TRENTON — State Police officials have launched an internal probe into how and why a speeding ticket was issued to a lawmaker from southern New Jersey.
Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, claims he may have been targeted as payback for health-benefit and pension changes approved by the Legislature, though he admits he has no proof to back up that assertion. Meanwhile, the trooper who issued the citation claims police union leaders pressured him to make the ticket “disappear,” allegations they deny.
Both men have filed complaints that are under review, a process that could take several months — or longer — to complete. State Police declined to comment on either complaint, citing the ongoing investigations.
Citing interviews and confidential documents it obtained, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Albano was stopped Feb. 21 on Route 29 in Mercer County’s Hamilton Township. At the time, he was driving to the Statehouse for Gov. Chris Christie’s budget address.
Albano admits asking Trooper Randy Pangborn to not issue the ticket but denies trying to use his elected position to make that happen. The Vineland resident, who admits he was speeding, said any motorist has the right to request such a favor.
“I remember saying, yes, ‘Can you cut me a break?’” said Albano, who has represented the state’s 1st Legislative District since 2006 and opposed the benefit and pension changes. “‘I’ve always supported the State Police, I was elected as legislator of the year (by the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association) because of what I have done supporting the police, can’t you cut me a break?’ At that point the trooper said, ‘Here’s the number on the ticket to call the courts.’ That was it. He said have a nice day and left.”
Six days after the stop, Albano wrote a letter to State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes, claiming Pangborn singled him out, treated him like a criminal and detained him from official business. However, Albano admits he wasn’t late for Christie’s speech.
In his complaint, Pangborn says high-ranking union officials contacted him about 10 minutes after the traffic stop and asked about it. He says one union official later called him and asked him to “take care of this summons” because Albano was a personal friend.
Pangborn said he immediately refused and soon sought an internal investigation. The trooper also said he believed the complaint against him was punishment and intended to thwart a promotion.
The newspaper said Pangborn did not respond to a message seeking comment.