JULY 17, 2007
Two veteran Democrat New Jersey legislators federally charged with fraud and corruption have refused to resign from the state’s senate amid public calls to do so from their own party chairman.
The two indicted lawmakers – Wayne Bryant and Sharpe James – are accused of illegally using their public office to enrich themselves and defrauding taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.
A senator since 1995, Bryant is charged with tripling his taxpayer-funded pension as well as his income with fraudulent jobs at the state’s publicly-funded school of medicine and a county board of social services. Last year he was forced to resign as chair of a powerful Budget Committee when federal authorities discovered one of his fraudulent, $35,000-a-year state jobs. Prosecutors also say that Bryant steered millions in grants to two state universities that gave him the no-show jobs.
James, the New Jersey senate Budget Committee vice chairman, was indicted just last week for billing lavish personal expenses to the city of Newark, where he was mayor for two decades. He is also charged with arranging special land deals for friends and companions.
The corrupt politicians’ party chair, Assemblyman Joe Cryan of Union City, says the two men must resign for the party’s sake and the legislature’s sake. “Enough’s enough,” said the embarrassed lawmaker trying to salvage his party’s tainted image.
The state’s Republican chairman points out, however, that the governor should also call for the resignations because he is the leader of New Jersey’s Democratic Party. Instead Governor Jon Corzine has failed to stand up to his fellow corrupt lawmakers, which is puzzling considering the overwhelming evidence against both of them.
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