NJ finds 3 more convicted officials got new government jobs
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A review by the New Jersey attorney general’s office turned up at least three additional cases of convicted public officials who were able to land new government jobs, despite a law barring them from such employment.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office provided its findings in response to a records request by The Associated Press.
Two were former school board members in southern New Jersey, and the third was a court administrator in Paterson. They ended up pleading guilty to federal crimes in 2007 for helping solicit and taking bribes, served time and were released from prison.
All three later landed low-level government jobs, the AP found, but the attorney general’s office said they are no longer in those positions. One of them served as a poll worker for the Passaic County Board of Elections for $200 a day.
Under state law, public officials convicted of a federal or state crime related to their work “shall be forever disqualified from holding any office or position of honor, trust or profit under this state or any of its administrative or political subdivisions.”
The three former government officials are not accused of any wrongdoing in finding jobs again in the public sector. Instead, the findings by the attorney general uncovered lapses in the notification process intended to ensure such workers are not rehired for government jobs.
Prosecutors are required to file so-called forfeiture orders in state court barring anyone convicted of a crime involving their public office from working for the government again.
Grewal began his review after it became public that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration hired a convicted former Passaic councilman to work in the state Department of Education.
Since discovering that paperwork hadn’t been filed in the case of the councilman, the attorney general’s office has identified at least eight additional cases in which documents were not submitted for individuals convicted of federal offenses, said Grewal spokeswoman Sharon Lauchaire in a statement. “Additional cases may be forthcoming,” she said.
The eight included the three who applied for and got new jobs in government.
“Our view of it is that the review has shown a lot of these cases were not people in high-paying or high-profile jobs.” Lauchaire said.
Government agencies should learn of the orders during the hiring process, Lauchaire said. If that doesn’t happen, then the disqualification should get caught when the state’s pension system enrolls the prospective worker, she said.
Former Pleasantville Board of Education members Pete Callaway and Jayson Adams admitted taking part in a bribes-for-government-contracts scheme. Callaway pleaded guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right. Adams pleaded guilty to the same charge, as well as obstruction of interstate under color of official right.
State pension records show that Adams was an Atlantic County employee beginning in 2017. Grewal’s office said he was “let go” when the office raised the issue. He did not respond to a phone message left for him.
Callaway was employed with Atlantic Cape Community College. In a phone conversation, Callaway denied working for the county since his prison sentence, but an agenda from the college’s Board of Trustees shows he was hired in “housekeeping” in 2010 after his release. A spokeswoman for the college confirmed Callaway worked there but is not employed currently.
Princess Reaves, a former court administrator in Paterson, pleaded guilty in 2007 to obstruction of interstate commerce by extortion under the color of official right. She was charged as part of a broader sting operation with taking $2,500 in bribes in return for steering subsidized housing tenants. In a phone interview she denied wrongdoing in that case and said she was intimidated into pleading guilty.
She worked in a temporary role for the Passaic County Board of Elections as recently as November as a “board worker,” someone who helps find voters’ names on the roles on Election Day.
She said she has suffered because of the conviction and lost her house. “It took me 13 years to rebuild my life,” she said.
The attorney general’s review started with Marcellus Jackson, a former Passaic council member who admitted taking bribes in 2007. Jackson resigned last year from his $70,000-a-year job as an assistant to the commissioner in the Department of Education.
Murphy said at the time he believed Jackson had “made a mistake” and paid the price for his actions.
“He did what he needed to do and he raised his hand and he asked for a second chance,” Murphy said last year. “We have to get to a better place and give folks, Marcellus and generations to come a second chance.”
Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.