Given that there hasn’t been a Hudson County Prosecutor since June 2012, Hudson County View takes a look at the three candidates for the job: North Bergen Public Defender Julio Morejon, Passaic County Superior Court Judge Esther Suarez and Acting Hudson County Prosecutor Gaetano Gregory.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
As Hudson County View first reported last month, 10 advocacy groups called on Gov. Chris Christie to appoint Morejon as Hudson County Prosecutor.
Morejon is a former deputy attorney general (from September 1986 until December 1988), as well as a judge, municipal prosecutor and town attorney in West New York.
He has also previously served as municipal prosecutor in Bloomfield, Union City and North Bergen. Morejon currently serves as general counsel to the Union City Housing Authority, in addition to being the North Bergen Public Defender and having a law office in Guttenberg.
Additionally, Morejon is a graduate of Cornell University and Seton Hall University Law School.
Morejon is a lifelong Hudson County resident and lives in Union City, with his wife, Diana, who he has two daughters with: Amanda and Alicia.
Sources tell Hudson County View that state Senators Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Nick Sacco (D-32) were willing to sign off on Morejon’s appointment as Hudson County Prosecutor as far back as early 2013, but State Senator Brian Stack (D-33) has been adamantly against it.
Suarez, who has been residing in Wayne since 2009, was appointed as a judge by then-Gov. Jon Corzine in January 2010.
At the time, she was collecting an annual salary of about $205,000 annually between her three jobs as Bergen County counsel, Bergen county adjuster and general counsel to the Union City Parking Authority, as The Record reported.
She left all three posts in order to accept the judgeship (which expires in 2017), taking a pay cut of about $40,000.
Suarez, a native of Bayonne, attended Rutgers University where she received her undergraduate degree, before earning her Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers University Law School in 1997.
Additionally, Suarez is a former member of high-powered Lyndhurst law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck, working at the firm for a couple of years in the late 90s.
After winning a publicized lawsuit regarding longevity payments against the city of Hoboken in late 2000, Suarez was an easy pick to serve as the city’s corporation counsel – beginning in July 1, 2001. Living in the Mile Square City at the time, Suarez left her city counsel job in 2003.
She was then appointed as Bergen County counsel in 2003 by then-County Executive Dennis McNernery.
The next year, Suarez was tapped to investigate allegations that Bergen County and statewide officials, including McNernery and then-Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero, had county police officers chauffeur them to Yankee games, among other activities.
The investigation revealed that the endeavors ran up a bill of approximately $1,000 in police overtime, as The Record also reported.
Suarez married Keith Furlong, the vice president of the Catania Consulting Group who serves as the Passaic County spokesman, in 2009 and they have currently put their Wayne home up for sale, showing that Suarez is still interested in being the Hudson County Prosecutor.
While many considered Gregory out of the running a long time ago, being the acting county prosecutor, he is still a logical choice for the position.
Like Christie, Gregory is a Republican and is generally respected by his colleagues in the prosecutor’s office.
He was one of many Hudson, Bergen and Passaic County law enforcement officials to organize Jersey City’s “Fugitive Safe Surrender” initiative in November 2013, where fugitives wanted for non-violent crimes could peacefully turn themselves in at Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church on Montgomery Street.
Nearly 5,000 fugitives turned themselves in at the event.
Gregory has been filling in for Edward DeFazio, the last Hudson County prosecutor, since June 2012, when DeFazio left the post for a state Superior Court judgeship.
Multiple sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, told Hudson County View that Gregory – who is known for keeping a low profile – is not particularly interested in taking over as Hudson County Prosecutor, but would do so if offered to keep the office running smoothly.
As Hudson County View also first reported, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously passed a resolution at their January 22 meeting urging Christie to appoint a new county prosecutor.
Freeholder Chairman Junior Maldonado and District 5 Freeholder Anthony Romano, a former Hoboken Police Captain, both told Hudson County View that all three candidates are qualified, but the time to make a decision is now.
While Christie is the one who makes the prosecutor appointment, the governor typically will not do so without the approval of the local senators as a courtesy.
Cunningham, Stack and Sacco and Christie’s Office all have not commented on the situation as of this writing.