TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden which would impose civil damages on corrupt public officials was unanimously approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee today.
“New Jersey’s citizens are fed up with the level of corruption in their government,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “They read newspaper story upon newspaper story about how public officials are making a mockery of their office, and abusing the public trust. We need tougher penalties, including the ability to seek lost tax dollars, whenever a public official crosses the line.”
Senator Madden’s bill, S-1318, sponsored with Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, would allow the Attorney General to seek monetary penalties against certain persons convicted of public corruption crimes. The bill would allow the Attorney General or county prosecutor to seek a “public corruption profiteering penalty,” for any public official found guilty of a host of corruption crimes, including, but not limited to: fraud, false contract payment claims, improper influence of public office, retaliation or receipt of bribe or other unlawful benefit. The penalty, which would be reimbursed to the public entity that had been defrauded due to public corruption, would be in addition to any other penalties the person may face because of public corruption.
“Taxpayers have lost millions of dollars to public corruption,” said Senator Madden. “Bribery, fraud and abuse have caused increased taxes in our municipalities, added strain on local infrastructure and lost faith in the political process. By giving prosecutors the power to assess civil penalties on corrupt public officials, we can begin to reclaim lost funds and help put downward pressure on property taxes in affected municipalities.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee before going to the full Assembly for a vote.