Huge Hike in Penalties Proposed for Ethics Breach

NJ's comptroller is proposing heftier penalties after discovering a former Burlington County official who used his political influence to pocket $200,000 faces a maximum $500 fine for ethics violations.

Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer said his investigation revealed former Chesterfield mayor Lawrence Durr proposed changes in a farmland preservation program that he helped create and that brought him lucrative profits in a land deal.  Boxer referred the matter to authorities for possible criminal prosecution and also proposed legislative reforms.  

Former Mayor Lawrence C. Durr profited in a land deal, a N.J. official said.

State Sen. Thomas Kean is already on the case.  He introduced a bill that would increase the fine to $10,000, the amount state officials and employees face for ethics violations.  Municipal and school board officials currently are subjected to the lower fine.

“This case of alleged self-dealing by an elected official exposes a need for greater accountability at the local level,” said Kean in a prepared statement.  His bill, S-2068, is in committee.  It also gives the state Ethics Commission jurisdiction over the violations. 

Boxer also recommended reforms to require local officials and developers to disclose any ties they may have before a vote is taken on a project.  Neither Durr nor Renaissance Properties Inc. disclosed their relationship when the Old York Village housing project went through the approval process.   Durr cast several votes on the project without recusing himself, Boxer said.