Politicians, Including Passaic’s City Council President, Continue to Hold Two Elected Positions Despite Legislation Prohibiting Such Conduct, Due to being “Grandfathered” in.

7 09 2007

THE RECORD EDITORIAL – September 7, 2007

NOTWITHSTANDING his recent stumbling on other matters of ethics, Governor Corzine did mark some real progress on good government this week: He signed a bill that eventually will prohibit the state’s politicians from holding more than one elected office.

Now those exempted from the law should join the state’s ethical consensus by choosing one office and losing the other.

New Jersey’s current dual officeholders have escaped the provisions of the new law in a much-criticized political compromise, which grandfathers those holding two offices as of Feb. 1. Even so, these officials now face ethical exile in their own state. As their numbers inexorably dwindle, their positions can only become more untenable.

Officials holding more than one elected office have the clearest conflict of interest imaginable. They exacerbate the state’s tendency toward parochialism, encouraging state spending on local pork projects. And they consolidate power in a semi-permanent political class, reducing opportunities for newcomers.

Among the North Jersey legislators holding a second office are Democratic state Sen. Paul Sarlo, the mayor of Wood-Ridge; Democratic Assemblymen Gordon Johnson, an Englewood city councilman; and Gary Schaer, the Passaic City Council president. An astounding four of the seven Bergen County freeholders also hold elected municipal offices, as does one Passaic County freeholder (all of them Democrats).

Who will be the last pariah hanging on to his or her dual offices like some kind of proto-ethical museum specimen? The race to the bottom is on.

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