Newsreal Archives/Critic' Corners

One of our readers, Charlie Goodfellow, says that the following article --- 14 Accused of Corruption in a New Jersey City --- sounds very familiar.

If you wonder whether there is a typo in the story --- that misspelled Vancouver British Columbia and it came out Patterson New Jersey instead.

Charlie Goodfellow also says that:

There is an old saying, to conserve water, Don't flush for everything. The same can be said for corruption, let some of it go on because how else would you know who is involved --- who is in the bowl, so to speak. There are the big floaties, and the small floaties, and from time to time when the bowl is full someone is going to say, Flush!!!

So it is at the prosecutors office, at the City of Vancouver by-law department, at the Rentalsman Office, at the Real Estate licensing board, at the Financial Institutions Commission, at the Law Society, at the Land Title Office, etc., etc. See how they swim together. 'Time to flush!!!', 'Cull the cucky, keep the clean!!!', Good-bye cucky, good-bye!!!'

March 27, 2007

14 Accused of Corruption in a New Jersey City


NEWARK, March 26 — One bribe was made in exchange for dismissing the complaints of a distressed tenant against a landlord. A second was to ensure a timely lead paint inspection. Another was submitted for the most basic of needs: to keep water service from being shut off.

Those were among the allegations made by federal prosecutors on Monday as they charged 14 people in a wide-ranging public corruption scheme involving Paterson city workers, including employees of its Housing Authority, and manipulation of the federal Section 8 program providing rent subsidies for the poor.

The charges, a result of a 14-month investigation by the United States attorney for New Jersey, outlined an extensive street-level operation in which officials solicited and accepted bribes for a range of favors — from steering tenants to landlords to expediting the city’s occupancy permit process.

According to a criminal complaint in the case, Benny Ramos, a former deputy director of the city’s Section 8 program, admitted to investigators that he had accepted as much as $100,000 in bribes during the past 10 years.

For the United States attorney’s office in New Jersey, whose investigations have led to the arrest of more than 100 officials for public corruption in the past five years, the Paterson case represents a different kind of prosecution.

Its targets were not public figures with household names, like John A. Lynch, the former president of the New Jersey Senate, or James W. Treffinger, the former Essex County executive, both of whom were convicted of corruption. And the largest figure cited in the complaint was just under $7,000.

But Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney, said that his office was not “swayed by the size of the catch” and that the case represented a pervasive culture of corruption throughout the state where even low-level players often expect something extra for performing routine duties.

“I don’t come here today to tell all of you that we have broken a high-level major public official case,” Mr. Christie said at a press conference in Newark. “But this is the kind of public official case that really affects the daily lives of people in New Jersey.”

He said that those charged were “people who every day are shaking down folks in order to get the routine functions of government done — things that should be done every day without much incident.”

“When we’ve sat up here and talked about the culture of corruption in New Jersey, we’re not just talking about people like John Lynch and Jim Treffinger,” Mr. Christie said. “We’re talking about people like Benny Ramos. We’re talking about people in the lowest levels of government who exist in a governmental culture that gives them the sense that this kind of conduct is permissible.”

Eight of the 14 people charged are current or former employees of the Paterson Housing Authority or the city-run Section 8 program, including Mr. Ramos, 42, of Clifton, N.J. The others are current or former workers from other city departments.

Eight of those accused in the scheme were arrested early Monday and made initial appearances hours later before a federal magistrate judge, Esther Salas. The six others, including Mr. Ramos, were ordered to appear before her on Tuesday.

One former city employee, Victor Ortiz, 42, of Paterson, was accused of taking nearly $5,000 in bribes and telling a federal informant who was posing as a property manager that he could arrange the dismissal of complaints about housing conditions that had been filed by tenants against their landlords.

A current worker, Yolanda Lane, 38, of Paterson, was accused of demanding $150 for performing lead paint inspections that are part of her routine duties. Lee Holland, 61, of Paterson, a former city Section 8 employee, essentially asked the informant to pay him a $200-a-week retainer for help resolving housing problems, prosecutors said.

Irma Gorham, executive director of the authority, which oversees about 1,600 apartments occupied by some 2,500 people, said that she was alarmed by the allegations; three current authority employees were among those charged. “I was extremely saddened when I heard,” she said. “It’s very frustrating because we’re doing so much to provide safe, clean and decent housing.”

In Paterson, where Mayor Martin G. Barnes was convicted in 2002 of public corruption charges brought by Mr. Christie’s office, reaction to Monday’s allegations was one of resignation for at least one resident living in a shelter.

“I think it’s absurd that they’re taking bribes and all these people out here are homeless,” said James Lee, 51, who has been in the Y.M.C.A. shelter for a decade. He said he applied for Section 8 housing three years ago but has not gotten a voucher.

“Everyone they elect into office, they’re doing something corrupt,” Mr. Lee said. “They’re not helping the people who live in Paterson.”

Nate Schweber contributed reporting from Paterson, N.J.