Friday, July 21, 2006

Farber - Bergen Record - MVC waffles on restoring Goore's license

Published in the Bergen Record, Thursday, July 20, 2006

MVC waffles in Farber case


Officials with New Jersey's motor vehicle agency have given contradictory accounts about how they restored the suspended driver's license of Attorney General Zuli-ma Farber's boyfriend minutes after he left a Fairview traffic checkpoint.

In a series of interviews, a spokesman for the Motor Vehicle Commission last week changed details several times in explaining how the agency ended Hamlet E. Goore Jr.'s suspension, which had been on the books for more than a year.

Agency officials initially offered a brief account on July 10 of how they restored Goore's license less than a half-hour after he left a Fairview traffic stop.

The following day, they said they were barred from commenting further -- but then reversed themselves hours later and offered detailed explanations.

Then, on July 12, the spokesman said agency officials returned to the position that they could not discuss the issue. That stance was repeated on Wednesday.

Agency officials have refused for more than a week to answer whether Farber had called Motor Vehicle headquarters to help speed the resolution of Goore's problems.

"I'm not even going to comment on that," agency spokesman Mike Horan said.

Farber has said that Goore called the MVC himself. He and Farber share a North Bergen home less than a mile from the Fairview Avenue traffic stop.

Goore drove from the May 26 stop between 10:25 and 10:30 a.m., according to Fairview Police Lt. Anthony Anari and Detective Albert Napolitano, speaking through their attorneys.

Less than a half-hour later, a Motor Vehicle Commission employee fully restored Goore's suspended driver's license, agency officials said. MVC computer records show the suspension was lifted at 10:57 a.m.

It was fast work, even for an agency striving to overcome a history of long lines and bureaucracy. Officials say the speed simply reflects the agency's new approach to customer service.

Governor Corzine has appointed retired Judge Richard J. Williams as a special prosecutor to examine whether Farber intervened at the Fairview traffic stop, where police were planning to impound Goore's car. After she arrived, the officers canceled the tow call and tried to void traffic tickets they had issued to him.

Farber said in an interview with The Record last month that she didn't interfere. The attorney she hired, Gerald Krovatin, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Corzine said on Tuesday that Farber would be paying for Krovatin's services out of her own pocket. Taxpayers, meanwhile, will foot the bill for Williams and his staff.

Sharon Harrington, the Motor Vehicles administrator, has declined requests to explain general agency policies. Harrington, a longtime Democratic operative, also serves on the state Ethics Commission.

In their first detailed account of Goore's license restoration, MVC officials said he called a consumer hotline available to all motorists. An employee checked court records, found that Goore had already paid his past ticket a year ago and immediately restored his license, officials said in an interview on July 10.

Even though this was portrayed as a routine procedure offered to all New Jerseyans, the agency nevertheless refused to identify the Motor Vehicle unit or rank of the employee who changed Goore's driving record.

The following day, when pressed for more details, agency officials said they were prevented from discussing the matter because of the special prosecutor's ongoing investigation.

Later the same day, agency officials reversed themselves. They said the employee who restored Goore's license works in "the Court Suspension Look-up and Verification Unit." When asked how they were able to establish that, officials said they had checked the employee ID number in their computer records and discovered to which section the person is assigned.

The next day, July 12, agency officials reversed themselves again, saying it wasn't the Court Suspension Look-up and Verification Unit. Actually, they said, it was an employee in Driver Management and Regulatory Affairs.

The agency's spokesman, Horan, said the erroneous information was supplied by a "lower level employee."

Columnist Mike Kelly contributed to this article.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.