“The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s” Caroline Manzo is pretty used to controversy, but it’s her husband, businessman Albert Manzo, who’s finding himself in the middle of a storm right now.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has asked the house husband for an immediate resignation from his post as a Commissioner at the North Jersey District Water Supply saying he abused the public’s trust.
“I don’t think Governor Christie is personally attacking us,” Albert tells Zap2it exclusively. “I just think the guy’s got a certain contempt for every agency. He thinks they’re all crooked. And we want to sweep everybody out with one big broad brush. But, if you look at our water utility, it’s a model for water utilities or any regional commission.”
The Governor accuses Albert of misleading the public by claiming that he lived in an apartment at the family’s restaurant and banquet hall, The Brownstone, in Paterson, N.J. as opposed to his house located in Franklin Lakes, N.J., which isn’t one of the 12 major municipalities the commission serves.
“I had no intention of trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes,” Albert, who is a registered Republican, tells us. “Governor Christie is saying I circumvented senatorial courtesy. Well, senatorial courtesy is an informal, uncodified, internal procedure. There’s no such thing as senatorial courtesy. It’s not a law.”
According to Albert, the only law about residence as it pertains to positions like his is that he “must live in the water supply district.”
“So, if I live anywhere in the district that the water is sold or offered, I qualify,” he says. “I think he’s just looking to find the loopholes to get me out.”
Caroline and Albert tell us they have lived in and maintained the apartment since 1984 and later bought the house to raise their children in. And since about 1999, Albert made the apartment his official residence again after realizing he spent most of the week there. He has been registered to vote at that address ever since and plans to keep it that way after his term as commissioner ends. Additionally, he tells us that he has never voted in Bergen County where the house is located and his voting records will show that.
“I felt very uncomfortable with the notion of not being domiciled at this address,” he tells us on a phone call from The Brownstone. “I’m very involved with the politics here. This is where I was born, around the corner from here, a block away, and I always felt this was my home. Caroline and I have every intention of basically coming back here to live when our kids are all grown up and we don’t really need a big house.”
So, at the time he was appointed to the position by former Governor Jon Corzine, he put down the apartment’s address as his place of residence on the questionnaire he was given as he would do with any form at the time. In April 2009, about four months after he was appointed, he tells us he filed a dual residency statement when he became aware that such a thing existed and underwent an investigation by two independent investigators from the county elections office who found nothing wrong with his residency claim.
So where does Albert stand now? He has no intention of resigning his position by the Governor’s Monday deadline.
“I have one simple request and I made this through my attorney to him,” Albert tells us. “I would be happy to resign on May 1, 2011 when my term as Commissioner expires and that’s about six weeks from now. And it allows me to stand up and say I served, my term is up, I appreciate the opportunity. My life has gone in the direction that I’m very, very busy. It’s clear to me that the Governor has no intention of reappointing me and I have no intention of standing in the way of the Governor.”
“I just felt it was wrong for me to resign under threat,” he adds. “When I know in every fiber of my being that I did nothing wrong. And for me to just run away would have left a cloud of suspicion — ‘what’d he do wrong? Is he a crook?’ — And I can’t have that.”
And Caroline supports her husband’s decision. “It’s a matter of integrity,” the housewife tells us. “To do anything else is an admission of guilt and my husband has done nothing wrong. And when you’ve done nothing wrong, what do you do? You stand and you fight.”
Albert will be appearing at a hearing before the State Office of Employee Relations in Trenton, N.J. next Thursday.
“I have every intention of going through the process,” he says. “Whatever the process he deems necessary is. And I have every intention as of May 1 to write a resignation, because my term would have expired and I know I’m not welcome to stay. I don’t know if I have any alternative. Every day will bring something new. If something happens that leads me to believe that I have no alternative but to back out, I will certainly take that into consideration. I’m not a fool.”
In respect to the pay, Albert’s salary for the position is only $7,500 a year (not including expenses for business trips and conferences he attended while fulfilling his duties), which he tells us goes straight into an interest-bearing account that has always been earmarked for donation to charity. Last October, they decided the money will go to The Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization Caroline works with, which provides aid and services to American soldiers injured during duty.