Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Farber - Ledger - Moran: Heat's on after latest folly

Published in the Star-Ledger, Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The heat's on Farber after latest act of folly

The high-minded debate over budget policy is over, and it's so hot outside that no one has the energy to get serious about property taxes just yet.

So let's take it down a notch, and return to the continuing saga of knucklehead politicians in New Jersey doing knucklehead things.

The latest is Zulima Farber, the attorney general, who is hiding under her desk these days.

Farber is in trouble over her unfathomable decision to rush to her boyfriend's rescue after a routine traffic stop. She used her official car and State Police driver, flashing lights and all.

Exactly what happened that day is under investigation. But we know that Farber was there, and that her boyfriend got special treatment.

Now Republican legislators are circulating petitions demanding her resignation. Several senior Democrats say privately that she's not likely to survive.

And Gov. Jon Corzine, who appointed her, is treating her like some radioactive stranger best kept at a safe distance.

This trouble started, as is so often the case, with the boyfriend.

Farber, 61, shares a home with Hamlet Goore, 65, who is not the type you'd bring home to an inquiring mother.

Goore is an attorney who has been reprimanded twice by the state Supreme Court for unethical behavior. Two businesses he started were shut down by the state treasurer because he didn't pay state taxes. The federal government has filed several liens against him for failing to pay income taxes between 1981 and 1998. And his driver's license has been suspended 10 times.

But love is blind. So when Goore's unregistered van was pulled over by local cops in Fairview during Memorial Day weekend, he called Farber, and she rushed to help.

When she arrived, all of Goore's troubles magically went poof.

The towing truck police had called to impound Goore's van was turned away. Police tried to void the two tickets they'd written. And Goore was even allowed to drive his van home, with Farber's official car trailing behind.

Corzine has appointed a special prosecutor to find out whether Farber gave any explicit orders regarding Goore's cushy treatment, which she denies.

But does it really matter? Isn't her mere presence at the scene a problem? It would take one tough and principled beat cop to hang the boyfriend of the attorney general while she sits and watches. She is the boss, about 14 layers up.

Farber doesn't seem to get that. But that's why no one, even key supporters like U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, is coming to her defense.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a core supporter in the Senate, agrees that Farber was out of line this time.

"Her going to the site was an unwise decision," Weinberg says. "He's a grown man. He should've been able to handle this by himself."

That is the sound of one's political support collapsing into a dust heap.

Farber is a respected attorney with an impressive personal history. She's recruited good people as top lieutenants, and early reports suggest she's doing a decent job.

But she already got one free pass when the Legislature overlooked her own troubled driving record, which led to three license suspensions and four bench warrants when she failed to appear in court.

Maybe Farber will survive this. She was trying to help a loved one, not take a bribe.

She will be weakened, though. And because she's the administration's point person on fighting corruption, we all stand to lose.

"This has affected her in a negative way," Weinberg says. "And it's not an issue that's going to go away."

Tom Moran's column appears Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at or (973) 392-1823.

Link to online story.

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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.