A source close to the developing story in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office said that Governor Chris Christie will likely nominate Gurbir Grewal—his pick from 2013—to take John Molinelli’s place as Bergen County Prosecutor. According to some in the county, however, it is too early to tell if Grewal will be the final pick.
Early Tuesday, Molinelli announced that he would be complying with the Governor’s request for him to step down. While no exit plan has been released, Molinelli said he plans to continue in his capacity as Bergen County Prosecutor until he finds new employment. Molinelli’s term ended in 2013 and Christie put forth Grewal’s name as his pick to replace him. However, the Senate never scheduled hearings to confirm Grewal’s appointment. According to the source, the timing of the pick was too close to the Bridgegate scandal, putting a wrench in the Christie administration’s plan to replace Molinelli and resulting in the extension of his term.
Grewal is a Democrat and an attorney from Glen Rock. Currently, he serves as the Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit in the N.J. Office of the U.S. Attorney.
According to state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) any rumors that Grewal will definitely be the pick are “complete speculation” and the Governor needs to come to a consensus with the four senators in Bergen County before making a final pick.
“I respectfully disagree with the governor’s decision but I also recognize the governor has the authority to do so,” Sarlo told PolitickerNJ. “There needs to be a collaboration between the four senators in Bergen County. If not, there will be an interim.”
While some are saying that Grewal is the likely pick, others are less sure. Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Nick Scutari (D-22) said that he “isn’t sure” who the pick will be but acknowledges that Christie may opt for Grewal again since he had been previously vetted. The judiciary committee will hold the hearing on the choice of the eventual nominee.
“If and when the governor nominates someone, we will consider having a hearing,” Scutari said. “It might be [Grewal] but I am really not sure.” According to Scutari, the nomination from 2013 has expired so the Governor needs to reissue a nomination for Grewal or nominate a new choice before a hearing can be scheduled.
According to Republican Bergen County freeholder candidate, John Mitchell, Molinelli’s departure from the BCPO will “lift a cloud” from the justice system in the county.
In the freeholder race, issues of the BCPO have been discussed with candidates like Mitchell calling for an investigation and Libertarian Peter Rohrman crying for Molinelli’s dismissal. These calls aome after allegations that Molinelli wrongly used pretrial intervention for a doctor who had sexually assaulted patients.
“I’m happy that the pressure I helped bring in this situation worked, and only wish the Democrat Freeholders had joined my call for action long ago,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Even though the Democrat Freeholders tried to hold onto the last vestiges of the corrupt [Joe] Ferriero days, the public interest has prevailed.”
While Mitchell claims it was partly due to action on his part that Molinelli will be leaving the BCPO, Sarlo said that the “impetus for a decision was a letter from the Democratic freeholders.”
In the freeholder race, Mitchell is running alongside Daisy Ortiz-Berger and Ken Tyburczy. They are challenging Tracy Zur, Tom Sullivan and Steve Tanneli who are all currently sitting board members. Mitchell was a freeholder in 2013, when Grewal was first nominated.
Governor Christie’s office has yet to issue a comment but, according to a source, Grewal is likely to work in an acting capacity after Molinelli leaves.