Senator Says He Will Propose Legislation Removing Constitutional Protections for Office
TRENTON – Senator Paul A. Sarlo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced today that he would introduce legislation asking voters to strip the Attorney General and Secretary of State of the constitutional protections of their offices, leaving them subject to the same terms of employment as other cabinet members.
“Constitutional protections for the Attorney General and the Secretary of State is an idea whose time has come and gone,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic. “At one point, these posts required additional job security to effectively accomplish the mission of the office. But in recent years, the hurdles to remove them have kept some people in the job a lot longer than they should have been.”
Senator Sarlo noted that as Constitutional Officers, the Attorney General and Secretary of State enjoy strong protections making it very difficult to remove them from office. Under the Constitution, a person can only be removed from one of these positions through resignation, impeachment, or a complicated process in which the Governor has to prove “cause,” a justifiable reason why they can no longer perform the duties of the office. The Senator noted that recent scandals with Attorney General Zulima Farber, as well as past scandals involving these positions.
“Under the current constitutional standards, we’ve set the bar way too high in terms of how we go about removing someone from the positions of Attorney General or Secretary of State, even if they really need to go,” said Senator Sarlo. “Constitutional protections were once needed to guarantee the independence of these posts, but in recent years, they’ve only served to keep ethically-challenged people in office. We need to make the Attorney General and Secretary of State answerable to the Governor, to ensure that New Jerseyans don’t get stuck with corrupt and unethical people in these important jobs.”
Senator Sarlo’s proposal would require a constitutional amendment to accomplish. If his bill is approved by both Houses of the Legislature, it would go as a ballot question to the voters, possible by the November 2007 General Election.