BLOOMFIELD, NJ — First Ward Councilman Elias Chalet said his attendance at council meetings, under the advice of his attorney, will be taken one meeting at a time.
“It’s the same thing for the planning board,” Chalet said Saturday in his Broad Street real estate office.
Chalet is a member of the Bloomfield Planning Board, an appointed position.
Chalet was arrested Nov. 16 and charged with second degree bribery in official and political matters for allegedly accepting $15,000 from the owner of a parcel of land the township was planning to purchase. It is alleged Chalet offered the property owner his support on the council for the purchase to be approved.
Chalet said he was living day-by-day and taking care of his family, as he always did.
“I still do what I do best,” he said. “People have concerns and they come to me for help. And I have a lot of support from my family and friends.”
Chalet, who is a Realtor, said his business has not been hurt because of his legal situation. He has not watched the last two council meetings that he missed on television.
“I wanted to but I haven’t had the time,” he said. “I would love to go and be there but I am following my attorney’s advice. I’ve never been in a situation like
this. I’ve never seen it in my entire life. But I’m still out there and doing my daily routine. I’m not hiding from anyone.”
Chalet’s attorney is Peter Till, who is located in Springfield.
According to Superior Court records, a detective assigned to the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Unit was contacted on Oct. 9, 2015, by a confidential informant who said that he had been approached by Chalet regarding the sale of property owned by the informant. The informant said the township had initially agreed to purchase the property for $450,000.
“Chalet indicated the sale of the property would only go through if the confidential informant gave Chalet $15,000 in cash,” the document said. “Chalet indicated there were only a few council meetings left this year and he would ensure that the council approved the property sale at the appraised price, and that the deal is approved and completed quicker.”
According to the court document, audio and video recordings were made of Chalet allegedly accepting $10,000 and $5,000 in cash, during two separate meetings with the confidential informant.
The township also had received a subpoena from the Superior Court for all council and planning board records going back to 2011, said Township Administrator Matthew Watkins in a recent telephone interview.
“We met the subpoena,” Watkins said. “They’re all public records.”
Chalet said his present situation is not the toughest one he has known in his life.
“This was when I was young,” he said. “I was kidnapped and tortured.”
Chalet, who is from Lebanon, said he was kidnapped by members of the occupying Syrian Army, when he was 17.
“I led a revolt in my high school against the occupiers,” he said. “I was one of the unlucky ones they picked up.”
Chalet said he was subjected to beatings and kicking.
“You name it,” he said.
Chalet said his father was in charge of a company which excavated soil to make cement and was an influential man.
“My father’s friends were able to intervene,” he said.