Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sarlo Testifies on 'Tense' Exchange with Ferriero

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sarlo Testifies on 'Tense' Exchange with Ferriero

Article excerpt

The federal racketeering trial of former Bergen County Democratic leader Joseph A. Ferriero took a dramatic turn Friday when state Sen. Paul Sarlo, one of the most powerful Democratic lawmakers in North Jersey, testified that Ferriero "pushed hard" to persuade Wood- Ridge officials to hire a software company without disclosing that he stood to profit from the deal.

Sarlo, who is also the mayor of Wood-Ridge, said the town's decision in 2007 not to hire the company, called C3, led to a confrontation during a political golf outing the next year.

"I don't think they were happy with my response -- it got tense," Sarlo said of Ferriero and John Carrino, the owner of C3, a Nutley- based firm that helped towns with municipal websites and reverse 911 systems.

Once voices were raised, Sarlo said, his chief of staff, Chris Eilert, "intervened to make sure it didn't go any further" by guiding Sarlo away from the other two men.

Sarlo's testimony came in U.S. District Court in Newark, where Ferriero, 57, of Hackensack, is on trial on charges of using his position as party chairman in a series of extortion, bribery and kickback schemes. He has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing and has accused the prosecutors of unfairly targeting him.

In the case of C3, the indictment alleges that Ferriero had an agreement with the software developer to give him 25 to 33 percent of the gross revenues received from municipalities that contracted with the company, but that he failed to reveal he stood to gain financially from the arrangement. The payments were made to a Ferriero-owned company called SJC Consulting, the indictment says.

Signed a contract

Two Cliffside Park officials also testified Friday that they were unaware that Ferriero had a financial stake in any municipal work done by C3. But while Wood-Ridge decided against doing business with the firm, Cliffside Park signed a contract in May 2008 that paid C3 $2,000 a month for its services.

Borough Attorney Chris Diktas said Ferriero never disclosed his financial relationship with C3 when he called to recommend the firm.

And Frank Bernardo, the borough's chief financial officer, said that after he contacted C3 to find out who owned it, Carrino responded by sending corporate certificates that showed he was the only individual listed as manager and registered agent. …

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