Bill Responds to Backlash on Recent ‘Undercover Intern’ Controversy
Applying to a job with a public entity or public official with the intent of deception would become a crime of the fourth degree under a new bill sponsored by 8th District Assemblymen Joe Howarth and Ryan Peters.
A new bill by 8th District Assemblymen Joe Howarth and Ryan Peters will enhance safety and security in government offices. (SenateNJ.com)
Howarth and Peters will introduce the bill to the General Assembly on Thursday, in the wake of an incident involving a constituent suggesting people serve as undercover interns at Congressman Tom MacArthur’s offices.
“We can’t have people who are supposed to be serving the public working these jobs for their own nefarious reasons,” Peters said.
In late January, a Medford resident posted in a private Facebook thread to members of Action Together Burlington County, a left-wing organization, asking, “Anybody willing to go undercover,” with a notice of internship opportunities with MacArthur.
MacArthur fought back against the suggestion and cited safety concerns his family and staff have to deal with aside from worrying about fake employees infiltrating his offices. One threat made to MacArthur last summer resulted in the Capitol Police traveling to his New Jersey office for an investigation.
“Frankly, it’s not only a safety concern to the legislators themselves, but to the thousands of constituents we serve every day,” Peters said. “We help navigate constituents through a myriad of issues and that includes handling sensitive documents like health records and social security numbers. If the public feels its security is compromised, they won’t take advantage of the services we provide.”
Legislative offices staff public employees, interns and volunteers who help the public with problems involving a wide-range of issues, including health care, unemployment benefits and other assistance programs.
The bill would make it a fourth degree crime to apply to a public entity or public official for employment, a volunteer position, or a paid or unpaid internship with the purpose to deceive or injure the public official, public entity or someone connected with the official or entity.
“Internships in public offices not only provide educational opportunities for people, but also give them a chance to give back to their communities,” Howarth said. “Taking away those opportunities for one’s own political or amoral reasons is a crime that needs to be punishable. It’s astonishing that someone would even consider this.”
A fourth degree crime in New Jersey carries the following penalties: a permanent felony charge on your record, potential probation, up to 18 months in state prison, up to 364 days in a county jail and up to a $10,000 fine.