State Senator Nick Sacco (D-32) explained why he won’t compromise on his amended official misconduct bill that remains in limbo, as well as why he feels the Palisade Cliffs Protection Act is responsible legislation.
“Absolutely not, absolutely not: we’re gonna be fair to everybody,” Sacco said when asked if he’d consider compromising on the amendment he introduced during an interview at North Bergen Township Hall, where he serves as mayor, last week.
Sacco’s official misconduct amendment was added to Bill S-2586 on August 24th, after state Senators Senators Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Nellie Pou (D-35) introduced the initial bill on June 2nd.
The updated measure then then cleared the full Senate on August 27th.
The original version intended to get rid of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug and property crimes.
While some advocacy groups supported the change prior to the December 21st legislative session, the last one of the year, dozens of others panned it, Politico reported.
“This amendment, if enacted into law, would surely send a message that corruption is tolerated in New Jersey — or at least implicitly sanctioned by state legislators,” the letter says.
The final outcome at last week’s legislative session saw a repeat of what had happened earlier in the year: the legislation cleared the Senate, but did not receive a vote in the Assembly.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s (D-19) office didn’t shed any further light on what may come next.
“The speaker is reviewing the legislation,” said Coughlin spokesman Kevin McArdle.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has previously said he wouldn’t sign Sacco’s version of the legislation and his office declined to comment further at this time.
The bill has faced intense scrutiny due to Sacco’s son-in-law, Walter Somick, one of two township employees charged with official misconduct by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office back in August 2015 for allegedly falsifying timesheets.
Over five years and one Trenton administration later, the case is still pending. According to the mayor/senator, Somick’s ongoing legal battle isn’t the basis for the bill.
That distinction goes to two former Department of Public Works supervisors: Troy Bunero and Francis Longo, who were sentenced to five years in state prison in November 2015 after being convicted of charges including official misconduct.
” … We watched two people in North Bergen go to jail for five years. The judge actually said ‘you boys deserve probation. We put two non-violent offenders in jail for five years: their crime was minimal,” Sacco continued.
” … We’re taking people who were non-violent offenders supposedly out of prison and we’re still throwing people in prison: this is wrong, the whole program is wrong.”
Bunero and Longo stood trial for over a month-long trial after being accused of performing personal chores and working on political campaigns while on township time.
“We’ve seen this over and over again: the fact that they were able to sell to the people of New Jersey that there’s a culture of corruption here is a blatant lie,” Sacco asserted, pointing out that former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman had also pushed back against such a characterization back in 2010.
Furthermore, Sacco remained staunch that the bill was not to help political and/or family friends, exclaiming that judges should be the ones deciding convicted offenders fates, not politicians.
He also mentioned that New Jersey, along with Illinois, is one of only two states in the country that have mandatory minimum sentences for official misconduct, as well as that he was one of the key votes helping the initial bill clear the Senate.
Illinois of course also has a storied history as far as political mishaps go, with the Illinois Policy reporting back in August that corruption costs their state an astonishing $556 million a year.
Another bill that has recently drawn some attention is the Palisades Cliffs Protection Act, a rare instance where Sacco worked with fellow North Hudson power broker Brian Stack, who is also the Union City mayor.
They have both said previously that this in an effort to preserve the waterfront in Hudson and Bergen Counties, as HCV first reported.
“Under the bill, no development, inclusive of any mechanical structures on top, in that area could exceed 10 feet below the surface of that road or the Palisades cliff height, whichever is lower,” the legislation, co-sponsored by state Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36), says in the bill statement.
The proposal has drawn some negative reactions out of Hoboken from officials and developers alike who are distraught over some pending projects that would no longer be permissible.
Nevertheless, from Sacco’s perspective, the bill is self explanatory and has nothing to do with his own personal views.
“There is still open land here, even in my own town. In the wrong hands, you’ll see gigantic skyscrapers unfortunately were The Galaxy [in Guttenberg] were built: what would stop that from happening again?,” he questioned.
” … This covers the whole waterfront. We had issues as far out as Englewood Cliffs, with people complaining about the height of buildings and this would give us some sort of control. We’ve done our part. Our cities have done our part … We’re not telling people they can’t develop, they can develop 15-story towers and no one’s gonna complaint about it.”
Sacco further stated that 40-plus story towers just aren’t right for the waterfront, with this bill potentially cutting developmental structures off at about 120 feet.