Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Farber - Record - Alerted pal at MVC about boyfriend's van

Published in the Bergen Record, Sunday, July 23, 2006

Farber alerted pal at MVC to say boyfriend needed van registered


After leaving a Fairview traffic checkpoint where police had stopped her boyfriend, Attorney General Zulima Farber telephoned the manager of the Motor Vehicle Commission office in Elizabeth.

Farber said she wanted to tell him that her boyfriend, Hamlet E. Goore Jr., would be dropping by to rectify a problem with his driver's license and renew his car registration.

"I called my friend Angel Estrada," Farber said Saturday. "I wanted to tell him that Hamlet was trying to get in touch with him."

Reaching out to Estrada was only logical, Farber said, given that he's a 30-year family friend who, like her, has been active in New Jersey's Cuban-American community.

Former Gov. James E. McGreevey appointed Estrada and Farber to serve on the Free Cuba Task Force in 2003. An active Democrat, Estrada also is a Union County freeholder.

Answering her call on his office phone on May 26, Estrada told Farber that Goore was on the other line, she said during an interview Saturday with The Record.

Making the call was the furthest she went to help Goore resolve his troubles with the motor vehicle agency, she said.

"I made no effort to correct records, correct mistakes. None," Farber said.

Following the call, Farber said, she continued traveling in her official state police vehicle to Edison to give a speech. Meanwhile, she said, Goore drove her personal car from their North Bergen home to the Elizabeth motor vehicle agency.

A short time earlier, Fairview police had stopped Goore at a seatbelt enforcement checkpoint. Farber said she was driven there in her official state police SUV, driven by a trooper, after Goore called to tell her that the borough officers intended to impound his unregistered van.

Circumstances changed after Farber arrived, with the officers canceling their request for a tow truck and allowing Goore to drive the five blocks to the home he shared with Farber -- provided she follow him there.

One of the officers later moved to void the tickets. That request is still pending.

Whether Farber influenced police to give her boyfriend a break is part of an unprecedented investigation by a special prosecutor, retired Appellate Judge Richard J. Williams, appointed by Governor Corzine. The episode has prompted calls from Republican lawmakers that Farber resign and spare taxpayers the expense of the independent investigation.

Requests for comment from Senate Republicans, who have criticized Farber's actions, were not immediately returned Saturday night.

During a 2½-hour interview in her Trenton office earlier that afternoon, Farber apologized for going to the Fairview scene, saying it was poor judgment. However, she said her intent wasn't to influence anyone and that the mistake isn't serious enough to warrant her resignation.

Farber said she only went to the traffic stop to retrieve personal belongings such as bicycles, a computer and a camera from Goore's Oldsmobile van. Tote bags filled with some of her official papers were also in the van, Farber said, but none of it involved sensitive law enforcement information that would have compromised her agency's operations.

"If the only reason that they exercised discretion to allow the vehicle to be driven five blocks was because of the presence of the attorney general, then I apologize to the officers," Farber said. "In retrospect, [Goore] should have probably called a taxi cab and stuffed everything in the back."

After driving himself to the Elizabeth motor vehicles office, Goore was met by Estrada, who helped him restore his expired driver's license and the van's registration, Farber said.

"[Goore] told me he stood in line with Angel," she said.

Records show Goore's license was restored at 10:57 a.m. – little more than a half-hour after he left the Fairview checkpoint, according to officials at the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Farber said the MVC had failed to post in its computer system that Goore had paid an overdue parking ticket, restoring his driver's license in May 2005.

Her attorney, Jerry Krovatin, produced a copy of Goore's driving record that he believes suggests the license was restored last year. He says the change wasn't entered into the system until Estrada helped correct the error, with help from employees at the agency's headquarters, on May 26.

A phone message left at Estrada's Elizabeth home Saturday was not immediately returned.

Farber, who has not curtailed her appearances since the incident became public, said she intends to continue working as the state's chief law enforcement officer. She said she believes New Jerseyans will support her.

"I am passionate about public service," Farber said. "I know I can serve the people of this state and make them proud."

E-mail: maddux@northjersey.com

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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.