Sunday, September 17, 2006

Lynch - Home News Tribune - Reactions on guilty plea

Published in the Home News Tribune, Saturday, September 16, 2006

Political friends, foes register varying reactions


When John A. Lynch Jr., former mayor of New Brunswick, president of the state Senate and one of the most influential politicians in the state, entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court, political friends and foes reacted yesterday.

Gov. Jon Corzine: "He betrayed the public trust. It was completely undermining the public confidence. We need to get our house in order,"

Joseph Vitale, state senator and mayor of Woodbridge: "A situation like this makes it much harder for the large number of good people who dedicate their lives to public service. There is the perception out there of a culture of corruption and I hope I can be part of the effort to fix that."

David Crabiel, director, Middlesex County Board of Freeholders
: "I believe John Lynch is among the finest people I have ever known. He has earned bipartisan praise for his outstanding work on behalf of local, county and state governments. I believe John to be an outstanding citizen of our state and it is my hope that people who know John will stand by him in these very difficult times.

"The conduct to which John today admitted is inconsistent with the man I know and respect. However, the fact that John chose to admit that conduct and accept its consequences in entirely consistent with that man."

Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club: "(U.S. Attorney) Chris Christie has done more to stop sprawl than the State Planning Commission will ever do. When you look at the basis of why this indictment is happening it's all about pay-to-pave. It's about politicians and developers exchanging money. This is a strike against sprawl in many ways."

Jim Cahill, mayor of New Brunswick: "John Lynch had a great vision for the city of New Brunswick and it began and cemented the city's early revitalizaton efforts. All that we continue to do today is built upon the foundation that John Lynch had built.

"The actions to which John Lynch admitted today are contrary to everything I know for the 25 years I've known him."

Van Dyke J. Pollitt, longtime aide to Lynch: "I know and have respected John Lynch for more than 32 years. I know him to be an outstanding leader, a great public servant and a man of the highest standards of principles. He has been properly credited with fostering the rebirth of the City of New Brunswick as its mayor, and has earned bi-partisan praise for his work in behalf of all of us during 20 years in the state Senate.

"I know John to be a man of great character who has made a mistake, has admitted that mistake and has taken full responsibility for his actions.

"These actions today do not diminish my very high regard for him. I will continue to stand by him and I wish him well."

David Harris, former member of Rutgers Board of Governors and operator of day care center in New Brunswick: "I have sympathy for his children, that's my first thought.

"John always carried with him the air of invincibility and omnipotence. This county was operated essentially as a closed shop and the power was absolute. The Democrat Party in this county has been run like a private business. It was an industry for the insiders. Without torture and murder this was like Pinochet in Chile."

Alex DeCroce, state Assembly Republican leader: "Another day, another public corruption scandal in New Jersey. Sometimes it seems that there is an endless assembly line churning out corrupt officials in this state. One after another they appear on the public stage and undermine the public's trust in government."

Ross Baker, Rutgers University political scientist: "John is a brilliant man with tragic flaws. He is someone who is capable of doing enormous enormous good. His ambitions really carried him into dangerous areas, and he went over the line, particularly in his real estate dealings. The world of New Jersey politics is a very intimate one. It is a compact club. When someone comes to dominate a county or a region, like a John Lynch or a George Norcross, he becomes an outsize figure. John's fall is big news."

Alan Marcus, registered Republican lobbyist: "Personally I'm devastated by it — that's as a friend. In my opinion John is one of greatest public policy figures New Jersey has ever seen. He is the man most responsible for the renaissance of New Brunswick, and he was a great state senator. Unfortunately that record will be blemished by today's proceedings. To see this outcome is personally very difficult."

David Rebovich, director of the Rider University Institute for New Jersey Politics: "The downfall is not just of a political boss, but of a guy who seemed too smart and too shrewd to find himself in a situation like this. He had a brilliant legal mind, and you would think he would escape this. He wasn't the kingmaker, he was the king. He was really a princemaker."

Robert Smith, state senator from Middlesex County: "I am very sad for his family and for Central New Jersey. He was our senior statesman. He had done it all — mayor, state senator. He was a very valuable source of information, with his institutional memory."

Frank Bright, chairman of the New Brunswick Republican Party: "Maybe New Brunswick voters will say, "Enough is enough' and actually vote for some reform.

"The significant thing about John Lynch is that this is a plea deal really — he agreed to one charge of tax evasion and one charge of fraud. The U.S. Attorney General is not going any further into looking at this which I think is a mistake. Part of this was The Highlands (project in New Brunswick). Redevelopment in this town (New Brunswick) has never passed the smell test. It can be seen in the crisis of high taxes, the parking crisis and the traffic crisis. You can't get across town, you can't get any parking, you can't afford your taxes. This is not even tip of iceberg, this is the tip top of the iceberg.

Joe Leo, Middlesex County Republican Party Chairman: "Without knowing all the specifics of the case, what I can say is that the I consider this to be a drop in the bucket in Middlesex County where there's been almost an open secret that corruption is the style of the day.

"We have a number of investigations pending where we have requested action and interest by state agencies of various kinds, and this fits the pattern. But it is certainly not the end of it; it is one small part of a way that people have governed in this county for a couple of years.

"The various land development schemes that have involved Lynch and others operating on the fringe of clean practices in Middlesex County, all those things are part of the muck that has become Middlesex County politics. Lynch being gone is a drop in the bucket.

David Meiswinkle, New Brunswick attorney
: "In 1982 I ran against him, and in 1984 ran against his machine for City Council — five people working were arrested and charged with electioneering too close to polls. Lynch's bodyguard was in plainclothes and taken off the streets to police headquarters. I couldn't believe something like that could happen in this country. I've had a lot of run-ins with Lynch over years."

"What has transpired now with Lynch is nothing new to me. Whatever's been spun now, it's not an isolated incident. It's been a systemic problem. It's an indictment against Middlesex County politics that it would allow John Lynch to become as prominent as he was. It's a systemic failure on the part of the county to check itself. But I do wish him good luck in whatever happens to him, and God bless him."

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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.