UNION COUNTY, NJ — State Assemblyman Jerry Green has not participated in any legislative voting sessions or committee meetings in Trenton since being re-elected in November, public records show, and Democratic leadership has remained silent about his absence.
Green, who will turn 79 on April 16, has served in the state Assembly since 1992 and is currently the longest-serving assemblyman in New Jersey. He resigned from his post as chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee “to focus his energy on recovering from an illness,” a Jan. 24 press release from the county Democrats said.
Green’s name has appeared on several bills as a main sponsor since November. Kyle Holder, a legislative aide for the assemblyman, said Green still talks to his colleagues and is focused on the same policies that have always been important to him.
“He didn’t forget about them,” said Holder in an April 6 phone interview, referring to Green’s policies. “And he’s continuing to work on them. He just needs to do them in a different fashion because he has to take care of himself.”
Holder added the assemblyman hasn’t been working from Trenton. When asked when Green would return to Trenton to vote or attend a committee meeting, Holder said, “I’d love to have more information on that.”
“He’s a very private man,” Holder said. “He likes to keep his personal business personal.”
Green was re-elected in November to represent the 22nd Legislative District, which includes parts of Clark, Linden, Plainfield, Rahway, Scotch Plains and Winfield. He is the Assembly pro tempore, the third highest ranking member of the legislative body, in addition to heading the Housing and Community Development Committee and is a member of the Health and Senior Services Committee.
Documents obtained March 23 by LocalSource through an open public records request show there have been three legislative voting sessions in Trenton since Green was re-elected in November. Green did not vote in December, January and February.
Green was marked absent in every Health and Senior Services Committee meeting from November to March, records show.
There has only been one Housing and Community Development Committee meeting since November. On March 5, Green’s name was crossed off the attendance report for that meeting and state Assemblyman Daniel Benson’s name was written over it. Benson represents parts of Mercer and Middlesex counties for the 14th Legislative District.
An earlier open public records request filed by LocalSource on March 1 for Green’s attendance records was originally filed with the state Office of Legislative Services. On March 9, Holder, Green’s legislative aide, responded to the request by saying “we do not have any records in response to your request.”
Scott Barstow, a personnel officer in the General Assembly Clerk’s Office, said the request had to be re-filed with the Assembly Democratic Office. He was unsure why the Office of Legislative Services didn’t forward the request to the correct officials.
State statute 19:3-25 defines in vague terms what constitutes a vacancy in the state legislature.
It states that if a member of the state Assembly is absent “unremittingly for 10 days” from “any session” the seat will “be deemed vacant” unless “expressly excused by such house from attendance.”
Legislative Counsel Jason Krajewski in February told LocalSource through a secretary that he could not provide legal advice to the public when asked to clarify the statute, which he said is “silent” on what constitutes an unexcused absence.
The Democratic leadership, meanwhile, also has been silent on Green’s absence. It was not immediately clear if Green has been excused by anyone in his party’s leadership or if a replacement for the representative is planned.
Messages left for state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, both Democrats, were not returned. Messages left for the Assembly Majority Press Office were also not returned.
Benson, the state Assemblyman who replaced Green in the Housing and Community Development Committee, did not respond to a request for comment from LocalSource. State Assemblyman James Kennedy, who serves with Green in the 22nd District, likewise, did not respond to a request for comment.
State Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick also did not respond to phone calls and an email seeking comment. Bramnick represents District 21, which includes parts of Cranford, Kenilworth, Mountainside, New Providence, Roselle Park and Westfield.
Deputy State Assembly Republican Whip Nancy Munoz, who also represents District 21, said she didn’t know what Green was recovering from, but said “he’s been extraordinarily kind to me throughout the years.”
Munoz, a former nurse, said the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, will keep Green’s prognosis private, but added that his constituents should not be concerned with their representation because “there’s two Assembly members in each district.”
“We do allow for people who have an illness to be out sick,” Munoz said in a phone interview.
“I’m sure if he had a doctor’s note, he could get a note. I have empathy from him.”
She later added: “He’s not in Florida playing golf. He’s recovering, and again, I don’t know what it is.”
Green, in the Jan. 24 press release from Union County Democratic Committee Director Nick Fixmer, resigned as chair and tossed his support to state Sen. Nicholas Scutari to head the county party.
It’s not clear whether the party has any plans with regard to replacing Green. Fixmer and Scutari did not respond to requests for comment.