Secaucus Mayor to Resign, Lawyer Says

Resignation calls increase in Jersey corruption case

Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell will resign in the wake of his arrest in a massive corruption probe that busted 44 people in New Jersey, his lawyer said today.

Elwell's lawyer says his client is stepping down but is not admitting guilt and will defend himself against the allegations.
Elwell is charged with accepting $10,000 from a federal cooperating witness in exchange for help on a building project in Secaucus.
In a statement released Tuesday, attorney Thomas Cammarata says Elwell is resigning in the best interests of his family and the citizens of Secaucus.
The 64-year-old has been mayor since 1999.
Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez and Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III also were arrested last week but have refused to step down.

Demands have been mounting for the resignations of the public officials who were arrested in the wide-ranging investigation last week.

Protesters hounded one of the three New Jersey mayors arrested, demanding his resignation, as lawmakers pressed for new restrictions that would require any public official charged with wrongdoing to immediately step down and forfeit their full pension if convicted.

Several New Jersey towns were bracing for regularly scheduled council meetings in which newly charged officials would be making their first public appearances since being paraded in handcuffs at Newark federal court. Those arrested included mayors, state assemblymen, municipal employees and rabbis.

Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano continued showing up to the office he had held for just three weeks before being arrested and charged with accepting $25,000 in bribes from a would-be developer who was wearing a wire for the FBI. Protesters picketed his home during the weekend and rallied in front of City Hall on Monday evening.

Jersey City council president Mariano Vega said during a Monday morning caucus meeting that he had no intention of resigning despite charges he accepted bribes.

The city's embattled mayor, Jerramiah Healy, has suspended without pay those Jersey City employees who were charged in the investigation. He reiterated Monday that although he was mentioned but not charged in the indictments, he has done nothing wrong and has no plans to step down.

Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini and nearly a dozen other city employees were among those arrested. Most are charged with accepting bribes from a federal cooperating witness posing as a developer looking to gain approvals for a building project.

New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine has called on those charged in the probe to resign, but the only official who has heeded his request so far is state community affairs commissioner Joseph Doria, who stepped down last week. Doria hasn't been charged, although the FBI has searched his home and offices.

Several New Jersey lawmakers called for a renewed push on legislation that would require any public official charged to immediately forfeit their office, even if they are later proven innocent.

Monmouth County Republican Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, a co-sponsor of one such bill, said he found it "outrageous'' that the officials arrested last week still were getting paid in their official capacities, despite many of them not reporting to work to avoid the public glare.

"When you take an elected or appointed office it's to serve your constituents, your oath isn't to serve yourself,'' he said. "Here they can't possibly serve their constituents with a distraction like a criminal prosecutor hanging over them.''

Experts say it's a common legal tactic for charged officials to refuse to relinquish their seats.

"This is standard operating procedure for many people who get indicted,'' said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. "It is a way, at least initially, to assert your innocence, and one that gives you the leverage to create a plea situation.''

Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University, said well known people often are shocked by such charges, and it takes a few days to sink in.

"I think we'll probably see some stepping down in coming days,'' Harrison said. "I guess it shouldn't be surprising, but the positive lack of remorse and the good that can come from admitting mistakes is lost on these individuals. It's the same hubris that lets them think they'll get away with it.''

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