Tom Baldwin, Gannett, July 6, 2006
Trenton — Attorney General Zulima Farber, New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer, will be the subject of a special investigation into her role in the freeing of her boyfriend after local police detained him Memorial Day Weekend at a traffic stop.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s chief counsel, Stuart Rabner, directed First Assistant Attorney General Anne Milgram to hand the probe to a retired state appellate judge from Atlantic County, Richard J. Williams.
“Both the public and the attorney general are entitled to an independent, thorough and expeditious review of this incident,” Rabner’s letter said, “to determine whether the attorney general sought or received favored treatment and whether any person involved in this matter violated the law.”
Farber said last week that on May 26, she was in Newark when she received a call from her boyfriend, Hamlet Goore, who sought help emptying the car before police had it impounded.
Farber said she told her trooper driver to take her to the scene, which was 13 miles away in Fairview, Bergen County. She said the trooper did not use the siren, and she did not know whether he employed flashing lights to clear the path.
Farber said she arrived at the stop to encounter Fairview’s mayor, Vincent Belluci. Local police later allowed Goore to proceed without impounding his unregistered van.
Previously, Farber had called it “absurd” that her presence, with a trooper and in a state police car, might affect a local police officer’s decision-making.
Rabner’s letter said, “Media accounts report that one or more tickets were issued and voided.”
Farber has a history of traffic-related issues. She missed a potential nomination to the state Supreme Court after it became public that a bench warrant existed for her refusal to pay traffic tickets.
Attorneys general are supposed be the investigators, not the investigated.
But once again, New Jersey has a top cop embroiled in controversy.
Gov. Corzine has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether Attorney General Zulima Farber, a traffic scofflaw herself, used her influence to get her boyfriend out of traffic tickets over Memorial Day weekend.
When she was sworn in six months ago, Farber, echoing Corzine, said the public should “hold me accountable.” If the investigation reveals Farber inappropriately interfered in police business, she should resign.
According to news reports, Farber’s boyfriend, Hamlet Goore, was stopped the morning of May 26 during a routine holiday “Click-It or Ticket” seat-belt enforcement effort near the home he and Farber share in Bergen County. He was ticketed for driving on a suspended license and for failing to register his vehicle.
Police reportedly told Goore his minivan would be impounded. Goore called Farber to help him unload bicycles, computers, clothing and other personal items he had packed for the couple’s trip to the Shore.
After Farber arrived in a state-owned vehicle, driven by a state trooper, the tickets were voided, and Goore drove the minivan home.
Farber says she spoke with the town mayor at the scene but did not interfere with police. But her mere appearance, under state police escort, is intimidation enough. It showed poor judgment and a lack of common sense.
Farber’s own driving record raises questions about her respect for traffic law. She has at least a dozen road violations, three license suspensions, and a bench warrant for failing to appear in court.
At her confirmation hearing in January, she quipped: “I thank the governor for giving me a job with a driver.”
So does everyone else on New Jersey’s roads.