Camden Whistleblower Wounded
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ The former head of Camden’s parking agency apparently shot and wounded a whistleblower who had accused him of corruption, then committed suicide in a spasm of violence that added to this city’s sad history of crime, graft and poverty.
``Camden is known for a lot of things, but good government is not one of them,″ said Frank Fulbrook, a community activist in New Jersey’s poorest city. ``This is what you get when you have an entrenched political machine _ arrogance and corruption.″
Friends said Anthony Scarduzio, 47, who began working at the Camden Parking Authority in 1979 as a meter collector and rose to become executive director in 1998, had been depressed about the corruption investigation and damage to his reputation. He blamed Joseph Bowen, 50, who had accused Scarduzio and others of wrongdoing.
Prosecutors said it appeared that on Monday, Scarduzio beat up Bowen and shot him outside a custard stand Bowen owned in the suburbs. Then Scarduzio apparently shot himself to death inside a friend’s suburban house.
Bowen was in critical condition Tuesday with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
Scarduzio had been aware state officials were about to charge him with misconduct in office, which could have brought up to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine, said Emily Hornaday, a spokeswoman for the Division of Criminal Justice.
Through an intermediary, Scarduzio had threatened to kill Bowen in May, Hornaday said. The state offered protection to Bowen, including relocating him and his family or posting police around the clock at his home. Bowen declined, asking only for police to drive by his home and business frequently, Hornaday said.
Three of the past five mayors of this city of about 79,000 people across the Delaware River from Philadelphia have been convicted of crimes.
``It seems to have been going on for years and years, whether it be mayors or the parking authority,″ said former City Councilman Gilbert Wilson, who lost the mayoral election in May. ``Things just keep happening here in Camden to draw negative attention to ourselves.″
Bowen and Scarduzio, once close friends, had worked together at the parking authority. But the relationship soured in 1999, when Bowen was fired. He filed a lawsuit in October claiming he was let go because he had exposed wrongdoing.
The lawsuit _ which named Scarduzio, four former and current members of the Board of Commissioners and several employees _ alleged bid rigging, money laundering and mismanagement.
The lawsuit prompted the state to begin investigating the parking authority, which oversees Camden’s parking meters and lots.
Scarduzio agreed to resign in April, accepting a $130,000 buyout. But the authority wanted to rescind the money.
Scarduzio knew county and state power brokers but also associated with bookies and gamblers. He counted former Mayor Milton Milan among his friends, even golfing with him last year the day after Milan was indicted for corruption. Milan was sentenced last month to seven years in prison for laundering drug money and taking bribes from mobsters.
Milan’s predecessor, Arnold Webster, pleaded guilty to accepting a school district salary after resigning as superintendent to become mayor. Angelo Errichetti, mayor from 1973 to 1981, was convicted in the Abscam case of taking a $50,000 bribe from an FBI agent posing as an Arab businessman.