A little more than a year ago, former Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife Anna were sentenced to 51 months each in prison for corruption and tax fraud convictions, charges that were brought against them by then-U.S. Attorney and now Governor-Elect Christopher Christie.
Both Delle Donnas were accused of accepting gifts from Guttenberg bar owner Luisa Medrano, who claimed that the pair accepted gifts in exchange for favors. These alleged gifts included a dog, money for gambling in Atlantic City, and cosmetic surgery for Anna.
“We’ll assume the new governor is going to be good to his word.” – Gerald Drasheff
Medrano also ended up testifying in that case, and her testimony led to eight convictions for her co-defendants, according to published reports.
In the end, Medrano herself was sentenced to six months house arrest, three years probation, and paying $3,900 restitution. She had already paid $250,000 in back taxes. She was also allowed to return to work.
At that time, members of the Delle Donna family felt it unfair that Medrano got a relatively light sentence for her testimony. New Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff felt that the U.S. Attorney’s decision could pose a campaign issue for Christie when Christie ran for governor.
However, on Nov. 3, Christie won the governor’s seat. He takes over in January.
Drasheff, who was unopposed in his own reelection bid for mayor on Tuesday, said Wednesday that while he would have been happier if incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine had won the governor’s race, he was happy with voter turnout.
Two-thirds of the Guttenberg voters who had come out for the presidential election came to the polls last week.
“The county certainly did its part for the governor,” said Drasheff.
He continued, “It just wasn’t enough. I think people are frustrated…I don’t know if anyone can correct the things that people are voting against. It was a protest vote, and we’ll now deal with it. We’ll assume the new governor is going to be good to his word and try to help everyone in the state.”
With the Republicans in charge of the State House, it remains to be seen how they will help heavily Democratic Hudson County.
Drasheff said that Christie’s campaign ran on “tightening the belt and reducing the size of government in the state” and if more local towns receive less or no assistance, things may get tough in Guttenberg.
Guttenberg has been trying to find funding for several projects, including the creation of a community recreation center/Anna L. Klein School expansion project. The town also recently submitted its 2010 fiscal year budget extraordinary aid package application.
Drasheff said that while the department heads may change, he is confident that he will still be dealing with the same individuals at the Department of Community Affairs as always, and that his town will get a fair chance at the pot of money.
“If you are going to recognize local governments that are struggling and trying to run on a fiscally sound basis … I think we have an excellent shot,” said Drasheff.
At the same point, Drasheff said that Guttenberg rarely receives some of the larger aid packages that surrounding communities receive.
Even with Guttenberg’s past, Drasheff said that he, along with the rest of the state, is ready to move on and deal with the problems at hand.
Drasheff said that he did not believe that Christie’s “corruption buster” reputation led to his victory, but that New Jersey residents were ready to take a chance with someone new.
North Bergen Mayor and State Sen. Nicholas Sacco remembered that when he was running for state Senate, Gov. Christie Todd Whitman (a Republican) won the election. Both the Senate and Assembly were under Republican rule for eight years.
“You just have to accept when people decide they want a change, and that’s it,” said Sacco. “I’ve been through this [during] a number of administrations.”
With the Democrats having the majority in both houses this time around, Sacco said that the governor and legislation will have to work toward what is best for the people of New Jersey.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com. Local results
On Nov. 3, Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff won reelection to his post. He and his Town Council allies ran unopposed. Drasheff received every vote except one write-in on Tuesday.
Councilmen Efrain Velez and John Habermann won four-year terms.
Alfonso Caso won the remaining year of Frank Criscione’s unexpired term, and Monica Fundora, a newcomer, won a four-year term to take the seat of Councilwoman Adela Martinez, who is stepping down at the end of her term on Dec. 31.
Drasheff, Fundora, Habermann, Velez, and Caso received 1,139, 1,085, 1,091, 1,080 and 1,067 votes respectively.
Newcomer will take council seat
Fundora is a Colombia native who immigrated to the United States 18 years ago. She first lived in North Bergen before meeting her husband Leo and moving to Guttenberg.
For 13 years she has worked in customer service at the Island Container Corporation.
She first got involved with Anna L. Klein School, where her daughter Nicole is in the eighth grade.
She said that while she is a political newcomer, she is hopeful that she will be able to help make needed changes in town.
“Right now I’m looking at everything from the outside,” said Fundora. “The main reason I want to be a part of this team is to do a lot of good things for Guttenberg, [like building] the community center.” – T.T.