NJ Gov Phil Murphy defends decision to hire official with bribery conviction

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Phil Murphy
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. Image: Phil Murphy for Governor (CC2.0)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has defended his administration’s decision to hire former Passaic City Council member and convicted felon Marcellus Jackson.

Before joining the New Jersey Department of Education in July, Jackson served over a year in prison after accepting $26,000 in bribes.

Phil Murphy: “We feel completely comfortable”

A story in POLITICO on Monday reported that Jackson, now working as assistant to the state commissioner of education on a $70,000 annual salary, had been convicted of a public corruption charge. Murphy wholeheartedly backed the decision to hire Jackson, however.

Speaking later that day at an unrelated New Jersey DOE press conference, he said:

“The details of the legal review I think I won’t address other than we feel completely comfortable with the process Marcellus went through.

“I hope we see a lot more of this, that somebody made a mistake, they admitted it, they repented it, they paid their price.

Jackson’s troubles began when he accepted a total of $26,000 in bribes from a fake company set up by FBI officers in a corruption sweep. While accepting one $6,000 payoff in a parking lot he is said to have told the undercover agent, “I appreciate it, baby. Good things is gonna happen.”

Holly Schepisi: “This is a case about public bribery.”

While expressing some admiration for Phil Murphy’s ability to forgive and forget, New Jersey Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi condemned the decision to hire Jackson.

“I believe in second chances, but not when it comes to putting corrupt politicians in positions of public trust,” she said. “This is a case about public bribery.”

Schepisi, a Republican, made the statement in a press release announcing her intention of new legislation to prevent felons with public corruption convictions from taking government jobs. This would augment current legislation which prevents felons from holding elected office.

“I don’t think that when the Legislature banned corrupt public officials from ever holding office again anyone imagined a governor would hire one to work for government,” she said.

Previous to his hiring of Marcellus Jackson in July, Phil Murphy hired another official who had once been under a legal cloud. Lewis E. Daidone was hired by the state’s Transport Department after once being accused of defrauding thousands of investors during his time at Citicorp. That charge was later dismissed by a judge.

Schepisi thinks Phil Murphy is guilty of employing people because of personal relationships rather than finding the best person for the job. “The theme here is that this administration does not hire based on merit,” she said. “It hires bases on friendships. That doesn’t do well to serve New Jersey.”

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