TRENTON, NJ - The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee adopted legislation sponsored by Senators Anthony Bucco and Christopher “Kip” Bateman to combat and prevent egregious violations of public trust and the illegal spending of taxpayer dollars by requiring all local officials to complete a training program on the Local Government Ethics Law.

“The people of New Jersey are fed up with corrupt officials who squander their hard-earned taxpayer dollars for political wheeling-and-dealing, greed, or personal gain,” Bucco (R-Morris, Somerset) said. “Each year, we entrust municipal and county officers with $15 billion taxpayer dollars. Requiring these public servants to complete uniform, comprehensive ethics training will protect this investment and improve the integrity of all levels of local government.”

Under S-84, all elected officials must, within six months of their first term, complete training concerning the requirements of the “Local Government Ethics Law” and any applicable municipal or county code of ethics. The training program must be completed by any part-time or full-time municipal or county officer - compensated or not -  including those who were appointed before the enactment of this bill. Local officers must complete the ethics training within the designated time period or face escalating fines of up to $5,000.

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Widely publicized investigations into kickback schemes and exploitation of New Jersey’s public funds have exposed the critical need for legislative action, Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset) said.

Recent examples of violations of the law include:

  • Three New Jersey municipalities paid $240,000 in unemployment benefits to school crossing guards who were actually still working.
  • Nearly $1 million in kickbacks and bribes were accepted by the former executive director of the Newark Watershed program, for her assistance in awarding work to various contractors.
  • Several high-level municipal employees were paid more than $195,000 in overtime, in a manner that violated state law. In Paterson, the total amount received by a business administrator represented more than 20 percent of his salary for that year.
  • A Chesterfield Township Committeeman exploited his position to reap a $200,000 windfall on the sale of development rights on his property.

“This legislation will ensure all local officials understand key standards of ethical conduct, such as conflicts of interest and financial disclosure practices,” Bateman  said. “Providing training on such issues will prevent public servants from committing these shameful violations – acts that ultimately fracture the very communities they were chosen to represent.”