CAMDEN – Last week, state Assembly Speaker Vinny Prieto (D-32), who has been an increasingly driven force in the state Legislature on issues such as bail reform, hit a significant pothole.
Matt Friedman of The Star-Ledger reported that Prieto, a code inspector who holds three public jobs, has started to consult for private clients, including a Camden County-based firm whose owner is a major donor to South Jersey Democrats.
Frank Messina, the owner of the firm, known as All Risk Property Damage Experts, has been a consistent donor to candidates backed by South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross III. Among these candidates are state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5), George’s brother and the Democratic candidate for the First Congressional District seat, and state Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6).
Some observers have questioned whether Prieto’s consulting work make him vulnerable to pressure from George Norcross. Prieto’s reply to Friedman: “I am and always have been my own man, and that includes my recent consulting work.”
On Monday, three prominent politicians gathered in Camden to announce the awarding of a $1.1 million federal grant for a city youth education and training center – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Camden Mayor Dana Redd and state Sen. Norcross.
PolitickerNJ asked all three elected officials the same question: Is Prieto’s new consulting work in South Jersey a sign that Prieto, who is also the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) chairman, is actually working for the whole state, and not just his North Jersey homeland?
Both Booker and Redd backed off the question, saying they didn’t know enough about the circumstances of Prieto’s consulting work to comment.
Norcross, however, did speak out on the day that the bail reform package was signed into law.
“I think his employment has zero to do with the question you asked,” Norcross told PolitickerNJ. “It has nothing to do with the leadership. Obviously, people have to feed their families.”