A number of progressive groups have come out against Senator Lesniak’s plan to “bury” the Council on Affordable Housing (Senate Bill S1) — I recommend this post by Fair Share Housing Center — but the New Jersey NAACP has just moved beyond that, and filed a formal ethics complaint. Here’s what they say:
James E. Harris, President of the New Jersey Conference of the NAACP, today filed a formal ethics complaint with the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, asking for a formal investigation of whether Senators Raymond Lesniak and Christopher Bateman have violated the Legislative Code of Ethics in simultaneously representing over 40 municipalities on affordable housing, planning, and zoning issues and pushing legislation that would substantially change those municipalities’ affordable housing obligations.
NJ NAACP Housing Committee Chairman Mike McNeil said: “Sens. Lesniak and Bateman have violated the public trust in intermeshing their private legal work and their service to the public as legislators. We are today asking the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards to determine the extent of the violation of public trust and to require Sens. Lesniak and Bateman to recuse themselves from further debate on the bill.”
I really can’t say whether or not Lesniak or Bateman have crossed the line here, but I will say that the outdated conceit that being a state legislator is only part-time work is what leads directly to conflicts of interest and even outright corruption, whether it is holding multiple elected positions or doing business with the town through a law firm. We’d be a lot better off making the members of the Assembly and Senate full time, even if it ends some romantic notions.