A feud threatens to shake up Jersey City’s prisoner re-entry program. On the outs could be former Gov. Jim McGreevey who has lead the Jersey City Employment Training Center Martin’s Place that helps ex-convicts transition to life on the outside. Its board of directors has already notified McGreevy they’ll take action tonight that may “adversely impact” his job. Correspondent Briana Vannozzi spoke with him.
The feud has been slowly simmering for months, if not years, and it came to a boil after former McGreevey’s attorney, Michael Critchley, last week sent a letter to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.
In it, Critchley alleges McGreevey is the victim of political retaliation for firing one of Fulop’s political allies from the Jersey City prisoner re-entry program he heads. This is the same program Fulop tapped McGreevey to lead in 2013. The letter threatens to sue Fulop if McGreevey is terminated, saying in part, “Your contemplated actions, if carried out, would be in contravention of … New Jersey’s ‘Whistleblower Act.’”
McGreevey says he’s claiming whistleblower protections over his firing of Eugene McKnight, a longtime Jersey City Democratic political operative. McKnight admitted to taking cash payments from re-entry clients — anywhere from $40 to $80 a person — after he helped them get jobs. The money was used as dues for a social club he was starting and to “ensure job protection.”
Fulop doesn’t actually control the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, but he’s been inserting more influence by appointing close allies to the board of directors — five out of the nine to be exact.
The Fulop administration, of course, refutes all of this. Spokesperson Ashley Manz said in a statement McGreevey, “ … has provided nothing to substantiate that claim,” and that “the mayor and McGreevey haven’t spoken in years.” She goes on to say the allegations were brought up as a way to divert attention from the fact that McGreevey is accused of mismanaging funds at the center. “Anyone can see the timing of his allegation is very suspicious,” she says.
It’s a classic Hudson County political war, and it’s a far cry from just a few years ago when Fulop and McGreevey had an alliance to help propel Fulop’s statewide position while he was mulling a run for governor and reinvent McGreevey’s image. McGreevey tells NJTV News the claims are false. He says the center receives federal funding and therefore gets audited on a regular basis. He added that he’s raised over $8 million since his time as executive director.
Last weekend, the former governor sent an unusual email to supporters alerting them that, “Despite our clients’ successes, tomorrow night, Monday, I anticipate being terminated from Jersey City employment,” and invited them to attend the meeting.
It’s scheduled for Monday evening at the Jersey City Employment and Training Program headquarters. McGreevey was scheduled to sit down with NJTV News Monday ahead of the board meeting, but had to cancel due to a medical emergency with one of his Martin’s Place clients.