Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Farber - NY Times - Calls in Trenton for AG's ouster

Published in The New York Times, Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Calls in Trenton for Ouster of Attorney General


TRENTON, July 18 — A growing number of Republican legislators are calling for the removal of State Attorney General Zulima V. Farber because of her role in a traffic stop involving her companion, and some Democrats said on Tuesday that her support among their ranks was also eroding.

Ms. Farber, whose driving record may have cost her a place on the State Supreme Court in 2003, is already the subject of an investigation by a special prosecutor into an episode in which her companion was stopped by the police in Fairview, N.J. The police rescinded the tickets that they issued to him sometime after Ms. Farber arrived on the scene, in a car driven by a state police officer with lights flashing.

While Ms. Farber has not been charged with anything, Republican legislators say that the appearance of impropriety is enough cause for her to resign. Even some Democrats say Ms. Farber, at the least, should appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain what happened.

Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, a Democrat from Union County and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said, “I certainly think I’m going to do that,. He said he would make the request that Ms. Farber appear through the committee chairman, Senator John H. Adler.

Mr. Scutari also said that support for Ms. Farber was flagging among Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature. Another Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Paul A. Sarlo of Bergen County, said that Ms. Farber showed a “lapse of judgment” and that he “would support her coming back, absolutely,” to appear before the committee.

Some other Democrats said privately that they believed Ms. Farber’s job was in danger. “It’s serious,” said one legislator who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the situation. “I don’t think she survives it, actually.”

Senator Gerald Cardinale of Bergen County, a member of the Judiciary Committee and one of a dozen Republicans who have sponsored measures calling for Ms. Farber’s resignation, asked Senator Adler two weeks ago to convene a committee hearing on the matter. Mr. Adler, asked on Tuesday if he would do so, would say only that he needed to consult Senate President Richard J. Codey.

Senator Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. of Monmouth County, another Republican on the Judiciary Committee who with Senator Cardinale voted against her nomination, said on Tuesday, “I hoped I would be proven wrong. So far, sad to say, I’ve not been proven wrong.”

The Legislature can remove an attorney general only by impeachment, and the State Constitution exempts the office from the provision that allows the governor to replace cabinet members at will.

Ms. Farber, who immigrated from Cuba in her teens, built an impressive law career, serving in several posts in the other Democratic administrations, before her nomination by Gov. Jon S. Corzine in January.

At that time, she was recovering from political damage done three years earlier, when Gov. James E. McGreevey, on the verge of nominating her to the State Supreme Court, suddenly chose another candidate. His decision came after he learned that Ms. Farber had ignored a bench warrant issued for her failure to appear in court for a traffic violation.

During a bumpy confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee, some members asked about her long history of traffic citations, which includes 13 speeding tickets, 3 license suspensions and at least 2 warrants for failing to appear in court. Conceding a terrible record, she thanked Mr. Corzine “for giving me a job with a driver.”

Ms. Farber had a driver when, on May 26, she responded to a call from her companion, Hamlet E. Goore, who had been stopped near their house in North Bergen. The police found that Mr. Goore, a municipal official in Irvington, was not wearing a seat belt, that he had a suspended license and that the Oldsmobile van he was driving was uninsured.

Ms. Farber declined to discuss the incident this week, but in an interview with The New York Times two weeks ago, she said she never talked to the police or interfered in any way but had simply come to help Mr. Goore take valuables out of the car when the police said they would impound it.

“I guess I’m not willing to say that I’m not willing to come to the aid of a loved one because some people might think that my mere presence would affect a police officer,” she said.

After news reports of the incident several weeks later, Mr. Corzine appointed Richard Williams, a retired state appeals court judge, to conduct an investigation. Judge Williams said Tuesday that he had hired two lawyers and two investigators.

Governor Corzine declined through a spokesman to discuss Ms. Farber, but his press secretary, Anthony Coley, said, “We fully expect the attorney general to pay the costs for her personal attorney.”

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.