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Joseph Scancarella, chairman of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation

Murphy has no allies on SCI

Next gubernatorial appointment is seven months away

By David Wildstein, May 02 2019 5:10 am

In it’s heyday, the State Commission of Investigation was so intimidating that the mere visit from an investigator or subpoena to appear could reliably scare the crap out of someone.

If the Bergen Record’s sources are accurate, the SCI is now investigating the hiring practices at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.  That puts a possible probe of Lizette Delgado-Polanco in the hands of four commissioners who are allied with former Gov. Chris Christie or the legislative leadership.

Two SCI commissioners are appointed by the governor and one by each of the legislative leaders.  No more than two may be of the same political party.

The chairman, Joseph Scancarella, 80, served as a Republican assemblyman from 1968 to 1972 and as a Superior Court judge from 1982 to 2004.  Christie appointed him to the SCI in 2012.

Rosemary Iannacone, who worked for Christie in the U.S. Attorney’s office and as director of operations in the office of the governor, was named to the SCI in 2014.  She is the second Republican on the panel.

Senate President Steve Sweeney’s appointee is Robert Burzichelli, the brother of Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro).  He has served since 2014.

John A. Hoffman, the chairman of the Wilentz law firm and the father of Christie’s acting attorney general, John Jay Hoffman, was named to the SCI by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin in 2018.

Gov. Phil Murphy won’t get an appointment to the SCI until December 31, when Scancarella’s term expires.  If he makes his own pick, it will need to be a Republican or an unaffiliated voter.

Iannacone’s term expires on December 31, 2020.  Hoffman is up at the end of 2021 and Burzichelli at the end of 2022.

None of the picks require Senate confirmation.

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.

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