Proposed Law Could Mean Trouble for Corrupt Politicians [AUDIO]
If legislation first introduced in 2012 was law in New Jersey today, elected officials such as Trenton mayor Tony Mack -- who was found guilty last week of corruption charges -- might have been ousted a long time ago.
Despite the charges against him, Mack refuses to leave office. He is still drawing a taxpayer-funded paycheck and he still has executive powers. The acting state Attorney General is using the courts to try and have Mack removed.
If the previously introduced was law, this would not be an issue. The measure's sponsor plans to re-introduce it next week.
The resolution proposes a constitutional amendment that calls for the suspension, without pay, of any elected officials as soon as they are indicted. If the official is acquitted or the charges are dropped, the official would return to office and be paid retroactively. The official would be permanently removed from office if convicted.
"If my bill would have been in effect, he (Mack) would have been removed from office at the time of indictment," said state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Trenton). "The city would have been allowed to move ahead and not deteriorate as it has right now."
The senator understands that many indicted officials don't resign their office on the advice of legal counsel, who may argue that doing so would be tantamount to admitting guilt. Turner said the suspension provision of the amendment takes away that argument because it allows officials who are innocent of criminal charges to resume office upon their acquittal.
For now, Turner said Trenton is suffering because Mack won't leave office.
"The city of Trenton is literally being held hostage because the mayor was found guilty and he has refused to resign," Turner said. "Voters in the city of Trenton are still waiting to exhale."
In a 2012 interview with Townsquare Media, Turner seemed prophetic.
"The taxpayers should not be expected to continue paying indicted elected officials' salaries simply because the officials, by virtue of their elected positions, are treated more favorably than other public workers," Turner said in a phone interview on Oct. 4, 2012. "They, too, should be removed from the public payroll pending the outcome of their charges."