Sunday, July 30, 2006

Farber - Gannett NJ - Ingle: Farber should step down

Published in the Asbury Park Press, Sunday, July 30, 2006

Farber should step down


TRENTON — Zulima "Protect The Guilty" Farber remains your attorney general, a job she clearly isn't fit for. But she can go out and hire a personal lawyer and public relations guy, who apparently told her to get photographed at things like press conferences to make it look like she's working. Nobody's fooled. Her record screams for itself.

She issued a faux apology about racing to her live-in boyfriend when he got traffic tickets: "If that gave a misimpression to those police officers," she was sorry. "If?"

It didn't stop there. Hamlet Goore, her main squeeze, drove — not to the closest Motor Vehicle Commission office a few blocks away — but to Elizabeth 20 miles further where Farber's long-time pal, Angel Estrada, is MVC manager and double dips as a county freeholder.

Farber says she won't resign. Maybe she should think about more than herself, like the Attorney General's Office and its sagging reputation. Or Gov. Corzine's future. At the very least, Farber should go on leave 'til the investigation of her is done.

Fox & Friends: Give Corzine credit for making that blistering audit of the Board of Public Utilities public after it was sealed for 19 months for no good reason. It started under former Gov. McGreevey and Dick Codey didn't touch it.

The audit said top executives of the BPU, which regulates utility rates, created an $80 million bank account outside the state's accounting system. "Management oversight is nonexistent," the audit said. The money was from $10 to $20 annually added to your power bills to fund a Clean Energy Program. The only clean thing about this was the name. And even so, the board voted to renew the $300 million program without seeing the audit.

The BPU is run by Jeanne Fox, Democratic Party insider, who is married to Steve DiMicco, a Democratic operative who ran campaigns for McGreevey, who appointed Fox, and for Corzine and currently for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. When Corzine became governor, Fox wasn't called before the Senate Judiciary Committee, because, the administration said, she was a holdover.

Other holdovers, however, were called in for hearings.

Beyond that bank account was the matter of consultants. "In each case, the person getting the contract was a former BPU employee," the audit said. The BPU issued a hilarious press release saying former colleagues were hired because they were best qualified. Who writes their stuff, Zulima Farber? It sounds like her cuckoo reasoning.

The audit, by the way, was turned over to Farber for possible criminal action. You can't make this stuff up. Farber herself is under investigation. She has no credibility, nor has she demonstrated any interest for probes other than of those who buy firecrackers in Pennsylvania.

Career political trough-swiller Farber also has her nose in the BPU case, having been on the board of a group that got a grant paid out of the secret bank account. Also on that board was Scott Weiner, Corzine's appointment to the New Jersey Schools Construction Corp.

Fox insists the bank account was legit, saying an assistant attorney general helped negotiate part of the contract with Wachovia Bank. (BPU board member Fred Butler owns between $250,000 and $500,000 in Wachovia stock, according to his financial disclosure. He's the dude who spends his time roaming the globe looking for ways to lower our electricity bills.)

When 101.5 FM radio's Kevin McArdle asked Fox why she never explained the bank account when the controversy erupted with the Senate and Assembly budget committees, she said no one asked. Why not mention it to reporters? She told one, she answered, but it didn't make the story.

The audit singles out Cassandra Kling, who used a laptop for her Clean Energy files. Kling left state government and returned as a consultant but was allowed to keep the laptop. When she left again, state computer techs checked the laptop and found no files.

If Corzine were still running a Wall Street firm and something like that happened, the head of the involved department would be told to leave, someone else would clean out the desk. Why is Corzine keeping Fox on? He needs to do more than talk about ethics.

And when is Sen. John Adler going to do his duty as chairman of the Judiciary Committee? Why haven't Farber and Fox been called in to explain themselves? Weiner too. Adler sat idle while former Attorney General Peter "See No Evil" Harvey wrecked havoc and made New Jersey a laughingstock. Is Adler going to stand by for this too?

Bob Ingle is Trenton bureau chief for Gannett New Jersey newspapers. He can be reached viae-mail at and heard on New Jersey 101.5 FM radio at 5 p.m. Fridays. Join his blog at

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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.