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Friday, February 15, 2008

Coniglio indictment revives questions about Assemblyman Jerry Green

Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield).

Plainfielders may well ask themselves: How are the alleged corrupt practices for which ex-Sen. Joe Coniglio was indicted yesterday different from those for which Assemblyman Jerry Green came under scrutiny -- fleetingly -- last October?

Today's Bergen Record, Ledger and New York Times all report extensively (see links at end of post) on Coniglio's indictment for influence-peddling -- that is, using his official position to steer government monies to an entity from which he benefited financially. In Coniglio's case, it is charged he brokered his influence on legislative committees -- specifically in so-called 'Christmas Tree' grants -- for payments he tried to disguise as consulting fees.

U.S. Attorney Chris Christie took pains not to characterize Hackensack University Medical Center's participation, except to say that "we don't believe our work is done."

Parallels between Coniglio's and Green's activities are eery.

Assemblyman Jerry Green has never been shy about his support for Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. After all, Muhlenberg is the city's largest employer and its financial health is part and parcel of Plainfield's well-being. And Plainfield's well-being is part and parcel of Green's continued political career.

That being said, there are plenty of unanswered questions surrounding Green's dealings on behalf of the hospital and how and whether he was remunerated for any of them.

Jerry Green's profile on The Alman Group's website.

Last October, when the public first learned that Assemblyman Green had a previously undisclosed relationship with a Westfield lobbying firm, The Alman Group, Green was at pains to paint the relationship as properly vetted and above-board.

Nevertheless, within two days, Assemblyman Green announced his resignation from The Alman Group, where he was listed as Vice President for Local Affairs.

While Green made a lot of noise about getting $9 million in charity care reimbursement for Muhlenberg in the FY2008 budget, no mention was made of an even more startling figure -- a 41% increase in charity care reimbursement for Muhlenberg's sister hospital under the Solaris umbrella, Edison's JFK Medical Center (see more here). Question: Did the Alman Group play a role in this largesse?

Assemblyman Green earlier made splashy headlines in 2003 (see here and here) for attempts to steer to Plainfield a proposed $150 million middle-school project to be built on the hospital's Park Avenue campus. Though the school project -- which was to include paying off the hospital's $24M indebtedness -- never materialized, it certainly was not for want of trying.

In a profile in which it gave Assemblyman Green the moniker 'King of Plainfield', the Courier News reported last summer (see more here) that former Assembly Speaker Albio Sires said of Green --
"He was in my office every single day trying to save that hospital," Sires recalled. "The guy works hard. He knows the politics of it all and the time it takes to get things done. But still, he'd see me on the floor and say, 'You hear anything yet?' And I'd say, 'Jerry, we just talked two days ago.' "
Green chairs one important committee (Housing and Local Government Services) and sits on another (Health and Senior Services), where he exercises considerable leverage over the fates of hospital-, school-, and community-related issues.

Assemblyman Green has also made much of his efforts to get 'Christmas Tree' items for Plainfield.

Perhaps most disturbing for Plainfield residents is the fact that Assemblyman Green did not disclose his financial dealings with The Alman Group on his financial disclosure forms filed with the state.

Instead, he cites his income from something called 'Jerry Green Enterprises.'

Plainfielders may well want the answers to a whole series of questions:
  • Why didn't Assemblyman Green disclose the Alman Group relationship?
  • Who were his Alman Group clients?
  • How much did he earn from The Alman Group? And when did he earn it?
  • And where did 'Jerry Green Enterprises' get its income from?
Plainfielders would surely rest their heads more easily at night if they had the answers to these questions.

Well, at least all but one would probably rest more easily.

-- Dan Damon

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