Disgraced N.J. Gov. to deliver farewell address

/ Source: The Associated Press

Gov. James E. McGreevey, who stunned the nation with the disclosure that he is gay and would resign from his post, wants to put his political record straight.

A week before he leaves office, the governor was expected to deliver his public farewell Monday in a speech expected to highlight the accomplishments of a term cut short by scandal.

Though details of the speech have not been revealed, McGreevey was predicted to stress his success in championing stem cell research, obtaining benefits for domestic partners and instituting reforms at the state’s troubled child welfare agency and motor vehicles division.

While political observers credit McGreevey with some gains over the past two years, they also note some lingering troubles that have nothing to do with his personal life.

A deficit looms for the next budget year, and the current budget was balanced using borrowed money, a practice the state Supreme Court has declared off limits for future spending plans.

Even before the sex scandal driving him from office became public Aug. 12, McGreevey had been dogged by associations with campaign contributors who ran afoul of federal authorities.

Since the scandal, McGreevey attempted to reclaim the ethical high ground with an executive order in September to ban the practice of giving government contracts to those who contribute to political campaigns. Proposals to halt the practice known as “pay-to-play” are pending in the Legislature.

Other accomplishments include an increase in caseworker staffing and policy changes designed to improve oversight by the Division of Youth and Family Services, which made headlines and drew sharp criticism for a series of lapses in its supervision of children.

Last day on Nov. 15
Governor spokeswoman Kathy Ellis also said McGreevey’s speech will highlight after-school and community college programs undertaken by his administration, as well as “a number of environmental accomplishments — tougher air and water regulations and the creation of a number of state parks.”

McGreevey’s last day as governor is expected to be Nov. 15. Senate President Richard J. Codey, a fellow Democrat, is to take over as acting governor and serve the remaining 14 months of McGreevey’s term.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a longtime McGreevey confidante, said the governor is focusing on the next phase of his life, which will include public service, “which he’ll announce shortly.”

Lesniak said the mixed views of McGreevey “will change as time goes on as his accomplishments become more recognized.”

Republicans, who called for McGreevey to immediately step down upon his August disclosure, were less kind.

“It has been a sorry era for New Jersey, both in terms of ethics and abuses of incumbency,” said state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, chairman of the state Republican Party.