Monday, September 10, 2007

Crisis of Leadership: 11 N.J. Officials Arrested

During the last five years, more than 100 public officials in New Jersey alone have been convicted on federal corruption charges. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, public corruption is one of its top investigative priorities because of its impact on our democracy and national security.

The latest example of the crisis of leadership within American government culminated September 6, 2007 with the arrests of 11 public officials from throughout New Jersey. The defendents, including state assemblymen, a mayor, city councilmen, the chief of staff to the Newark City council president and school board officials, were charged with corruption for taking bribes in exchange for influencing the awarding of public contracts, according to the office of U. S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie.

[Reprinted from the U. S. Attorney District of New Jersey website –]

TRENTON — In a public corruption investigation that progressed from southern to northern New Jersey, five members of the same local Atlantic County school board, two state Assemblymen from Passaic and Essex Counties, the mayor of Passaic and one current and one former Passaic city council member, and the chief of staff to the Newark City Council president were arrested today and charged with taking cash bribes to influence the award of public contracts, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie and FBI Special Agent in Charge Weysan Dun announced.

Each of the 11 public officials and one associate accepted the payments from companies that offered insurance brokerage or roofing services to school districts and municipalities, according to criminal Complaints unsealed with the arrests this morning. The investigation began in mid-2006 amid evidence of corruption in the Pleasantville School District. In response, the FBI established an undercover insurance brokerage company purporting to employ the government’s two cooperating witnesses and undercover agents.

Pleasantville School Board members allegedly took thousands of dollars in bribes from the cooperating witnesses. The circle of corruption widened when certain Pleasantville school board members referred the cooperating witnesses to public officials in northern New Jersey who also took bribes and, in turn, put the cooperating witnesses in touch with still other corrupt public officials, according to the Complaints.

The investigation included hundreds of tape-recorded and/or videotaped encounters, during which the officials charged in the complaints openly expressed their desire to enrich themselves using their public positions and influence. The defendants accepted corrupt payments ranging from $1,500 to $17,500 at any one time. In most cases, the defendants sought to establish and perpetuate a corrupt relationship with the cooperating witnesses to continue receiving bribes.

“The brazen greed and callous disregard of their oaths of office displayed by these defendants as alleged in the criminal complaints is breathtaking,” said Christie. “Public officials around the state should finally learn that federal law enforcement will not rest while they continually violate the public trust. This pattern of corruption infects every level of government – from the local school board to the highest levels of state government. The public has had enough.”

“There is no safe haven for corruption in New Jersey,” said Dun. “The FBI continues to fight corruption as it seems there is a never-ending supply of public officials willing to subvert their positions and lay themselves on the alter of public disgrace.”


U.S. Attorney, District of New Jersey Press Release Click here to visit site
U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Jersey
Click here to visit site
FBI Website
Investigating Public Corruption
Click here to visit site

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