Hoboken, N.J., Mayor Peter Cammarano and Secaucus, N.J., Mayor Dennis Elwell, two of three mayors arrested in a federal corruption sweep on July 23, have resigned. Both former mayors, who have been charged with accepting bribes from a federal cooperating witness, continue to deny any wrongdoing.
In Cammarano's resignation letter, which he submitted Friday morning, the newly elected mayor apologized for the "disruption and disappointment" caused by the case, according to CNN.com. "It had been my hope and expectation that I could remain in office and perform my official duties until I had the opportunity to resolve the legal charges against me in court," Cammarano wrote. "Regrettably, it has turned out that the controversy surrounding the charges against me has become a distraction to me and an impediment to the functioning of Hoboken government."
Elwell resigned on July 28, and a statement from his attorney, Thomas Cammarata, indicated that the mayor made the decision because it was in the best interest of his family and the people of Seacaucus, according to the Associated Press. "Those who perceive this action to be an admission of culpability as to the pending criminal allegations are gravely mistaken," Cammarata said.
Ridgefield, N.J., Mayor Anthony Suarez, also was arrested in the sweep that netted a total of 44 individuals, including two state assemblymen and several other officials from Jersey City. Suarez remained in office as of Monday.
Cammarano allegedly accepted $25,000 in cash bribes from an undercover cooperating witness, Elwell allegedly accepted a $10,000 bribe from the witness, and Suarez allegedly agreed to accept a $10,000 bribe for his legal defense fund.
In the early stages of the investigation, which began in June 2007, the cooperating witness helped investigators uncover members of an international money laundering operation, but then went on to approach city officials, posing as a developer who wanted his projects prioritized. The bribe-taking was partly connected to fundraising efforts in the mayoral and city council campaigns in Jersey City and Hoboken, according to the FBI. "This investigation has once again identified a corrupt network of public officials who were all too willing to take cash in exchange for promised official action," said Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra.
Also charged in the investigation were former Jersey City mayoral candidates L. Harvey Smith and Louis Manzo, and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini. Smith is also a state assemblyman, and his fellow Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt also was arrested on charges of accepting a $10,000 bribe.
More information is available at http://newark.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/2009/nk072309.htm.