Bill would hike ethics fines to $10,000

TRENTON – Two state lawmakers want unethical local officials to pay for their transgressions.

A3808, introduced Monday, would hike the maximum penalty for a violation of the “Local Government Ethics Law” from $500 to $10,000.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly members Amy Handlin, R-13, Middletown; and Anthony Bucco, R-25, Boonton, was introduced in response to a recent case highlighted by the Comptroller.

That case involved a former Chesterfield Township committeeman who improperly used his government position in facilitating a private land deal through a transfer of development rights program that produced huge profits, Comptroller Matthew Boxer said in a report by his office.

“The maximum $500 penalty for any ethics violation would be inadequate, as it represents a very small fraction of the substantial profit yielded to the official from the project,” the bill states.

The sponsors believe the $10,000 fine would be appropriate, and would be consistent with that for ethics violations by state officers and employees.

It’s no longer a shock when public officials act in their own interests instead of the public good,” Handlin said in a release. “With penalties set so low, it’s more surprising that we don’t see officials improperly profiting from public service more frequently.”

Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. had introduced a bill, S2068, that would transfer to the state Ethics Commission responsibility for developing a uniform ethics code for local and school officials.

In addition, the Commission would develop a financial disclosure form for such officials, and have it on the website for downloading.

Previous stories:

Kean’s calls for passage of ethics bill

Comptroller’s report blasts former Chesterfield official’s involvement in land deal

Bill would hike ethics fines to $10,000