Monday, July 23, 2012

Blue State Graft Watch Update- FBI Raids Home of Trenton, NJ Mayor

Federal agents armed with a search warrant raided the home of the mayor of New Jersey's capital city as well as his brother, an address listed one of the mayor's top donors and City Hall in the early morning hours of Thursday last week.
The raid on Mack’s residence in the upscale Berkeley Square section of the city was augmented by FBI searches at the home of Mack’s brother Ralphiel, the head football coach at Trenton Central High School, and the Ewing residence of Joseph “JoJo” Giorgianni
Later that day, Trenton, NJ's Democrat mayor Tony Mack sent a letter to the city clerk designating Ternton's Business Administrator Sam Hutchinson as acting mayor; a pro-forma move that allows Mack to leave the city. In a message on his Facebook page dated Sunday night, Mack said that he would be out of town and wouldn't be returning until July 30th.

A spokeswoman from the FBI declined to state what agents were looking for when they carried out raids on Mack's residence and City Hall. Although Mack has yet to be formally charged, his time in office as mayor has been marked by accusations of cronyism, his appointees being convicted of misconduct or having to step down once their criminal backgrounds were discovered.
City Councilman George Muschal, a frequent critic of Mack's management of the city, said he was not surprised when he received a text message notifying him that the FBI was raiding City Hall this morning. He only asked one question:

“What took them so long to get there?” Muschal said when reached by phone this afternoon. "There is full blown corruption in the city of Trenton. We have to go to a rock bottom low before we can rebuild. This might be a rock bottom low.”

A number of employees have sued the administration, including a former recreation employee who alleged that a close Mack associate, acting public works director Harold Hall, acted to bypass public bidding requirements and hired unqualified friends and relatives.

The FBI has investigated a political action committee that funneled donations to Mack, but the mayor has not been known to be under investigation personally.
One of the homes raided was that of 'Jojo' Giorgianni, a local steakhouse owner who was convicted of molesting a 14 year old girl in his restaurant in 1978. Tipping the scales at more than 500 pounds, Giorgianni and his legal team pleaded that he would be unable to survive in prison due to his considerable girth- an argument the presiding judge ruled in favor of until a videotape of the newly-freed Giorgianni ringside at a boxing match in smoke-filled arena without his oxygen tank was shown. Giorgianni reportedly exceeded the legal campaign contribution limit when he donated to Mack's 2010 Mayoral campaign.

In January, Mack's half-brother who was a manager at the city's water utility pleaded guilty to two counts of official misconduct after investigators discovered he was using city employees and city-owned equipment to carry out private side jobs while billing the city.

Other highlights of Tony Mack's two years in office include his chief-of-staff assaulting a police officer while carrying heroin in his pocket just days after leaving the scene of an accident, disguising a $20,000 campaign contribution as a loan, awarding municipal contracts to campaign donors, disbanding the police department's anti-gang and anti-narcotic units for more foot patrols and circumventing the city council to appoint friends and family to jobs within different city agencies.

Separately, the Mercer County prosecutor's office announced that they had a number of ongoing investigations over corruption in Trenton. They had successfully prosecuted Mack's half brother in the Trenton Water Works investigation earlier this year.

Like convicted felons Kwame Kilpatrick, Rod Blagojevic and Eddie Perez, Tony Mack is also a member of the Mike Bloomberg-sponsored Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.

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