The Press of Atlantic City ran an article yesterday about the new Cumberland County Prosecutor, Jennifer Webb-McRae. From all reports, Jennifer appears to be an excellent candidate for the job. However, the interesting part of the article was the part where they talked to Lou Magazzu about the Bigley action, and Lou flat-out lied to the press.
The deal-killer for Casella’s reappointment came five years before he was replaced, when in January 2005 he sued county freeholders in a lawsuit known as a Bigley action. At the time, Cumberland County spent just 2.7 percent of the county budget on the Prosecutor’s Office, when the state average was 4.7 percent, according to the New Jersey Association of County Prosecutors. Cumberland had one of the state’s highest crime rates (and still does), the state’s largest caseload for its judges and took longer than any other county to prosecute its cases, state records showed.
Casella won a settlement in a case overseen by Judge George Stanger, for whom Webb-McRae clerked. Freeholders settled because, they said, they were sure they would lose. Casella doubled his staff and budget and won promises of a new building.
The case won Casella new critics, such as Magazzu, who felt the extra spending wasn’t something the county could afford. The freeholder board almost unanimously supported replacing Casella, but continued working with him for more than year.
“Ron and I have spent the last year and a half working on the new building and budget issues,” Magazzu said. “Ron was extremely cooperative, even knowing about my opposition. That says a lot about his character. He was terrific to work with in this last year and a half. I told Ron – and I will say publicly – that I regret we didn’t get the chance to negotiate the budget directly (without proxies) before he filed the Bigley action.”
The emphasis is mine. The truth is, the back room discussions toward Ron were ugly, argumentative, loud, nasty, and it even came down to finger-pointing and name-calling.
It was definitely not an atmosphere for an open negotiation. Ron wanted to hire two people. That is all he wanted, two more employees. Cumberland County had the highest crime rate in the state, and a tremendous court backlog. Public safety was the main factor, and Lou and Doug thumbed their noses at the public, throwing concern for public safety out the window. Why? Doug Rainear wanted a “zero” budget because he was running for office. How nice – people can get murdered, and Doug Rainear could not care less, because all he wanted was tobe reelected!
Casella said several times that he could not do his job without two new hires, and he would file a Bigley if he had to. Neither Lou nor Rainear made an offer to negotiate and avoid the Bigley. They dug in their heels, and Ron was forced to file. This is the real story, as has been told by Magazzu watch. It comes from the testimonies of people that were actually in the meetings. Lou Magazzu and Doug Rainear had EVERY OPPORTUNITY to avoid the Bigley, all they had to do is approve two new hires for the prosecutor’s office. But pig-headed Lou, and selfish Rainear had to force the issue, and they are the sole reason that the county faces extraordinary expenses with the prosecutor’s office. The courts decided, correctly, that the county was responsible to run an efficient and effective prosecutor’s office for the sake of public safety.