New Jersey League of Municipalities annual conference is sleaze in action

Sergio Granados, Tony Teixeira, Frank Cuesta Chris Bollwage, Nick Scutari.

The annual New Jersey League of Municipalities Annual Conference is billed as the largest municipal gathering in the nation, but the yearly schmooze fest has been known to draw some unsavory participants.

Only weeks after he admitted to stealing campaign funds from his former employers in a conspiracy that involved a confessed killer, Tony Teixeira was spotted in Atlantic City along with other prominent Union County politicians.

Teixeira was the chief of staff for Senate President Nicholas “No-Show Nick” Scutari and a major player in Union County politics, who previously worked in the same role for Senator Raymond Lesniak, until he confessed his crimes in federal court.

Teixeira also resigned as the chairman of the Elizabeth municipal Democratic committee and member of the Union County Board of Elections, a job to which he was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, but his appearance in Atlantic City suggests that his political pals are not ostracizing him, as is typically the case with corrupt officials who get caught.

Tony Teixeira is seen standing behind Governor Phil Murphy and state Senator Joe Cryan in this 2021 photo. Murphy appointed the criminal— who conspired with a confessed killer to rob various campaign organizations and dark money political entities of more than $100,000—as a paid member of the Union County Board of Elections shortly after this image was taken.

Teixeira pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion in a case that appears to be a product of cooperation with federal prosecutors by Sean Caddle, who remains in home confinement awaiting sentencing for hiring contract killers to murder his former associate, Michael Galdieri.

Organizers say the conference provides “extensive learning opportunities, meaningful face-to-face networking, and a comprehensive showcase of the latest product innovations to New Jersey’s local government officials and professionals” but history shows that the event is a junket largely funded by taxpayers that puts people willing to pay bribed in the room with politicians interested in taking them.

The 2005 scandal involving an Irvington-based construction company rocked the public works business in New Jersey with allegations that companies must pay off officials to get work.

Gerald David Free, a former executive vice president of United Gunite, pleaded guilty in federal court to giving gifts to Paterson officials, including major home renovations, in an effort to gain municipal contracts and said he had paid off other officials around the state as well.

Since 1996 United Gunite had a contract with the city to perform emergency sewer repairs without having to bid on each job individually, leaving it up to city officials to decide which conditions fell under the emergency contract.

According to federal prosecutors, between 1998 and 2000, United Gunite was paid $6.4 million for work in Paterson as Free generously passed illegal benefits back to the officials who signed off on work orders.

In 1996, CBS aired a “60 Minutes” episode on a League of Municipalities convention in which a hidden camera filmed a United Gunite executive offering money to a cameraman filming the company”s booth. When the money was returned later, the executive reportedly said he wanted to buy the cameraman lunch.

William Dressel, the executive director of the N.J. League of Municipalities until his retirement in 2015, said he was offended by the statements made by Free “characterizing New Jersey municipal officials as crooks.” He termed them “clearly irresponsible and unconscionable.”

“A $30 omelet, a $300 limousine ride and taxpayer-funded hotel rooms. This is the New Jersey State League of Municipalities conference, where local officials spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on a three-day trip to New Jersey’s party capital, Atlantic City,” wrote Bergen Record reporters Katie Sobko and Kristie Cattafi, in a 2019 report that said officials spent over $350,000 of your tax money during the 2018 party. 

“Every year in November, New Jersey taxpayers pay for municipal officials to attend the three-day conference, whose ostensible purpose is to provide a venue to learn about the latest in everything from court reform to organizing infrastructure,” they said. “But there is no clear way of knowing how many of these officials are taking advantage of the educational opportunities. And how expenses are paid varies from town to town; some insist that officials pay their own way, while others have processed expense claims for such indulgences as expensive room service meals and chauffeured rides between venues.”

The organizations behind the marquee political gathering in Atlantic City said they were stunned by an NJ Advance Media report in which several women said they were groped, sexually harassed or assaulted at the event, as well as aboard the state Chamber of Commerce’s annual train trip to Washington, D.C.

A vast number of women who experienced everything from sexual harassment to rape came forward after Julie Roginsky, a longtime Democratic strategist, broke her silence over the misogynistic practices that constituted normal behavior up to and including the Murphy administration.

“It is no surprise that most young women, after being forced to contend with abusive language and misogynistic behavior for a year or two, get out of the business to do something else,” Roginsky said.

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