For years, New Jersey had been the butt of jokes because of its seemingly unending list of corrupt government officials. But elected officials who breach the public's trust by using their position to break the law are no laughing matter.
As U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, Chris Christie did his part, sending 130 corrupt New Jersey politicians to prison. Under his gubernatorial leadership, New Jersey has become a role model among states for its leadership in various areas of government reform. Sadly, stringent ethics reform is not one of them. Not because of the governor's inaction, but due to an obstinate majority party that is content with the status quo.
Last year, I introduced A3100, which will make the State Ethics Commission solely responsible for overseeing local and school ethics issues. The legislation, which is supported by the Christie administration, was referred to an Assembly committee, where it was dead on arrival, like many other important ethics bills that have met their demise at the hands of Democratic leaders.
The current system of ethics oversight is ineffective and mired in layers of bureaucracy.
Currently, the State Ethics Commission oversees ethics issues related to Executive Branch government officials and employees.
A separate code of ethics exists for school officials and is administered by the School Ethics Commission within the Department of Education, while yet another separate code of ethics exists for municipal and county officials and is administered by the Local Finance Board in the Department of Community Affairs.
The bill I'm sponsoring will place all municipal and school ethics issues under the authority of one commission. In doing so, such a law will provide stringent oversight and sorely needed transparency at this level of government.
Under the legislation, the State Ethics Commission would issue a uniform code of ethics to govern the conduct of local and school officials. It would be authorized to conduct investigations, hold hearings, issue subpoenas, initiate, hear and review complaints and conduct audits of ethics procedures and policies. The bill also calls for stronger penalties and would require the commission to provide a financial disclosure form for use by local and school officials, who would be required to put it on their websites for convenient downloading.
I invite my Democratic colleagues to join me in streamlining and consolidating ethics filings and enforcement within a dedicated board
ASSEMBLYMAN DAVE WOLFE