TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a bill, sponsored by Senator John H. Adler, that will impose mandatory prison terms and pension forfeitures for corrupt public officials.
The Judiciary panel, chaired by Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill, sanctioned legislation that would impose penalties of up to 10 years in prison and pension forfeitures for public officials who commit specific offenses involving the betrayal of their public trust. The measure was approved with unanimous, bipartisan support.
“Our intent here is to send a clear message that public corruption will be punished with jail time and revocation of pension benefits,” said Senator Adler.
The Judiciary Committee amended and released the legislation after deleting some violations that were deemed possibly misleading and adding others that warranted mandatory punishment.
“By closely defining the crimes covered, we made a good bill better,” Senator Adler said.
At the same time, the panel rejected amendments that would have diluted the mandatory jail time and pension forfeitures.
“New Jersey suffers from pervasive corruption,” Senator Adler said. “With this bill, the Legislature is responding firmly and decisively to that corruption,” Senator Adler said. “Our goal is to restore public trust.”
Sens. Adler and Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, worked to amend their bill, S-67/153/825, and prepared it for a vote before the full Senate.
The amended bill added perjury, theft by deception and securing government property in excess of $10,000 to the list of crimes meriting mandatory prison and pension forfeitures. But the panel deleted other offenses on grounds they could trigger mandatory sentences for civil rights demonstrations or partisan political activity.
Senator Adler commended Senators Bob Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset, and Nick Scutari, D-Union, Middlesex and Somerset, for contributing to the bill’s improvements as members of the Judiciary Committee.
Other penalties included as meriting mandatory jail and pension forfeiture are criminal coercion, theft by extortion, commercial bribery, money laundering, false contract payment claims, bribery in official matters, unlawful official business transactions where interest is involved, unlawful benefit to public servant for official behavior, tampering with witnesses, tampering with public records, compounding, official misconduct, speculating or wagering on official action or information, and pattern of official misconduct.
“The (Senate Judiciary) Committee work on this bill was rewarding,” Sen. Adler said. We addressed concerns to achieve our goal of alerting every public official in New Jersey that betraying the public trust will result in jail time,” said Senator Adler. “At the same time, we have clearly sent the message that pensions will be denied to corrupt public officials.”