12:48 pm Sep. 10, 2012
This might be funny if weren't so sad: The mayor of Trenton, N.J. was arrested on federal corruption charges after allegedly sharing in a little more than $50,000 in bribes connected to development of a parking garage.
New York has its own public-corruption messes to deal with, particularly in Albany. But the Jersey stuff is often uniquely memorable; something about the combination of larger-than-life color and small-time stakes.
Mack is at times referred to by aliases "Honey Fitz," "the Little Guy," and "Napoleon," the complaint states. Giorgianni went by the aliases "JoJo," "Mr. Baker," and "the Fat Man." Giorgianni also used the code word "Uncle Remus" to refer to the cash payments, according to the complaint.
The second person mentioned there is Mack's supporter Joseph (Jo Jo) Giorgianni, who coaches football at Trenton Central High School, and was also arrested for his involvement in the alleged scheme. From a witness' secret recording, according to the Ledger:
"We want this," Giorgianni said ... "What do you think we did all this for? I like to make money for my friends. I like to do it like the Boss Tweed way. You know Boss Tweed ran Tammany Hall?"
New Jersey, a home-rule state with lots more influential offices than honest and competent officials to fill them, has a rich tradition of such small-time, universally mockable official misbehavior. Think of the "Monmouth 11", the collection of bumblingly crooked officials busted in 2005 for taking cash bribes in parking lots or leveraging their office for free driveway-paving, all while the feds were watching them; or, later, the money-laundering ring that included three mayors, two assemblymen and five rabbis.
The periodic surfacings of these gangs who can't shoot straight provide the backdrop for the much more spectacular failings of officials higher up Jersey's food chain, and endless grist for columnists, late-night TV writers and, of course, out-party candidates looking for a way into the game.
Just don't expect the people of Trenton, whose list of more immediate worries probably includes a recent uptick in crime following a massive cutback to its police department, to see the humor.