Codey stops use of governor's mansion for political functions

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:53

    Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey has clamped down on using the governor's mansion for political and private functions, a widespread practice during his predecessor's abbreviated tenure. Drumthwacket, the 19th-century Greek Revival mansion that serves as the governor's official mansion, was used by friends and allies of former Gov. James E. McGreevey to host political fund-raisers, First Communions, birthdays and at least a dozen weddings, The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark reported. The newspaper's report was based on a review of a copy of a 2003 Drumthwacket calendar that was obtained from an employee at the mansion. ``You are not going to see Drumthwacket being used for any sort of political fund-raising,'' said Pete Cammarano, Codey's chief of staff. The acting governor believes political or private use of the mansion subverts its dignity, Cammarano said. McGreevey and his wife lived in the mansion's second-floor quarters from early spring 2002 to last month, when McGreevey resigned 14 months early because of a gay sex scandal. During McGreevey's tenure, those who made use of Drumthwacket included McGreevey's two chiefs of staff, two political consultants, a Teamsters union official, a state trooper on McGreevey's security detail, and a television news reporter, whom McGreevey invited to hold his wedding at the mansion. Those who used the mansion were obligated to pay for their own catering, valets and entertainment but were not required to pay rental fees or insurance costs for their events. The Democratic state committee also made frequent use of the mansion, and McGreevey hosted two annual holiday parties for the state party's finance committee. One such event, The Star-Ledger reported, figured into a federal indictment against David D'Amiano, a Middlesex County campaign donor and McGreevey fund-raiser. At the December 2002 party, D'Amiano put McGreevey on a cell phone call with a Piscataway farmer seeking state help over a land dispute. The conversation was cited as evidence in the indictment. In September, D'Amiano pleaded guilty to soliciting and accepting $40,000 in cash and political contributions in return for assisting in the farmland preservation deal. D'Amiano is scheduled to be sentenced later this month. McGreevey denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged. He did not respond to the Star-Ledger's requests for comment. New rules for Drumthwacket that Codey is putting into place include prohibitions against fund-raising activities and private functions, other than those involving his family. During his time as acting governor, Codey will continue to live at his West Orange home. Official state events, such as receptions for dignitaries, will continue to be held at Drumthwacket. Several events in the coming months that were scheduled under McGreevey will not be canceled because they were arranged ``in good faith,'' Cammarano said. But Saturday flag-raisings that McGreevey staged for various ethnic groups are on their way out. ``Is that good government? I just don't understand, his mindset was to constantly try to make friends with people and reach out, and that was fine for him and his style, that made him happy, but it's not me,'' Codey said.