NJ Township Sued for Appointing Convicted Felon to Environmental Post

Resident says it shows lack of preparedness for Irene

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Some frustrated residents of Wayne, N.J., say local leaders were dangerously unprepared for Hurricane Irene. (Published Thursday, Sep 8, 2011)

    A lawsuit against one New Jersey township alleges officials violated state law by appointing a convicted felon to a top environmental post.

    The local pol who filed it suggests the violation is indicative of a lack of preparedness for hurricane flooding in the township, where some residents have been sleeping in their cars because there were no shelters during Irene.

    Court documents show Jerry Bello was convicted in 1994 of official misconduct after police arrested him on bribery charges related to an official position with the Paterson municipal government.

    Despite the conviction, several years after serving jail time, Bello was named chair of the Wayne Environmental Commission, an unpaid governmental body that reviews land purchases and environmental impacts of development plans.

    New Jersey state law forbids anyone from holding any office or position of honor, trust, or profit in state or local government if they have been convicted of a "an offense involving or touching on his public office, position, or employment."

    The lawsuit, filed late last week by Bill Brennan, a Democrat running for the state Assembly district that includes Wayne, seeks Bello's removal from office.

    "To have somebody like that running the environmental commission is just another layer of incompetency and inefficiency in this municipality," Brennan said.

    The suit names both Wayne Township and Bello himself as defendants.

    When NBC New York sought comment by phone, Bello made no comment.

    "I have to see the suit first," he said.

    Bello's wife, Wayne councilwoman Nadine Bello, also declined comment at Wednesday's Wayne Township Council meeting.

    The mayor of Wayne said at the council meeting that the town should have had more help from the federal government on its Irene response and cleanup.

    "Wayne Township does not have the resources to solve the flooding problem," Mayor Christopher Vergano said.