A suit filed in 2006 to recoup money from corrupt officials won a significant settlement in early January with Hudson County collecting $650,000 from a bond covering convicting former County Executive Robert Janiszewski.
County Counsel Donato Battista said this was the second settlement made in a suit filed the U.S. District Court.
The suit alleges that taxpayers suffered a financial negative impact as a result of corrupt activities by public officials and others and asks the court to seek compensation from a group of individuals who have participated in bribery and other related crimes.
Battista said the developer Joseph Barry settled early in 2006.
“But his was a different situation from the others,” Batista said. “Barry gave a $115,000 bribe to Janiszewski in order that Janiszewski would smooth the road for a federal grant.”
Batista said Barry gave the county $75,000 shortly after the suit was filed and was dropped from the lawsuit.
Barry, who plead guilty, finished serving his sentence last year. Janiszewski is completing a 41 month sentence and is due for release later this year.
Although the county suffered a set back in 2007 when the U.S. District Court recently tossed out the county’s effort to have the charges fall under federal racketeering provisions because the county filed its suit too late, Battista said the county would continue other aspects of the suit, and the current settlement is part of the continuing effort.
Janiszewski, who resigned from office in September of 2006 after having become an informant for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and later pleaded guilty to accepting more than $100,000 in bribes, was bonded to assure the county that he lived up to his obligations as county executive.
Saying this is the beginning of the effort, county executive communications director Jim Kennelly said this sends a strong message to bonding companies.
“These companies need to be careful who they bond,” he said.
Kennelly said this was part of an overall effort by Hudson County to make its officials live up to a higher ethical standard.
“I know that the issue of ethics reform seems to have faded but it has changed things here in Hudson County,” Kennelly said.
Hudson County may be the first governmental body in the nation to seek sue corrupt officials to regain funds lost as result of crimes committed, said County Executive Tom DeGise.
“I’m told that other places are looking to do the same thing, using the briefs we wrote, but simply changing the names,” he said. “It’s nice to be first and it is nice to be rewarded after taking a risk. When you litigate you don’t always know where it will end up.”
DeGise, however, said the case is not over.
“There are still other defendants out there and we would like to get them all together,” he said.
Batista, however, said the county will seek additional damages from Janiszewski, looking to collect from his personal assets.
At the time of his arrest, Janiszewski owned two ski lodges, one in New York State and another in Colorado, and controlled access to about $200,000 in campaign contributions. While the federal authorities confiscated thousands of dollars that were directly connected to bribery, the county apparently is seeking to tap into Janiszewski’s remaining assets.
The county is also looking to collect money from Hoboken-based Accountant Gerald Lisa, Union City Psychiatrist Dr. Oscar Sandoval, financial consultant Charles Fallon, and former freeholders Bill Braker and Nidia Davila Colon. All but Sandoval were charged and convicted. The suit also named bond broker Jay Booth, but he has never been charged or convicted of any crime. Janiszewski claimed in court that Booth was involved. Janiszewski disliked Booth for various reasons, which may explain why Janiszewski mentioned him.