The Auditor: Naming names in the Ferriero indictment – The Star-Ledger

It’s time for one of The Auditor’s favorite games: Name the public officials referred to anonymously in an indictment.

The 72-page federal corruption indictment of Joe Ferriero, the former Bergen County Democratic chairman, handed up Wednesday included many such opportunities, but The Auditor’s interest was piqued by only a few unidentified officials.

According to the indictment, Ferriero — accused of taking payments from the developer of the still-dormant Meadowlands complex formerly known as “Xanadu” to influence public officials — got a state senator to withdraw a bill that would have hurt the development.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Records show that was state Sen. Joseph Coniglio (D-Bergen), who served 16 months in federal prison for an unrelated corruption conviction.

Another section of the indictment charges Ferriero tried to get a contract in Wood-Ridge for a software developer who was allegedly paying him kickbacks, and describes interactions with two unidentified “Wood-Ridge Public Officials” — one of them high-ranking — who did not know of Ferriero’s arrangement with the developer. According to the indictment, the town’s council did not to approve the contract, and Ferriero wasn’t happy.

“Subsequently, in or about July 2008, defendant Ferriero, in the presence of the software developer, confronted Wood-Ridge public officials #1 and #2 at a (Bergen County Democratic Organization)-sponsored event and angrily demanded to know why Wood-Ridge had not retained (the company).”

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, was and remains the mayor of Wood-Ridge.

Was it him? Sarlo said he didn’t know.

“I have no idea if I am or not,” Sarlo said. “Nor do I care because we rejected their proposal. And our borough is proud of that.”

All in the family, Newark-style

With names such as Baraka and Sharif in the mix to replace Mayor Cory Booker — who pretty much has a lock on a U.S. Senate seat come Oct. 16 — it’s clear the city’s most famous families will continue to play a leading role in Newark politics.

But just as in past skirmishes at the polls, members of the same family are not always on the same side.

Carl Sharif, a political guru who played a major role in getting Booker elected in 2006, is advising Shavar Jeffries’ mayoral campaign in an unofficial capacity even though his own son, Darrin Sharif, a Central Ward councilman, is also running for mayor.

“I’m in touch with him,” said Sharif, referring to Jeffries, a former state assistant state attorney general. “He’s my neighbor.”

But as Sharif was quick to point out to The Auditor, “It’s nothing official, but we’re having conversations.”

In addition to Sharif, Jeffries is going up against Councilman Ras Baraka of the South Ward, who is son of the poet Amiri Baraka, and Councilman Anibal Ramos of the North Ward.

It’s not the first time family members have chosen opposing sides. In 2006, Councilman Ron C. Rice ran with Booker and against his father, state Sen. Ron L. Rice.

The younger Sharif told The Auditor his father’s advice to Jeffries would not make for any awkward Sunday dinners.

“I admire my father and I think one of the things he admires about me is he raised me to be independent,” Sharif said. “I know he’s proud that I’m making this run.”

An eye on sports betting

CBS’ “60 Minutes” is again peering into New Jersey’s business — this time for a story on sports betting, according to state Sen. Raymond Lesniak.

Lesniak (D-Union), one of those spearheading the effort to legalize sports betting in New Jersey, said a producer for the TV news magazine recently called and asked him to be a backup interview in case Gov. Chris Christie declined.

“I said, ‘You have no idea how much that hurts,’ ” the Union County Democrat said he told the producer.

New Jersey is challenging the government in court, saying the federal law is violating the Constitution by allowing sports betting in only Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.

In the past, “60 Minutes” has taken hard looks at the state’s pension crisis and the traditional “Walk to Washington” in which politicians, lobbyists and political hangers-on crowd an Amtrak train to wheel, deal, drink and be seen. In recent years, the event has become a tamer affair.

There he goes again

Robert Feldman, who been one of former Gov. Jim McGreevey’s biggest contributors, is in the news again. And not for a good reason.

Feldman pleaded guilty this month to wire fraud conspiracy for his role in a Ponzi scheme that bilked several hedge funds of $278 million from 2007 to 2010.

Feldman — a 65-year-old Beach Haven resident who was also a fundraiser for two Pennsylvania Democrats, Sen. Bob Casey and former Gov. Ed Rendell — was indicted in 2008 on campaign finance charges in a case that ensnared former Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila of Puerto Rico.

The next year, Feldman pleaded the felony charge down to a misdemeanor, admitting he helped conceal $6,000 in donations to Acevedo Vila’s campaign. The former governor was subsequently acquitted.

Henry Hockeimer Jr.,
Feldman’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.

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