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State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Good government coalition wants Scutari off Judiciary Committee

State, federal investigators probing part-time prosecutor gig

By Nikita Biryukov, March 04 2020 12:35 pm

The Good Government Coalition New Jersey called for State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) to withdraw from the Senate Judiciary Committee amidst news of state and federal probes into his record as Linden’s municipal prosecutor.

“We call on Senator Scutari to step down from his Judiciary Committee role for the duration of his investigation and for the legislature to promote good governance in New Jersey by adopting laws that prevent conflict of interests, as exist in our neighboring states,” the coalition said on Twitter.

Last year, Linden released the results of an audit that claimed Scutari, who chairs Union County’s Democratic Organization and the Judiciary Committee, was frequently absent during time for which he collected pay as municipal prosecutor.

The Star Ledger on Wednesday reported that a state grand jury filed a subpoena seeking Scutari’s payroll records and court logs. Federal authorities separately requested those same documents.

Scutari has called it “a hit job.”

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, long a political opponent of the senator, pushed Scutari out of the prosecutor’s job over an intra-party spat to fill a vacant Linden Council seat last year.

The senator in October filed a tort claim that charged libel against Armstead and Linden Councilman Peter Brown, claiming they used taxpayer resources to engineer to audit, which Scutari has repeatedly called a political smear.

The audit found the city paid Scutari $147,494 in salary, payroll taxes and pension contributions for 167 unapproved days off.

The coalition is made up mostly of progressive groups at war with South Jersey Democrats aligned with Senate President Steve Sweeney and powerbroker George Norcross.

Scutari, a member of the Senate Majority’s leadership, is closely allied with Sweeney.

“Senator Scutari is both a municipal prosecutor in Linden and Chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee that decides the fate of prospective judges. He is also Union County Dem party Chair, a position that enables him to decide which candidates will be endorsed … and receive the coveted Union County ‘Party Line’ ballot positions,” the coalition said. “Such interlocking political roles are part of a dysfunctional system in which political insiders benefit from back room deals while the people of NJ are excluded from the political process.”

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