"We have been in contact with the city's business administrator and are making every effort to ensure Passaic residents will continue to receive the city services that they have come to expect," Council spokesman Keith Furlong said.
With the plea, Blanco, a Democrat, is likely the second consecutive elected mayor of Passaic — and third in the last four — to land in federal prison. Mayor Sammy Rivera resigned and was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2008 for accepting bribes. He was released from prison in 2010.
Current Council President Gary Schaer, who is also a state assemblyman, took over as acting mayor when Rivera resigned. Schaer did not run for reelection, paving the way for Blanco's run.
Blanco swept into office as an anti-corruption crusader in 2008, winning a special election in the wake of the Rivera scandal. He was reelected in 2009.
But the corruption charges against Blanco mirror those of previous crooked Passaic mayors.
Blanco was accused of funneling $216,000 in HUD money to the two developers of the low-income housing developments on Paulson Avenue between 2010 and 2012.
The now-former mayor solicited and received cash payments from the developers in return for the HUD money, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
After the Passaic City Council approved the release of the $216,000 to the developers, they were approached by an "intermediary" of the mayor and informed they would have to pay Blanco a sizable amount if their project was to go forward, according to Fishman.
The developers agreed to pay Blanco from money they received from the Upper Monroe Street Improvement Project, according to court documents.
The project is a state nonprofit corporation created to promote redevelopment activity in the Upper Monroe Street area, an historically impoverished area of the city.
On Sept. 7, 2011, Blanco met with the developers and told them they would have no problem with their project if they paid him, according to court documents.
The next day, Blanco demanded several checks be written in the names of other people. Blanco demanded additional money in March 2012, when he found out the developers had received a $30,000 check from the Upper Monroe Street Improvement Project.
All of the checks were cashed and the proceeds given to Blanco, according to Fishman.
"He accepts responsibility, regrets his actions and has tendered his resignation effective today," said Joseph Haydon, Blanco's attorney. "This is a guilty plea. We'll say more at sentencing."
The members of the Passaic City Council on Thursday issued a statement saying the mayor had been a friend but that his actions constitute a violation of public trust.
"His guilty plea today will hopefully allow us all to move forward in the best interests of all of Passaic's residents," council members said in the statement.
Blanco is now the third mayor of the last four elected to the job to end up a felon. In addition to Rivera, former Mayor Joseph Lipari was sentenced in 1993 to 42 months in prison for extortion and tax evasion in a scheme to take kickbacks in exchange for city towing contracts.
Blanco, podiatrist and father of four, had been mayor since 2008 and earned $72,000 yearly. He resigned Thursday and faces up to a decade in prison.
The City Council planned an emergency meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday to appoint an acting mayor.
The only elected Passaic mayor since 1983 to not face corruption charges was Margie Semler, who served as mayor in the eight years between Lipari and Rivera.
Speaking to reporters in the courtroom in Newark after the guilty plea to a single bribery charge was entered, Hayden said Blanco regrets his actions and was taking responsibility by admitting to the bribe.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Blanco faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss caused by Blanco's actions.
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 23.
In : #EssexCounty
Tags: thomas moriarty anthony g. attrino passaic mayor alex blanco admits taking bribe faces prison
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