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Call Me Mister
April 28, 2005: Just when it seemed that X Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey was off slaving over dry briefs in the back offices of the Weiner Lesniak law firm (where State Senator Raymond Lesniak parks his crown) comes the news he's actually been busy helping build Xanadu. You'd think Jimbo would have checked with the Hearst family before becoming involved with anything named thusly but nooo. The X-Guv has been lending a legal hand to the developers of a $1.3 billion entertainment and retail project called Xanadu, adjoining the Continental Airlines Arena sports complex in East Rutherford. In the Meadowlands section of Jersey. An area where as legend has it, a veritable army of missing mobsters are pushing up swamp grass.

The brouhaha over McGreevey's involvement with Xanadu has nothing to do with the desecration of sacred burial ground. The problem is that when Jimbo was in office, his administration selected Xanadu's developers: Virginia based Mills Corporation and its Jersey partner, Mack Cali Realty of Cranford. Mack Cali incidentally, is a big player on Jersey's Gold Coast. Aka Hudson County. Where public money has helped raise many a Cracker Jack San Simeon-- and where public corruption is another matter of legend.

When state employees in Jersey leave the halls of government they're barred from doing business related to their job for a year. However, the law doesn't cover former governors. Yet Jimbo the X has done the noble (doesn't he always?) and resigned from Weiner Lesniak. Essentially citing the perception, if not the reality, of a conflict of interest. Until several New Jersey newspapers took note of the Xanadu connection that perception wasn't perceptible. Political boss Ray Lesniak, a McGreevey supporter from way back, denies there was ever any actual conflict of interest but does acknowledge "since a Governor touches every aspect of public life in New Jersey, it is impossible, as a practical matter, for a Governor to practice law at our firm."

What a shame this impracticality didn't strike Lesniak prior to hiring McGreevey: it would have saved Jimbo another embarrassing rehash of his administration's record re development deals. As a state senator, Ray Lesniak himself touches many aspects of public life and as an attorney, no doubt knows that perception is one thing and reality another. Which, when hiring McGreevey, may have led him to discount the practical importance of the former-- and put too much trust in the latter.

If an ethics law is passed placing former governors on par with other state employees (as might be proposed by acting Governor Richard Codey) the problem becomes what can governors do to make a buck during the year after they leave office. Since so much of our free market economy is now buoyed by government it doesn't leave many employment opportunities untouched by suggestions of connection.

One solution might be for X governors to head for Mexico. Where they could re-enter the USA as illegal aliens and get jobs picking peaches for 12 hours a day, bagging asbestos without protective clothing, or serving as indentured servants in the kitchens of Chinese restaurants. Though the businesses that offer these kinds of jobs also sometimes receive government assistance, their workers are undocumented. Hence the employment they provide is less likely to produce perceptions of conflict of interest.

On April 27th in Monmouth County, New Jersey, Harry Larrison Jr., the former director of the County Board of Freeholders, was charged with accepting bribes and corrupt payments from several developers working in the county. Larrison served for 39 years on the freeholder board. His political longevity led him to be dubbed "Mr. Monmouth County". Larrison brings the number of recent corruption indictments and convictions in the county to 15. Long time county prosecutor John Kaye once bristled at Monmouth being characterized as corrupt. Perhaps this staunchness in the face of perception means Kaye should be the new Mister Monmouth County.

Or maybe even-- Mister New Jersey.

Carola Von-Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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Copyright (c) 2005 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.


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