The New Jersey Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean to strengthen local government accountability and ethics, in part, by transferring oversight at the municipal and county levels to the State Ethics Commission.
“New Jersey municipal and county officials must be more accountable to the people, as they control $15 billion taxpayer dollars each year,” said Kean (R-Union, Somerset, Morris). “This overdue measure holds local representatives to the highest and most efficient ethical standards. Without it, absent or fragmented oversight will continue to be a recipe for local government to violate the public trust.”
Senator Kean introduced the original version of this bill, S-342, in June 2012. Shortly thereafter, then-New Jersey Comptroller Matthew Boxer published a case-in-point investigative report about a Chesterfield Township Committeeman exploiting his position to reap a $200,000 windfall on the sale of development rights on his property.
“Every public official and employee in New Jersey must be held equally responsible to the toughest ethical laws and face the highest penalties for failure,” Kean said. “This bill will streamline the enforcement of conflicts of interest laws and expedite the adjudication of local cases before the state’s top ethics watchdog.”
Currently, ethics violations by local officials are penalized by a set of smaller monetary penalties than those involving state officials, and are adjudicated by the Department of Community Affairs.
S-342 enhances local government accountability in the following ways:
- Gives the State Ethics Board jurisdiction over conflicts of interest law involving municipal government officials, removing such cases from Department of Community Affairs;
- Subjects local government officials to the same schedule of monetary penalties as those faced by state officials for violations of the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law; and
- Requires the State Ethics Commission to promulgate financial disclosure forms for municipal officials
S-342 is one of many Senate Republican solutions to make government more accountable to end waste and abuse. Here is a link to a growing list of bills (with last session’s bill numbers as of this release).