KIYC: Belleville councilman remained on council after seemingly leaving NJ
A Belleville councilman has finally resigned from the city council after months of seemingly living in Florida and not in New Jersey.
Several Belleville residents reached out to Kane In Your Corner after noticing social media posts from Councilman Joe Longo, dating back to the spring, filled with pictures of him in Florida. Longo’s LinkedIn page also showed that he had taken a job in Florida.
Elected officials must live in the town they represent under New Jersey law.
But Longo insisted that despite taking a job hundreds of miles away, he still lived in Belleville. He refused to resign his seat on the town council. His fellow councilmembers declined to remove him from his position. Kane in Your Corner learned that they even passed a new ordinance that allowed council members to attend meetings by phone.
“It seems that the governing body not only doesn’t want to do anything about it, they may have sort of orchestrated the situation to allow him to do so,” says Lee Dorry with the watchdog group Essex Watch.
For several months, Longo accused anyone who questioned his residence of perpetuating a fraud. But he finally resigned Tuesday, and admitted to moving to Florida. His resignation letter did not specify exactly when he had moved.
Belleville Mayor Raymond Kimble says that the council only received the resignation letter on Sept. 19, and that is why it took so long to remove him from office.
But News 12 New Jersey’s Walt Kane points out that the council could have had another reason for wanting to delay Longo's resignation. By letting Longo stay on the council until after Sept. 1, the mayor and the council will get to appoint his replacement rather than letting voters decide.
Mayor Kimble denies that played a role.
“I didn’t even know that law,” Kimble said.
Kane In Your Corner has investigated Longo before. He was the subject of a 2014 investigation when he was a Belleville School Board member and brokered a deal for a $2 million security system at a time when the school couldn’t afford textbooks.
That security company later hired Longo’s son.