ELIZABETH— The crushing weight of high property taxes in this ailing economy has not stopped greedy politicians from passing government benefits to crooked campaign contributors.
Before his bribery conviction, Raymond Vella managed Second Ward Councilman Nelson Gonzalez’s 2006 campaign. He donated thousands of ill-gotten dollars to Councilmen Manny Grova, Frank Mazza, Joseph Keenan and Bill Gallman.
Those same councilmen approved $3 million of dollars in grants and contracts similar to those that Vella was convicted of buying with bribes in Linden.
Vella was convicted on six counts by a jury and is now serving a sentence in federal prison, as the result of the bribery and kickback scheme that unraveled in a Linden housing program similar to the one in Elizabeth.
Elizabeth politicians agreed to pay thousands of tax dollars to Vella through inflated contracts similar to his Linden swindle.
However, the biggest cash payoffs for the crook were literally ‘free money mortgages.’
While thousands of honest homeowners lost their life savings and homes to foreclosures, city officials gave at least four mortgages to Vella that he never has to repay.
These so-called ‘forgivable mortgages’ call on the convicted criminal to rent out real estate he purchased in the city and keep ownership for 20 years.
As a result, when Vella emerges from prison, he will return to Elizabeth a millionaire owning four multi-family houses purchased by taxpayers.
All of the councilmen who enriched Vella at public expense deny responsibility and blame the Bollwage administration.
Grova and Mazza say they only voted to confirm recommendations made by city lawyers, while Keenan, Gonzalez and Gallman refuse to answer questions about taxpayer dollars turned over to Vella at the same time he was paying bribes for contracts in Linden.
Gonzalez, Mazza, Keenan and Gallman may have directly benefitted from Vella’s bribery and kickbacks but they won’t talk about it as they seek re-election as part of the Column A Regular Political Organization.
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