TRENTON – Politicians who are indicted on various crimes often are allowed to remain in office throughout the lengthy legal and judicial processes. They continue to run their towns, work on legislation or ordinances, and collect a paycheck.
But one lawmaker, Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), of Trenton, is calling for such politicians who are indicted to be required to step down until their day in court.
The resolution Turner has sponsored, SCR 129, “proposes a constitutional amendment that would enable the suspension and temporary replacement of indicted elected officials.” Voters would get to decide if such a mechanism should exist.
In her own legislative district, Trenton Mayor Tony Mack has been indicted, and she cited that incident as an example of how a city’s daily functions can be hurt.
“We have the capital city that has all sorts of challenges and the city is in a state of limbo,” Turner said. “It’s waiting for something to happen.”
If the elected officials were found not guilty, they would receive retroactive pay, according to her resolution.
Turner said she came up with the idea because of the increasing frequency of such incidents, on both sides of the political aisle, and how distracting they can be.
“Unfortunately, this process after indictment has gone on and on and on,” she said. “I’ve seen too much of this over the years, at all levels of government.”
She added that it’s unfair for taxpayers to continue paying the salaries of indicted officials when so much of the time is probably devoted to their personal legal matters.
“They’re not really carrying out their responsibilities,” she said. “They’re not really earning their salary. They’re not capable of helping their constituents.”
The resolution was discussed this week during a State Government Committee meeting, and other legislators agreed with the sentiment of the resolution.
However, they recommended at the local level, such as town councils, the majority party get to pick a candidate to fill a vacancy. The resolution, as it’s currently written, calls for the local governing body members to cast a majority vote for a particular candidate.
Turner said she wouldn’t mind amending the proposal so that the majority party selects the replacement.