No show job haunts lawmaker

New Jersey Working Families, an independent grassroots organization fighting for a government that represents the people’s needs and values, has filed an ethics complaint against Senator Nicholas Scutari based on allegations that the lawmaker was a chronic absentee while being paid as Linden municipal prosecutor.

The complaint, filed with the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, called for a full investigation of the senator’s law practice and the lawmaker’s conduct.

According to the law firm Calcagni & Kanefsky, which was hired to conduct an investigation by the city government, Scutari committed “serial absenteeism” during his five years as Linden municipal prosecutor, skipping 255 of 628 court sessions.

Scutari’s absence cost Linden taxpayers nearly $200,000, according to a report issued by the investigators.

Scutari was paid in full for these absences, which were not authorized by Linden officials.

His conduct puts Scutari in violation of New Jersey’s Legislative Code of Ethics Rule 2:1a, according to the complaint calling for the ethics investigation on behalf of New Jersey’s taxpayers.

“The Joint Legislative Committee should conduct a full investigation of this Senator Scutari’s behavior,” said Sue Altman, director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance. “The people of New Jersey need to know the facts regarding Senator Scutari’s improper and unethical behavior as a state senator and municipal prosecutor."

"His conduct cost taxpayers in the state and in Linden hundreds of thousands of dollars and impeded the effective administration of justice," said Altman. "To the detriment of the taxpayer, Scutari’s state pension was repeatedly enriched.”

The complaint notes that Senator Scutari’s conduct, unacceptable for any office holder, is particularly alarming given his responsibilities as chair of the consequential Judiciary Committee, which oversees hearings for nominees to the state Superior Court, Tax Court and Supreme Court.

“Given Senator Scutari’s history of taking advantage of New Jersey courts and taxpayers, it is unconscionable that he occupies the position on the Judiciary Committee that is responsible for deciding whether a candidate for the bench gets a hearing,” Altman said. “The Joint Legislative Committee should make the full text of the Calcagni and Kanefsky report public. Shielding the report from public view would send a signal that the Senator is using his position to prevent justice from being served.”

The complaint was also signed by Maggies Savoca of Fanwood, Attorney Jill Lazare, and several other group leaders and individuals.

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