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Rice Signs Off On Governor’s Nominee For Community Affairs Commissioner

Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex)

TRENTON – State Senator Ronald L. Rice, Vice Chairman of the New Jersey State Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee announced today that he has signed off on Governor Christie’s nomination of Lori Grifa to head up the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

“After speaking to the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Richard Bagger and interviewing the nominee, Lori Grifa, I am comfortable that Ms. Grifa, once confirmed, would continue the investigations into the many questions raised in the recent audit of the City of Newark,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex.

In October of 2008, the Senator requested that former Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, Joseph Doria – in conjunction with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and other state agencies – conduct a thorough investigation and audit of the finances, hiring practices and the awarding of professional services contracts to political allies and others by the City of Newark’s administration and the entities created and administered by the city.

The Senator said that he is concerned that the audit that was recently completed raises questions about improprieties that need to be further investigated by other state agencies such as the offices of the Inspector General or the Attorney General. According to the Senator, the original audit did not go far enough regarding allegations brought to the attention of the Corzine administration by employees and vendors working for and doing business with the City of Newark.

“The taxpayers, voters, Legislature and the media have been very much concerned about the hiring practices in the City and the awarding of contracts for professional services as regularly depicted in the news media,” said Senator Rice. “While the original audit was a good starting point to begin discussing improprieties in Newark, we need the State’s law enforcement organizations to take a deeper look and ensure that no laws were broken in the awarding of contracts and lucrative jobs to campaign donors.”

Senator Rice noted in his letter to former Commissioners Joseph V. Doria, Jr., and David J. Scolow that workers and residents within the City have complained informally to the Corzine administration and to Newark City Council members that while city employees were being terminated under the auspices of fiscal problems, friends and political supporters of the Mayor from out of town and within were being hired at high salaries and given pay raises on top of salaries that were already over $100,000.

“The residents are also very much concerned about the awarding of lucrative consultant contracts at the taxpayers’ expense without any accountability for performance and the abuse of executive orders to increase salaries for politically-connected employees,” said Senator Rice. “Having spoken to her about the concerns of local residents, I believe that Ms. Grifa understands the problems and will address them in her tenure as Community Affairs Commissioner. I look forward to working with her to make Newark a better place to live for all City residents, not just the ones who happen to be close to the mayor.”