TRENTON, N.J. – In addition to being in the hot seat at a Senate committee hearing on Thursday, N.J. Labor Department Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo could soon be out of a job. Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips is introducing a resolution to impeach Asaro-Angelo for failing to perform the duties of his office, which contributed to residents’ suffering during the pandemic.
“Enough is enough and it’s time for a change,” said DePhillips (R-Bergen). “Because of his incompetency, lawmakers have essentially turned their offices into satellite unemployment offices. What’s more, when the unemployed find their way to us, they are at their wits’ end and facing utility shutoffs, foreclosure and eviction.”
DePhillips said New Jerseyans shouldn’t be punished for the failings of Asaro-Angelo, who at one point blamed unemployed residents for the delays in processing their claims.
“His statements illustrate his arrogance during one of the worst times in our state’s history,” DePhillips added. “In the beginning of the pandemic, when there were more than a million people out of work, he said 94% of claims had been paid. It turned out that number included one-time payments and people who had received some money, but then had benefits unexpectedly stop. All the smoke and mirrors in the world couldn’t hide the deficiencies at the Labor Department.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have passed a resolution and introduced legislation demanding that unemployment offices fully reopen to the public for in-person assistance. The commissioner responded by announcing residents having issues with their unemployment claims would be able to get limited, in-person, appointment-only help at a dozen offices around the state starting March 28.
“The labor commissioner is simply adding insult to injury. Our unemployed residents deserve undivided attention and unlimited in-person help so they can receive the payments they rightfully earned. It is what the Labor Department is supposed to do and since it’s not happening, the commissioner must go,” DePhillips said.
The resolution states that the commissioner violated the public trust and abdicated his responsibilities to reopen state offices, expeditiously pay unemployment claims, and address the unemployment rate.
The state constitution starts the impeachment process in the state Assembly, which has the sole power of impeachment by a majority vote of all members. The proceedings move to the Senate, which is to hold a trial overseen by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. A two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate is required to remove the commissioner from office.