Bryant: State AG launches inquiry into Bryant and Camden redevelopment aid

State AG launches inquiry into Bryant and Camden redevelopment aid
September 30, 2006  Star-Ledger Staff

The [New Jersey State] Attorney General's Office has opened its own investigation into Sen. Wayne Bryant, the embattled Camden County lawmaker accused by a federal monitor of ordering the state's medical university to give him a no-show job.

State prosecutors sent a subpoena to the city of Camden last Monday seeking the financial records of a neighborhood redevelopment plan for which Bryant helped secure millions of dollars in state funding in 2003.

The subpoena, obtained by The Star-Ledger, also seeks records on how the city spent millions of dollars in special municipal aid it got from the state Department of Community Affairs.

Randy Primas, head of the Camden Redevelopment Agency and the state-appointed chief operating officer of Camden, confirmed subpoenas had been served on the city and the redevelopment agency.

He said employees were working to determine just what records the subpoenas require them to produce.

"I think we're trying to get a handle on that now," he said yesterday. "We certainly intend to comply with both."

The Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the subpoenas.

The subpoenas are the latest development in a growing review of Bryant, a Democratic state legislator for more than a generation who represents the 5th District, which includes parts of Camden and Gloucester counties.

Bryant was chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee until he stepped down on Monday, the same day the Camden subpoenas were issued.

Last week, a federal monitor overseeing the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey accused Bryant of orchestrating a $35,000-a-year job to "lobby himself" on behalf of the university's School of Osteopathy three years ago.

Bryant quit that post in February, and has denied the monitor's characterization of the position as a no-show job.

Bryant was a chief author of the legislation that created the Camden Redevelopment Agency and sent $175 million to the city in 2003. His private law firm has since collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from the agency, and the senator has held jobs with two of the public entities awarded funds from the $175 million state program.

Last year, Bryant steered a special $37 million appropriation to Camden through the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, a legislative panel he chaired as head of the Senate Budget Committee.

That appropriation included $1 million that helped Primas cover the legal costs of defending the redevelopment agency from lawsuits arising from the Cramer Hill Redevelopment Project.

Zeller & Bryant, the senator's law firm, has been paid about $56,000 in fees from those efforts, Primas said.

Primas said yesterday that Bryant had not personally handled any of that legal work.

"The $1 million was for the operation of the office -- for professional services," Primas said. "There were several lawsuits that had been filed, and the Attorney General's Office said I should hire outside counsel."

In June, federal investigators subpoenaed records on Bryant's legal billing from the Delaware River and Bay Authority, a bistate agency that paid Zeller & Bryant more than $85,000 in fees during 2003 and 2004.

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