Anthony Chiappone officially ended his political career when he submitted his letter of resignation to state Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan on July 14, effective on July 16. The resignation, which came after a state attorney general investigation, was the last saga in a 12-year career that marked Chiappone as a political maverick.
In a telephone interview after he submitted his letter, Chiappone said he decided to resign earlier than required in order to show his respect for the Assembly leadership. He said the leadership had treated him well over the last year despite his legal troubles, even restoring his Assembly pay last January.
Chiappone, 52, and his wife were indicted last October on 14 charges in connection with misuse of state funds. Despite claiming innocence, Chiappone accepted a plea deal in June that would have 13 of the 14 charges dismissed against him, and all charges dropped against his wife.
“I’m going to immerse myself in my business and stay out of politics.” – Anthony Chiappone
In the plea agreement, Chiappone, who represented the 31st Legislative District, admitted guilt for filing false campaign finance reports with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, a third-degree crime that forces him out of office. He had been investigated for depositing a paycheck for a legislative aide into his campaign account.
Under the terms of the agreement, Chiappone had until Sept. 10 to resign. Chiappone said he resigned early after a call from Cryan to discuss the matter.
“I did not want to put the majority leader and the assembly speaker in the position of having to publically call for my resignation,” Chiappone said. “They have been more than fair to me and I wanted to show them some respect by resigning now.”
The move, he said, best serves the legislative district – which includes all of Bayonne and some of Jersey City – since Chiappone could not vote on any legislation or attend any legislative sessions after his plea.
“I’m not getting paid, I’m not attending any sessions, so it makes sense for me to resign,” he said. “I want to leave on good terms.”
One condition of his resignation was that his current aide would continue to get paid until the end of July. “This will allow her to seek other employment,” he said. “Until this week, she thought she would have until Sept. 10.”
Chiappone will also get until the end of July to clear out his Assembly office on Broadway in Bayonne.
Politics was tough
The resignation, Chiappone said, ends his political career, something that he said is a mixed blessing.
“I some ways, I’m relieved,” he said. “My political career has been tough, and I can only remember one year when I felt completely comfortable. That was when Terrence Malloy served as (interim) mayor and as a councilman. I felt like we were working as a team.”
Chiappone started his political career as a community activist prior to winning the 1st Ward council seat in 1998. In 2002, he ran at-large and won, running for re-election successfully in 2006. He concurrently served in the state. In 2003, Chiappone – running on a ticket with then-Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham – narrowly defeated Assemblyman and Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria, putting Doria out of legislative office for the first time in 24 years.
After Cunningham’s untimely death in 2004, Chiappone ran unsuccessfully against Doria to fill Cunningham’s state Senate seat. In June 2005, Chiappone lost the Democratic primary to retain his Assembly seat. In 2007, running on a ticket led by Cunningham’s widow, Sandra, Chiappone returned to the state Assembly.
But he went on to face a tough choice in 2009, when the Hudson County Democratic Organization threatened to withhold its support for his Assembly re-election unless he agreed to step down as a Bayonne city councilman – which he did.
The conviction will prohibit Chiappone from seeking public office in the future, he said.
Although his political career has been a battle with political critics, Chiappone said he can look back on some significant accomplishments, such as helping to keep Bayonne Medical Center open and bringing in $40 million to city coffers by having the city renegotiate a deal for a car import operation. But he said the most satisfying part of his job as a councilman and assemblyman has been constituent services.
“I’ve been accessible to the people as councilman, an assemblyman, and a friend,” he said.
Chiappone enters private life as a businessperson, having started an antique/thrift shop called The Thriftique Warehouse on Carbon Street near Route 440 in Jersey City.
“I’m going to immerse myself in my business and stay out of politics,” he said. “I enjoyed the time I had, but now I’m moving on to help people in a different way through estate sales, donations, and other ways.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.