MARLBORO TOWNSHIP – Senator Barbara Buono, a leading proponent of ethics reform in the Senate, said the legislation she co-sponsored (S-1192 and S-1318) which Governor Corzine signed today is a long-overdue reaction to the broken trust between public officials and the people they serve.
“Silence can’t be golden when public corruption knocks at the front or the back door,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “These bills reflect an effort to express our collective outrage and to act so that the punishment fits the crime.”
Senator Buono praised Senate President Richard J. Codey and Senators Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, and John H. Adler, D-Camden, for leading the charge to impose sanctions on public corruption and those who would profit from its abuse of taxpayers.
Governor Corzine signed the bills at a ceremony held today at the Marlboro Library.
By establishing the crime of corruption of public resources under S-1192, Senator Buono said the Legislature was eliminating the loophole that allowed non-public officials to misuse public contract money and avoid charges of official misconduct.
“This bill helps to restore respect for the people we are elected to serve – New Jersey’s taxpayers,” Senator Buono said. “The range of penalties for those convicted under this statute – up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000 – provide the needed flexibility to ensure offenders don’t get off with a slap on the wrist.”
Senator Buono said the “Public Corruption Profiteering Penalty Act” provided by S-1318, would help repair the long-term damage incurred to a municipality by corrupt acts like payoffs by developers to facilitate overbuilding.
“Unless the ripple effect of public corruption hits a wall of reform, taxpayers will be overwhelmed by a rising tide of congestion gridlock, zoning abnormalities and a grossly diminished quality of life,” Senator Buono said.
Senator Buono said the new law will recognize the ongoing, adverse impacts created for taxpayers in communities victimized by fraud, bribery and political retaliation.
“This legislation makes it clear that we are determined to move beyond allowing corrupt people to pay their way to immunity from penalties for daring to destroy communities,” Senator Buono said.
Under the new law, fines from $75,000 to $500,000 could be imposed for public corruption profiteering or penalties could be assessed based on three times the value of any property involved in the crime, Senator Buono said.