Legislators offer round of responses to corruption arrests

//August 3, 2009

Legislators offer round of responses to corruption arrests

//August 3, 2009

Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. suspended the legislative salary and benefits of Assembly members L. Harvey Smith, Daniel M. Van Pelt and Joseph Vas.There’s nothing like a wave of corruption arrests to prompt calls for ethics reform.

Since the arrests a week ago today, more than a dozen state lawmakers have offered their take on what the Legislature should do in response. Those arrested included Assembly members L. Harvey Smith (D-Jersey City) and Daniel M. Van Pelt (R-Lacey).

Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. (D-Brooklawn) took action Wednesday, suspending the legislative salary and benefits of Smith, Van Pelt and Assemblyman Joseph Vas (D-Perth Amboy), who was indicted earlier this year. Roberts also repeated a call for all three to resign.

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Whippany) demanded Gov. Jon S. Corzine order the Legislature back for a special session to pass tougher ethics laws.

In addition, during the past week:

• State Sen. Marcia A. Karrow (R-Flemington) called on Corzine to freeze spending on special municipal aid until an independent audit on the spending has been done.

• Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) said the state must consolidate municipalities to reduce the opportunities for corruption.

• Assemblywoman Dawn Marie Addiego (R-Medford) and Assemblyman Scott Rudder (R-Medford) planned legislation dropping the requirement that towns pay fired business administrators 90 days’ severance.

• State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) and Assembly members Caroline Casagrande (R-Freehold) and Declan J. O’Scanlan Jr. (R-Red Bank) said they will introduce a bill making it a crime to fail to report being offered or witnessing a bribe attempt.

Legislators also repeated calls to pass bills they already had introduced. They included:

• Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) called for a ban on those convicted of crimes from serving on political party committees.

• Assembly members Casagrande, O’Scanlon Jr., Amy H. Handlin (R-Belford) and Samuel D. Thompson (R-Matawan) all called for increased penalties for officials indicted and convicted of crimes.

• Assemblymen John Amodeo and Vince Polistina, both Republicans with Northfield offices, also joined the call for more ethics reforms, including a requirement that legislators be out of office for at least two years before they can take a position with the state government’s executive branch.

E-mail Andrew Kitchenman at [email protected].