Who’s telling the truth? Where did the money go? Why do different forensic audits apparently claim different things? Who is the public to believe?
These are all questions which can easily be applied to the ongoing saga of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, Incorporated, the non-profit job training and prisoner re-entry program which fired its Executive Director, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, seven years ago. It’s the same agency which then placed former Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas into McGreevey’s former position on an acting basis, a position which Thomas subsequently resigned from six months later. Thomas had also been the Chairman of the JCETP Board.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop had directed the federally-funded, non-profit JCETP to hire McGreevey back in 2013 after he was elected Mayor. The two Democrats had a falling out in 2017 when Fulop decided not to run for Governor, and would instead seek re-election to City Hall.
In 2018, Fulop began appointing his allies to the JCETP Board of Directors and started withholding federal monies which the city previously distributed to the non-profit agency. Thomas, an ally of the Mayor, became Board Chairman in the summer of 2018, replacing an ally of the former Governor.
That’s when the Mayor began accusing McGreevey of misappropriating millions of dollars of agency funds, a charge that McGreevey has repeatedly denied. The ex-Governor even provided eight forensic audits, both state and independently produced twice a year for several years, proudly claiming each one “came back pristine,” with every single dollar apparently accounted for to the penny. The audits covered both the JCETP and the NJ Reentry Corporation, a non-profit led by McGreevey.
However, auditors hired by allies of the Mayor claimed millions of dollars went missing over the course of McGreevey’s tenure as JCETP Executive Director. Who is the public to believe?
So when do Sudhan Thomas’ troubles begin? Well, one could say it’s when a former JCETP employee, Nuria Sierra, wrote a letter to U. S. Attorney Craig Carpenito claiming she was terminated because she expressed concerns over the fiscal management of the agency under Thomas’ leadership.
Most recently, Thomas was named as one of five current or former public officials charged with taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes as part of a sweeping corruption scandal revealed by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. That undercover investigation goes back to early 2018. The complaint against Thomas says, in his role as President of the Jersey City Board of Education, he accepted $35,00 in cash bribes in the form of campaign contributions, from a cooperating witness, later identified as a tax attorney. Thomas, and the rest of the defendants, according to the Attorney General’s Office, would vote or use their influence to hire, or continue to hire, his law firm for lucrative, government legal work.
Thomas, who at the time, was reportedly preparing to run for City Council, maintains he is innocent of the bribery allegations.
A few weeks after the state charges were filed against him in December, 2019, the U. S. Attorney’s Office handed Thomas another bombshell…embezzlement charges, claiming he misappropriated $45,000 in funds from the JCETP during his time there.
Once again, Thomas maintains he is innocent. He is now urging Joyce Watterman, the newly appointed President of the Jersey City Municipal Council, and the entire governing body to investigate the JCETP’s financial books, as well as a confidential, forensic audit which he maintains proves he is not guilty. Thomas continues to claim the misappropriation of JCETP funds rests on the shoulders of Jim McGreevey.
Apparently the New Jersey Attorney General and the United States Attorney don’t agree.
So, the question remains…who is the public to believe?
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