Bryant requested funds, official testifies

A few months after former New Jersey State Sen. Wayne Bryant was hired at the School of Osteopathic Medicine, he called a meeting in the governor's office.

George LeBlanc, the budget director for Senate Democrats, said Bryant then requested that the state budget include $2.3 million for the school.

"At this meeting, did Sen. Bryant disclose he was on the payroll at the School of Osteopathic Medicine?" Assistant U.S Attorney Joshua Drew asked yesterday at Bryant's federal corruption trial.

"Not to my knowledge," LeBlanc testified.

Bryant, the once-powerful Camden County Democrat, has been accused of soliciting the job at the Stratford school in exchange for his influence as chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

In 2003, his first year of employment, Bryant steered $3.1 million to the school, including the $2.3 million, LeBlanc testified.

In that meeting, Bryant told the participants that he was trying "to make up for what was described as a historical underfunding of that school," LeBlanc said.

He said the meeting was held in the office of James M. Davy, then-Gov. Jim McGreevey's chief of management and operations. LeBlanc said several osteopathic school officials also were in attendance, but he didn't remember their names.

Bryant said the underfunding resulted from a mistaken head count of students at the osteopathic school, part of the public University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said he did not remember Bryant's ever raising that issue before 2003.

He also said Bryant was responsible for inserting $800,000 more into the 2003 budget to benefit a center for abused children at the school.

Yesterday's testimony began with the cross-examination of David Rosen, the budget guru for the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, which staffs legislative committees and shepherds each year's budget into law.

Rosen testified last week about the $2.3 million and the $800,000 amounts the school received in 2003, as well as a $200,000 grant the school received in 2005.

Bryant, who did not run for reelection after he was indicted last year, resigned from the school in 2006.

His codefendant, R. Michael Gallagher, was the school's dean. He is accused of giving Bryant a "low-show" job, in which the senator worked just one morning each week though he was paid to work three days a week.

While questioning Rosen, Bryant's attorney, Carl Poplar, noted that the $800,000 for the children's support center was included in state budgets going back to the Whitman administration in 2000, when the Republicans controlled the Legislature.

Christine Whitman, a Republican, vetoed the money. Her Republican predecessor allowed the money to stay in the budget.

Poplar also noted that former Assemblywoman Rose Heck (R., Bergen) requested in 2000 that the money be included in the budget.

Gallagher's attorney, Ralph Jacobs, noted that the $200,000 grant given to the osteopathic school was just one of several pages worth of awards in 2005.

"These grants were given to a limited number of recipients for good public purposes, such as health care and education," he said.

The trial recessed yesterday until Thursday for the Jewish holiday.


Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 856-779-3893 or tgraham@phillynews.com.