To a casual observer, Union County Democratic Party boss and state Senator Nicholas Scutari may appear to be a man on the move, as he embarks on a new role as Senate President, but the politician widely known as “No-Show Nick” is merely a surrogate for South Jersey’s powerful Boss of Bosses, George Norcross III.
One sign of his allegiance to the South Jersey power broker was revealed when Scutari re-appointed Gloucester County Republican Linda Metzger as Secretary of the New Jersey State Senate.
“It does not surprise me that ‘No-Show Nick’ is appointing an Elk Township Republican to the $56,325.12 job since she has a South Jersey connection and Scutari is merely a Norcross puppet,” said Democratic strategist James Devine.
At the organizational meeting, the Senate elects a president, president pro tempore, and secretary, with each requiring 21 or more votes for approval.
The Senate then appoints by resolution the other officers who are designated by the president.
State Senator Ronald L. Rice nominated Senator Nia Gill to be president of the upper house of New Jersey’s Legislature, which consists of an 80-member Assembly and a 40-seat Senate, but she had to second her own nomination and was rejected in a voice vote.
Scutari swore in state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz as the new senate majority leader, as part of a Norcross power-sharing arrangement with Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
Scutari’s advancement opened the door for his closest political ally to profit at public expense, as former Union County Manager George Devaney and his wife, Angie Devanney, the mayor of Berkeley Heights, joined a Trenton lobbying firm.
The 74-year-old Metzger was a legislative district staffer who has worked for legislative leaders of both parties.
Se served as an aide to State Sen. Raymond Zane from 1983 to 1987, and then for Assemblyman Gary Stuhltrager from 1989 to 1996. Zane switched parties
Republican Jack Collins, who was Speaker of the General Assembly, named Metzger as the Assembly Clerk in 1996 and she held that post until 2001, when Democrats captured control of the lower house and replaced her with.
New Jersey began the new year with diminished Democratic legislative majorities but the new Senate president and any other changes do not reflect less power in the hands of the unelected Norcross, whose businesses reaped a billion dollars worth of benefits from corporate welfare programs enacted under former Republican Governor Chris Christie.
Metzger worked for the South Jersey Transportation Authority—an agency under Norcross control—before Senate President Steve Sweeney appointed her as a Senate administrative assistant in 2013.
Sweeney, who is a part of Norcross’ inner circle, did not return to Trenton because he unexpectedly lost in November to Republican Ed Durr.