TRENTON - New Jersey legislators pushed forward several anti-corruption bills yesterday, the first voting session that State Sen. Wayne Bryant has attended since his indictment on federal corruption charges in March.
Byrant, who has pleaded not guilty, refused to say whether he planned to stay in office as he fights the charges. The Camden County Democrat is accused of bringing state money to a state medical school in exchange for a no-work job, and using that and other jobs to triple his publicly funded pension. His term expires in January, and he has said he won't seek reelection.
"If you see me here every day, you'll be able to write your story," Bryant said when asked whether he planned to finish his term.
Senate President Richard J. Codey said Senate Democrats had not discussed Bryant, who resigned as Senate budget chairman last fall amid word of the federal inquiry. "He's innocent until proven guilty," said Codey (D., Essex).
Republicans have called for Democrats, who control the Senate, 22-18, to expel Bryant. "While we believe that Sen. Bryant is innocent until proven guilty in the criminal justice context, there is no question in our mind that he has crossed an ethical line," Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck (R., Monmouth) said recently.
An Assembly committee yesterday advanced Senate-approved bills that would impose civil damages upon corrupt public officials, make it illegal for nonprofits to misuse public money, and expand the statute of limitations on public corruption from five to seven years.