By: Jean Rimbach
A Glen Rock attorney and former federal prosecutor became the county’s top law enforcement official on January 2nd, the first change in leadership in Bergen County in 14 years.
Gurbir Singh (Grewal) was sworn as an assistant attorney general in Trenton in the morning and later as acting Bergen County prosecutor, ending the long tenure of John L. Molinelli.
Gurbir, 42, has prosecuted major white-collar crimes for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and most recently served as chief of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
With family, friends, assistant prosecutors and others looking on in a packed courtroom, Gurbir Singh was sworn as acting prosecutor by Superior Court Judge Bonnie J. Mizdol, assignment judge for the Bergen courts.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege to join the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office today as the acting county prosecutor,” Gurbir Singh told the audience. “This office has a tremendous reputation and that’s because of the hard work that each of you do each and every day, day in and day out. This office in many real ways sets the standard for other prosecutor’s offices throughout the state.”
Gurbir noted Molinelli’s leadership and “careful stewardship.”
“In the years to come, however, I hope to work with each of you to not only maintain that reputation but to build on it and enhance it and that’s my goal, really,” Gurbir Singh (Grewal) said. “I want to spend my time here just seeing how I can make this an even better place.”
Earlier in the day Gurbir Singh was sworn in as an assistant attorney general in Trenton by acting state Attorney General John Hoffman.
Bergen’s 55 assistant prosecutors were sworn as special deputy attorneys general, acting Bergen County assistant prosecutors. Its 103 investigators took the oath as special state investigators, acting Bergen County detectives.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said swearing in under such titles is routine when an acting prosecutor is named.
Gurbir told those in attendance he “cares deeply” about the county, and is “deeply committed to public service.” He said, too, he knows how tirelessly prosecutors and investigators work to get the job done.
“I know what each of you do and how hard you work against terrible odds sometimes,” he said.
He told them he also realizes there’s much he doesn’t know, such as the challenges and resource issues they face. He said he intended to meet with everyone over the next several weeks and get to know them and their cases.
“I hope to prove to you over the next several years, and maybe more, that I’m a quick learner, I’m a hard worker, and I will always be straightforward,” he said.
Singh was nominated for the post by Governor Christie in 2013, but the Senate never scheduled a hearing on the appointment.
After Molinelli was notified he would be replaced, Christie said a change was “long overdue.” He also said “when that change is officially made, I’ll give you all the reasons why.” Christie’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Sen. Robert Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, was in attendance, as was Sheriff Michael Saudino and Bergen County Executive James Tedesco. Sens. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, and Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, were not.
Weinberg said it was the first day back after the holiday weekend and her office was busy. She had no opinion on Singh, saying it has been two years since she interviewed him and would have to look again at his résumé.
But overall, she said, it’s “a strange way of doing business,” noting the attorney general himself is serving in acting capacity and is beholden to the governor rather than being independent.
“It just adds to the confusion of law enforcement, the way we’re doing law enforcement here,” Weinberg said.
Sarlo, meanwhile, said he did not know of the swearing in until it was too late to change his schedule. He said that Singh had an “impressive résumé” and that he looked forward to meeting with him and hearing his plans for handling the heroin epidemic and gangs moving into the suburbs.
Gurbir Singh (Grewal), a married father of three, becomes the first South Asian prosecutor in the state and the first person of the Sikh religion to occupy the office. Singh speaks Punjabi and Hindi, comes from one of the fastest-growing segments of New Jersey’s population.
Source: USA Today
Edited for SRS