Karcher Statement On Former Keyport Mayor Merla’s Guilty Plea

TRENTON – Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, a leading advocate in the Legislature for top-to-bottom ethics reform, issued the following statement today on the guilty plea of former Keyport Mayor John Merla, as part of the FBI’s ‘Operation Bid Rig,’ a sting to uncover deep-rooted corruption in Monmouth County:

“John Merla is the latest in a long line of public officials who will be sent to jail for abusing the public trust for personal gain. He took advantage of his office, and deserves the harshest penalties we can levy, to send a message that such action cannot be tolerated.

“‘Operation Bid Rig’ has been immensely successful in rooting out the rotten core of Monmouth County politics – allegations of corruption, greed and outright fraud that have undermined the good work done every day by the real public servants who are interested in the greater good. For too long, too many public officials, on both sides of the aisle, have made mockeries of their offices, and they should be held accountable to the highest standards of the law.

“Merla, along with the many other officials netted through ‘Bid Rig,’ are the poster-children for additional reforms. These corrupt officials, found guilty in a court of law, should not have the potential to draw a pension upon serving their time, as is currently the case. Legislation being pushed by myself and Senator (John) Adler would ban those convicted of corruption from benefiting in their retirement years. I hope to see action on this bill, and other reforms, soon, as Senate President (Richard) Codey has recently signed on to support a reform package in the Senate.

“Today, the law-abiding citizens of Monmouth County have been vindicated with the guilty plea, and pending incarceration, of another corrupt politician. While the volume of public corruption cases is a sad testament to how widespread the problem is, the purging of these officials will help to instill greater trust in government in the long run. I will continue to work in the State Legislature to promote tough penalties that fit the crimes when it comes to public corruption, and provide the necessary disincentives to keep officials honest.”