James W. Treffinger

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James William Treffinger (born May 20, 1950) is an American lawyer and Republican Party politician who served as County Executive of Essex County, New Jersey from 1995 to 2003. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstruction of justice and mail fraud in 2003.

Early life and legal career[edit]

Treffinger was born James Padalino in Newark, New Jersey. When he was 4 years old, he was adopted by Fred Treffinger, who had married his mother. He grew up in Maplewood and attended Saint Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark. Treffinger later recalled, "We didn't know many Republicans... My family idolized F.D.R. and Truman and John Kennedy. It was a Catholic family, so Kennedy was a double hero."[1]

He graduated magna cum laude from Seton Hall University in 1972 with a degree in history. He was selected as a Fulbright scholar, the first in Seton Hall's history, and studied history, jurisprudence and economics in Germany at the University of Bonn and the University of Marburg in 1973.[1][2]

Treffinger earned a J.D. degree from Rutgers School of Law—Newark in 1976. He was admitted to the bar in New York and New Jersey, concentrating in his legal career on corporate and insurance law. He worked for the Home Insurance Company in New York City from 1982 to 1987, serving as senior vice president for government affairs and associate general counsel. He was special insurance counsel at Willkie Farr & Gallagher from 1987 to 1989. He joined Hughes Hubbard & Reed in 1990, serving as partner until 1995.[2]

Political career[edit]

Treffinger was elected to the Verona Township Council in 1980, serving until 1983, when he was elected Mayor of Verona, New Jersey. He served again on the Township Council from 1987 to 1989 and from 1991 to 1993, and then served another term as mayor from 1993 to 1995. From 1992 to 1995, he served on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.[3]

In 1994, Treffinger defeated a divided Democratic party to become the first Republican County Executive of Essex County in 35 years. His predecessor, Thomas J. D'Alessio, left the county with a $161 million deficit, and was later convicted for money laundering, fraud and extortion. Treffinger was credited with nearly closing the county's budget gap in one year after taking office.[1] Treffinger won re-election in 1998, defeating former Newark mayor Kenneth A. Gibson by a margin of 50 percent to 47 percent.[4]

Treffinger ran for the United States Senate in 2000. He finished third in the Republican primary with 18 percent of the vote, behind U.S. Rep. Bob Franks (36 percent) and State Senator William Gormley (34 percent).[5]

In November 2001, he announced he would again run for U.S. Senate, in the 2002 race for the seat of incumbent Robert Torricelli.[6] He withdrew from the race in April 2002, after it became known that he was a target of a federal investigation.[7]

Indictment and conviction[edit]

On April 18, 2002, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service raided Treffinger's county office, carting away boxes of files, computers, and other materials.[8] On October 28, Treffinger was arrested at his house in Verona. U.S. Attorney Chris Christie announced that Treffinger had been charged in a 20-count indictment with extortion, fraud, obstructing a federal investigation and conspiracy. He was released on $100,000 bail.[9][10]

On May 31, 2003, shortly before his trial was scheduled to begin, Treffinger pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice and one count of mail fraud, admitting that he had solicited an illegal $15,000 campaign contribution in exchange for a county contract, and that he had placed two people on the Essex County payroll who instead worked on his 2000 Senate campaign. The remaining counts were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.[11][12] On October 17, he was sentenced to 13 months in prison. Treffinger had sought a lighter sentence, saying he was "a new man, a better man" after converting from Catholicism to Baptism and joining an evangelical Baptist congregation in Bloomfield after his arrest.[13][14]

In December 2004, Treffinger was released from federal prison into the custody of a Newark halfway house.[15] In April 2006, he agreed to pay $171,000 to settle an investigation by the Federal Election Commission over improper use of campaign funds to pay his legal fees.[16] In November 2007, it was reported that Treffinger had enrolled at the Princeton Theological Seminary and was planning to start a ministry for prison inmates.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Newman, Maria (2000-05-31). "A Dark Horse in a Field of Republican Obscurity". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b "Treffinger, James W.". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  3. ^ Newman, Andy (1995-09-10). "County Government Gets a Personal Trainer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  4. ^ Smothers, Ronald (1998-11-04). "Top Official Wins Re-election, Defeating Former Newark Mayor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  5. ^ Halbfinger, David M. (2000-06-07). "Corzine Trounces Florio in Primary, Richest Senate Bid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  6. ^ "Treffinger Enters 2002 Race For Torricelli's Senate Seat". The New York Times. 2001-11-21. 
  7. ^ Peterson, Iver (2002-04-23). "After U.S. Raid, Treffinger Quits Senate Race In New Jersey". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  8. ^ Smothers, Ronald (2002-04-19). "Candidate For Senate Is Hit by Raid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  9. ^ "Essex County Executive Treffinger Indicted, Arrested for Fraud, Extortion and Obstruction". United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. 2002-10-28. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  10. ^ Mansnerus, Laura (2002-10-29). "U.S. Charges Essex Leader With Extortion". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  11. ^ "Former Essex County Executive James Treffinger Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice, Mail Fraud". United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. 2003-05-30. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  12. ^ Smothers, Ronald (2003-05-31). "Treffinger Pleads Guilty To Corruption". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  13. ^ "Feds seek stiff time in jail for Treffinger". The Star-Ledger. 2003-10-09. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  14. ^ Smothers, Ronald (2003-10-18). "Former Essex County Official Sentenced in Corruption Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  15. ^ "Treffinger released to halfway house". The Star-Ledger. 2004-12-04. 
  16. ^ "Former Executive Settles Election Inquiry". The New York Times. 2006-04-26. 
  17. ^ "Treffinger joins seminary, plans to minister to inmates". The Star-Ledger. 2007-11-08. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas J. D'Alessio
County Executive
Essex County, New Jersey

1995 – 2003
Succeeded by
Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.