October 22, 2000|
Jerry Free's political influence extended to nearly every level
Mayor Milton Milan and former United Gunite executive Jerry Free stop for a photograph during the mayor's inaugural ball in June 1997.
Jerry Free, former vice president of sales for United Gunite Construction Co., did not focus all his attention on mayors. On occasion, he showcased his access to the powerful to lower-level Camden officials.
Free gave two top-level members of Camden Mayor Milton Milan's administration each a $1,500 ticket to attend a luncheon fund-raiser at Mayfair Farms in West Orange, Essex County, to benefit Woodbridge Mayor Jim McGreevey's gubernatorial campaign, two officials who attended the event said. The officials spoke on the condition they would not be identified.
The keynote speaker at the luncheon was President Clinton.
Days before the Oct. 8, 1997, fund-raiser, campaign records show United Gunite made a $10,500 contribution to Campaign '97, a joint campaign fund
controlled by the New Jersey Democratic Committee and McGreevey's campaign.
A program from the event lists Free and W. Steven Carroll, United Gunite's president, among 46 co-chairmen of the luncheon. Among the other co-chairmen were state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, state Sen. John A. Lynch, D-Middlesex, former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio, Assembly Minority Leader Joseph V. Doria Jr., D- Hudson, Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin and New Jersey financier Orin S. Kramer, one of the Democratic Party's top contributors nationwide.
A month after the fund-raiser, Free met with numerous top municipal officials from around the state at the annual New Jersey League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City, a convention at which Free has been a staple since at least 1995.
One former and two current government officials who attended the convention said that on Nov. 18, 1997, Free took a group of municipal officials from Camden, Paterson and Elizabeth to dinner at the Trump Taj Mahal casino.
In May 1996, the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes aired a story on political lobbying abuses in New Jersey that showed Free offering a 60 Minutes cameraman a $100 bill tucked discreetly inside one of his United Gunite business cards as the cameraman attempted to film United Gunite's booth at the league's 1995 convention. Free tells the cameraman after he refuses to accept the money, "I was going to buy you lunch."
At the time, William Dressel Jr., executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, condemned the United Gunite executive's action.