TRENTON - Amid a state investigation into her former part-time jobs, State Sen. Martha Bark yesterday announced she would not run for reelection.
In a statement, the Burlington County Republican said she was retiring from the Senate seat she has held since 1997 because she was "frustrated" with a lack of "bipartisan spirit" in the Statehouse and wanted to spend more time with her family.
"Quite simply put, I just need a change of pace," she said.
She made no mention of the investigation, and a spokesman said she would not comment further.
Rich Levesque, the Burlington County GOP's executive director, said he did not think the probe played any role in her retirement.
"Martha Bark served many years for the Republican Party in Burlington County, and the organization appreciates all of her service," said Levesque. He said the party had not yet selected a candidate for her seat.
Bark is a former county freeholder and Medford Township councilwoman who is currently the highest-ranking Republican female legislator.
In 2004, news reports questioned two part-time jobs she held, at the Burlington County Institute of Technology - which paid her $50,000 a year as a counselor in 2002 and 2003 - and at the Burlington County Bridge Commission, which paid her $52,000 annually between June 1997 and November 2001 to revive efforts to reopen the Palmyra Cove Nature Park.
Scant documentation was available on any work she performed for the hundreds of thousands of dollars she was paid. Bark has defended the jobs, saying she worked but did not take or keep notes of what she did; the state Attorney General's Office has issued subpoenas in the case.
The probe most recently spread to the Delaware River Port Authority, which gave the Palmyra project a total of $5 million in toll proceeds in 1999 and 2001.
Bark is one of several Republican lawmakers who have announced in recent weeks that they would not run for reelection. Democrats hold a majority in both chambers of the legislature.
Education: B.A. DePauw University (economics).
Occupation: State senator.
Legislative service: Senate 1997-present, conference leader 2006-present, deputy minority leader 2004-05; General Assembly 1995-97.
Other offices held: Burlington County Board of Freeholders, 1984-97; Medford Township Council 1980-87, mayor 1981, 1985; Medford Board of Education, 1973-78.
Family: Divorced, three children, six grandchildren.