Senate President Steve Sweeney thinks an upcoming meeting between Gov. Phil Murphy and Ocean County Democratic Chairman Wyatt Earp could create the appearance that they are trading jobs for votes in an upcoming battle for Democratic State Chairman.
“If they’re meeting and offering something for support, that’s not legal,” Sweeney told the New Jersey Globe. “That’s something guys with badges look into.”
Sweeney is bothered by discussions of commingling government jobs and the party leadership contest.
He pointed to a December POLITICO report that Murphy texted Robert Salman, a Democratic state committeeman from Monmouth County, with a request that he back John Currie around the same time an administration official was talking to Salman about an ethics post at New Jersey Transit.
“It’s a little bit beyond the norm,” Sweeney said. “I would hope that wouldn’t happen.”
Earp, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has been pushing the administration to hire several Ocean County Democrats for state posts.
“I’ve known Wyatt a long time and I know he’s smarter than that,” said Sweeney. “I would hope he wouldn’t engage in that. People should be smarter than that.”
The Murphy administration has been slow to fill certain patronage positions that are essential to the political success of party leaders like Earp, who comes from a county where Republicans are solidly in charge.
Specifically, Earp has been pushing to replace three motor vehicle agency directors who had been put in place by Murphy’s predecessor, Republican Chris Christie.
“You can’t blame legislators for that,” said Sweeney, noting that appointments like those Earp is trying to get for Ocean County Democrats are made directly by the governor. No Senate approval is required.
Sweeney said that if Earp allies suddenly wind up in state jobs, like the ones at the motor vehicle commission, it could show a troubling pattern.
Earp told the New Jersey Globe on Thursday that he does not plan to take sides in the race between Currie and Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr.