It has been over a month since it was widely reported that New Jersey's motor vehicle agency has launched a probe into how Union County Freeholder Angel Estrada, who is the manager of the Elizabeth office, helped former Attorney General Zulima Farber's boyfriend update his delinquent driving status.
The Union County Watchdog Association has learned that a MVC employee who committed a very similar act as Freeholder Estrada’s was forced to resign and was indicted for helping a fellow employee renew a driver’s license in 2005.
Sharon A. Harrington, the head of the Motor Vehicle Commission, said regarding Estrada’s investigation that the agency would take action against employees if the investigation finds any wrongdoing. The agency "is working expeditiously to complete this investigation," Harrington said in a prepared statement. "At the end of this process, MVC will take action, if warranted."
According to an inside source at the MVC, who is surprised that Estrada is still reporting for work and is concerned that this is a sign that his political ties are going to put him above the law, a recent incident involving an MVC employee committing a similar offense involved Grace Hoogliviet and Tracey Scott.
Allegedly Hoogliviet was an investigator with the Security and Investigation Unit, Scott was a secretary in the same unit. Scott was unable to renew her drivers license as she did not have a certified copy of her birth certificate. Hoogliviet escorted her to the Trenton Agency and approved the transaction. The matter was reported, and resulted in both employees being terminated. Documents obtained through the Open Public Records Act show that both employees resigned this past May. (You can view these documents by clicking here.) Hoogliviet was also indicted and charged with conspiracy, tampering with public records and false records entry in 2005. Ultimately a deal was agreed to, and both employees were allowed to resign, with the agreement that they could never accept state employment.
A check of court records backed up the sources claim that Hoogliviet had been indicted. View indictment document by clicking here.
According to a clerk at the Mercer County court criminal records division there was no conviction. He said there had been a pre-trial intervention, and that if Ms. Hoogvliet completes the program, the charges will be dismissed.
A probe into Farber’s actions that day showed that after being allowed to Angel Estrada personally took charge of the matter and renewed Goore's expired car registration before he even arrived at the MVC office to sign official forms and pay a $137 registration fee.
Motor vehicle agencies require that proper Identification such as a driver’s license be submitted to renew a registration. If the owner of the vehicle is not present for the transaction, they must submit a power of attorney; this documentation is kept on file with the transaction.
"Mr. Estrada's handling of this matter before Hamlet Goore arrived at the MVC agency raises questions about the propriety of his practices and whether they were in compliance with MVC procedures," prosecutor Williams wrote in his report.
Farber was forced to resign because of her actions that day. Her boyfriend Goore also resigned as director of the Department of Community Development in Irvington. "He's on vacation and won't be returning," Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith said, declining to state the reason why Goore was leaving the $81,000-a-year post.
There are other allegations of Estrada being on a MVC tape helping Gore take a test for a motor cycle license. Freeholder Daniel Sullivan is also Estrada’s boss at the MVC, there is no word on what his involvement was in all of this, if any. I doubt we’ll ever here the entire story of what transpired between the three friends that fateful day. But if Angel Estrada doesn’t join his friends on the unemployment line and face criminal charges as Grace Hoogliviet did, the public deserves to know exactly why not.