Corrupt ex-aide to Cory Booker keeps pension — but wants more
NEWARK — Things are not all bad for a disgraced former deputy mayor who was sentenced to a year in prison for corruption.
Ronald Salahuddin will continue to collect a $38,500 pension every year for the rest of his life. Although he still thinks he should get more.
The former top aide to then-Mayor Cory Booker was convicted by a federal jury in 2011 of conspiring to obstruct commerce by extortion. Prosecutors say he used his position at City Hall to steer work for the city and the New Jersey Devils to a demolition company in which he had a financial stake. His business partner was also found guilty, but both were acquitted of bribery and attempted extortion.
Then-U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman described "a brazen effort by Salahuddin to corrupt his city office for his own personal financial gain," which included earning $5,000 that a contractor funneled to his company, S. Cooper Brothers Trucking, and getting the contractor to donate another $5,000 to a Booker nonprofit. He also pressed contractors to make campaign contributions, prosecutors said.
During the trial, Booker distanced himself from Salahuddin's wrongdoing. Booker was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2013.
A year after he was sentenced in 2013, the state of New Jersey revoked part of Salahuddin's pension for the three years he had worked as deputy mayor from 2006 to 2009. He retired in 2010.
The Public Employees Retirement System Board, however, thought the crime deserved more punishment and voted to cut his pension further, by a total of 34 percent.
On appeal, an administrative law judge found that to be too harsh, reducing the cut to 20 percent or 6.7 years out of his 33 years in the public sector, which included stints as an East Orange assistant tax collector and an Essex County Sheriff’s Office investigator.
Under a 2007 law, a public official who is convicted of certain serious crimes that “touch” upon their office must lose their pension for that job. The board that oversees their pension has the ability to impose additional loses.
This doesn’t always happen, as a New Jersey 101.5 investigation uncovered last year. The former schools superintendent in Rockaway Township continues to collect a $110,000 annual pension even though he admitted that when he was superintendent he accepted $4,000 from insurance brokers who had done business with his district. He also confessed to trying to get the brokers to lie to the FBI.
Although state officials went after Gary Vita’s pension, a Superior Court judge said that he could not lose it because he only pleaded guilty in federal court to attempted witness tampering, which happened during the investigation after he had already retired.
In the Salahuddin case, the ex-con appealed the administrative law judge’s compromise, which the pension board accepted in 2016. He argued that the corruption charge did not involve his previous jobs, so his pension from those positions should not be affected.
He also insisted that the pension reduction was a miscarriage of justice because he is innocent, even though the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 upheld his conviction.
An appellate court decision on Thursday ruled against him, finding that the pension board is perfectly within its rights to reduce his retirement benefits.
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