Gov. Phil Murphy will toss two holdovers from the Christie administration from the State Commission of Investigation, with Rev. Tiffany Williams Brewer set to become the first Black woman to chair the independent investigatory agency, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Williams Brewer, a pastor and former prosecutor, will take the seat of former Christie aide Rosemary Iannacone and has been designated to chair the panel by Murphy.
John P. Lacey, who chairs the white collar criminal defense practice at Connell Foley, is Murphy’s pick for the Republican seat currently held by Joseph Scancarella, the current SCI chairman.
Williams Brewer served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney before Bill Castner hired her to serve as General Counsel to the New Jersey State Assembly in 2007 and as deputy Chief Counsel to Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009. She spent six years as an Administrative Law Judge and in the Murphy administration as deputy assistant New Jersey Secretary of State and as a regulatory officer at the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.
Lacey is the son of Frederick B. Lacey, a fabled former U.S. District Court Judge and U.S. Attorney. As a young prosecutor in the 1950s, Judge Lacey successfully prosecuted mobster Albert Anastasia for tax evasion.
The direct appointments of Williams Brewer and Lacey, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s pick of Kevin Reina in 2020, gives the SCI a chance to reshape it’s mission.
There was a time when the SCI had real teeth, back in the day when a visit from an investigator or a subpoena to appear could reliably cause people in power to lose control of their bladders and the contents of their stomachs.
The Legislature created the SCI in 1968 as part of a package of crime fighting bills pushed through by Gov. Richard Hughes after allegations that a North Jersey assemblyman worked to cancel a Senate hearing on organized crime at the request of reputed mob boss Jerry Catena.
Not long after that, an assistant state attorney general, in a speech to a state journalistic society, said that three incumbent legislators were “entirely too comfortable with organized crime.” He later upped the number to six.
The new SCI was created with enormous investigatory power, largely to keep the Legislature out of the organized crime investigation business. The commission had the authority to authorize wiretaps, to compel top mob bosses to testify, and even to temporarily jail those who refused to appear before them. They would refer their findings to law enforcement and acted independently of politics.
While the SCI has broad jurisdiction, these days they deal in issues that are smaller in scope to the ones that dominated their original mission.
After the November general election, Senate President Steve Sweeney filed a direct appointment of Robert Burzichelli, the brother of Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) to another four-year stint, but it was rescinded after learning his term isn’t up until December 31, 2022. That will give the seat to incoming Senate President, Nicholas Scutari.
As a freshman Republican assemblyman from Passaic County in 1968, Scancarella voted to create the SCI. He later served as a Superior Court Judge.