YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A judge in Hackensack recused himself this morning from hearing whether to allow a criminal complaint filed against Emerson Mayor Carlos Colina by Borough Administrator Joseph Scarpa to proceed, citing a conflict of interest.
Superior Court Central Municipal Judge Roy F. McGeady said he couldn’t rule in the case because he is a municipal court judge in Rochelle Park, where Scarpa is a Township Committee member and once served as mayor.
So McGeady sent the case to Presiding Judge Peter Doyne for reassignment — possibly to another county.
“Mr. Scarpa, in his position, is called upon to participate in the judicial selection process,” including his own reappointment as Rochelle Park’s magistrate, McGeady said. “It creates the appearance of impropriety.
“The public needs to know the case is decided on the evidence, and the evidence alone,” McGeady said. “I must err on the side of caution.”
The hearing is to determine whether there is enough evidence for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to present the case to a grand jury for possible indictment.
Scarpa alleges that Colina harassed him and threatened to have him fired after an Aug. 31 council meeting at which installing video surveillance cameras at a municipal building was discussed.
The mayor “directly or indirectly threaten[ed] Joseph Scarpa, a public servant, with harm with the purpose of influencing a decision of a public servant on a public issue,” specifically by “threatening [Scarpa’s] employment, slamming the desk with his hand and communicating to [Scarpa] his need for protection,” the complaint alleges.
McGeady said the conflict was brought to his attention late yesterday, and by that time the participants had already been noticed of the hearing for this morning.
“I apologize for any inconvenience,” McGeady said. “I am referring the matter back to Assignment Judge Peter Doyne for reassignment.”
Colina’s attorney said his client was willing to waive any conflict so the matter could be “moved along,” but Scarpa’s attorney, Joseph Donohue, said the case should be transferred to another county.
(STORY by Mary K. Miraglia)
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