Anthony Chiappone, who stepped down as city councilman last week to continue his career as a state assemblyman, said he didn’t start out his political career as a rebel. But six months after he took office in 1998, then Mayor Joseph Doria supported the construction of a trash transfer station in Bayonne – which would have seen a large portion of New York City trash traveling in and out of Bayonne.
“It was an issue I had to take a stand on,” he said.
Chiappone said his opposition to Doria on this issue helped define his political career on the council, and began his role as a “watch dog” for the community.
After 11 years, Chiappone said he wants to move on, with the hopes of redefining his political career in a more positive light.
His resignation as councilman came as a surprise to many people – even some of his closest associates on the City Council. Chiappone said the proposal had been presented to him over a month ago, as a possible way to get around a political impasse that involved the whole 31st assembly district.
Bayonne Mark Smith offered to withdraw a possible assembly challenge against Chiappone if Chiappone stepped down from the council seat. Chiappone, looking at trends that could include a move by a new governor next year to do away with dual office holding, decided he would make the decision now.
Behind the scenes, former Bayonne Freeholder Neil Carroll worked with Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, State Senator Sandra Cunningham and Mayor Smith to work out the compromise.
“The fact is, I aspire for the high position,” Chiappone said. “After 11 years on the council, I thought it was time that I do something else, something that would be more positive and productive.”
While he’s proud of the role he played on the City Council, Chiappone said he believes he can make a greater impact on the state assembly, and at the same time, remain a viable public servant on a local level.
“Mayor Smith told me that if there is ever an issue, his door would be open to me, and I believe that,” Chiappone said.
Yet as a watch dog, Chiappone believes his best achievements came over the last year with his efforts to help save Bayonne Medical Center, as well as to reverse the decision of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority to sell a portion of the former Military Ocean Terminal to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The choice of leaving office also involved his aspirations to more aggressively push for legislation. He said day-to-day work on the City Council, worries over the budget, and other matters so consumed him that he could not as aggressively seek goals he set for himself in the state assembly.
Now, he says, he can focus on those goals.
Although political opponents in the past, Smith and Chiappone may finally have found common ground, which will allow them to work more closely toward the betterment of Bayonne in the future, Chiappone said.
“There is nothing saying that I can’t get back in the municipal ring.” – Anthony Chiappone
Even saddled with the duel role as councilman and state assemblyman, Chiappone managed to support significant legislation, such as in helping Bayonne establish a Revenue Allocation District and a pension deferral plan that will save $15 million in this year in the Jersey City municipal budget and $4.5 million in the Bayonne budget.
He said he has a number of ideas that he intends to address, including bills for protecting teens that are still learning to drive.
Chiappone said he hopes that this peace gesture works and that he can become a positive force in the community, working with rather than in opposition to the mayor.
But he also left himself open for a return should these hopes prove wrong.
“There is nothing saying that I can’t get back in the municipal ring,” he said. “While I like the assembly and I believe I can do positive work there, I won’t hesitate to run again for municipal office if I believe that is the right thing to do.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State investigating Chiappone
In a series of raids made throughout the city on Tuesday, the State Department of Criminal Justice has issued subpoenas to several former aides of Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone in what appears to be an outgrowth of claims made in 2005 by a former aide, Michael Albanese.
Assemblyman Chiappone confirmed that former members from his staff during his 2004-2005 Assembly term have been interviewed by state investigators.
“I believe this stems out of the 2005 investigation,” he said.
Records were also taken from Chiappone’s Broadway Assembly office, according to his attorney Karen DeSota.
In October, 2004 Albanese claimed he had not received a check due to him in his role as an official aide to the state Assemblyman. Checks are sent from the state to the state Assemblyman for distribution.
Albanese filed a report with the Bayonne Police in April 2005. The police investigation said the check had allegedly been deposited in an account owned by the Chiappone family, according to the police.
Chiappone was never charged with the crime at the time said the matter was simply a mix-up. But according to sources who are involved with the investigation, the state investigators are looking into other checks reported missing.
Chiappone said the investigation is likely the result of a local television program that started questioning the details behind the checks.
“Nobody likes being investigated,” he said. “I have contacted the detectives to learn what is going on.”
At least two former aides have already been interviewed and subpoenaed to appear at a hearing in Trenton at 10 a.m. on April 29. Three more former aides are expected to receive similar subpoenas over the next 24 hours.