Category: State of NJ

NJ Govenor Phil Murphy Calls for the Immediate Resignation of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez After Unsealing of Federal Indictment

Statement by Governor Murphy on Today’s Indictment Against U.S. Senator Robert Menendez 

September 22, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Govenor Phil Murphy has called for the immediate resignation of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez citing serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system after an inditement was unsealed earlier today.

“The allegations in the indictment against Senator Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing. These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system. Under our legal system, Senator Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process. However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.” — Govenor Phil Murphy

Statement from Senator Bob Menendez:

“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty. I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades. This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.” – Senator Bob Menendez

Facebook photo from Senator Bob Menendez profile.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As the grand jury charged, between 2018 and 2022, Senator Menendez and his wife engaged in a corrupt relationship with Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes – three New Jersey businessmen who collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value – in exchange for Senator Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt.  My Office is firmly committed to rooting out corruption, without fear or favor, and without any regard to partisan politics.  We will continue to do so.”

Statement of Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin on the Federal Indictment of Robert Menendez

The Office of the Attorney General is aware of the details included in today’s indictment of Robert Menendez, a sitting United States Senator for this State. The allegations are deeply disturbing to me and my Office, and we are already in the process of reviewing the concerns raised by the indictment.

As the now unsealed indictment makes clear, there are allegations that Menendez attempted to pressure a senior member of this Office under a prior administration. The conduct alleged in the indictment occurred prior to my tenure as Attorney General, and involved a matter that was resolved prior to my time in office. My Office has cooperated fully with the Southern District of New York’s investigation. We will continue to do so. We are also engaged in our own independent internal inquiry into the allegations set forth in the indictment.

It is a privilege to hold public office in service to the people one represents. Any individual who uses their public office to enrich themselves rather than selflessly serve the public does so at great cost to the public and to all public servants. Self-serving misconduct by a public official betrays a sacred oath, corrupts faith in government, frays the delicate trust the public has in those who serve it, deprives our residents of the honest services to which they are entitled, and dishonors and undermines the good work of the countless dedicated public servants who come to work each day honoring their oaths. Plain and simple, these are not victimless crimes.

Public corruption at any level will not be tolerated by me or my Office. We remain steadfast in our commitment to root out corruption wherever it occurs.

Breaking: U.S. Senator Bob Menendez Indicted for Bribes That Included Cash, Gold, Luxury Vehicle and More

September 22, 2023

Robert Menendez Allegedly Agreed to Use His Official Position to Benefit Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, Fred Daibes, and the Government of Egypt in Exchange for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars of Bribes to Menendez and His Wife Nadine Menendez, Which Included Gold Bars, Cash, and a Luxury Convertible  

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James Smith, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that an Indictment was unsealed this morning charging U.S. Senator ROBERT MENENDEZ, his wife NADINE MENENDEZ, a/k/a “Nadine Arslanian,” and three New Jersey businessmen, WAEL HANA, a/k/a “Will Hana,” JOSE URIBE, and FRED DAIBES, with participating in a years-long bribery scheme.  The Indictment alleges that MENENDEZ and his wife, NADINE MENENDEZ, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES in exchange for MENENDEZ’s agreement to use his official position to protect and enrich them and to benefit the Government of Egypt.  Among other things, MENENDEZ agreed and sought to pressure a senior official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an effort to protect a business monopoly granted to HANA by Egypt, disrupt a criminal case undertaken by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office related to associates of URIBE, and disrupt a federal criminal prosecution brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey against DAIBES.  MENENDEZ, NADINE MENENDEZ, HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES are expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at 10:30 a.m.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein. 

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As the grand jury charged, between 2018 and 2022, Senator Menendez and his wife engaged in a corrupt relationship with Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes – three New Jersey businessmen who collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value – in exchange for Senator Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt.  My Office is firmly committed to rooting out corruption, without fear or favor, and without any regard to partisan politics.  We will continue to do so.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said: “The FBI has made investigating public corruption a top priority since our founding — nothing has changed.  The alleged conduct in this conspiracy damages the public’s faith in our system of government and brings undue scorn to the honest and dedicated public servants who carry out their duties on a daily basis.  To those inclined to use the status of their public office for personal benefit, or those willing to provide bribes in an attempt to gain influence from a public official, the FBI will ensure that you face the consequences in the criminal justice system for your underhanded dealings.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]

ROBERT MENENDEZ is the senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey and currently the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (“SFRC”).  NADINE MENENDEZ began dating MENENDEZ in February 2018, they became engaged in October 2019, and they married in October 2020.  Shortly after they began dating in 2018, NADINE MENENDEZ introduced MENENDEZ to her long-time friend WAEL HANA, who is originally from Egypt, lived in New Jersey, and maintained close connections with Egyptian officials.  HANA was also business associates with FRED DAIBES, a New Jersey real estate developer and long-time donor to MENENDEZ, and JOSE URIBE, who worked in the New Jersey insurance and trucking business.

Between 2018 and 2022, MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ agreed to and did accept hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes from HANA, DAIBES, and URIBE.  These bribes included gold, cash, a luxury convertible, payments toward NADINE MENENDEZ’s home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job for NADINE MENENDEZ, home furnishings, and other things of value.  In June 2022, the FBI executed a search warrant at the New Jersey home of MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ.  During that search, the FBI found many of the fruits of this bribery scheme, including cash, gold, the luxury convertible, and home furnishings.  Over $480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe — was discovered in the home, as well as over $70,000 in cash in NADINE MENENDEZ’s safe deposit box, which was also searched pursuant to a separate search warrant.  Some of the envelopes contained the fingerprints and/or DNA of DAIBES or his driver.  Other of the envelopes were found inside jackets bearing MENENDEZ’s name and hanging in his closet, as depicted below.       

NEW YORK, NJ –A 39-Page indictment has been returned against U.S. Senator from New Jersey Robert “Bob” Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez a/k/a “Nadine Arslanian accusing the Senator of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt. Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value.

Photos below were copied out of the full indictment posted further below:

During this same search, agents also found home furnishings provided by HANA and DAIBES, the luxury vehicle paid for by URIBE parked in the garage, as well as over one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of gold bars in the home, which were provided by either HANA or DAIBES.  Two of the gold bars DAIBES provided are depicted in the photographs below.

In exchange for these and other things of value, MENENDEZ agreed to use his power and influence as a Senator to seek to protect HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES’s interests and to benefit the Government of Egypt.  Through this corrupt relationship, MENENDEZ agreed to take a series of official acts and breaches of his official duty.  First, MENENDEZ took actions to benefit the Government of Egypt and HANA, including by improperly pressuring an official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to seek to protect a business monopoly granted to HANA by Egypt.  Second, MENENDEZ took actions seeking to disrupt a criminal investigation undertaken by the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General (“NJAG”) related to URIBE and his associates.  Third, MENENDEZ recommended that the President nominate a U.S. Attorney who MENENDEZ believed he could influence with respect to DAIBES and sought to disrupt a federal criminal prosecution undertaken by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey (“USAO-DNJ”) of DAIBES.

Promised Actions to Benefit Egypt and Pressure the USDA

Shortly after she began dating MENENDEZ in 2018, NADINE MENENDEZ worked with HANA to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to MENENDEZ.  Those introductions helped establish a corrupt agreement in which HANA, with assistance from DAIBES and URIBE, provided bribes to MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ in exchange for MENENDEZ’s actions to benefit Egypt and HANA, among others. 

As part of the scheme, MENENDEZ provided sensitive, non-public U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the Government of Egypt.  For example, in or about May 2018, MENENDEZ provided Egyptian officials with non-public information regarding the number and nationality of persons serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.  Although this information was not classified, it was deemed highly sensitive because it could pose significant operational security concerns if disclosed to a foreign government or made public.  Without telling his professional staff or the State Department that he was doing so, on or about May 7, 2018, MENENDEZ texted that sensitive, non-public embassy information to his then-girlfriend NADINE MENENDEZ, who forwarded the message to HANA, who forwarded it to an Egyptian government official.  Later that same month, MENENDEZ ghost-wrote a letter on behalf of Egypt to other U.S. Senators advocating for them to release a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt.  MENENDEZ sent this ghost-written letter to NADINE MENENDEZ, who forwarded it to HANA, who sent it to Egyptian officials. 

At various times between 2018 and 2022, MENENDEZ also conveyed to Egyptian officials, through NADINE MENENDEZ, HANA, and/or DAIBES, that he would approve or remove holds on foreign military financing and sales of military equipment to Egypt in connection with his leadership role on the SFRC.  For example, in or about July 2018, following meetings between MENENDEZ and Egyptian officials, which were arranged and attended by NADINE MENENDEZ and HANA, MENENDEZ texted NADINE MENENDEZ that she should tell HANA that MENENDEZ was going to sign off on a multimillion-dollar weapons sale to Egypt.  NADINE MENENDEZ forwarded this text to HANA, who forwarded it to two Egyptian officials, one of whom replied with a “thumbs up” emoji.  MENENDEZ made similar communications over the ensuing years.  For example, in January 2022, MENENDEZ sent NADINE MENENDEZ a link to a news article reporting on two pending foreign military sales to Egypt totaling approximately $2.5 billion.  NADINE MENENDEZ forwarded this link to HANA, writing, “Bob had to sign off on this.”

In exchange for MENENDEZ’s agreement to take these and other actions, HANA promised NADINE MENENDEZ payments, including from IS EG Halal Certified, Inc. (“IS EG Halal”), a New Jersey company that HANA operated with financial support and backing from DAIBES.  However, IS EG Halal had little to no revenue until the spring of 2019, when the Government of Egypt granted IS EG Halal a monopoly on the certification of U.S. food exports to Egypt as compliant with halal standards, despite the fact that neither HANA nor his company had experience with halal certification.  The monopoly generated revenue for HANA, through which he paid NADINE MENENDEZ as promised.   

Because the monopoly resulted in increased costs for U.S. meat suppliers, in or about April and May 2019, the USDA contacted the Government of Egypt and sought reconsideration of its grant of monopoly rights to IS EG Halal.  After being briefed on the USDA’s objections to IS EG Halal’s monopoly by HANA and NADINE MENENDEZ, on May 23, 2019, MENENDEZ called a high-level USDA official (“Official-1”) and insisted that the USDA stop opposing IS EG Halal’s status as sole halal certifier.  When Official-1 attempted to explain why the monopoly was detrimental to U.S. interests, MENENDEZ reiterated his demand that the USDA stop interfering with IS EG Halal’s monopoly.  Official-1 did not accede to MENENDEZ’s demand, but IS EG Halal nevertheless kept its monopoly.

After financially benefitting from IS EG Halal’s monopoly, HANA, at times with the assistance of DAIBES and URIBE, provided payments and other things of value in furtherance of the scheme.  For example, in or about July 2019, after the mortgage company for the residence of NADINE MENENDEZ initiated foreclosure proceedings, HANA caused IS EG Halal to pay approximately $23,000 to bring the mortgage current.  HANA did so after a series of discussions with NADINE MENENDEZ, as well as URIBE and DAIBES, about various options for bringing the mortgage current.  Later in 2019, HANA and DAIBES caused IS EG Halal to issue three $10,000 checks to NADINE MENENDEZ for a low-or-no-show job.  As the scheme continued, including through the additional actions described below, MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ received additional bribes, including gold and cash.

Promised Actions Seeking to Disrupt the NJAG Criminal Case

Also in 2019, HANA and URIBE offered to help buy a new Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible worth more than $60,000 for MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ.  In exchange, MENENDEZ agreed and sought to interfere in the NJAG’s criminal insurance fraud prosecution of an associate of URIBE and a related investigation involving an employee of URIBE.  On multiple occasions in 2019, URIBE, HANA, and/or NADINE MENENDEZ briefed MENENDEZ regarding the NJAG’s insurance fraud prosecution and investigation.  Following those briefings, and in exchange for the promise of the luxury convertible, MENENDEZ contacted a senior state prosecutor at the NJAG’s Office who supervised the prosecution and investigation (“Official-2”) at least twice.  During those communications, MENENDEZ attempted to pressure Official-2 to resolve the prosecution more favorably to the defendant.  Official-2 considered MENENDEZ’s actions inappropriate and did not agree to intervene.  Nevertheless, the prosecution was ultimately resolved with a plea allowing for no jail time and the investigation never resulted in any charges against URIBE’s employee. 

In exchange for MENENDEZ’s actions, URIBE provided NADINE MENENDEZ with $15,000 cash for the down payment on the luxury convertible in April 2019.  After the purchase was complete, NADINE MENENDEZ messaged MENENDEZ, “Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes.❤️” and texted MENENDEZ the below photograph of the convertible:

Thereafter, URIBE made monthly payments to Mercedes-Benz for the convertible between 2019 and June 2022.  URIBE only stopped making those monthly payments after the FBI approached MENENDEZ, NADINE MENENDEZ, and URIBE in connection with this investigation.

Promised Actions Seeking to Disrupt the USAO-DNJ Criminal Case

In October 2018, the USAO-DNJ charged DAIBES with federal criminal charges for obtaining loans under false pretenses from a New Jersey-based bank he founded.  Between December 2020 and 2022, MENENDEZ agreed to attempt to influence the pending federal prosecution of DAIBES in exchange for cash, furniture, and gold bars that DAIBES provided to MENENDEZ and NADINE MENDENDEZ.  In furtherance of this aspect of the scheme, MENENDEZ recommended that the President nominate an individual (“Official-3”) as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey who MENENDEZ believed he could influence with respect to DAIBES’s case.  MENENDEZ also had direct and indirect contact with both Official-3 and another high-ranking official at the USAO-DNJ (“Official-4”) in an attempt to influence the outcome of DAIBES’s case.

Official-3 and Official-4 did not pass on to the USAO-DNJ prosecution team handling the DAIBES prosecution the fact that MENENDEZ had contacted them, and they did not treat the case any differently as a result of MENENDEZ’s actions.  DAIBES’s case was ultimately resolved with a plea agreement that provided for a probationary sentence.  In exchange for MENENDEZ’s participation in the bribery scheme, DAIBES provided MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ with multiple things of value, including the two one-kilogram gold bars pictured below.

ROBERT MENENDEZ, 69, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

NADINE MENENDEZ, 56, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

WAEL HANA, 40, formerly of Edgewater, New Jersey, and originally of Egypt, JOSE URIBE, 56, of Clifton, New Jersey, and FRED DAIBES, 66, of Edgewater, New Jersey, are all charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI.  Mr. Williams thanked the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation for its invaluable assistance on the investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eli J. Mark, Paul Monteleoni, Lara Pomerantz, and Daniel C. Richenthal are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This investigation remains ongoing.  If you have information regarding the charges or defendants in the Indictment, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI and reference this case.

As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Photos below are from the Senator Bob Menendez Facebook Page:

REV UP NJ and Alliance Center for Independence Hold Rally At NJ Statehouse

September 15, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER) The November NJ Statewide Elections are crucial for people with disabilities. Both the state senate and state assembly are up for grabs.

“There is a lot at stake and our voices need to be heard,” said Carole Tonks, executive director of the Alliance Center for Independence (ACI) ACI leads REV UP in New Jersey, which is part of a national movement that promotes the turn out of people with disabilities for elections. REV UP was started by American Association People with Disabilities (AAPD)in 2016, and the name stands for “Register, Educate, Vote, Use your Power!”

REV UP’s mission is to build the power of the disability vote. REV UP NJ and ACI hosted an event at the NJ State House to kick off their fall election activities and to celebrate the power of the disability vote. It feature speeches by voting rights advocates, resources tables, and live entertainment. NJ Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin gave the keynote address and said that democracy is strongest when everyone votes. Other speakers reinforced that theme.

“Before we go to public meetings, before we demonstrate, before we conduct sit-ins, and before we get arrested, we need to vote. The rest is meaningless unless we exercise our right to vote,” declared Norman A. Smith, co-founder of Project Freedom Inc.

REV UP NJ is dedicated to remove barriers to voting, promote accessible voting machines and polling places, educate voters about issues and candidates and protect voters’ rights to participate in elections.

Photos below by: Brian McCarthy, Onscene News

Governor Murphy Announces Jacquelyn Suárez to Serve as Acting Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs

Governor Will Submit Suárez’s Nomination to the Senate

September 14, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today announced his intention to nominate Jacquelyn A. Suárez as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). Suárez’s nomination follows the unexpected passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver in August, who had served as DCA Commissioner since the start of the Murphy Administration.

Suárez currently serves as Director of DCA’s Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) and, effective Monday, September 18, will serve as Acting Commissioner of the department pending her confirmation by the Senate, making her the first Hispanic Commissioner to lead DCA. Suárez will lead the department in its ongoing mission to provide residents, local governments, businesses, and community development organizations with financial support, administrative guidance, and technical assistance to help improve the quality of life for New Jersey families.

“Jacquelyn has skillfully served our state for many years – lending her expertise to important legal and policy matters affecting municipalities throughout New Jersey,” said Governor Murphy. “When local governments were faced with tremendous challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, she stepped up as head of the Division of Local Government Services and provided local leaders with the support they needed during a difficult time. While Sheila Oliver can never truly be replaced, Jacquelyn will undoubtedly carry on Sheila’s legacy of passionate, dedicated leadership of this department on behalf of New Jersey’s communities.”

“I would be remiss to not extend my deepest gratitude to Kim Holmes, who has played a vital role in leading the department over the last several years and swiftly stepped up to the plate to head the department in one of our state’s darkest times,” Governor Murphy continued. “I appreciate her remarkable leadership in the month following Sheila’s passing and her firm commitment to the critical work of the Department of Community Affairs.” 

“It is a true honor to be nominated as the Department of Community Affairs’ next Commissioner. Having worked under the remarkable leadership of Lieutenant Governor Oliver, it is my pleasure to continue moving her legacy forward in serving the communities of our great state,” said incoming Acting Commissioner Suárez. “DCA plays a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of life for New Jersey residents, municipalities, and businesses – and I will remain steadfast in my commitment to honor each and every one of our communities with the utmost respect and dedication.”

Since she began leading the DLGS in January 2021, Suárez has served as an advocate for local government interests and provided them with technical and financial assistance in a number of areas – including joint services, purchasing, and management issues. She has also overseen the review and approval of all municipal, county, and fire district budgets, worked to uphold the financial integrity of local government units, and guided the conduct of local government officials.

As Director of DLGS, Suárez also served as Chair of the State’s Local Finance Board since January 2021.

Prior to serving as the Director of DLGS, Suárez provided legal advice to Governor Murphy on matters affecting his Administration as an associate counsel in the Governor’s Office. During her time in the Governor’s Office, Suárez advised on pending legislation, statutory responsibilities, litigation, the development of administrative regulations, and various proposals impacting the Governor’s public policy agenda. With a focus on issues related to the Departments of Community Affairs, Human Services, Children and Families, and the Administrative Office of the Courts, Suárez was integral to advancing the Governor’s agenda in these areas and, in particular, to spearheading many of the State’s COVID response policies such as the eviction moratorium. It was Suárez’s proven aptitude and successful track record that gave Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver the confidence to name her as the director of the DLGS.

Before joining the Governor’s Office, Suárez was a legislative liaison, making her DCA’s point person for all communication with the State Legislature, drafted bill language, spearheaded the implementation of newly signed legislation at DCA, and helped review and advise on various decisions, orders, settlements, and other matters impacting the Department. 

Suárez is a New Jersey native who earned her Juris Doctor from Rutgers School of Law in Camden and her bachelor’s degree in communications, legal institutions, economics, and government from American University in Washington D.C. She is a member of both the New Jersey and New York bar associations. She is also a member of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand Jacquelyn’s dedication in her current role as Director of Local Government Services at DCA,” said Senator Nellie Pou, Senate Majority Caucus Chair. “As she steps into her new role, she not only carries the torch of our beloved Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver but also carries her vision for housing and community development in New Jersey. I look forward to continuing working with Jacquelyn in her new role as Acting Commissioner of DCA, while awaiting confirmation by the Senate.”

“Lieutenant Governor Oliver’s impact on the Department of Community Affairs will be felt for generations to come and I am glad that Governor Murphy has nominated such an incredible individual to take the helm of the Department,” said Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. “Jacquelyn’s knowledge and experience, especially her role in assisting our local governments makes her an ideal candidate for the position and I am confident that she will continue our shared mission of ensuring housing opportunity for all. As Chair of the Housing Committee, I look forward to working and meeting with Acting Commissioner Suarez.”

“As a fellow attorney who holds a deep respect for the late Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, I am genuinely enthused to witness someone with a remarkable career, like Jacquelyn, stepping up to continue the Lt. Governor’s great legacy. I look forward to connecting with Jacquelyn and I wish her the very best in her new role,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Assembly Majority Conference Leader.

“We want to commend Governor Murphy on the nomination of Jacquelyn Suarez as Commissioner of the DCA.  Jacquelyn is one of the best we have worked with and we are excited to continue our efforts working with her in her new role,” said Senator Vincent Polistina, Assemblywoman Claire Swift, and Assemblyman Donald Guardian, representatives of Atlantic City.

“Director Suarez is the consummate professional and an exemplary public servant. My administration is elated about her elevation to the position of Acting DCA Commissioner,” said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh.

“I’m thrilled that Governor Murphy has appointed Jacqueline Suarez to lead DCA as Acting Commissioner.  I have enjoyed my relationship working closely with Director Suarez to strengthen the state’s ties to the Capitol City and improve the lives of Trentonians.  Jacqueline’s vast knowledge of government services and her hands on approach will be an asset for the State.  I look forward to working with her in her new role,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.

“Succeeding Sheila Oliver is no easy task, but Jacquelyn Suarez’s experience makes her the ideal choice. The League is pleased to learn of her appointment to be the Acting DCA Commissioner. We have worked with her both when she was with the Governor’s Office and as DLGS Director. We very much look forward to contuining our partnership in advancing the interests of local governments and our taxpayers,” said League of Municipalities Executive Director Michael Cerra.

Governor Phil Murphy today announced his intention to nominate Jacquelyn A. Suárez as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). Suárez’s nomination follows the unexpected passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver in August, who had served as DCA Commissioner since the start of the Murphy Administration.

Governor Murphy Names Secretary of State Tahesha Way as Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey

Lieutenant Governor Way to Succeed Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver

September 8, 2023

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today announced Secretary of State Tahesha L. Way as the next Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey. In a ceremony in the New Jersey Executive State House, Lieutenant Governor Way was sworn into her new role, which she assumes after the unexpected passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver on August 1, 2023.

“Sheila Oliver was the greatest partner in government I could have ever hoped for, and she leaves incredibly big shoes to fill,” said Governor Murphy. “While no one can truly replace her, I am deeply proud to appoint Secretary of State Tahesha Way to succeed her as Lieutenant Governor. Tahesha has been with our administration from the very beginning, and her work over the past five and a half years leading the Department of State has grown New Jersey’s tourism economy, uplifted small businesses, and strengthened our election system. Tahesha is the perfect candidate to join me in finishing the job that Sheila and I started.”

“I considered Lieutenant Governor Oliver a close friend and mentor – someone I looked to for guidance to better serve the people of New Jersey,” said Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way. “To have been selected as her successor as New Jersey’s next Lieutenant Governor is one of the greatest honors of my career. I come to this position as the child of two public servants who molded me into the person I am today. Having experience at different levels of government has showed me the important role that those of us in public office can play in improving the lives of families across our state. I look forward to finishing the work of this Administration with Governor Murphy and continuing to build on the legacy Lieutenant Governor Oliver fostered.”

“We are very pleased with Governor Murphy’s selection of Tahesha Way as Sheila’s successor to be the next Lieutenant Governor,” said the Oliver Family. “Our beloved Sheila dedicated her heart and soul to serving the people of New Jersey –displaying an unwavering commitment to public service that we know Tahesha shares. We know Sheila would have been proud that Tahesha has been selected to carry out her legacy.”

Lieutenant Governor Way comes to the position with over two decades in public service. In addition to fulfilling her duties as Lieutenant Governor, she will also continue to serve as Secretary of State. 

During her tenure as Secretary of State, Way became the first Black person and first Secretary of State from New Jersey to lead the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) as President, helping to defend democracy at both the state and national level. Prior to becoming Secretary of State, Secretary Way was an Administrative Law Judge for the State of New Jersey. She was elected to the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2006, where she later served as the Freeholder Director in 2009. She also served as a Council Member for the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council. 

Lieutenant Governor Way is a graduate of Brown University. She also holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law at Charlottesville. She and her husband Charles have four children and reside in Wayne. 

The Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver served as New Jersey’s second Lieutenant Governor and the only woman of color to be elected to statewide office in New Jersey history. During her tenure as Lieutenant Governor, Sheila also served as the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, where she oversaw efforts to strengthen and expand initiatives for fair and affordable housing, community revitalization, homelessness prevention, local government services, and more. Before taking on the role as Lieutenant Governor, Sheila served in many key roles within the public, non-profit, and private sectors, most notably becoming the first African American woman in New Jersey history to serve as Assembly Speaker, and just the second in the nation’s history to lead a state legislative house. 

Lieutenant Governor Oliver was a trailblazer in every sense of the word and will always be remembered for her contributions to the communities of New Jersey, particularly communities of color.

Lt. Governor Tahesha Way, Esq

Govenor Phil Murphy:

As you have entered the State House this week, you may have noticed that the American and New Jersey flags are flying at full staff, for the first time in a full month.

From August 4 to September 4, those flags were lowered in honor of our late Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, my partner in government—and one of the finest public servants our state has ever known.

During these past weeks of mourning and remembrance, I have heard the same sentiment expressed by New Jerseyans up and down our state.

It is a sentiment I not only share—but consider a call to action.

And that is this: With Sheila gone, it is now our turn to keep her legacy alive.

To continue working together—as one New Jersey family—to build a stronger, fairer state for every family.

And, to be a champion—like Sheila was—for the voiceless. For the underserved. And for the communities that have historically been left behind.

So today, with our flags flying high, I am proud to announce that I have selected a proven public servant – with a superb record of accomplishments – to join me in finishing the job that Sheila and I started.

Today, it is my incredible honor to introduce New Jersey’s next Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State Tahesha Leila Way!

And right off the bat, let me say: there is no better person for the job.

As New Jersey’s Secretary of State, Tahesha has a been a vital member of my administration since day one.

But long before she joined our team, Tahesha had already dedicated every ounce of herself to serving our state’s families.

And what Tahesha has demonstrated—time and again—is that she can handle the single most important responsibility of any Lieutenant Governor. And that is being ready to step in, and serve as Governor, if needed.

She is brilliant. She is battle-tested. And she represents the best of New Jersey.

Tammy and I have had the pleasure of knowing Tahesha—and her husband, Charles—for many years… since well before my time in the Governor’s office.

And let me tell you, she is as wonderful a person as she is a public servant.

Warm, passionate, principled.

And guided by the honest belief that hard work and perseverance can lead you anywhere.

That belief was instilled in Tahesha at a young age by her late parents, who were public servants in their own right, as employees with the New York City Transit Authority. Her Mother was a railroad clerk and her Father was a bus operator.

And over the course of her career, Tahesha has worked day and night to support the millions of New Jerseyans who share her parents’ story. Our neighbors who work long hours, every day, to move our state forward… and who ask for nothing more than a fair shake.

Now, as I mentioned, one of the most important qualities in a Lieutenant Governor is not only having the ability to lead, but having an ample track-record as a leader. Well, that is just one of Tahesha’s many strengths: experience. Like Lieutenant Governor Oliver, she has served at nearly every level of our state’s government.

From the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, to the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council, and even in our state’s judicial branch—as an Administrative Law Judge.

And during her time as Secretary of State, Tahesha has set a new, high standard for defending democracy… both here in New Jersey, and across the nation.

As President of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Tahesha has inspired election officials across the country to expand access to the ballot box, and ensure that every eligible American can participate in our democratic process.

She has also thrived under the most challenging circumstances you can imagine. In the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic, along with a relentless assault on our democracy, led by a certain former President who will remain unnamed, Tahesha went above and beyond to secure our election system here in New Jersey.

And under her watch, we saw a record number of New Jerseyans vote in the 2020 election. That is an astonishing feat, considering it was the first major election conducted almost entirely by mail.

So Tahesha turned that unprecedented challenge into a critical opportunity. She seized the moment to help more New Jerseyans than ever turn out and exercise their most fundamental right. That is the definition of leadership.

And during that same period, Tahesha also demonstrated her leadership abilities with the 2020 census. As Chair of New Jersey’s Complete Count Commission—a non-partisan body—she worked to ensure that every one of our residents was counted.

Thanks to her efforts, our state retained full representation in Congress, which has had a direct and positive impact on securing federal funding to address our state’s needs.

Tahesha has also done tremendous job in delivering on one of her core responsibilities as Secretary of State. And that is advocating for our state’s cultural and historic treasures—as well as promoting tourism in every region of New Jersey.

In fact, with her team’s help, New Jersey’s tourism industry is expected to generate nearly $48 billion in revenue during this year alone. That is a record-high haul. And our tourism economy is booming, in no small part, because of Tahesha’s leadership.

And that leadership was on full display just a couple weeks ago, when Tahesha joined me in Somerville to settle a long-simmering debate here in the Garden State.

The two of us stood together to declare, once and for all, that Central Jersey exists—period!

So, clearly: Tahesha is not one to shy away from controversial topics. She takes a stand.
And together, our administration will remain laser-focused on our top priorities, from making life more affordable for every New Jerseyan, to defending our fundamental freedoms, to keeping our families and communities safe.

So once again, I am honored to re-introduce Tahesha to the people of New Jersey. And I cannot wait for everyone to get to know her, Charles, and their children: Fallon, Farrah, Faythe, and Fiona.

Now, one little fun fact, for those who may not know: Charles is not just Tahesha’s loving husband, he is also a former Fullback with the New York Giants. But, we may just bring him out of retirement if the press scrums get too crazy! So please—be on your best behavior.

But in all seriousness, please join me in welcoming the third Lieutenant Governor of our great state, Wayne, New Jersey’s very own Tahesha Way!

Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way :

There are no words that can adequately express what I am feeling at this moment.

But let me start by simply saying: thank you, Governor Murphy. Thank you for placing your trust in me to serve as the third Lieutenant Governor of the greatest state in or nation. And I say that, of course, without an ounce of bias.

And, just as importantly, I would like to thank every single one of our state’s nine-point-three million residents.

You see, ever since I was first elected to public office—as a Freeholder for Passaic County, which I am proud to call my home—I have been on the journey of a lifetime.

In every single position I have held—from my days as a state judge, to my current role as Secretary of State—the people of New Jersey have honored me with the opportunity to serve.

You have placed your faith in me.

And in doing so, you have allowed me to join Governor Murphy in building a stronger, fairer state for every New Jerseyan, especially our neighbors who—like my own, late parents—work every day to keep our state and country moving forward.

And on that note, I would like to take this chance to thank several individuals without whom there would be no me.

First, as I mentioned: my Mother Rosa and Father Robert—who are here with us today in spirit.

They taught me to always work hard. To be tough, yet respectful. And, to just be present as I dedicate myself to enriching my community.

And that is a lesson I am reminded of every day by my husband, Charles, who is here with me today.

Charles, you have always coached me up to be the best version of myself. And you have shared with me the blessing of raising the best four children I could ever ask for.

To Fallon, Farrah, Faythe, and Fiona: I am grateful for many things in this life—but the four of you are the greatest gift of all.

Finally, I want to thank one more person who, like my parents, is here with us in spirit.

And that is our late Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Oliver.

To me, Sheila was more than a trusted colleague. She was a cherished friend, a mentor, and a role model to me and the countless other Black women who have chosen a career in public service.

And now, as Lieutenant Governor, I will have the solemn honor of building upon Sheila’s towering legacy.

So, here is my promise to the people of New Jersey: Like Sheila, I will dedicate every day of my life to fighting for the forgotten families of our state.

I will do everything in my power to bring the down the cost of living, so no parent will have to suffer the indignity of choosing between putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their child’s head.

I will protect our fundamental freedoms—so every resident of our state can make their own health care decisions, or access affordable higher education, or simply, marry who they love and live as who they are in their hearts.

And, of course, I will work to ensure that New Jersey remains the best—and safest—state to raise a family.

Over the past five-plus years, I have had the distinct privilege of serving as New Jersey’s 34th Secretary of State. And my top priority, since day one, has been making our democracy healthy and accessible for all of our residents.

Well, together, we have exceeded our wildest expectations. Together, we inspired a record number of New Jerseyans to turn out and vote—like we saw in the last Presidential election. And, together, we have strengthened our electoral system—and made our democratic process more open to every eligible voter.

So, we have made historic progress – but, our work is far from over.

That is why I am so excited to assume the role of Lieutenant Governor and continue in my role as Secretary of State. I know our greatest accomplishments are yet to come.

So, while today marks a new beginning for the Garden State… we will be guided by the same New Jersey values that have guided us since the very beginning: Freedom. Fairness. And equal justice for all.

Statement from Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin on the Appointment of Tahesha Way as Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey

As Secretary of State, Tahesha Way has been an exemplary public servant, focused on protecting and safeguarding the right to vote and ensuring the integrity of our local, county, state, and federal election contests. And as head of the Department of State, she has overseen the successful 2020 Census, supported small businesses, encouraged our growing film industry, and provided a voice for the arts community. In my longtime friend, Tahesha Way, Governor Murphy has chosen an advocate for all New Jerseyans, and someone who will work tirelessly to make our state stronger, fairer, and safer. I have had the great honor of working alongside Lieutenant Governor Way since 2018, and I know firsthand her belief in the good that government can achieve. And, of course, she will carry on the legacy of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, who was a champion for the people of our great state. Congratulations and best wishes to Lieutenant Governor Way, and thank you for your service! 

Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way, Esq. 

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State 

Tahesha L. Way serves as New Jersey’s 3rd Lieutenant Governor. She was appointed to the position by Governor Phil Murphy on September 8, 2023.

A lifelong public servant, Lieutenant Governor Way has devoted her entire career to improving the lives of her fellow New Jerseyans. Over the past two decades, she has served at numerous levels of local and state government.

As Lieutenant Governor, Ms. Way brings her extensive experience to bear on addressing the greatest challenges facing New Jerseyans — from making life more affordable, to protecting fundamental freedoms—like access to reproductive health care and equality under the law — to maintaining New Jersey’s reputation as the best and safest state to raise a family.

In addition to her role as Lieutenant Governor, Ms. Way also serves as New Jersey’s 34th Secretary of State — a position she has held since the beginning of the Murphy Administration. 

As Secretary of State, Ms. Way leads one of the nation’s oldest constitutional offices and directs a department with a diverse portfolio. In her capacity as New Jersey’s top election official, she has overseen the state Division of Elections and its work in securing our democracy and ensuring broad, fair access to the right to vote. Lieutenant Governor Way also chaired New Jersey’s Complete Count Commission, a 27 member non-partisan commission established to achieve a complete count in the 2020 US Census. In addition to the critical work protecting what Lieutenant Governor Way calls the “fraternal twins of democracy,” she also oversees the state government offices supporting New Jersey’s vibrant arts, culture, history, and business communities. Under her leadership, the state’s tourism economy has generated record-high revenues.

Following her 2022-2023 service as the first Black person and first Secretary from New Jersey to lead the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) as President, Lieutenant Governor Way continues to serve on the NASS Executive Board as Immediate Past President.

Prior to joining the Murphy Administration, Lieutenant Governor Way was an Administrative Law Judge for the State of New Jersey. In 2006, Lieutenant Governor Way was elected to the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders and served as the Freeholder Director in 2009. She served as Special Counsel for the Passaic County Board of Social Services overseeing all agency litigation. She also served as a Council Member for the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council.

She is the former President of the Women Empowered Democratic Organization of Passaic County, an organization dedicated to empowering Democratic women by increasing their participation with the goal of achieving greater equality in the political process. Lieutenant Governor Way also previously served on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a leading national think tank geared towards advancing dialogue and policy for improving women’s lives and their families.

Lieutenant Governor Way is a graduate of Brown University, where she served as Vice President of the collegiate chapter of the NAACP, President of the Iota Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. taught religious education, and was a radio announcer for WBRU-FM. She holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law at Charlottesville, where she clerked for the Virginia Legal Aid Society and the United Steelworkers of America.

Lieutenant Governor Way lives in Wayne, New Jersey with her husband Charles and their four children Fallon, Farrah, Faythe, and Fiona. She was raised in the Bronx by her late parents, Robert and Rosa Wright, who also devoted their careers to public service as employees with the New York City Transit Authority.

Lieutenant Governor Way has been a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, Garden State Bar Association, National Association of Women Judges, Association of Black Women Lawyers, Passaic County Bar Association, and the New Jersey Women’s Lawyers Association.

Governor Murphy Signs Bipartisan Bill Protecting Against Lawsuits Designed to Suppress Free Speech

‘Uniform Public Expression Protection Act’ Establishes Expedited Process for Dismissal of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) 

September 7, 2023

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today signed the ‘Uniform Public Expression Protection Act’ to protect people from meritless lawsuits intended to intimidate them for exercising their free speech rights. Powerful entities and individuals often use lawsuits and litigation threats to punish and silence those who might speak unfavorably about them. The bipartisan legislation will enable defendants to seek the expedited dismissal of such lawsuits, commonly referred to as ‘Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation’ (SLAPP), which have historically been used against journalists, academics, advocates, and whistleblowers – among others.

A SLAPP is generally used to silence individuals or organizations from publicly criticizing or bringing legitimate issues to light about an individual or entity with greater power and resources.

“For far too long, the powerful have abused the justice system to suppress free speech through illegitimate lawsuits,” said Governor Murphy. “By pursuing meritless court cases, these powerful parties aim to silence their critics by making it impossible for those with fewer resources to spend the time and money necessary to legally defend themselves. This law will expedite the process to get these cases dismissed on behalf of the journalists, small businesses, activists, and countless others who have been unfairly targeted by these lawsuits over the years.”

If a SLAPP is initiated, the bill (S-2802/A-4393) now allows eligible defendants to file paperwork requiring the plaintiff to demonstrate the basis for the lawsuit and requiring the court to consider the issues in an expeditious manner. This process will enable these kinds of cases to be dismissed quickly, and at less expense to the defendant, rather than being drawn out in court.

In addition to the expedited timeline, other related legal proceedings may be paused until the request for an expedited dismissal is resolved. The bill also allows defendants in some cases to recover legal fees if the lawsuit is dismissed.

“People should be able to speak their mind on the issues that matter most to them without the fear of becoming ensnared in an expensive, time-consuming lawsuit,” said First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo. “The law signed by Governor Murphy today makes it much more difficult to use the legal system as a weapon, with the intent to bully individuals into silence. New Jersey is proud to become the latest state to enact a law that discourages, and creates a streamlined process to dismiss, baseless lawsuits that improperly target the lawful exercise of free speech.”

With this bill signing, New Jersey joins a host of other states in adopting an anti-SLAPP law and becomes the sixth state to specifically enact particularly strong protections based on the Uniform Law Commission’s ‘Uniform Public Expression Protection Act.’

Sponsors of the legislation include Senator Joseph Lagana and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, as well as Senator Jon Bramnick and Assembly members Carol Murphy and Kevin J. Rooney.

“Lawsuits should not be weaponized as a means of silencing someone speaking out about a controversial issue,” said Senator Lagana. “This legislation will protect residents against frivolous, ill-intentioned lawsuits and insulate them from the financial hardships these cases can produce.”

“Money and power shouldn’t be tools to muzzle the voices of critics and whistleblowers,” said Assemblyman Mukherji. “While our democracy thrives on free speech, frivolous SLAPP lawsuits aim to stifle that freedom. With this law, we’re handing back the microphone and the pen and providing a powerful remedy so that journalists and citizens can confidently speak up without fear of unwarranted retribution.”

“Many states throughout the country have enacted laws specifically aimed at discouraging SLAPP suits. Until today, those statutes did not exist in New Jersey,” said Senator Bramnick. “Anti-SLAPP suit laws allow the defendant in a suit to file a motion that permits the court to dismiss the lawsuit for being without merit. This legislation will enact something similar in New Jersey so that people can exercise their First Amendment rights without the fear of getting bogged down in legal proceedings.”

“Too often SLAPP suits have been used to silence criticism through costly and time-consuming legal proceedings. It’s a shame that bad actors have exploited our legal system to effectively strip outspoken New Jersey residents of their First Amendment rights,” said Assemblywoman Murphy. “Today, we are taking a stand by expediting the dismissal of these lawsuits, doing away with this intimidation tactic, and protecting freedom of speech in our state.”

“I am a proud champion of diverse discourse. New Jersey must discourage those who weaponize the legal system to intimidate detractors, because it impedes healthy debate,” said Assemblyman Rooney. “Free speech in New Jersey is protected under the Constitution, but with this bill signing, the law will stand up for the vocal citizens who are too often silenced by money and power.”

“I am thrilled that New Jersey has enacted the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act (UPEPA), a strong anti-SLAPP bill that protects filmmakers, journalists, and everyday citizens from attacks on their First Amendment rights,” said Charles Rivkin, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association. “Under the leadership of Governor Murphy and the state legislature, New Jersey has become a major hub of film and television production, making it ever more urgent and important that the state protect the principles of free speech and artistic freedom on which a thriving creative ecosystem depends. Thank you, Gov. Murphy and the bill sponsors, Senator Joseph Lagana and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, for working to enact UPEPA. On behalf of the MPA and our member studios, we look forward to further strengthening our excellent relationship with the Garden State.”

“The right to free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and we commend Governor Murphy and the bill sponsors for protecting this foundational right by making this bill law,” said ACLU of New Jersey Executive Director Amol Sinha. “This bill will help protect the public against serious and continuing threats to free speech in New Jersey by limiting the harms that people can face for speaking out on important public issues. The ACLU-NJ fights for New Jerseyans’ rights every day and we are proud to say that our rights have stronger protections today.”

“The enactment of the ‘Uniform Public Expression Protection Act’ represents a significant milestone for the State of New Jersey,” said Peggy Arbitell, Executive Director of the New Jersey Press Association. “This legislation, which enables early resolution of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), is designed to thwart lawsuits intended to intimidate or punish those engaged in constitutionally protected activity. The New Jersey Press Association strongly and enthusiastically supports this legislation, which now places New Jersey with the majority of States that recognize the importance of robust anti-SLAPP laws.”

“Anti-SLAPP laws provide essential protections for journalists and news organizations to be able to quickly dismiss meritless lawsuits from powerful parties seeking to intimidate, punish, or chill their reporting,” said Lisa Zycherman, Deputy Legal Director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Journalists must be able to report stories about matters of public interest without fear that the subjects of their coverage will target them or their newsroom with costly, baseless legal proceedings. These kinds of protections are vital to preserving the unflinching journalism that informs communities, exposes wrongdoing, and holds public figures and officials accountable.”

“This new law will protect the constitutional rights of those who engage in public protest or who advocate on issues of public importance. Too often, unjust lawsuits known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), are filed not for the purpose of seeking justice but to punish or prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights,” said Patricia M. Giordano, Esq., President of the New Jersey Association for Justice. “We thank Governor Murphy for supporting the right to free speech and signing this important legislation into law. We also thank Senators Lagana and Bramnick, Assemblymen Mukherji and Rooney, and Assemblywoman Murphy for shepherding this important affirmation of constitutional rights through the legislative process.”

“After unanimous passage in both the Assembly and Senate, New Jersey municipalities appreciate the Governor signing this legislation that protects the local government’s ability to function, without hampering the ability for residents to communicate, and ensuring that the threat of frivolous lawsuits is greatly diminished,” said Michael Cerra, Executive Director of New Jersey League of Municipalities.

“We thank Governor Murphy for signing this important legislation that will protect the rights of communities to fight back against development proposals that have a detrimental environmental impact on their neighborhoods,” said Allison McLeod, Policy Director for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “Unscrupulous developers have long utilized SLAPP suits as a way of silencing local voices. This law will enable community groups to voice their opinions on critical issues involving warehouse sprawl, water quality, and other conservation matters.”

Wakefern Recalls ShopRite Bowl & Basket Specialty Hawaiian Teriyaki Spice Rub

Select 2.3-ounce container may contain undeclared allergen

September 7, 2023

Keasbey, NJ – Wakefern Food Corp. is voluntarily recalling its ShopRite Bowl & Basket Specialty Hawaiian Teriyaki Spice Rub due to mislabeling. Some of the product may contain black sesame seeds, a known allergen not listed on the ingredients label.

The recall impacts 2.3-ounce ShopRite Bowl & Basket Specialty Hawaiian Teriyaki Spice Rub containers, with the UPC code: 04119008066. The product was sold at Wakefern supermarket banners ShopRite and The Fresh Grocer. To date, there have been no reports of illness associated with this product recall.  

“We are advising customers who purchased the recalled product to return it for an immediate refund or replacement,” said Wakefern Spokesperson Maureen Gillespie.

ShopRite has reached out to Price Plus® club card customers who purchased this product to alert them to the recall. For more information, customers may call 1-800-746-7748.

About Wakefern Food Corp.

From a small, local cooperative that began with eight grocery store owners, Wakefern Food Corp. has grown into the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States. Founded in 1946, the cooperative comprises nearly 50 member families who today independently own and operate hundreds of supermarkets under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage, and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. For more information, please visit

Murphy Administration Approves $450 Million in School Construction Funding

Use of $350 Million in State Debt Prevention Funds Will Save Taxpayers Millions

September 7, 2023

Trenton, NJ – Today the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) announced the approval of nearly $450 million in school construction funds to address critical facilities needs in 261 school districts throughout the state.

Of this $450 million in construction, $350 million will come from the State’s Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund, which was established two years ago to help pay down existing debt and avoid incurring new debt by funding projects outright rather than incurring new borrowing. This move is expected to save the State and taxpayers roughly $350 million in total as opposed to issuing 30-year bonds at current interest rates.

“This funding is part of a state and local partnership that will invest in hundreds of school projects while saving a significant amount of taxpayer dollars. Coupled with an infusion of local funding, this collaboration will generate more than $1 billion in important upgrades to schools throughout New Jersey,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Ensuring our students receive a world-class education in a first-rate learning environment while relieving the pressure on local taxpayers is a top priority of my Administration.”

“This funding demonstrates our ongoing commitment to providing safe, modern learning environments,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Acting Commissioner of Education. “In addition, improving the physical and safety conditions of school buildings improves working conditions for teachers and elevates the pride and support of the school community as a whole. This funding will benefit countless students in hundreds of schools throughout New Jersey.”

“The advancement of these projects further ensures high-quality learning environments for students and staff, addressing issues that can affect health and safety including replacement of leaky roofs and inefficient boilers,” said Manuel Da Silva, SDA Chief Executive Officer. “This grant funding impacts hundreds of local communities around the state by helping districts leverage resources to pay for important school facility projects while continuing to bolster the State’s construction industry.”

The NJDOE determined the selection of school projects receiving grant funds, and the grants are administered by the Schools Development Authority. School projects were identified by need, such as essential building systems upgrades like the repair or replacement of structural components, mechanical/heating and cooling, and electrical systems; building roofs; and to resolve building code issues. The funding will provide for numerous high-priority upgrades including 320 HVAC systems, 79 boilers or water heaters, and 211 roofs.

Besides the $449.9 million in state funding, local contributions totaling $598.5 million are estimated to bring the total cost of construction to more than $1 billion. The state-funded grants represent at least 40 percent of eligible costs for projects in the Regular Operating Districts (RODs) to address health and safety issues and other critical needs.

Statewide Summary of 2023 ROD Grants
Total Cost of Projects$1,044,599,377
State Share$449,993,347

Funding for the school construction initiative was made possible through legislation signed in 2022 and grant funding from SDA allocations.

A list of districts receiving state construction funding is attached to the bottom of this news release.

“Where we invest taxpayer money reflects our priorities and we will always put our kids first,” said Senate President Nicholas Scutari. “Now, with the help of union workers, our schools will be safer, and more inviting for our children and teachers.”

“This critical funding is the latest investment we are making in New Jersey’s school districts,” said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin. “By providing financial support for these construction projects, our school districts can focus on investing in our children and our teachers, without worrying about allocating funds for costly building repairs. This is another example of how our prudent fiscal management is enabling us to give money back to local communities. This funding serves as local tax relief. Without it, the costs for these necessary repairs would otherwise come from local taxpayers.”

“With schools closing early all over the state this week due to the heat, it is clear our educational infrastructure is not only dated and deteriorating but also ill equipped to handle our changing climate,” said Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz. “While it is just a start, it is wonderful to see money getting out the door to allow districts to make much needed improvements to their facilities. I look forward to seeing the impact these projects have on the children of New Jersey.”

“This investment affirms our commitment to provide all New Jersey students with a high-quality education,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald. “We know that a safe and comfortable learning environment is critical for student focus. These construction projects are essential for our school facilities to continue to live up to the high standards we have set for our best-in-the-nation public education system. I’m thrilled for the hundreds of communities across the state that will benefit from today’s announcement.”

“Schools are the centers of children’s lives and they deserve buildings and facilities that encourage progress during this critical time in their development,” said Senator Paul Sarlo, Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “In collaboration with our local partners, we are making much needed investments in the classrooms and other physical spaces that will support their academic growth.”

“Many New Jersey schools are in need of serious improvements and repairs, whether it be a new roof or the installation of central air conditioning,” said Senator Gopal, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “This funding will go a long way in ensuring our children can continue to receive the high quality education we’ve come to expect.”

“Today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to working together with the Governor to advance school improvement projects throughout New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, Chair of the Assembly

Education Committee. “These funds are a result of collaborative efforts in the most recent budget and beyond. We look forward to seeing districts utilize this funding to help complete critical repairs so that administrators and teachers can focus on providing the best possible education for our children.”

CountyDistrictEstimated Project CostState Share
AtlanticAbsecon City832,000332,800
 Egg Harbor City673,608516,665
 Egg Harbor Township15,162,0006,591,932
 Galloway Township4,000,0001,624,664
 Greater Egg Harbor Regional2,000,0001,076,500
 Hamilton Township697,840353,959
 Linwood City423,950169,580
 Margate City2,628,9631,051,585
 Ventnor City1,454,838581,935
 Cliffside Park1,791,966716,786
 East Rutherford685,820274,328
 Elmwood Park1,706,900682,760
 Englewood City7,382,0002,952,800
 Fair Lawn3,797,6651,519,066
 Fort Lee1,417,500567,000
 Glen Rock774,548309,819
 Hackensack City5,092,9592,037,184
 Ho Ho Kus334,909133,964
 Mahwah Township11,041,3374,416,535
 New Milford6,038,3502,415,340
 North Arlington2,988,7001,195,480
 Northern Valley Regional1,525,125610,050
 Palisades Park1,086,600434,640
 Park Ridge836,700334,680
 Pascack Valley Regional1,872,058748,823
 Ridgefield Park Township6,230,4102,492,164
 Ridgewood Village12,745,6655,098,266
 River Edge3,052,0001,220,800
 Rochelle Park Township777,926311,170
 Saddle Brook Township4,133,5001,653,400
 Upper Saddle River2,973,2951,189,318
CountyDistrictEstimated Project CostState Share
 Westwood Regional13,482,0845,392,834
 Woodcliff Lake2,878,1501,151,260
 Wyckoff Township3,445,0001,378,000
BurlingtonBeverly City1,246,926498,770
 Bordentown Regional595,000238,000
 Burlington County Vocational8,499,0003,399,600
 Burlington Co Special Services14,239,7495,695,900
 Burlington Co. Vocational10,192,0414,076,816
 Edgewater Park Township1,696,885921,755
 Evesham Township86,40034,560
 Lenape Regional4,635,9361,854,374
 Moorestown Township4,237,0601,694,824
 Mount Holly Township650,717260,287
 Eastern Camden County Regional5,069,2502,027,700
 Gloucester Township17,035,5248,027,041
 Laurel Springs27,60014,991
 Pennsauken Township858,450548,280
 Sterling HS District609,839368,986
 Voorhees Township1,216,000486,400
 Voorhees Township2,937,0001,174,800
 Winslow Township6,406,5402,821,447
Cape MayCape May City6,375,0002,550,000
 Ocean City10,501,8164,200,726
CumberlandDeerfield Township1,249,250563,693
 Hopewell Township295,201125,931
 Upper Deerfield Township868,912483,971
EssexBloomfield Township43,147,57017,259,028
 Caldwell-West Caldwell9,178,5203,671,408
 Cedar Grove Township123,00049,200
 Fairfield Township130,00052,000
 Glen Ridge3,087,7601,235,104
 Livingston Township4,049,0001,619,600
 Millburn Township7,768,9353,107,574
 South Orange-Maplewood8,687,7713,475,108
 West Orange Town141,90056,760
CountyDistrictEstimated Project CostState Share
 Franklin Township3,398,7901,359,516
 Harrison Township567,112226,845
 Monroe Township4,008,0251,946,205
 South Harrison Township585,000234,000
 Washington Township9,921,2573,968,503
 West Deptford Township2,993,4191,197,368
 Woodbury City930,000635,114
HudsonBayonne City11,028,5704,654,589
 East Newark670,000413,415
 Kearny Town6,396,0463,073,652
 Secaucus Town9,447,7003,779,080
HunterdonAlexandria Township992,100396,840
 Clinton Town3,799,9981,519,999
 Delaware Township1,338,000535,200
 Delaware Valley Regional1,524,750609,900
 East Amwell Township480,000192,000
 Holland Township516,700206,680
 Hunterdon Central Regional15,170,0076,068,003
 Kingwood Township804,700321,880
 Lebanon Township2,522,6001,009,040
 Readington Township552,115220,846
 South Hunterdon Regional2,350,000940,000
 Tewksbury Township2,079,520831,808
MercerEast Windsor Regional14,259,5205,959,595
 Hamilton Township24,480,6309,792,252
 Hopewell Valley Regional10,892,0004,356,800
 Mercer Co Special Service14,627,2965,850,918
 Robbinsville Township17,125,0006,850,000
 Cranbury Township1,738,638695,455
 Edison Township3,341,1641,336,466
 Highland Park776,697310,679
 Monroe Township10,125,1704,050,068
 North Brunswick Township8,661,1003,464,440
 Old Bridge Township23,067,1209,226,848
 South Plainfield3,330,0001,332,000
 South River1,589,118783,879
 Woodbridge Township1,582,192632,877
MonmouthAtlantic Highlands1,084,015433,606
 Freehold Regional1,080,000432,000
 Freehold Township3,536,0001,414,400
 Hazlet Township2,986,7501,194,700
CountyDistrictEstimated Project CostState Share
 Henry Hudson Regional853,613341,445
 Howell Township17,395,6256,958,250
 Little Silver2,860,6001,144,240
 Marl Township1,749,510699,804
 Matawan-Aberdeen Regional22,120,0008,848,000
 Middletown Township7,499,7012,999,880
 Millstone Township3,727,9431,491,177
 Ocean Township4,622,7601,849,104
 Red Bank1,014,000405,600
 Red Bank Regional4,732,0001,892,800
 Rumson-Fair Haven Regional1,095,791438,316
 Sea Girt483,600193,440
 Shore Regional2,123,130849,252
 Spring Lake2,834,6241,133,850
 West Long Branch817,463326,985
 Chester Township4,009,4871,603,795
 Dover Town3,997,5002,836,626
 Florham Park4,744,8811,897,952
 Hanover Township1,701,600680,640
 Harding Township1,906,620762,648
 Jefferson Township1,892,200756,880
 Long Hill Township930,000372,000
 Mendham Township1,979,459791,784
 Montville Township3,257,8221,303,129
 Morris Hills Regional706,146282,458
 Morris Plains3,426,1801,370,472
 Morris School District8,441,6503,376,660
 Mount Olive Township3,334,0001,333,600
 Mountain Lakes2,260,500904,200
 Parsippany-Troy Hills Township468,176187,270
 Pequannock Township2,905,5001,162,200
 Randolph Township4,000,5031,600,201
 Rockaway Township1,263,064505,226
 School District of the Chathams4,373,2201,749,288
 West Morris Regional3,378,2501,351,300
OceanBerkeley Township563,904225,562
 Brick Township11,484,9664,593,986
 Central Regional3,354,3921,341,757
 Lacey Township5,600,0002,240,000
 Little Egg Harbor Township1,251,900500,760
 Plumsted Township2,706,0001,082,400
 Point Pleasant6,721,5382,688,615
 Stafford Township4,546,6851,818,674
CountyDistrictEstimated Project CostState Share
 Toms River Regional200,00080,000
 Clifton City15,094,3006,037,720
 North Haledon1,213,886485,554
 Pompton Lakes1,139,051455,620
 Prospect Park4,052,4002,948,255
 Wayne Township2,387,029954,812
 Woodland Park3,807,5401,523,016
SalemMannington Township131,54652,618
 Oldmans Township1,668,315667,326
 Pittsgrove Township2,100,0001,063,602
 Quinton Township260,665120,785
SomersetBedminster Township5,576,6202,230,648
 Bernards Township20,545,2998,218,120
 Bound Brook4,635,0401,854,016
 Branchburg Township3,025,9131,210,365
 Bridgewater-Raritan Regional17,745,3047,098,122
 Green Brook Township3,195,0051,278,002
 Hillsborough Township1,018,650407,460
 Montgomery Township6,167,5502,467,020
 North Plainfield6,639,3194,292,672
 Warren Township879,700351,880
SussexAndover Regional1,217,100486,840
 Byram Township1,393,300557,320
 Frankford Township787,700315,080
 Green Township324,300129,720
 Hampton Township856,000342,400
 Hardyston Township1,078,000431,200
 High Point Regional1,200,100480,040
 Kittatinny Regional999,764399,906
 Lafayette Township755,700302,280
 Newton Town5,369,5452,686,169
 Sandyston-Walpack Township255,527102,211
 Sussex County Vocational1,153,100461,240
 Sussex-Wantage Regional485,300194,120
 Vernon Township4,352,6461,741,058
UnionClark Township1,440,250576,100
 Hillside Township1,196,500555,208
 Linden City5,021,4682,008,587
CountyDistrictEstimated Project CostState Share
 New Providence124,31049,724
 Rahway City1,018,120448,081
 Roselle Park4,595,0002,064,460
 Springfield Township2,676,2871,070,515
 Summit City12,606,5005,042,600
 Union Township326,500130,600
WarrenAllamuchy Township11,734,1984,693,679
 Franklin Township1,369,380547,752
 Great Meadows Regional592,500237,000
 Lopatcong Township2,694,8701,077,948
 Mansfield Township942,200376,880
 North Warren Regional1,474,725589,890
 Warren Hills Regional3,055,7801,222,312
 White Township1,050,457420,183

Governor Murphy Nominates Justin Zimmerman as Commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance

September 6, 2023

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today announced his nomination of Justin Zimmerman as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. As Commissioner, he will lead the department in regulating the banking, insurance, and real estate industries as well as operating Get Covered New Jersey – the State’s official health insurance marketplace. Zimmerman currently serves as Acting Commissioner of the department and will continue to serve in his current role pending his confirmation by the Senate.

“Justin Zimmerman has been an asset to the Department of Banking and Insurance since day one of my Administration, and I have no doubt he will continue to do an excellent job in his role as Commissioner,” said Governor Murphy. “In addition to the time he has already spent serving as Acting Commissioner, Justin’s prior experience as the department’s Chief of Staff makes him more than qualified for this position. His skilled leadership and thorough understanding of banking and insurance policy have helped countless residents throughout our state and will serve him well as he continues to lead this department.”

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as Commissioner in an Administration that is dedicated to improving the lives of New Jerseyans,” said Department of Banking and Insurance Acting Commissioner Zimmerman. “It is an honor to be nominated to lead the department’s committed public servants as we continue our efforts to protect residents, enable access to quality, affordable health insurance and ensure that the department’s regulated entities operate in accordance with the law. I thank the Governor for his confidence and for this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of the Murphy Administration to create a stronger and fairer New Jersey.”

Zimmerman joined the Department in January 2018, serving as the department’s Chief of Staff, where he oversaw the executive management team and managed all aspects of the department’s policy implementation under the direction of former Commissioner Marlene Caride. Following Commissioner Caride’s recent departure to join the judiciary as a judge of the New Jersey Superior Court, Zimmerman took on the role of Acting Commissioner.

During his tenure as Chief of Staff, the department developed and implemented numerous consumer protections and programs impacting countless New Jerseyans, including New Jersey’s out of network law, student loan protections, mortgage servicers licensing, expanded reproductive health care access, and Get Covered New Jersey.

Prior to joining Governor Murphy’s Administration, Zimmerman served as Chief of Policy and Legislation to the New Jersey State Senate President Pro Tempore, where he focused on expanding access to quality affordable health care for New Jerseyans, and the expansion of voting rights and civil rights. He began his career as a public servant working as a Briefing Aide to Governor Jon Corzine and Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the New Jersey Department of State.

Zimmerman was born and raised in New Jersey, growing up in Essex and Union Counties. He received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Mary Washington. He lives in Verona with his wife, Laura, and their two children.

Absecon Man Arrested After Terrorizing Area Residents and Businesses with Drone

September 5, 2023

ABSECON, NJ — The Absecon Police Department, in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), New Jersey State Police, and Galloway Township Police has successfully apprehended a suspect involved in a series of drone-related incidents causing damage to property in the Absecon and Galloway area.

On August 13th, Absecon Police received a call from a concerned homeowner on Upland Avenue, who reported suspicious activity involving a drone hovering over their pool. To the homeowner’s dismay, a substance was dropped from the drone, turning the pool water an alarming shade of green. Following this incident, similar reports emerged from various other locations, including the Quality Inn in Galloway Township, where the concrete pool base suffered damage due to the dye.

Working diligently alongside the FAA, New Jersey State Police, and Galloway Township Police, Absecon Police conducted a thorough investigation, leading them to detect the drone in flight over the Quality Inn on Friday, September 1st. Authorities tracked the drone’s path back to Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling, a business located at 345 E. White Horse Pike in Galloway Township.

Upon arrival at Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling, law enforcement officers encountered and subsequently arrested Patrick Spina 4th, the business owner, who has been identified as the individual responsible for the ongoing incidents of criminal mischief. Spina is facing multiple counts of criminal mischief for his involvement in these unlawful acts.

Further investigation revealed that the substance dropped from the drone into the pools was Sea Dye, a material commonly utilized by sea rescue services. The use of such a material in this context was not only illicit but also caused damage to the affected pools.

Patrick Spina 4th, 45, of Absecon has since been released on a summons pending court proceedings. Absecon and Galloway Police are urging any residents who may have fallen victim to similar activities to come forward and contact their local police agency to aid in ongoing investigations.

The Absecon Police Department extends its gratitude to the FAA, New Jersey State Police, Galloway Township Police, Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, and all other agencies involved for their invaluable assistance in bringing this case to a swift resolution. We remain committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of the community.

Incidents should be reported to the following:

For Absecon contact Det. Neal Galletta #857 at (609) 641-0667 ext. 216.

For Galloway contact DSFC. Jason Kiamos #77 at (609) 652-3705 ext. 331.

Otherwise, contact your local police department for assistance.

Kuwaiti Man, 18, Charged With Abusive Sexual Contact On LA to Newark Flight

September 2, 2023

NEWARK, N.J. – A Kuwaiti man appeared in federal court yesterday for alleged abusive sexual contact with a female passenger on a flight to Newark Liberty International Airport, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger announced.

Hasan Naser Hussain Alenezi, 18, of Kuwait, is charged by complaint with one count of abusive sexual contact on an airplane. He had an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge José R. Almonte in Newark federal court and was released on $100,000 unsecured bond, with home detention and GPS monitoring.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

While on a Nov. 27, 2022, flight from Los Angeles, California, to Newark, Alenezi sat next to a female passenger, who was seated next to the window, instead of sitting in his assigned seat. Alenezi was unknown to the victim. While seated next to the victim, Alenezi repeatedly touched her groin and leg without her permission.

The abusive sexual contact charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charge.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny Chung of the Office’s OCDETF/Narcotics Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Defense counsel: Carol Dominguez Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark

According to the Criminal Complaint attached below:

On or about November 27, 2022, defendant Hasan Naser Hussain Alenezi (“Alenezi”) was a male passenger aboard United States flight 645 (the “Flight”), departing from Los Angeles, California at approximately 10:55 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, and arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey at approximately 7:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, a flight commonly referred to as the “red eye,” given the timing.

A male passenger (“Passenger A”) was assigned to the middle seat in the same row as a female passenger (the “Victim”) who was seated in the window seat. However, upon boarding the aircraft, Alenezi sat in Passenger A’s seat, which was immediately adjacent to the Victim. Passenger A sat in Alenezi’s ticketed seat, which was in a different row. The Victim did not know Alenezi or Passenger A.

During the Flight, the Victim placed a blanket over her head in order to sleep. Some period of time later, the Victim awoke to find that Alenezi was tapping on her left leg. The Victim pushed Alenezi’s hand away, curled her legs and turned her body away from Alenezi, and tried to fall back asleep.

A short while later, the Victim was awoken again, this time to find that Alenezi had reached around the Victim’s curled legs and placed his hand on her groin on top of her clothing, without the Victim’s permission. Upon noticing Alenezi’s hand touching her groin, the Victim told Alenezi to stop, and that if he did not stop, she would report him to a flight attendant. The Victim repositioned her blanket to block her body from Alenezi.

At some point thereafter, the Victim felt Alenezi reach under the blanket and again touch her groin with his hand, without the Victim’s permission. Alenezi told the Victim, in sum and substance, “You know you want it,” at which point the Victim responded, “No I don’t.” The Victim, who was connected to the aircraft’s WiFi network, sent text messages to a close family member about the incident, who instructed the Victim to report Alenezi’s conduct to a flight attendant.

The Victim stood up from her seat and sought the assistance of a flight attendant (“Flight Attendant-1”). When the Victim told Flight Attendant-1 that Alenezi had touched her without her permission, Flight Attendant-1 relayed Alenezi’s complaint to the lead flight attendant (“Flight Attendant-2”), who moved the Victim to a new seat in the Business Class section for the remainder of the flight.

165th New Jersey State Police Recruit Training Class Graduates; 149 Troopers Receive Badges at Brookdale Community College

August 31, 2023

Lincroft, N.J. – Today, New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, and New
Jersey First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay Ruotolo, presented badges to New Jersey’s newest
state troopers during a graduation ceremony at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J.

The 165ᵗʰ New Jersey State Police Class graduated 141 men and 8 women. Of this graduating class,
126 have college degrees, 24 are prior military, and 27 have prior law enforcement experience.
Among the class, 55 were college athletes, 2 were firefighters, 5 were emergency medical
technicians, and 1 was a professional athlete.

The class completed 24 weeks of strenuous physical and academic training consisting of classroom
lessons and practical training scenarios. The recruits also participated in role-playing exercises
such as motor vehicle stops and domestic violence situations. In the area of cultural diversity,
the class received detailed instruction from community leaders and cultural organizations.

The life of a recruit is challenging in many ways. The New Jersey State Police Training Academy is
one of the few residential academies in the nation. Recruits report to the academy before dawn on
Monday morning, and they do not return home until dismissal on Friday evening. Therefore, recruits
are away from their families during significant life events. During this academy class one recruit
had a child born.

The newly graduated troopers have been assigned to stations throughout the state, and over the next
few months, they will begin their careers under the watchful eye of their Trooper-Coaches and
immediate supervisors.

“I am honored to welcome the latest class of brave and courageous State Troopers, who will
undoubtedly uphold the core values of the New Jersey State Police – honor, duty, and fidelity,”
said Governor Murphy. “This class is joining the thousands of State Troopers who exemplify the very
essence of New Jersey’s finest, with exceptional dedication to protecting and serving
those in our state. I look forward to witnessing the legacy they will build upon.”

“The New Jersey State Police are one of the nation’s finest law enforcement agencies and this
newest group of Troopers has received the training and preparation necessary to continue that
tradition,” said First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo. “The class also represents
the diversity of our State. A quarter of the class is multilingual, most have college
degrees, including one member who has a Ph. D., some are military veterans and the majority are the
first in their families to serve in law enforcement. Their dedication to public service is an
inspiration to us all and I wish them well as they begin what will undoubtedly be challenging and
meaningful careers protecting the people of New Jersey.”

“Today marks the culmination of 24 weeks of intense training for the women and men of the 165th
Class as they begin their careers as New Jersey State Troopers. These new troopers will face a
multitude of challenges in a forever changing environment,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan,
Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I am confident that they are prepared to serve the
communities across this state while upholding our core values of Honor,
Duty, and Fidelity. They are not only role models but, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters from
diverse backgrounds who are resilient and chose a profession of service, demonstrating their
commitment to selflessness. I look forward to what their futures hold as they continue to lead by

Senator Michael Testa urged Governor Murphy to preemptively reject any additional bailouts for Orsted after it was reported that the foreign offshore wind developer may walk away from their projects in New Jersey.

August 31, 2023

“It was a travesty when Governor Murphy bailed out Orsted at the expense of New Jersey taxpayers the first time they threatened to walk away. I’m calling on the Murphy administration to state unequivocally that our residents will not be sold out for Orsted a second time,” said Testa (R-1). “Supply chain issues and rising inflation prove that these projects are unsustainable and the cost of continuing these projects will be too much of a burden for our state to bear. Not to mention the environmental damage that has ensued since survey work on these projects began. In the real-world costs matter and our residents cannot afford to be thrown under the bus again for the sake of saving Orsted.”

Shares of Orsted A/S stock crashed 25% on Wednesday leading to a massive $8 billion loss in market value. The foreign wind developer warned they could additionally lose up to $2.3 billion which could lead them to cancel projects being developed along the New Jersey coast.

Orsted CEO Mads Nipper has frequently blamed supply chain issues, inflation, and rising interest rates as reasons for the company to consider walking away from the projects.

In July, Governor Murphy and Democrats in Trenton gave Orsted a $1 billion bailout with money that was originally earmarked to offset rising energy costs for utility customers.

Senator Testa warned that offshore wind developers would be “lining up at the trough of big government” to beg for money in the wake of Orsted’s first bailout, paid by New Jersey taxpayers.

“Recent polling suggests that support for offshore wind development is plunging. Despite this, Governor Murphy has shown that he is willing to forge ahead with his expensive energy master plan no matter the cost to New Jersey families,” Testa added. “If we even consider the possibility of subsidizing Orsted for a second time, who’s to say they won’t ask for a third, or a fourth bailout further down the road. We cannot allow foreign wind developers to continue taking advantage of our state. It’s time for Governor Murphy and every lawmaker in Trenton to stand up for New Jersey and say enough is enough.”

Image from Yahoo Finance


AG Platkin And The Division on Civil Rights Announce a $575K Settlement Resolving Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Jackson Township

Township Used Zoning and Land Use Powers to Discriminate Against Orthodox Jewish Residents

August 28, 2023

TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has reached a settlement resolving a lawsuit it filed alleging that Jackson Township violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by discriminating against Orthodox Jewish residents through, among other things, the use of zoning and land use powers that made it harder for Orthodox Jews to practice their religion.          

The settlement, which is memorialized in a consent order and approved by the Superior Court, provides broad equitable relief prohibiting the Township from discriminating against Orthodox Jews. Among other things, the consent order requires the Township to adopt new policies and procedures that protect religious freedom and to repeal prior ordinances that discriminated against Orthodox Jewish residents. It also requires ongoing monitoring of the Township’s compliance with the LAD.          

The $575,000 settlement includes $275,000 in penalties, a $150,000 restitution fund for individuals harmed by the Township’s actions, and an additional $150,000 in suspended penalties that will be assessed if the Township violates the consent order.           

DCR’s complaint against Jackson Township, which was filed in 2021, alleged that the Township adopted discriminatory zoning and land use ordinances and enforcement practices that targeted the Township’s growing Orthodox Jewish population.         

“No one in New Jersey should face discrimination for their religious beliefs,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We are firmly committed to eliminating discrimination and bias across our state, and we expect local leaders to comply with our robust antidiscrimination laws. The settlement announced today is a powerful testament to our commitment to protecting residents’ right to religious freedom.”           “Religious freedom is a bedrock principle of American democracy, and we are deeply committed to protecting it here in New Jersey,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “As hate and bias – including against the Jewish community – continue to rise, it is critical that we call out religious discrimination when we see it, and it is especially important that we hold public officials accountable when they treat people differently based on their faith. Today’s consent order sends a strong message: We will not tolerate religious discrimination here in New Jersey.”          

According to DCR’s complaint, Jackson Township, and its officials and employees allegedly:        

  • engaged in discriminatory surveillance of the homes of Orthodox Jews, selectively targeting communal Jewish prayer gatherings;
  • engaged in discriminatory application of land use laws to inhibit the erection of sukkahs – temporary open-air structures constructed to mark Sukkot, a weeklong Jewish holiday;
  • discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting zoning ordinances in 2017 that essentially banned the establishment of yeshivas and dormitories;
  • discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting a zoning ordinance in 2017 that targeted and effectively banned the creation of eruvim, which are symbolic, boundary-defined areas in which observant Orthodox Jews are permitted to engage in certain activities otherwise prohibited on the Sabbath and during the holiday of Yom Kippur.

        As part of the consent order announced today, Jackson Township agreed that all of the Township’s powers, policies, laws, and practices affecting land use and zoning will comply with the LAD. Additionally, and pursuant to the consent order, the Township is permanently enjoined from discriminating against any residents or prospective residents of the Township on the basis of protected characteristics under the LAD.          

Under the consent order, Jackson Township is also required to notify DCR of any decision, policy, practice, rulemaking, or vote that may affect religious land use within the Township or the free exercise of religion within the Township, including, but not limited to, sukkahs, schools, dormitories, eruvim, or the ability of Orthodox Jewish people to freely exercise their religious beliefs and practices. DCR will have the opportunity to object to any such decision, policy, practice, rulemaking, or vote.          

Jackson Township also agreed to repeal zoning ordinances that were allegedly enacted to prevent Orthodox Jews from establishing religious schools and eruvim in the Township, as well as to publish a written description of the Township’s permitting requirements and procedures for sukkahs.          

The consent order includes the following additional remedial measures:        

  • Jackson Township will create a $150,000 restitution fund for the purpose of compensating any person who has been harmed by the conduct alleged in DCR’s complaint against the Township. Individuals who believe they have been harmed can contact DCR at
  • DCR will monitor Jackson Township’s compliance with the consent order for three years. The Township will share with DCR any complaint brought to the Township that alleges discrimination in zoning or land use law.
  • Jackson Township will establish a multicultural committee, comprised of residents, which will work in partnership with the Township to address issues impacting Orthodox Jewish residents and to combat other discriminatory behavior within the Township. The committee will represent and reflect the demographics of the Township and will create a public education campaign and organize community events to promote diversity and cultural and religious sensitivity. It will meet quarterly and provide reports to the Township and DCR. 
  • Jackson Township officials, including the mayor and elected members and staff of the Jackson Township Council, the Jackson Township Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the Jackson Township Planning Board, will undergo training on discrimination in land use and zoning. They will also attend DCR trainings annually during the three-year term of the consent order.

The matter was handled by Deputy Attorneys General Eve Weissman, Renee Greenberg, Marc Peralta, and Loren Miller, and former Deputy Attorneys General Noemi Schor, Micauri Vargas, and Joanna Loomis of the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, under the supervision of Assistant Attorneys General Mayur Saxena and David Leit, and Deputy Director Jason W. Rockwell, as well as DCR Legal Specialist Lubna Qazi-Chowdhry, under the supervision of Associate Director for Affirmative Enforcement Malcolm Peyton-Cook and Chief Advisor to the Director Aarin Williams.

DCR is the state agency responsible for preventing and eliminating discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (e.g., places open to the public like schools, businesses, hospitals, etc.). DCR enforces the LAD, the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act.