Newark code enforcement officer pleads guilty to taking bribes

NEWARK, NJ — Attorney Gen. Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a suspended code enforcement officer for Newark pleaded guilty Oct. 8 to taking bribes from a man seeking to operate an after-hours social club.

Tajji Williams, 43, of Newark, was on trial before an Essex County jury when he decided to plead guilty. Williams pleaded guilty to a charge of bribery in official and political matters before Superior Court Judge Michael A. Petrolle. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Williams be sentenced to five years in state prison, including two years of parole ineligibility. He must forfeit his job with Newark and will be permanently barred from public employment. Williams is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6.

Williams was indicted in an investigation by Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau North Unit. The investigation revealed that Williams used his position as a city code enforcement officer to solicit a $5,000 bribe from a man who operated an after-hours social club. In return, Williams promised the club operator that he would provide him with advance notice of law enforcement activity and priority in the filing and granting of building permits. The man had faced resistance from the city and city police about the social club. The club operator notified the New Jersey State Police and cooperated in the investigation. During the investigation, Williams accepted payments from the man of $500 on three occasions in late 2016, for a total of $1,500.

“With this guilty plea, we are holding Williams accountable for corruptly using his public position for personal gain,” Grewal said. “Williams had a duty to protect the public, but instead he solicited bribes and offered to help this club operator evade city oversight. This was an appalling breach of trust.”

The investigation led to a separate indictment against a second city employee in connection with criminal conduct related to the club operator. Qaadir Royal, 39, of Newark, a former clerk in the city code enforcement office, pleaded guilty to third-degree tampering with public records and was sentenced on Sept. 17, 2018, to three years in prison, with two years of parole ineligibility. He admitted that in December 2016 he used his access to city databases to alter a certificate of occupancy for the club operator. Royal altered the certificate of occupancy so it falsely reflected that the man was permitted to operate a retail establishment. The investigation revealed that Royal solicited and accepted a bribe of $1,000 from the club operator in return for falsely altering the record.

Although Williams and Royal worked in the same city office, the investigation revealed that they acted independently in their criminal conduct involving the club operator.