Promoted by Rosi. This was posted Friday, but I saved it for Monday’s front page. What do you think of A3180, Blue Jersey?
We have a number of indicted or arrested Mayors on bail who continue to “serve” in their office despite their pending trials. In Mercer, the Mayors of the two most populous towns (Trenton and Hamilton) both have been tagged with corruption charges. Years ago, the raid by the FBI, or the walk to the Federal Courthouse would mean a tersely worded statement or an awkward press conference where the elected official would announce their resignation. However it seems times have changed. While we all believe that everyone deserves their day in court and are innocent until proven guilty, that doesn’t mean that the residents they represent deserve to be sentenced to months of waiting, distractions and turmoil. All the while taxpayers are footing the bill for salaries, benefits, pension contributions and other perks of the office. Unfortunately, most of this money is lost even if there is a conviction down the road.
That’s why I introduced A3180 in June and will be looking to advance it this fall. It is clear that in these days of local corruption, some politicians need a push to do the right thing. Rather than hanging in office and collecting a salary from property taxpayers to fund a legal defense (especially since campaign funds cannot be used) it’s time to suspend their pay and benefits pending the trial. No indicted official should be able to use the threat of staying office through a full trial as a bargaining chip with prosecutors.
It is time to restore some teeth (and hopefully trust) to the oath our elected officials take when they are sworn into office. Particularly, when an official is accused of using their public position in an illegal manner to reap personal benefits, the public should be reassured that until the allegations are resolved, their taxpayer dollars will be protected. This bill would help hold elected officials accountable from the first time they raise their right hand to take their oath of office.
So, how would A3180 work? When an elected official is sworn in they would be required to sign an additional affidavit that states if they are ever indicted of an offense of moral turpitude related to their office (i.e. corruption) they would agree to have all salary, benefits and pension contributions suspended until resignation, conviction or on the off change they are exonerated. In that last case, they can seek restoration of their lost earnings. Otherwise, taxpayers are saved from the nightmare of having their hometown tarnished AND paying the person who is causing the damage.
Given the latest arrests in Trenton and the continued taxpayer payments to indicted mayors in our area, this bill is needed so taxpayers do not have to continue to foot the bill.. As I said, while we would hope most elected officials in this situation would do the right thing and resign, for those that don’t I believe we have to protect the taxpayers. I want to be clear, this isn’t judging the guilt or innocence of the official, or an attempt to rush to judgment, but to protect taxpayers until such matters can be resolved in a court of law.