Barnes to head parole
By GINA VERGEL, Home
News Tribune Online, February 6, 2007
Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes Jr.,
D-Middlesex, one of the area's most notable political figures, has been tapped
to serve as commissioner of the State Parole Board.
His son, Edison Councilman Peter J. Barnes III, plans to run for the Assembly
An Edison resident, Barnes Jr., 78, has represented the 18th Legislative
District since 1995. He said he would resign from office upon Senate
confirmation, which he expects will happen in mid-March.
"I'm excited and quite impressed that he asked me," Barnes Jr. said, referring
to Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who announced the nomination Monday afternoon.
Barnes Jr., a Democrat, will replace John D'Amico, who announced his retirement
Monday. D'Amico earned $123,775 in the position. Barnes Jr. was
unclear what his salary would be but was adamant about not participating in
"pension padding" with this new post.
"I will not take a pension on this job," Barnes Jr. said. "I'll drop out
of the pension system and only take whatever the salary is on the job."
Barnes Jr. said he has only been enrolled in the pension program for the past
"I've been in the Assembly for 10 years, but for the first seven and a half
years I was never in the retirement program," he said. "I got into the
program because I found out they offer life insurance and I didn't have life
insurance after I left the FBI, so I joined to get the insurance, which I pay
for at a reduced rate."
State Treasury Department spokesman Thomas Vincz said Corzine and Barnes Jr.
agreed that the assemblyman would not take a Parole Board pension as a condition
of his nomination. The department is exploring how Barnes Jr. can opt out
of the pension.
Barnes Jr. receives a legislative salary of $49,000, another Treasury spokesman,
Mark Perkiss said. Barnes Jr. has three years and four months of service,
as of the end of 2006, in his pension account, according to Perkiss. That
takes into account the two years and nine months he served as director of public
safety in Edison. Upon his retirement from that Edison position, Barnes
Jr. received a $358 monthly pension check, which he halted when he entered the
Assembly and re-entered the pension system.
Barnes Jr., who enlisted in the Army just one week after his high school
graduation, has a lengthy career in public service.
While in the Army, he spent two years as a private first class in the Military
After the army, Barnes Jr. was assigned as a special agent to the FBI in San
Francisco and transferred to New Jersey in 1958. In 1981, he became the
director of security for the New Jersey Devils hockey team where he served until
In 1991, Barnes Jr. became director of public safety in Edison, where he served
until 1993. He held a similar but unpaid position in East Brunswick in
1997 and 2005.
The New Jersey State Parole Board, based in Trenton, maintains over a dozen
district offices throughout the state and employs over 400 law enforcement
officers and 300 civilian employees. The agency is the sole paroling
authority within the state, overseeing the release and revocation
decision-making process for all New Jersey offenders.
Barnes Jr. said gaining new experiences as he tackles the new job is what he is
looking forward to.
"I'll have to go to the county jails and state prisons and also deal with the
juvenile institutions — I plan to visit every one of them," he said. "I
also plan to meet with the wardens and parole officers — they perform a very
important function in making sure when people get out of jail that they can join
society as good citizens."
Barnes Jr. said that while serving as chairman of the Assembly Law and Public
Safety Committee, he encouraged the corrections industry to create education
systems for the incarcerated.
"It's important for them to develop some kind of a skill they can use when they
get out because the biggest problem, I found, is that when someone gets out of
jail and they don't have a job they'll go back out on the streets, where they
can reoffend and they're back in," Barnes Jr. said.
Barnes Jr. said he sponsored a bill that would allow a business to deduct $1,000
in state taxes for every paroled person they hired.
"It's a good incentive. The state will lose some money but they'll also
come out winning on the other end because the chances of a person with a job to
reoffend are less than a person just hanging on the corner," said Barnes Jr.
He pointed to a 2004 law creating the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal
Sentencing as one of his most important pieces of work.
Barnes Jr. said he considers his wife, Barbara, as his "unpaid legislative
"She comes with me to Trenton and helps out in the office. We're
public-spirited folks," Barnes Jr. said. "She's excited for another
On Monday Barnes III declared his intent to seek the nomination to be a
candidate vying for his father's unexpired Assembly seat.
"I'm going to start hitting the pavement, going door to door, talking to people
whose vote and support I need," Barnes III said. "But I don't have a
campaign war chest in hiding. I have to get nominated first. If I
don't get that nomination, I will not run against the endorsed candidate.
That'll be it."
Barnes III said he will resign from Edison's Council if elected to the Assembly.
But he plans to seek re-election for Township Council in case his Assembly
nomination doesn't work out.
"I will not serve two positions," Barnes III said.
Barnes III said he was proud and excited for his father.
"My father doesn't play golf, go hunting or play tennis. He doesn't do the
typical things a retiree does," he said. "This job on the parole board is
well suited for him because of his leadership and law enforcement capabilities.
He's really going to bring great experience to the position."
Contributing: Gannett State Bureau's Tom Baldwin