Tag: Holly Schepisi

Handlin-Schepisi discuss future of legislative bridge panel

It is a good time to reassess the goals of the Legislature’s joint committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lanes closing and ask whether it is in the best interests of justice that the committee be dissolved.

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that Bridget Kelly, former deputy chief of staff to Christie, and the man who held her job before her, Bill Stepien, who also was Christie’s former campaign manager, did not have to surrender documents subpoenaed by the committee.

The judge said the subpoenas were too broad and put Kelly and Stepien at risk of violating their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination: “The requests, even as modified, remain a fishing expedition, albeit a slightly more defined one by virtue of the fact that some of the requests were limited to 32 named officials.”

The committee could call it quits. Its purpose is not to find and prosecute criminal activity. Wisniewski was clear from the start that the goal of the bipartisan effort is to come up with reforms that would keep something like Bridgegate from happening again. Some argue legislation to tackle that is possible now.

Amy Handlin

After the judge’s ruling, Republican Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, a committee member, said the judge sent a message that the committee had gone too far. She said it needs to “focus on reform” of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. She attempted to introduce legislation.

“For every dollar that we spend here, the Port Authority is spending $100 or $1,000 or $10,000 in a way that is completely dysfunctional or even parasitic,” Handlin said.

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, also a Republican committee member, has defended the GOP position in media interviews. She says Fishman is more than competent to conduct an investigation.

That same sentiment was held ever so briefly by a prominent Democrat, Senate President Steve Sweeney. Before the judge ruled, Sweeney said that if the committee loses in court, it should throw in the towel. The next day, Sweeney inexplicably did a 180, saying the committee should consider its options, including an appeal.

Some suspect that there is something else at work here.

Both Sweeney and Wisniewski are thought to be interested in running for governor. More people know Wisniewski’s name because of the bridge scandal coverage.

And Sweeney would not be served well politically if Wisniewski’s committee got credit for getting to the bottom of what happened.

Cooperating with Fishman, using common sense and focusing on New Jersey’s best interests means both probes, with their separate goals, are possible without conflict. But it’s harder when you have politicians investigating politicians.

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Bramnick Says Its Time for SCI to Turn Over Documents to US Attorney

Source: Newsworks -

Gov. Chris Christie took a major political and legal gamble with his decision to ask Randy Mastro and a team of Gibbon Dunn lawyers to conduct an internal inquiry into the Bridgegate and Hoboken allegations in the face of a pair of ongoing probes by a federal grand jury and a legislative committee armed with subpoena power.

Politically, there is no question that the embattled Christie needed the controversial Mastro report exonerating him and his top aides of any wrongdoing in Bridgegate and attacking Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s veracity. The release of the report revived his 2016 presidential hopes, protected his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, reinvigorated his governorship, and rallied Republican legislators.

But permitting Mastro’s lawyers to interview Christie and his top aides was a double-edged sword.

The Christie administration’s ability to protect those interview tapes and/or transcripts from public scrutiny will be put to the test tomorrow, when the SCI meets to vote on whether to issue a subpoena to the governor’s office for release of the 70 interviews with Christie, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, and other administration and campaign officials that the Gibbon Dunn team of lawyers conducted.

Holly Schepisi

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (D-Bergen), a member of the investigative committee, both called for the committee to turn over its documents to the U.S. Attorney and the federal grand jury, issue no more subpoenas, and turn its attention to the passage of legislation reforming the Port Authority — the agency that actually shut down the GWB lanes at the direction of David Wildstein, Christie’s third-ranking appointee at the authority.

Jon Bramnick

“It’s time for us to turn the investigation over to law enforcement, and focus on passing legislation to make sure this never happens again,” Bramnick said, noting that Schepisi and the other three Assembly members of the Select Committee on Investigation have already introduced legislation to address ethical practices at the Port Authority.

If the legislative committee is able to subpoena the Mastro interviews — either because Christie agrees to surrender them voluntarily or because he loses a court battle to block their release — it would give the investigative panel additional reason to summon top Christie administration officials, and perhaps the governor himself, to come in to answer questions raised by their interviews with the Mastro committee.

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Schepisi Discusses GWB Investigation on MSNBC (video)

Source: MSNBC -

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi on MSNBC’s “UP with Steve Kornacki”:

Holly Schepisi

“There have been numerous discussions that have taken place. I am a committee-member, and I have absolutely no idea what ever happened with our counsel and the mayor of Ft. Lee.

“We are members of the committee and we are not being shared information with. We tried getting copies of the bills. We tried three times to get copies of the legal bills to see what the heck was going on.

“We were told by the assembly majority office that as members of the committee we were not entitled to see the bills because they did not want us to know exactly what was taking place.”

“Throughout this process, a lot of what we receive has been leaked to the media. Do we now impede the investigation. Do we somehow make the criminal investigation, the integrity of it, do we harm it. Now that’s a concern.

“I’m not saying that our committee doesn’t have a role. Our committee has a huge role here. We need to start moving forward and legislating, reform initiatives.

“There are so many things that we have learned through this process that we can start addressing. And I don’t know the rationale for us not doing that.”

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Bramnick attends League press conference on deadline for the 2% Cap on Interest Arbitration

Source: New Jersey State League of Municipalities Press Release -

On Thursday, the New Jersey League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC) held a joint press conference to urge Governor Chris Christie and the State Legislature to enact legislation to permanently extend the 2 percent cap on interest arbitration awards, which will expire on April 1st.

League President and Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters, League 1st Vice President and Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo and Ewing Township Administrator Jim McManimon joined NJAC President and Monmouth County Clerk Claire French and Passaic County Freeholder Director Pat Lepore in urging the Legislature and Governor to quickly enact a permanent extension on the 2% cap on interest arbitration awards.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick unexpectedly joined the press conference, complimenting municipal and county officials for focusing on the need to make the cap a permanent fixture. Assemblyman Bramnick pledged his support.
On Thursday, Assemblyman O’Scanlon, Assemblywomen Schepisi, Casagrande, and Rodriguez-Gregg introduced A-2987 which will make the 2 percent cap on interest arbitration awards permanent and remove the “one bite at the apple provision.” With only 12 days left until the sunset of April 1, it is imperative that you reach out to your State Senator and Assembly representatives asking them to support A-2987.

 

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Schepisi: The Sun Cannot Set on the Interest Arbitration Law

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic, said it is imperative that the Legislature begin to discuss a bill (A-2987) introduced today that would make the interest arbitration law permanent. The current law is set to expire on April 1st. Schepisi is a primary sponsor of the new bill and said allowing the current law to sunset would have disastrous consequences on towns and property taxpayers.

Schepisi noted that the average property tax gain for 2013 was 1.7 percent, showing the importance of interest arbitration reform. In 2011, the average bill went up 2.4 percent, and in 2012, the increase was 1.6 percent — a contrast between 2004 through 2006, when the bills went up at least 7 percent each year.

Holly Schepisi

“We have seen the impact on property taxes before the arbitration cap was enacted and the positive results since the law took effect in 2011,” said Schepisi. “Arbitrators now have guidelines to follow which are not merely suggestions. The interest arbitration law is necessary for municipalities to control costs which benefits property taxpayers. The law should be made permanent.”

Yesterday, the Final Report of the Police and Fire Public Interest Arbitration Task Force was issued and detailed the importance of the new law.

“The data contained in the task force report unquestionably shows the interest arbitration law works,” stated Schepisi. “The law brings the parties together to negotiate a fair contract or let an arbitrator follow the law and make a decision.”

From January 2011, when the law took effect, to September 2013, average raises in contracts, whether through arbitration or negotiations, were 1.86 percent — the lowest in at least 20 years. Schepisi noted that the task force report, which studied the effects of the law since its inception, said the cap has been the single most significant tool in stabilizing municipal budgets.

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Schepisi: Additional GWB Lane Closure Documents are Speculative (video)

Source: NJTV (video) -

Following today’s proceedings in the George Washington Bridge lane closures case with Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, Republican member of the Committee Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that it is all speculative that there may be additional documents.

Holly Schepisi

 

“As an attorney, as well as a member of this committee, I really believe in our constitution and I think it’s important that the judge rules on this and not lowering the boom. Whatever the court believes that legally is the right thing to occur. It’s not our committee compelling this,” Schepisi said.

 

Schepisi said that it didn’t matter if Kelly appeared in court, but she expected that Kelly would be there because the scandal is her life right now.

She said that nobody knows what other documents Kelly and Stepien may have. The committee has received thousands of pages of documents thus far.

“It’s all speculative. I think that everybody believes that there may be additional documents and additional emails, but as to whether or not they are pertinent to our investigation or not we don’t know,” Schepisi said.

She said that there were concerns that documents were going to the press first, instead of to the members of the committee.

As for the alleged toll hike manipulation, Schepisi said, “We know what has happened to a certain degree. We may never know why some of these things may have occurred. For example, the court. We may not know until April about how the court is going to rule. We might find ourselves a year from now still having this discussion. That is why it is so important that we recently dropped legislation last week to deal head-on with necessary reforms for these agencies.”

Schepisi said that there are elements that can be worked on now and it is not about Democrats or Republicans. She said that some of the ideas have already been looked at and some are new ideas, but members of both parties are at a place right now where they all know that they need to stop these types of acts from occurring in the future. She said that the Republicans need their Democratic counterparts to work with them. She said she has not had a conversation with Gov. Chris Christie, but she can’t imagine why he would not agree with the ideas.

“As an attorney, as well as a member of this committee, I really believe in our constitution and I think it’s important that the judge rules on this and not lowering the boom. Whatever the court believes that legally is the right thing to occur. It’s not our committee compelling this,” Schepisi said.

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TIME TO ADVANCE PORT AUTHORITY REFORM

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republicans Ask Speaker To Launch Policy Conversation
To Fix Bi-State Agencies Before Bad Habits Return

Assembly Republicans Amy Handlin, Michael Patrick Carroll and Holly Schepisi sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto this afternoon urging him to open Assembly discussions to reform the way bi-state agencies, such as the Port Authority, operate.

“Immediate reforms are necessary,” said Handlin. “I’m sure the high profile of the legislative probe has caused people to change their behavior and second guess questionable ‘business as usual’ practices at the Port Authority. However, that atmosphere can dissipate quickly and bad habits can return.”

The three GOP members of the Legislative Select Committee on Investigation (SCI) sponsored legislation last week offering possible solutions to the way bi-state authorities are structured, overseen, and made more transparent to the public.

“We need an honest discussion with members from both sides of the aisle. By addressing the abuses we already understand, we can identify areas of agreement and begin to apply standards of good government that establish much needed oversight and accountability,” concluded Handlin.

A copy of the letter sent to Speaker Prieto today follows this release.

The bills proposed by Republicans include:

• A-2856 – Establishes a single chain of command with fixed terms for the Port Authority’s executive director and deputy executive director and requires approval from governors of both New Jersey and New York prior to the employment of the directors.

• A-2858 – Requires bi-state authorities to provide advance written notice of any operation or project that is expected to impede the free flow of traffic.

• A-2887 – Requires a code of ethics and an acknowledgement by authority board members that they understand their fiduciary responsibilities. It also requires the implementation of audit recommendations and financial disclosure for each board member and subjects each authority to the state’s Open Public Records Act.

• A-2886 – Establishes an Office of the Investigator General within each of four bi-state authorities appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate for one term of 10 years.

• A-2857 – Facilitates public disclosure of financial and employee information through the state comptroller regarding revenues, expenses, and debts; number of employees; annual employee compensation; data on pension payments of former employees; and the name and amount of compensation paid to any governmental affairs agent hired.

• A-2855 – Establishes a new crime of official interference with transportation punishable up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

####

March 7, 2014

Honorable Vincent Prieto
Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly
1249 Paterson Plank Rd.
Secaucus, NJ 07094

Dear Speaker Prieto,

We are committed to working with you and our Democrat colleagues to enact a bipartisan package of bills reforming independent and bi-state authorities without further delay.

The Legislative Select Committee on Investigation (SCI) was formed to get at the truth of who did what to cause the infamous lane diversions at the George Washington Bridge, but more importantly to find solutions so things like this won’t happen again.

We recognize the investigation of these matters needs to continue and that additional legislation might be required at the conclusion of the committee’s work. However, based on what the committee has uncovered already, we can and should move forward so that a framework is in place that enables the Port Authority to address our commuters’ needs today in a way our citizens expect and deserve.

As you know, Republican members of the committee have outlined what we believe are key reforms and have introduced a number of bills aimed at enhancing accountability and transparency. It’s a starting point for reform. It is also an opportunity to come together in a bipartisan way and begin the discussion that will accomplish a much greater good.

For years, Democrats and Republicans have been urging an overhaul of bi-state authorities. Many of the reforms we have outlined are not new solutions, but their importance has only been underscored by recent events. There may be others or even new ideas we should consider. That is why this discussion is so important and should begin today.

Working together, we are confident we will pass comprehensive reform in the very near future. We look forward to hearing any comments and questions you may have as we earnestly discuss how to proceed and what steps to take. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin
Assemblyman Michael P. Carroll
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi

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Schepisi,State legislators tour Israel

Source: New Jersey Jewish Standard -

Twelve state legislators from New Jersey visited Israel from February 27 through March 3. They were on a tour organized by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations. Most of the participants are not Jewish; for most of them it was a first trip to Israel.

The itinerary included visits to New Jersey-Israeli “sister” cities such Nahariya, as well as many sites of religious, historic, and geopolitical significance. The lawmakers visited an absorption center for Ethiopian Jews, Yatir Winery, Jewish and Bedouin Negev cities, the Technion, and Western Galilee Hospital. They dined in a variety of ethnic restaurants and spoke with a range of Israelis, from lone soldiers and industrialists to community activists and government officials.

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Dist. 39), who is Catholic, brought along her husband, who is Jewish. “To see the roots of both of our faiths has been incredible,” she said.

She said that she listened carefully to speakers with differing viewpoints on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and Iran, and “how to bring lasting peace to a region when there is so much instability in surrounding countries.”

She also noted: “As one of only two Republicans on this trip, it afforded me the opportunity to get to know some of my Democratic colleagues, and it’s been very interesting to get their perspectives.”

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Assembly Republicans Introduce Authorities Oversight Bill Package

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republican members Amy Handlin, Michael Patrick Carroll, Holly Schepisi and Greg McGuckin introduced a series of bills today aimed at reforming the way bi-state agencies, such as the Port Authority, are operated and governed.

The sponsors’ purpose of the proposed legislation is to offer solutions and improvements to the way bi-state authorities are structured, overseen, and made more transparent to the public.

Amy Handlin

“All effective organizations have checks and balances in place,” said Handlin, R-Monmouth. “Updating and improving those currently in effect at the Port Authority is essential and will improve the transparency that has been lacking. An Investigator General will make people think twice about the decisions they make and whether the public interest is being served. Full financial disclosures should be a staple of all authorities so there is no mystery about any outside interests they have and whether there is a potential conflict.”

Michael Patrick Carroll

“Regrettably, the Port Authority – yet again – finds itself in the news for unflattering reasons,” said Carroll, R-Morris and Somerset. “Common sense improvements of this sort are long overdue and the Legislature labors under no compulsion to abide by the results of the SCI investigation before addressing the problems we already know exist.”

Holly Schepisi

“It is obvious the culture at some of the authorities is out of hand,” said Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic. “The defiance demonstrated by the disregard of audit recommendations, and the lack of concern for the taxpayers and residents who rely on these officials by entrusting them with their EZPass or cash requires legislation that will ensure a new operational standard.

“Some out-of-control entities demand action to reinforce their obligation to fulfill the mission of the authority,” continued Schepisi. “Authorities are not private concerns that can operate for the personal gain of a few shareholders or executives. Commissioners, board members and high-level employees must be held accountable to their fiduciary duties, ethical standards, and moral responsibilities. Authorities have been operating in the dark for too long. It is time to open the lid and shine some light on the inner workings of these authorities by requiring information be made available to the public and the media about contracting, debt, spending, and personnel.”

Gregory P. McGuckin

“The problem is that many of the state’s independent authorities have taken the word ‘independent’ too literally. They are veiled in secrecy and virtually unaccountable to anyone,” said McGuckin, R-Ocean. “This package of long-overdue, comprehensive legislation is designed to end widespread mismanagement, self-serving decisions and corruption at these agencies.

“The governor is to be commended for his efforts in reining in the abuse of public dollars and unethical behavior at several of these agencies. It now time for the Legislature to act,” continued McGuckin. “Audits are a necessary first step, but it is obvious top officials at these authorities continue to ignore their recommendations. These bills will force compliance. More importantly, they will usher in a new era of cultural and operational changes at these shadow authorities.”

The following bills were introduced today:

A-2856 – Legislation that establishes a fixed term for the Port Authority’s executive director and deputy executive director and requires approval from governors of both New Jersey and New York prior to the employment of the directors.

A-2858 – Requires bi-state authorities to provide advance written notice to municipalities and newspapers in general circulation within five miles of the facility as well as motorists of any operation or project that is expected to impede the free flow of traffic.

A-2887 – Requires independent state authorities and local authorities to adopt various good governance reforms including: adoption of a code of ethics for each officer and director; acknowledgement by board members that they understand their role and fiduciary responsibilities; implementation of audit recommendations; and posting on its website a sworn and notarized financial disclosure statement for each of its board of commissioners.

It also subjects each authority to the state’s Open Public Records Act and increases potential penalties for violations by authorities of the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act.

A-2886 – Requires bi-state authorities to adopt the good governance reforms noted in A-2887 and establishes an Office of the Investigator General within each of four bi-state authorities. The office is to be directed by an Investigator General who is to be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Investigator General is to serve for one term of 10 years.

A-2857 – Requires the state comptroller to receive and provide certain independent
authority financial and employee information on the state comptroller’s website. The authorities are to provide information regarding their revenues, expenses, and debts; number of employees; annual employee compensation; data on pension payments of former employees; and the name and amount of compensation paid to any governmental affairs agent hired by the authority.

A-2855 – Establishes a new crime of official interference with transportation. A public official would be guilty of this crime if he or she knowingly commits an act that is an unauthorized exercise of the official’s functions and interferes with the progress of any form of transportation on the roadways, highways, bridges, railways, waterways, or airways of this state.

Official interference with transportation would be a fourth degree crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

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Schepisi Introduces Bill on Removing Officials from Office Upon Criminal Conviction

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

Judge rules Trenton Mayor Tony Mack removed from office

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic, said a convicted New Jersey public official should be required to leave office immediately once he or she is convicted of a federal or state crime. Currently, if a public official is convicted of a federal offense, their removal can only occur when a New Jersey court enters an order of forfeiture after an application is submitted by the county prosecutor or the Attorney General.

Holly Schepisi

“When a jury renders a guilty verdict, a public official should be removed from office,” said Schepisi. “The timeframe for imposing a federal sentence can be a prolonged process. Once an official is convicted, he or she has lost the public’s trust regardless of whether it is a federal or state crime. The public servant’s departure from office should be swift and immediate when found guilty.”

Schepisi’s has introduced a bill in response to this month’s earlier conviction of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack for federal bribery, fraud and extortion charges. Until today, Mack has refused to leave office. The state has been forced to go to court to have him removed. Mack, who is not an attorney, filed an argument with a state court on Monday, asking postponement of his removal until May, when he is scheduled to be sentenced after his conviction in federal court. If Mack were found guilty in state court, he would have been removed immediately.

Today, Judge Mary Jacobson ruled Mack is in violation of state law and can no longer hold office. Jacobson granted the request to remove Mack filed by the state Office of the Attorney General and said Mack is no longer able hold office effective immediately.

Under Schepisi’s bill, A-2720, state and local public officials and employees convicted under federal law of certain public corruption offenses would forfeit their office and employment immediately, without the need for an application by the prosecutor.

Schepisi’s legislation is also sponsored by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora (D- Mercer and Hunterdon) and Declan O’Scanlon, (R-Monmouth).

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