Bill Would Force Corrupt Developers to Reimburse Municipalities
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would allow county prosecutors and the State Attorney General to pursue damage fees against corrupt developers to help repay the municipalities for the cost of corruption, was introduced for consideration last week in the State Senate.
“I intend to push this bill during the legislative lame duck session, because I believe we need tools to help shield New Jersey’s property owners from the harmful effects of public corruption right now,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “Public corruption is not a victimless crime, and always comes at a cost to the taxpayers of the area, whether in the form of unwanted and unnecessary development, pensions for corrupt politicians, or outright theft of public funds. This bill would give our law enforcement officials the ability to hit developers in the checkbook if they are convicted of bribing public officials, and would put their money to good use for the taxpayers.”
The bill, S-2848, would allow prosecutors to seek damages from developers convicted of bribing public officials in order to gain approval for developments. Under the bill, developers could be charged with the crime of public corruption during a criminal trial. If convicted, they could face penalties of three times the value of any property involved in the crime, with an additional assessment of up to $500,000, depending on the severity of the crime. The bill would then require that fees collected from the corrupt developers be reinvested in the municipality to offset any property tax increases caused by the development.
“When a public official is convicted of accepting bribes, developers usually get off with a slap on the wrist, and continue to profit on their illicit investment through the property they developed,” said Senator Karcher. “Recently, we’ve seen the cost of corruption in Marlboro, where former Mayor Matthew Scannapieco authorized dozens of developments based on a wink and a nod from corrupt developers who, as it turns out, were paying him for his approval. The taxpayers of Marlboro should not be left holding the bag as overdevelopment and sprawl increase the cost of living in their municipality.”
The bill is currently pending consideration in the Senate.