TRENTON – All public officials convicted of corruption would face mandatory jail time of up 10 years and loss of their pensions and benefits under a new bill, S-14, introduced today by Senator John H. Adler.
In addition, the bill would subject officials convicted of public corruption to fines of up to $200,000 for crimes related to a public office or to public employment.
“We must take these steps to punish corruption and deter future corruption,” said Senator Adler, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The new measure replaces Adler’s bill, S-67, which was inserted into a property tax reform bill last year after being gutted to exclude union workers by the Governor’s Office.
“I’m confident that the vast majority of New Jersey taxpayers agree with me that there shouldn’t be exceptions for union workers when it comes to penalties for crimes of corruption,” said Senator Adler, a Cherry Hill Democrat.
The new bill includes recommendations by Attorney General Stuart Rabner to provide sentencing leeway for those who agree to testify about public corruption. In addition to last year’s co-prime sponsor, Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the bill now has Senate President Richard J. Codey as an additional co-prime sponsor.
“We need to send a clear message that we have zero tolerance for public corruption,” said Senator Codey. “People don’t want to hear about special breaks for politicians when it comes to corruption. The point here is if you commit a crime of public corruption, you’ll be doing time.”
Under the measure the loss of pension and mandatory prison clause would be triggered if a public official is convicted of any one of 19 public corruption offenses including criminal coercion, theft by deception, commercial bribery, threats and improper influence in official and political matters, perjury, witness tampering, official misconduct and tampering with public records.
“Corruption cannot be tolerated at any level of government, whether it’s the local town council, the school board or the county freeholders,” said Senator Karcher. “New Jersey may seem like a hotbed of corruption, but at least we’re doing something about it.”
Senator Adler said he was hopeful the bill could be placed in a position for a floor vote in the Senate as soon as possible. For those with multiple public positions, the bill would forfeit the pension for the job where the crime was committed.
“I would prefer that the bill forfeit all pension benefits whenever a conviction is returned for any public corruption,” said Senator Adler. “That would be the strongest possible deterrent.”
The minimum penalty under the bill would be a one year jail term and a fine of $10,000. In addition, pension forfeiture and mandatory prison terms will apply to crimes committed after the bill takes effect which would be 30 days after it is signed into law.