Most Hudson County politicians are mum on verdict

Most Hudson County politicians are mum on verdict

June 24, 2003  By Peter Weiss  Journal staff writer

Reaction in the local political community to Hudson County Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon's conviction was muted.

Many of those who were asked for comment declined, among them U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, and Jersey City Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham, leaders of the rival Democratic factions in Hudson County. Davila-Colon is a former Menendez staffer and Cunningham is a former county director.

There also was no comment on the verdict from Freeholder Chairman Sal Vega of West New York, nor from Sen. Bernard Kenny, D-Hoboken, the county Democratic chairman. Several of Davila-Colon's freeholder colleagues also declined to comment.

Davila-Colon, of Jersey City, is the longest serving member of the county Board of Freeholders, having been first elected in 1984.

She was convicted yesterday in federal court of abetting attempted extortion and mail fraud in connection with bribes she passed between her onetime lover, Dr. Oscar Sandoval, and then-Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski. Sandoval taped Davila-Colon for the government and Janiszewski, who admitted accepting the bribes, was the government's star witness at her trial.

Among those who did offer comment was County Executive Tom DeGise, who was elected to fill the remainder of Janiszewski's term. He coupled sympathy for Davila-Colon's family and friends with a warning.

"I want all Hudson County residents to understand that the kind of behavior revealed during this trial will not be tolerated on my watch," DeGise said.

He noted his first act after taking office in November was to create a county Ethical Standards Board, and that, in September, county government employees will begin attending workshops outlining how to evaluate possible improper behavior and report it to the Ethical Standards Board for investigation.

"The message should be clear: Now there is a clear, defined process to report violations of the public trust - and everyone who works in county government will be expected to know it," he said.

Former Freeholder Louis Manzo of Jersey City, a Democratic nominee for Assembly in the 31st District, said he personally felt sorry for Davila-Colon, with whom he served. But he said the public shouldn't forget that "she swore an oath of office to uphold the law."

Hudson County Republican Chairman Jose Arango, a former state assemblyman, called it "a sad day for the county." He said he felt sorry for Davila-Colon and her family, but that it didn't excuse her actions.

"Elected officials can't work for themselves," he said. "They have to work for the people."

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