New Jersey State Senator Gerald Cardinale has responded to reports that Governor Jon Corzine has paid a huge settlement to prevent the public disclosure of the unusual circumstances under which Rocco Riccio was dismissed from a string of patronage positions in which he was placed. Riccio was reportedly paid $362,500 in late-September after threatening to sue Corzine and make public the terms of his employment and eventual termination from a pair of taxpayer and tollpayer funded positions.
“Governor Corzine has once again opened his personal checkbook to prevent those with inside knowledge of his dealings from talking to the public,” said Cardinale. “By paying off Riccio, Corzine has prevented him from publicly discussing how he obtained two patronage positions or detailing the alleged improper political research he performed on taxpayer time.”
According to published reports, Riccio was asked to resign his position at the New Jersey Department of Human Services after allegations were made public that he had improperly looked at the tax returns of political enemies. Corzine then placed Riccio into another patronage position at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, where he resigned after just two weeks and continued media scrutiny.
“On the same day that Governor Corzine hikes tolls on the Parkway and Turnpike, we are again reminded that the Turnpike Authority is a favored patronage pit for use by the Corzine Administration,” said Cardinale. “Maybe if Corzine had worked as hard to protect taxpayers and tollpayers as he does to protect guys like Rocco Riccio, hardworking commuters would not have to pay more at the toll booth today.”
The $362,500 paid to Riccio was not the first payout he received from Corzine. Following his resignation from the Turnpike Authority, Corzine admitted to paying his “friend” Riccio $10,000. Riccio is also the brother-in-law of Corzine ex-girlfriend Carla Katz, who received a reported $6 million payout from the Governor following their break-up.
“We knew that something didn’t smell right after the first $10,000 payout, and another $362,500 later, this whole situation just stinks,” added Cardinale. “The public deserves the details of Corzine’s $6 million payout to Katz and the nearly $400,000 paid to her brother-in-law. More importantly, it’s time for an official investigation into these matters to ensure that laws weren’t broken and that taxpayers are protected.”