TRENTON – Citing an Associated Press report that John Inglesino, a top political adviser, chief fundraiser and long time friend of Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie was put on the state payroll of Senator Joseph Pennacchio as a “political adviser” for the minimum $3,000 required to keep him active in the state pension system, Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) called on Christie to join them in demanding the release of any work product related to the position.
“Does Christie condone using state taxpayer money to pay for a state senator’s political adviser?” asked Vitale. “He says he did not know that his long time friend, political adviser and chief fundraiser was put on a state payroll to extend his state taxpayer funded benefits, so Christie should join me in demanding the release of Inglesino’s work product for Senator Pennacchio. We all deserve to see exactly what this “political adviser” did in his state taxpayer funded job that allowed him to pad his pension.”
Vitale called on Pennacchio to release any documents that were authored by, copied to or mention Inglesino to illustrate the work he performed to earn his taxpayer-funded salary and pension benefits. Vitale said such documents could include, but not be limited to, memos, letters, emails, reports, or any other written correspondence, as well as Inglesino’s calendar of appointments and or schedules and records of meetings and phone logs.
Inglesino entered the state pension system 13 years ago as Mayor of Rockaway Township. He stayed in the system as a Morris County Freeholder. Upon losing the freeholder position, he was added onto then Assemblyman Pennacchio’s payroll the day after his freeholder term ended, keeping him in the pension system. Pennacchio said in an Associated Press interview that he hired Inglesino because he was getting a “top-notch political adviser”. Being placed back on a state payroll for the minimum required $3,000 allows Inglesino to increase his state-taxpayer funded retirement benefits and puts him a year closer to the required 25 years of state service for lifetime medical benefits.
“In an interview on 101.5, Christie said he believes ‘pension abuse is terrible’ and, in his role as U.S. Attorney and as a gubernatorial candidate, never hesitated to condemn this exact behavior,” said Vitale. “Yet, the people closest to him continue to disregard his public ethics pronouncements. He needs to join me in demanding the release of Inglesino’s work product for Senator Pennacchio because it looks like his close friend and chief fundraiser is abusing the state-taxpayer funded pension system.”
This is not the first time a friend of Christie’s has run afoul of his public ethics pronouncements. After condemning dual office holding, Christie was the featured guest at a fundraiser for Carl Block, the mayor of Stafford and Ocean County clerk. Block subsequently lost his bid for re-election as mayor.
Inglesino has said previously that he and Christie have been friends for 15 years. Inglesino’s law firm was the recipient of a $3 million no-bid contract from Christie while he was still U.S. Attorney. Inglesino, his partners and their spouses subsequently gave the maximum funds allowed to Christie’s campaign and Inglesino later co-hosted a $500 a plate fundraiser after Christie said he would no longer accept campaign donations from lawyers that received no-bid contracts from him.
Previously, Assemblyman Rick Merkt alleged that Inglesino offered him a major position in Christie’s administration or campaign if he stayed out of the gubernatorial race. Democrats have asked the state Attorney General’s office or the United States Attorney’s office to investigate the claim.