U.S. News

Two more NJ politicians resign amid graft probe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A second New Jersey mayor and a state assemblyman who were both arrested in a federal corruption probe resigned Friday under pressure from voters and the state’s governor.

Peter Cammarano (C), newly elected mayor of Hoboken, N.J., exits federal court after being one of the more than 40 people were arrested in a federal investigation of public corruption and international money laundering, in Newark, N.J., July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East

Peter Cammarano, 32, was arrested last week and accused of taking $25,000 in bribes. While professing his innocence, the Democrat resigned less than a month after he was sworn in as mayor of Hoboken, an industrial city across the Hudson River from New York.

New Jersey state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, a Republican, followed Cammarano out the door, according to Republican Assembly Leader Alex DeCroce, who in a statement said Van Pelt’s resignation was “the correct move.”

Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell quit Tuesday, while a third accused mayor, Anthony Suarez, remains in office in Ridgefield. Both Democrats are accused of accepting $10,000 in bribes.

They were among more than 40 people arrested in a federal probe that uncovered alleged political corruption, human organ sales and money laundering from New York to Israel.

“Regrettably, it has turned out that the controversy surrounding the charges against me has become a distraction to me and an impediment to the functioning of Hoboken government,” Cammarano said in his resignation letter.

“I am innocent of any criminal charges and I intend to fight the allegations against me.”

Spokesmen for Van Pelt and Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, whose bid for a second term in November has been complicated by the probe that netted a number of his allies, were not immediately available to comment.

Elwell’s lawyer, Jeffrey Garrigan, said his resignation was not an admission of guilt and he plans to fight the charges.

Corzine has said all officials swept up in the probe should resign. Also arrested were two state assemblymen, a deputy mayor, city council members, housing, planning and zoning officials, building inspectors and political candidates.

The 10-year investigation exposed influence-peddling and bribe-taking among a network of public officials and a separate multimillion dollar money-laundering ring that funneled funds through charities operated by local rabbis, officials said.

Tuesday, Jack Shaw, 61, a longtime Democratic political consultant, was found dead in a suspected suicide in his Jersey City home. He had been charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe.

Moody’s said the credit impact from the case on the local governments involved “is likely to be limited.”

Additional reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Christine Kearney and Will Dunham