Nidia calls it quits Convicted longtime freeholder's resignation effective July 7

Nidia calls it quits
Convicted longtime freeholder's resignation effective July 7

June 27, 2003  Jersey Journal

Hudson County Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon announced her resignation yesterday, three days after her conviction in federal court for her role in a 1999 bribery scheme.

In a letter dated Wednesday and sent to the clerk of the freeholders and other county officials, Davila-Colon, 49, the longest-serving member of the board, said her "reputation has been tarnished to a point that the damage is irreparable."

"The road is extremely difficult for me," she wrote. "But I take full responsibility for my actions . There is no better way to phrase it than to say, I'm sorry."

The seven-term freeholder from Jersey City was found guilty Monday on charges that she passed $10,000 in bribes to then-County Executive Robert Janiszewski in 1999 from her boyfriend, Union City psychiatrist Dr. Oscar Sandoval, who held $2.3 million in county contracts.

She declined to comment further yesterday on the resignation, which takes effect July 7. By holding onto her seat until that date, Davila-Colon will continue to receive health benefits for a month after she leaves office.

According to the state plan under which the freeholders are covered, if a member resigns after July 5, benefits continue for 30 days from then, said Jim Kennelly, a spokesman for the county. If she resigned before July 5, she would no longer receive benefits.

Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said yesterday that his office still plans to ask a state Superior Court judge today to issue an order requiring that Davila-Colon forfeit her seat. The reason, DeFazio said, is that with a court order Davila-Colon would not be able to serve in government again.

"She would be forever barred from holding public office in New Jersey," said DeFazio.

DeFazio said it is hard to know if the forfeiture of office order he is seeking in court, if successful, would take effect before July 7.

Davila-Colon is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 29 in U.S. District Court in Newark, where she will likely face 31/2 to 5 years in prison. She was convicted after a three-week jury trial of three counts of mail fraud and two counts of aiding and abetting an attempted extortion for passing cash-stuffed envelopes to Janiszewski, the once-powerful Democratic leader who has pleaded guilty to taking more than $100,000 in bribes during his 13 years in office as county executive.

At trial, Davila-Colon's attorney, Peter Willis, argued that she was a victim of entrapment at the hands of Sandoval, who at the time was working as a government informant and secretly tape recording their conversations.

"I am attempting to put my life back together after the immense pain I feel for having my trust and my faith betrayed," Davila-Colon wrote in her resignation letter, in a seeming allusion to Sandoval. "I hope with time and understanding I will be judged by the totality of my life and all the good I was able to achieve and not a truly awful misstep."

The two-page letter reads at times like a campaign pitch. Davila-Colon ticks off a list of what she views as her accomplishments in office, including helping to create more affordable housing, funding for AIDS programs and "fight(ing) to protect the rights of our senior citizens."

She also thanks her constituents for re-electing her in a landslide in November despite the fact that she was under indictment.

"I was gratified that despite the charges I faced, the people stood by me in November 2002 and gave me the benefit of the doubt," she wrote.

Jason Fink can be reached at

Text of her resignation letter:
For the past 19 years, I have had the privilege and honor of representing the 4th Freeholder District here in Hudson County. During this period of time, my primary priority has always been to do what is best for the people of Jersey City by helping to make their lives better. Unfortunately, as a result of the recent conviction levied against me, I am faced with a most difficult decision: Should I resign my position as a Hudson County Freeholder or should I continue serving in this capacity pending the outcome of an appeal? I have decided it is appropriate at this time to let the public know my feelings regarding this issue as it has been brought up to me and was even the focus of a lead article in a recent edition of The Jersey Journal.

To say that I am personally disappointed and remorseful for my lapse of better judgment would be a major understatement. The nightmare began when the U.S. Attorney indicted me in October of 2002. I was gratified that despite the charges I faced, the people stood by me in November of 2002 and gave me the benefit of the doubt by electing me to my seventh consecutive term through a landslide victory. Since that time, however, my reputation has been tarnished to a point that the damage is irreparable. My first priority now is my undying commitment to my son, Keith, and my family whose love and tireless devotion to me has been my saving grace. Since that day in October 2002 that will forever haunt me for as long as I live, I have tried to get through each day with my head held high with the full knowledge that I did not willingly or alone want to commit the acts for which I face the loss of my freedom.

I am attempting to put my life back together despite the immense pain I feel for having my trust and my faith betrayed. This road is extremely difficult for me, but I take full responsibility for my actions. And were it not for the endless support of many within the community, I do not believe I would have been able to endure this most heart wrenching of circumstances.

However, before I answer the question as to whether or not I will be resigning my position as a Freeholder, I find it necessary to comment briefly on the accomplishments we were able to achieve on behalf of the people of Hudson County. Since the very first day my mother set foot in Jersey City, it has been my home. Its people are by far the greatest in all of New Jersey. I offer them a heartfelt thank you for all their years of tireless support and for allowing me to serve them for nearly 20 years. Furthermore, I offer my constituents, who I vow to continue to assist in whatever capacity I am able to do so in the future, my deepest apologies for having let them down through my sincerely regrettable mistake. There is no way to better phrase it then (sic) to say, I'm sorry. I hope with time and understanding that I will be judged by the totality of my life and all the good I was able to achieve and not a truly awful misstep.

The only good thing that has happened to me as a result of living this nightmare is that I have come to know how many good and supportive friends I have - friends that I did not even know existed. I have heard from people I haven't been in contact with in years. I have heard from people throughout Hudson County whom I do not personally know. I have (sic) acquaintances reach out for me offering support on every level. Every single one of them has offered a kind word or gesture or prayer and it has comforted me greatly. I thank them for helping me through this excruciating dilemma.

I have enjoyed having played a significant role in improving our county's quality of life. Whether it was through creating more affordable housing, increasing funding to combat AIDS and drug addiction, fighting to protect the rights of our senior citizens, implementing educational programs in our county college and vocational schools that have transcended into greater opportunities for our children or by simply helping the average person during a time of real need, the fact is, I loved being involved and making a difference in people's lives. I have always wanted to be a part of that progress and future of Jersey City and I feel that in the past 19 years, I, as a member of the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, working closely with colleagues, made this an all-around better place to live, work and raise a family.

As I indicated at the beginning of this letter, I accomplished my primary priority of making a difference since being elected a freeholder by always striving to do what was right for the people of Jersey City and fighting to make this community a better and stronger one. But now is the time for me to go forward and focus on the role I have cherished ever since that magnificent day in February 1986: that of being a mother.

Accordingly, it is my opinion and my decision that it would be in the best interest of the people of Jersey City that I resign as a Hudson County Freeholder at the end of the business day on July 7, 2003.

I would like to thank all of the freeholders, both past and present, that I have served with for always respecting my opinions and for each being a friend. I would also like to make special mention of the Office of the Clerk to the Board and its staff who have been truly amazing to work with all these years.

Finally, I would also like to thank my friends and family, especially my son Keith, and my brother George, who are by far the best family a woman could ever be blessed with.

Respectfully submitted,

Nidia Davila-Colon

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