Due to take the oath of office in the Assembly chamber on Monday afternoon, Jason O’Donnell of Bayonne will step right into a burning building politically, not that he hasn’t been there befure in actuality.
Exactly one week after Gov. Chris Christie unveiled an ethics package that, if passed, would require O’Donnell to choose between his assemblyman’s pay, and his salary as a fireman, the assemblyman-elect and Bayonne public safety director will assume a seat left vacant by indicted Assemblyman Tony Chiappone (D-Bayonne).
“I disagree with the governor 100%,” O’Donnell told PolitickerNJ.com, specifically referring to Christie’s suggested one-public-salary-per-person.
“You’re taking on a whole segment of the population,” O’Donnell said. “I’m not even sworn in yet, but I support the speaker’s statement as a defense of the middle class.”
Worried that the measure could inhibit poor and middle class people from running for office, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) earlier today objected to the governor’s intent to limit pols to one paycheck.
Oliver’s argument was the same one then-At-Large Hoboken Concilman Ruben Ramos used last year against 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason, who tried to pass local-level legislation to tranquilize Ramos, who at that time absorbed three paychecks: Paterson teacher, councilman and assemblyman.
Mason’s legislation would have prevented council people from taking more than a $1 salary if they already received a public salary. It failed – in part when then Councilman (and later indicted Mayor) Peter Cammarano argued that soldiers wouldn’t be able to run for public office without giving up their salaries.
But the debate brought enough attention to Ramos’s situation to force the assemblyman into a sit-down situation with District 33 boss, state Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-Union City), who told Ramos he wasn’t running for council again.
Stack is an oft-cited example used by shamed Hudson County pols use to justify more than one salary, as the 24-7 mayor makes $12,000 for his city job, and $49,000 for his work in Trenton.
As the debate intensifies this week with the governor’s reform unveiling Monday, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Twp.) said he can’t see Oliver’s argument.
“How can someone work fulltime and do the job the taxpayers pay you for? It’s just not possible. I do not see that it’s possible while serving in the legislature,” Carroll said. “It may be conceivably possible for a firefighter to be a legislator, as long as you’re present in the firehouse for the full time they hired you to be there. But I don’t see how Sheila can do both of her jobs, there’s no possible way to do both jobs. Or if you’re Joe Cryan working as an undersheriff and they want you there 40 hours a week, if you’re not there, you’re ripping off the taxpayers.”