History, Mission and Operations
The State Commission of Investigation (SCI) was created in 1968 amid an intensifying problem involving organized crime and political corruption. Extensive inquiry by a special Joint Legislative Committee to Study Crime and the System of Criminal Justice in New Jersey confirmed a crisis in those areas and issued sweeping recommendations to improve key areas of the state's criminal justice apparatus.
The most significant recommendations resulted in the creation of a state-level Division of Criminal Justice under the control of the Attorney General, and the establishment of an independent Commission of Investigation. The Division was empowered to conduct and supervise criminal investigations and prosecutions. The Commission, meanwhile, was designed to conduct fact-finding investigations, bring the facts to the public's attention, refer findings to appropriate law enforcement agencies for possible prosecution and make recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature for improvements in laws and in the operations of government.
As the Joint Committee stated in the final report of its comprehensive study, this would not be "a 'crime commission' alone. There are many occasions when hard-hitting, expert fact-finding is needed without involving the criminal process or implying criminal violations are under investigation. . . .This Commission will provide a significant, independent 'watchdog' for the entire system. . . ."
The Commission's initial enabling legislation established a temporary term beginning January 1, 1969 , and ending December 31, 1974 . The Legislature extended the term for five-year periods on four subsequent occasions: in 1973 for a term expiring December 31, 1979 ; in 1979 for a term expiring December 31, 1984 ; in 1984 for a term expiring December 31, 1989 ; and in 1989 for a term expiring December 31, 1994 .
The Commission's status as a temporary agency subject to periodic review came to an end effective January 7, 2002 . On that date, legislation was signed establishing the Commission as a permanent entity of New Jersey government.
Our mission, through fact-finding investigations, public reports and hearings, is to maintain a constant vigil against the intrusion of organized crime into society; to identify and expose corruption and governmental laxity; to shed light on waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayers' dollars; and to recommend new laws and other remedies to protect the integrity of the governmental process on behalf of the citizens of New Jersey.
In order to achieve this vital mission effectively, fairly and impartially, we pursue our work independently, within a framework untainted by politics, self-interest or favoritism.
We value the assistance and cooperation of federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies.
We take great pride in our service and recognize as crucial our solemn responsibility to continually earn and maintain the respect of the citizens of this state.
To eliminate even the appearance of political influence in the Commission's operations, no more than two of the four Commission members may be of the same political affiliation, and they derive from three separate appointing authorities. Two Commissioners are appointed by the Governor and one each by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the General Assembly. Thus, the Commission by law is bipartisan and, by concern and action, is nonpartisan. Further, members and staff of the Commission are subject to a strict code of ethics, including a ban on participation in all non-federal political activity in New Jersey . These central constructs make the Commission unique among agencies of government, endowing it with the integrity and the independence necessary to perform its job in a credible fashion, especially where politically-charged or otherwise sensitive investigations are concerned.
The Commission, through a professional staff of attorneys, special investigative agents, accountants, support and administrative personnel, specifically is vested by law with the duty and power to conduct investigations in connection with:
- The faithful execution and effective enforcement of laws of the state, with particular reference but not limited to organized crime and racketeering;
- The conduct of public officers and public employees, and of officers and employees of public corporations and authorities;
- Any matter concerning the public peace, public safety and public justice
The Commission may conduct public and private hearings, compel testimony and the production of other evidence by subpoena and has authority to grant limited immunity from prosecution to witnesses. Since the Commission does not have prosecutorial functions, it is required to refer information suggesting possible criminal misconduct immediately to the Attorney General.
One of the Commission's primary statutory responsibilities is to bring the results of its fact-finding investigations to the public's attention with the goal of promoting remedies and reforms. The format for public action by the Commission is based on the complexity of the subject and the clarity, accuracy and thoroughness with which the facts can be presented. The Commission has proceeded by way of public hearings, the issuance of public reports, or both.