Voters call for resignations in NJ

July 27, 2009 8:29:47 PM PDT
Calls for the resignations of New Jersey mayors accused of corruption continued to grow louder Monday. Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano is one of three mayors indicted for taking bribes in one of New Jersey's largest corruption busts. The rookie mayor is refusing to step aside, and on Monday, protesters held a rally calling for his resignation.

He's only been in office three weeks and campaigned on a promise to clean up local government, but Cammarano is one of many politicians swept up in New Jersey's latest federal corruption probe.

Now, a lot of Hoboken voters want him gone.

"When you're caught on tape taking money in a bag, offering developers favors, how does he expect anyone in this community to have faith and trust in him?" resident Richard Pasquarelli said. "And I think he needs to step down."

Cammarano went to work early Monday, trying to portray an image that everything is fine at City Hall. His lawyer points out those bribes, $25,000, "were actually campaign contributions. The money was not intended for personal use."

"I love this mayor, and i hope with all my heart, that this is proved to be a big political move and he's proved to be innocent," Cammarano supporter Margaret O'Brien said.

But even Governor Jon Corzine, after a bill signing, said, "For the good of Hoboken, it's time for Cammorano to resign."

"People are innocent until proven guilty, they are," Corzine said. "But the fact is, I think it is a very serious inability to focus on the people's business when you've got those circumstances."

What is especially galling to many voters in the city of 45,000 is a breathtaking quote in the FBI complaint. On an undercover tape, Cammarano allegedly said, "The Italians, the Hispanics, the seniors are locked down. Nothing can change that now. I could be indicted and I'm still gonna win 85 to 95 percent of those populations."

"I think it was insulting to all the Hispanics and Italians to take," protester Donna Antonucci said. "They are so ignorant and naive that they would vote for him even when he's indicted by the FBI."

Several New Jersey towns are bracing for regularly scheduled council meetings in which newly charged officials would be making their first public appearances since being paraded in handcuffs at Newark federal court. Those arrested included mayors, state assemblymen, municipal employees and rabbis.

Jersey City council president Mariano Vega said during a Monday morning caucus meeting that he had no intention of resigning despite charges he accepted bribes.

The city's embattled mayor, Jerramiah Healy, has suspended without pay those Jersey City employees who were charged in the investigation. He reiterated Monday that although he was mentioned but not charged in the indictments, he has done nothing wrong and has no plans to step down.

Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini and nearly a dozen other city employees were among those arrested. Most are charged with accepting bribes from a federal cooperating witness posing as a developer looking to gain approvals for a building project.

Thomas Cammarata, a lawyer for Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, said Elwell still was in the mayor's seat Monday and planned to issue a statement Tuesday about whether he'd remain there.

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