CAPE MAY — A former city police officer who worked as president of the local PBA and was a state delegate has admitted to stealing more than $100,000 in union funds for his own use.

John Campbell, 48, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by unlawful taking, admitting he stole the money between 2012 and 2016. Campbell admitted to using the union's checking account and an American Express card, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said Thursday.

"Campbell was entrusted with access to the credit and checking accounts of his PBA local, but rather than living up to his duties as a police officer and leader of this union, he corruptly chose to embezzle over $100,000," Porrino said. "This was a crass betrayal by a man who took an oath to uphold the law."

Porrino said the investigation into the matter started in July 2016 when there was a leadership change at PBA 59. An audit of the union's finances found what Porrino called "suspicious credit and debit card charges," which were then forwarded to the prosecutor's office.

Among the expenses Campbell used union money for, according to Porrino, were $30,000 for time shares, $16,000 for utilities and services, $5,000 for clothing and jewelry and more than $12,000 in purchases of electronics, furniture and purchases at convenience stores and gas stations. He also spent $500 on what Porrino described as a "designer Christmas tree."

Campbell retired June 2016. He is collecting an annual pension of more than $69,000. His base salary before he retired was about $103,000. A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said the matter will be referred to the state Pension Board to determine how the plea deal will affect Campbell's pension status.

As part of the plea deal, Porrino recommended Campbell be sentenced to 364 days in jail, repay $105,000 in restitution and that he face a fine of up to $15,000.

A statement from PBA Local 59 president Mike Szemcsak of the Lower Township Police Department said board members were "disturbed to find a number of financial inconsistencies in the accounting and accounting practices for the PBA in previous years."

"The trust our members and supporters have in us to be good stewards of donations and membership fees is essential to the Association's viability," he said.

New Jersey State PBA President Pat Colligan credited the local union for finding the problem and correcting it.

"It's sad when you're charging one of your own for violating the trust," he said. "The people that donate to the PBA want to know there are procedures in place. They want to know that any donations are on the up and up.

Colligan said it's "not easy turning in one of your own," and said the state organization provides guidance to ensure that this is not a problem at the local level. That includes offering a treasurer's class and recommending requiring two signatures on every check and not having PBA credit cards "unless absolutely necessary."

"We don't want the temptation there for any members," Colligan said. "It's a rare PBA that doesn't have them in place."

 

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