Tag Archive: Joe Vas

So Much for Diversity on the LD19 Slate

The LD 19 committee convention endorsed Craig Coughlin as the Dem candidate for assembly, so O’Leary’s withdrawal did not open up a spot for Judge Mattias Rodriguez or Jean Pierce.  Very disappointing.

The Star Ledger reports the vote was overwhelmingly for Coughlin:

District Democratic Party committee members nominated Coughlin with 170 votes. Superior Court Judge Mathias Rodriguez of Perth Amboy received 77 votes and Jean Pierce, a Woodbridge health care professional and activist, took 25 votes…

Coughlin will run with Assemblyman John Wisniewski of Sayreville, who attended tonight’s convention, and who several people suggested could be the next Assembly speaker.

“The man who I hope will be the next speaker,” Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo said in introducing Wisniewski…

Coughlin and Wisniewski will face Republican candidates Pradip “Peter” Kothari, a Woodbridge businessman, and Richard Piatkowski of Perth Amboy in November.

Even the Ocean County GOP (LD9) did a better job of getting a diverse ticket after Van Pelt’s resignation than the Mdlsx Dems.

[Update:  Just saw this remark from Max Pizarro’s diary:

“I’m trying to break the barrier and prove you don’t need to be 6 ft. 4 to represent this district,” Coughlin said.

That just adds insult to injury.

South Amboy Mayor John T. O’Leary cracked a smile as he applauded in the back of the banquet hall.  Coughlin was the man the 6 ft. 5 mayor from the south side of the bay had supported to be his successor…]

O’Leary’s Out – Diversity for the LD 19 ticket, after all?

[Update: The Home News is now reporting that there are 6 potential candidates to replace O’Leary, and Spicuzzo is ‘not sure of all their names.’

[Update 2:  There is a woman, Jean Pierce from HPAE, in the mix of candidates vying to replace O’Leary as the Dem candidate in LD 19, according to the Home News.  It would be nice to see her replace Vas, after he took the seat from Arlene Friscia.  Home News article

Pierce, 51, who has served on several community boards, including the Woodbridge Housing Authority, said Tuesday she informed Spicuzzo she will file her letter of intent this week.

Pierce is a member of the public policy staff of the Health Professional Allied Employees, the state’s largest union of nurses. Among the public issues she campaigned for was the paid family leave.

“I have a well-rounded background in community organizations and would like to take that to another level,” said Pierce, who has never held elected office.]

It looks like we might get some diversity on the LD 19 ticket, since O’Leary has bowed out to clear his name after a State AG probe and anonymous letters containing various allegations circulated to the Home News and around the county.

The party is considering Superior Court Judge Mathias E. Rodriguez. The fact that he retired on Friday makes it look like he thinks it’s a done deal.  I haven’t heard the names of any women being mentioned, though there are two women on council in Woodbridge, former Council President Pat Osborne and Councilwoman Brenda Yori Velasco.  Before Vas, this was Arlene Friscia’s seat.

I had blogged here about the lack of diversity on the ticket.  And Wisniewski replied here, saying:

…I also noticed there was some concern about not having a particularly diverse ticket in the 19th.  This is something I would like to address.  In Middlesex County, we have a convention where members of the Democratic county committee decide which candidates will be our nominees in the June Primary.  It’s an open process, and the only requirement is that you apply for the position.  I’ve been fortunate to have the committee’s trust and endorsement every year since 1993, and along the way I’ve been honored to screen with several qualified individuals.  However, we need to remember that it’s the job of the Democratic committee members from Perth Amboy, Woodbridge, Sayreville, Carteret, and South Amboy to select their nominees – not me, my running mates, or even the county chairman. That being said, there will be an opportunity to participate in the next screening two years from now. [italics mine -kw]

It didn’t take 2 years.

Now O’Leary is voicing his unhappiness with Wisniewski to the Home News:

O’Leary said Wisniewski was aware of the nine-page letter before it was distributed.  “Clearly, for reasons known only to himself, John was playing politics to benefit himself by becoming part of this anonymous effort to undermine my candidacy,” O’Leary said. O’Leary said he felt betrayed by Wisniewski when Wisniewski made it known to the media that he asked O’Leary to “reconsider the viability” of his bid in a July 28 telephone conversation.

The committee has until Sept 16 to make the ballot replacement, but County Chair Spicuzzo has said the convention will be well before that.  I hope that more people will screen, since in March, it was just O’Leary.

Roberts was asked by law enforcement not to expel Assembly Members

Last week, Speaker Roberts suspended pay and health benefits Assemblymen Vas, Van Pelt and Smith after getting a ruling from his counsel that the he had the authority to take the action.  Despite the fact that they remained silent during the corruption in their own back yard at the Burlington County Bridge Commission, Assembly members Addiego and Rudder tried to score some political points calling for expulsion as a further action:

“Last month’s arrests of legislators, mayors and local officials – and the resignation of a key member of Governor Corzine’s cabinet – proved that the Democratic tact of pretending New Jersey is not infested with corruption does not work,” said Addiego. “We must act now to purge the Legislature of anyone – regardless of party affiliation – who is accused of breaking the public trust.”

But Speaker Roberts was prepared for their grandstanding, having already consulted legal counsel about that possibility as well. First he explained the rules of the Assembly and then said this in his letter responding to Addiego and Rudder:

As you know, prior to any expulsion hearings, Rule 7:6 requires that the committee “serve written charges on the member, provide an opportunity for the member to be heard, to present witnesses, testimony and other evidence, to cross examine witnesses and to be represented by counsel.”  

Given that our rules would require the formation of a parallel investigation to the ongoing criminal inquiry, I immediately consulted with the State Attorney General and the United States Attorney concerning the expulsion of these members and the due process proceeding required by our rules.  They advised that moving forward with the expulsion proceedings could significantly threaten their ongoing criminal investigation of these members and conveyed to me their strong inclination that I not move forward with any proceeding that could in any way hamper their investigation.

I agree that we must send a strong message to the public that corruption will not be tolerated.  But, I believe that the actions we take can never jeopardize the ongoing work of law enforcement as they continue to interview witnesses, collect evidence and develop their criminal case against these individuals.  That is why I took the unprecedented action of suspending the pay and benefits of these members last week.  

I would once again renew my call for Assemblymen Smith and Vas to do the right thing for their constituents and for the good of the Legislature and resign because I believe that they cannot effectively serve the people they were elected to represent given the charges levied against them.

The fact is, Addiego and Rudder could have just sent Roberts the letter, but they decided to try and get some extra attention by putting out a release, which they love to do. So given the response from Roberts, do Addiego and Rudder want to jeopardize the ongoing work of law enforcement in an effort to score more political points? Maybe they can send out a release on that.

Van Pelt resigns Assembly seat

Already fired from his position as township administrator in Lumberton, Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt today said that “public outrage” over his indictment and corruption charges have lead to his resignation:

“My current situation would only serve as distraction and I would do a disservice to those who elected me to do a job,” he said. “Something that would simply break my heart.”


“While I have an unblemished record of over twenty years in public service, I fully understand the outrage that has accompanied these accusations,” he said, “and I recognize that the public has a right to its reaction.”

“In the months ahead I will simply tell the truth, and in the end hopefully prove that I was worthy of the public trust that has defined a part of who I am.”

Van Pelt joins Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano and Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell as indicted officials that have resigned their positions. Paging Joe Vas, Harvey Smith and everyone else that was indicted, what the hell are you waiting for? I don’t really care if you say you’re innocent, defend yourself on your own dime. You have the right to a presumption of innocence, not to represent the public while you try to disprove the charges leveled against you.

Replacing Vas

From the Home News’ coverage of Mdlsx Dem County Chair Joe Spicuzzo’s press conference yesterday, referring to S. Amboy Mayor John O’Leary:

The county party chairman said the Democratic nominating convention, which had been scheduled for March 26, now has been canceled.

The nomination of candidates for the party’s endorsement for the June primary election will be set on March 18, during a 7 p.m. meeting at The Pines Manor in Edison. The party’s bylaws do not require a convention if the number of candidates for a post does not exceed the number of seats available. Because O’Leary and incumbent Assemblyman John Wisniewski are the only Democratic candidates for the two Assembly seats, a convention is not necessary.

Well, that’s convenient.  I guess Woodbridge, Perth Amboy, Sayreville and Carteret don’t have anyone interested.  Supposing you wouldn’t want both reps in the assy from the same town, you can knock out Sayreville.  

The district is 1/4 latino, according to politckernj.com, and already represented by two white guys:  Sen. Vitale and Assyman Wisniewski.  

From what I hear, South Amboy is a blue collar Democratic town of about 8,000.  It’s is one of several municipalities in Middlesex that have no women on council. Photos and bios, here:

Council President Fred Henry – Term: 2009

Council Vice-President Joseph Connors – Term: 2009

Councilman Russell Stillwagon – Term: 2012

Councilman John O’Connell – Term: 2012

Councilman Mark Noble – Term: 2012

It’s looking like Middlesex Co. Dems are going to buck the trend of replacing indicted legislators with women, which got us to a record 28% women in the legislature.  So much for minority representation in the 19th, unless Pradip “Peter” Kothari, the GOP candidate from Woodbridge, were to pull off an upset.

Oh, and Vas will let Spicuzzo know if he’s willing to step down as Perth Amboy Dem municipal chair sometime next week.

Vas won’t run again, resignation decision next week

There will be another new face in the Legislature, but this isn’t how it’s supposed to happen:

Embattled Assemblyman Joseph Vas will not seek re-election to his 19th District seat, Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo said today.

Spicuzzo released a letter from Vas in which he said, “In light of the events of the past few days and the unnecessary distraction which may result to the Democratic Party, I regret very much to advise you that I wish to withdraw as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Assembly in the 19th Legislative District.”

His attorney has already said they will challenge the charges. Spicuzzo said that Vas will let him know next week about his decision about resigning his seat next week. Numerous Democratic leaders have already called for his resignation.  

Vas indicted, Vitale calls for immediate resignation

More charges of corruption for a NJ Legislator, this time brought by the Attorney General:

A Democratic leader in the New Jersey Assembly has been charged with public corruption for allegedly abusing his former position as Perth Amboy’s mayor by using city money for personal expenses such as his son’s basketball camps and refreshments served after his father’s funeral.

Prosecutors also accuse Joseph Vas of rigging a lottery so his driver would win.

In an 11-count indictment, Vas, 54, is charged with conspiracy, official misconduct, bid-rigging and records tampering. Attorney General Anne Milgram announced the charges at a news conference Wednesday.

“Joseph Vas took an oath as mayor to honestly and faithfully serve his city, but instead he shamelessly exploited his position for personal gain,” Milgram said.

Possibly the most damning headline for the Legislature as a whole came from the Courier Post:

Another NJ lawmaker facing corruption charges

That has to be the attitude developing among more and more people when they see this endless stream of stories. They also noted that Vas has sponsored 22 bills on ethics and corruption. Senator Joe Vitale was quick to call for Vas’s resignation:

“In light of the variety and extent of the charges, Assemblyman Vas should resign his seat immediately so the people and voters of the 19th Legislative District can have their government serve them in a way that’s unencumbered by these charges,” Vitale told PolitickerNJ.com in a phone interview.

Wally Edge points out this irony that if convicted, Vas could have plenty of time to reflect on:

Three of the charges against Vas – for second degree official misconduct – carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole because the crime allegedly occurred on or after April 14, 2007 – the effective date of the state’s public corruption sentencing enhancement law.

The single count for third-degree tampering with records filed against Vas carries with it a minimum two year sentence without parole.

Vas voted for the mandatory minimum setencing law.

Vas’s attorney said he will enter a not guilty plea:

“We will vigorously contest the charges in court,” Zegas said.

To be honest, I’m just tired of seeing these stories altogether.

Political Insurance

That most-common of all Jersey wildlife, the common political boss, is rearing its head in Perth Amboy.  This one answers to the name Joe Vas.

Joe Vas lost his bid at re-election to upstart activist Wilda Diaz.  Well, he lost one of his jobs – the one where he’s mayor.  He’s still holding onto his State Assembly seat.  And, by all indications, he intends to keep it for a good long time.

The first clue was the speed with which he suddenly decided to fill up the jobs in his local patronage mill.  Of course, from his perspective, he’s just trying to do his job.  But anyone with enough brain cells left to play tag understand that the chief reason for giving away jobs on bloated municipal payrolls is to ensure that whole families vote “the right way” come election day.

Why Joe Vas Lost

Earlier this week, Jeff Gardner spoke briefly about The Jersey Comeback.  It’s great that politicians can get a second chance – everyone deserves that much.  But here’s something to think about before launching a comeback – you have to first go away.  

When I first heard of Joe Vas, he was running for the seat just vacated by now-Senator Bob Menendez.  A lot of my friends who were so involved in battling the myriad mini-machines of Hudson County flocked to his side – convinced that his sweet words were sincere and that he would break the back of the Hudson County machine.

Like most fairy tales, this one didn’t translate into reality so well.  Machines are machines because they are not easily broken.  And the fairy god-father, in this case, had more than just feet made of clay.

Not an Adult in the Whole Group

The Hudson Reporter says that things are not going so smoothly in West New York:

The Vega camp claims Sires wanted to retain control over some aspects of municipal government. Sires people claim this was not the case and that Vega not only began removing Sires appointees from the city the moment Sires left, but actually put anti-Sires people into key city positions.

First of all, let me just point out that if “Sires people” cut ties with Vega because Vega fired people Sires hired, then they are basically confirming what Vega is saying.  Honestly, West New York is such a tiny little sliver of this Congressional district that if Sires is worried who is keeping their plum jobs here, Joe Vas might actually have a chance at upending him.

In other words, Albio needs to grow beyond West New York fast.  Vega, who appears intent on cutting his own throat, should be his last worry.  He’s shown that, if given the opportunity, he’ll make the absolutely worst political decision possible.  Get the hell out of his way!