STATE—The New Jersey NAACP filed an ethics complaint against state Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, charging the Elizabeth Democrat with betraying the public trust by sponsoring legislation that would benefit clients of his private law firm.
The complaint, filed with the state Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, asks for an investigation of whether Lesniak and Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset) violated the code by sponsoring legislation to change the affordable housing obligations of cities and towns while they or their law firms represent 40 of them as paid counsels.
NJ NAACP Housing Committee Chairman Mike McNeil said, “Sens. Lesniak and Bateman have violated the public trust in intermeshing their private legal work and their service to the public as legislators. We are today asking the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards to determine the extent of the violation of public trust and to require Sens. Lesniak and Bateman to recuse themselves from further debate on the bill.”
Lesniak and Bateman are co-sponsors of bill S-1, which would abolish the state Council on Affordable Housing and eliminate the affordable housing obligations of some 283 cities and towns.
In 1970 the NAACP sued Mount Laurel for zoning that excluded the possibility of homes for poor residents. That suit was the basis for landmark state Supreme Court decisions in 1975 and 1983 requiring municipalities to provide for housing for the poor.
“These senators are representing the interests of towns that have retained them as lawyers,” McNeil said. “They are pushing legislation demanded by shortsighted local governments that are paying the senators’ private law firms to represent them.”
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