New Jersey businessman and power broker George E. Norcross III said Thursday that he played no part in the controversial removal of progressive activist Sue Altman from a Statehouse hearing room where he testified last month.
“I want to add my name to the list calling for the release of the full state police investigation into the removal of Sue Altman from last month’s hearing,” Norcross wrote in an Inquirer op-ed piece published online Thursday. Releasing the full report "will make it clear that I had nothing to do with Altman’s removal and any contrary allegation is false.“
Norcross had come to testify about a controversial tax incentive program he has been accused of manipulating. He has denied wrongdoing. Altman, his most vocal critic, came with a cadre of supporters to confront him. She ended up being dragged out of the hearing room in Trenton by state troopers for no apparent reason, and later was issued a citation. The incident was captured by reporters on photo and video and reverberated across social media.
Progressive activists speculated that Norcross, who many see as the most powerful unelected person in New Jersey, played a role in her ejection. Political insiders in the state have been consumed by Altman’s removal, and prominent Democrats have denounced it.
“Every senator on that committee owes her a direct apology,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren called it “outrageous.” The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and State Police said they would investigate what happened.
In a statement Thursday, Altman said, she appreciated Norcross’ "touching concern for my safety and the truth.” She added: “If he truly does want to get to the bottom of what happened, I hope Mr. Norcross wouldn’t object to a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding that sham Senate hearing.”
Altman, state director of New Jersey’s Working Families Alliance, says Norcross should also be interested in why there were “unexplained changes to the rules that limited the number of people in the hearing room” that day, as well as a deeper inquiry into the award of more than $1 billion in tax breaks awarded to companies connected to him.
In the op-ed, Norcross touted the incentives as vital to a flood of new business investment spurring a “renaissance” in Camden. Norcross, an insurance company owner who chairs the board of trustees of Cooper Health System, has for years been a prominent voice and supporter of Camden.
State police have said they will not make the findings of the probe into the handling of Altman’s removal review public, “per standard practice,” which has prompted concern from many lawmakers and become a focal point in buzz about the incident.
“We recognize that the Legislature, the press, and some members of the public remain interested in the outcome of this review,” said Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Sharon Lauchaire. “For that reason, we’re currently exploring ways to address these concerns, as we try to balance the need for confidentiality with our commitment to transparency. We will address the matter further once the review is completed, which we expect in the near future.”
Senate Democrats, through spokesperson Richard McGrath, have said that if police don’t make their review public they “will use subpoena power to make it public.”