Public colleges and other state agencies in New Jersey that misuse taxpayer funds could face criminal penalties under a measure passed by the state Legislature.
PoliticsNJ.com reports that lawmakers have sent Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, a package of ethics-reform bills, including one measure that would prohibit state or local agencies from making political contributions and another that would allow the state attorney general to seek monetary penalties against certain individuals convicted of public-corruption crimes.
The bills are a response to a succession of scandals in the state that have ensnared public officials and institutions, including the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which has come under federal and state investigation for financial mismanagement, improper billing, and questionable political donations. In conjunction with the inquiries into fraud and abuse at the public-health university, a federal grand jury has indicted a powerful state senator and a former dean of the university’s School of Osteopathic Medicine on corruption charges.
By contrast, a report released on Monday by the federal monitor appointed to oversee the university contains relatively few new revelations. The monitor found that the university had made “significant strides” in instituting new financial and management controls, the Associated Press reported, but that there are additional billing irregularities, such as doctors signing charts on behalf of other physicians. A spokeswoman told the AP that the university would look into the monitor’s allegations. —Karin Fischer