Bloomfield Councilman Elias N. Chalet was arrested last week and charged with allegedly soliciting and accepting a $15,000 bribe from a local businessman, promising to guarantee that the township would proceed with its planned purchase of the man’s commercial property, N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman reported.
Chalet, 53, who represents the First Ward, has been charged with second-degree bribery in official and political matters. If convicted, he faces a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum of five years without parole, and a fine of up to $150,000.
Hoffman’s office has not released the identity of the property owner or the address of the site in question, other than that it is located on East Passaic Ave.
Chalet, who operates a real estate office on Broad St., initially met with the property owner in question on Oct. 8, allegedly telling him that the site purchase would go through only if he gave Chalet $15,000 in cash, authorities said.
In a subsequent meeting Oct. 21 at the realty office, the councilman and property owner reportedly agreed that the latter would make an initial payment of $10,000, with the balance of $5,000 to be paid after the township bought the site. That meeting was recorded, Hoffman said.
Chalet allegedly accepted the $10,000 payment on Oct. 23 and the remaining $5,000 on Nov. 16. Both those meetings were also recorded, Hoffman said, and Chalet was arrested at his office Nov. 16 pursuant to the investigation by the State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“We charge that Chalet crookedly put the authority entrusted to him as an elected official up for sale for his own personal enrichment,” said Hoffman.
“When officials start selling favors, as alleged here, it undermines the integrity and fair administration of government.”
Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice, noted that “fortunately, the State Police were alerted in this case regarding Chalet’s alleged solicitation of a bribe, so we were able to investigate fully.”
Chalet was initially remanded to the Essex County Jail and later released on $100,000 bail.
– Karen Zautyk