Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips is seeking to impeach state Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo for failing to perform the duties of his office, which the GOP lawmaker says contributed to residents’ suffering during the pandemic.
Observers say there is no chance that the effort will gain any serious attention since DePhillips has little real influence and Asaro-Angelo is an appointee of Governor Phil Murphy, whose Democratic Party has majorities in both legislative chambers.
Democrats currently hold 24 of 40 seats in the New Jersey State Senate and 46 of the 80 New Jersey General Assembly seats.
“Enough is enough and it’s time for a change,” said DePhillips (R-Bergen). “Because of his incompetency, lawmakers have essentially turned their offices into satellite unemployment offices. What’s more, when the unemployed find their way to us, they are at their wits’ end and facing utility shutoffs, foreclosure, and eviction.”
DePhillips said New Jerseyans shouldn’t be punished for the failings of Asaro-Angelo, who at one point blamed unemployed residents for the delays in processing their claims.
“His statements illustrate his arrogance during one of the worst times in our state’s history,” said DePhillips. “In the beginning of the pandemic, when there were more than a million people out of work, he said 94% of claims had been paid. It turned out that number included one-time payments and people who had received some money, but then had benefits unexpectedly stop. All the smoke and mirrors in the world couldn’t hide the deficiencies at the Labor Department.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have passed a resolution and introduced legislation demanding that unemployment offices fully reopen to the public for in-person assistance.
Asaro-Angelo responded by announcing residents having issues with their unemployment claims would be able to get limited, in-person, appointment-only help at a dozen offices around the state starting March 28.
“The labor commissioner is simply adding insult to injury. Our unemployed residents deserve undivided attention and unlimited in-person help so they can receive the payments they rightfully earned,” DePhillips said. “It is what the Labor Department is supposed to do and since it’s not happening, the commissioner must go.”
DePhillips’ impeachment resolution says that the commissioner violated the public trust and abdicated his responsibilities when he failed to reopen state offices, expeditiously pay unemployment claims, and address the unemployment rate.
The state constitution starts the impeachment process in the state Assembly, which has the sole power of impeachment by a majority vote of all members.
The proceedings move to the Senate, which is to hold a trial overseen by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
A two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate is required to remove the commissioner from office.
DePhillips earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1987 and his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 1992.
DePhillips is Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and General Counsel of Porzio Life Sciences, a law firm that helps pharmaceutical and biotech companies remain compliant with complex state, federal and global regulations.
He served on the Wyckoff Township Committee from 2009 to 2013, as deputy Mayor of Wyckoff Township in 2011, and as Mayor of Wyckoff Township in 2012. He also served on the Wyckoff Environmental Commission from 2013 to 2017.