, soccer, kids, sports which I believe in, etc.,” Speziale said. “Breast cancer the most. For her who I love dearly for the past 30 years together… and never a fight (kidding).”
His public announcement to get out of county politics comes just days after the AP broke a story reporting that the Civil Service Commission told Speziale he had overstepped his bounds and ordered the sheriff to layoff eight recently hired investigators. Speziale spokesman Bill Maer yesterday told PolitickerNJ.com that the sheriff was appealing the commission report.
Confident that he would walk through that, Speziale also dismissed a Youtube video showing him dancing in a New Jersey nightcub in the company of New York socialite Paris Hilton.
GOP sources today blamed Democrats – not Garcia Republicans – for leaking the goods on Speziale now to derail his chances for the Port Authority job. Democrats seemed bewildered by the charge.
Shell-shocked for a second straight season, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie told PolitickerNJ.com that he did not know about Speziale’s departure from the race, and could not immediately give a comment on who the Democrats plan to run against Garcia.
“I don’t have official notice, obviously it comes as a surprise,” Currie said. “Speziale has not notified his friend and his chairman.”
The departing sheriff said he has a letter to Currie that he intends to send directly. He has already notified sheriff’s department staff, he said.
Sources close to Speziale – whom the GOP didn’t bother challenging three years ago – say his polling numbers looked fine heading toward re-election, and Passaic County Republicans confirmed that he was poised to win re-election in November over Garcia.
But now the situation has changed.
A former Republican, Speziale has been stir crazy for some time in Passaic, sources say. He tried to get a job as police chief in Camden under then-Gov. Jon Corzine, an effort that didn’t materialize.
His trip to Gov. Chris Christie’s office occured after he went to state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove), whose district includes a piece of Passaic County.
O’Toole and Passaic County Republican Chairman Scott Rumana sat down with Christie and Speziale.
Now Christie is constitutionally charged with appointing a Democratic Party replacement for the resigning sheriff.
Asked if he thought his candidacy scared Speziale from the field, Garcia said, “No not really. I’m not going to say that. I consider myself a professional. I wish him and his family the best. This is new to everyone. It caught me by surprise.”