After Lakewood amnesty, lawmaker wants end to reduced restitution
The state Office of the State Comptroller caused an uproar when the public learned last year that the watchdog agency had agreed to let more than 150 residents of Lakewood who had been accepted into an amnesty program for welfare cheats reduce the amount of restitution they were required to pay by $2.6 million.
One New Jersey lawmaker was outraged this kind of an arrangement had been made and now he’s sponsoring a measure to make sure it never happens again.
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said he’s open to giving significant flexibility and tools to negotiate these kinds of settlements to entice people who have broken the law to come forward voluntarily.
“But we can’t incentivize people to give it a shot thinking that even if I get caught at some point, I won’t have to repay the benefits itself. That can’t happen," he said.
His law would require full restitution.
“These are not victimless crimes. When someone gets benefits to which they’re not entitled, there are people who are entitled to those benefits and in need, who are not getting them. That’s not acceptable.”
The measure he’s proposing also requires any elected public official or state employee with fiduciary duty to forfeit their position and be barred from public office or employment for at least 10 years in order to be able to participate in a leniency or amnesty program.
“You shouldn’t be allowed to remain in such position if you have admitted to making a misrepresentation and getting benefits to which you were not entitled," he said.
He said the message to anyone who is thinking about playing the system must be “don’t do it in the first place. We will catch you and you will face fines and penalties and you will have to pay back everything you illegally took.”
The legislation has been formally introduced but has not been determined which committee will consider it.