To date, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has declined to say if Jersey City Councilwoman Amy DeGise should resign following her alleged hit-and-run with a bicyclist last month.
But, Murphy insisted to host Nancy Solomon during Tuesday night’s “Ask Governor Murphy,” that doesn’t have anything to do with DeGise’s substantial political connections. DeGise is a former head of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, and her father, Tom DeGise, is the retiring county executive. Murphy will also be the featured guest at a fundraising barbeque for Tom DeGise's handpicked successor, Craig Guy, next month.
“There is a process,” Murphy said. “Let me say unequivocally, it has nothing to do with who she is. The behavior, without question, is completely unacceptable.”
Murphy used that word — “unacceptable” — frequently during the show, where he takes questions from Solomon, callers and social media users:
- Failing to stop after hitting a bicyclist who ran a red light, then not reporting it to police for another six hours, was “completely unacceptable behavior,” Murphy said. He continued: “I would say that unequivocally. Completely unacceptable behavior.”
- The governor referenced a series of other embarrassments and alleged bad behavior reported by media in the time since — such as the body camera video that shows her trying to convince a Hoboken police officer in 2021 not to tow her car, telling him at one point she’s a Jersey City councilwoman, and mentioning that she’d called a Hoboken city official. “Unacceptable behavior,” the governor said. “And I've been unequivocal about that."
- The governor acknowledged that while charges against DeGise have yet to be heard in court, she hasn’t denied leaving the scene of the accident with the cyclist. “She certainly came to it late. Let there be no doubt about that.” Murphy said. “I mean, it's unacceptable behavior. I’m less focused on the fact she hit the guy, although he's in my prayers and I wish that hadn't happened, but the particular unacceptable behavior is not stopping, getting out and making sure (he’s OK), calling the (police), whatever it might be.”
On the morning of July 19th, DeGise was caught on surveillance video as her black SUV slammed into a bicyclist who had run a red light. In the video, DeGise never stops; her vehicle drives out of view without appearing to slow down.
She arrived at police headquarters to report the crash six hours later and was charged with leaving the scene and with “action in case of an accident” – a technical term for a hit-and-run. That case will be heard in Essex County, where it’s been moved to avoid conflicts of interest.
DeGise has faced frequent calls on social media, from community activists, from more than 7,000 individuals who've signed a petition, and from newspaper editorial boards to step down. At a mid-August Jersey City Council meeting, for about five hours, roughly 100 people testified to demand she step down. A smaller handful defended DeGise during the session.
But most of the Jersey City Council has declined to say DeGise should leave her post — only two members who don’t have the backing of the Democratic political organization have done so. Mayor Steven Fulop told Hudson County View earlier this month he agrees with Murphy: “Let the court system play it out, the legal process, and then we’ll take it from there.”
Murphy said repeatedly during “Ask the Governor” that there’s a legal process to determine DeGise’s guilt or innocence. But he has weighed in on the ouster of some other elected officials in the past. NJ.com recently reported the governor has called for the resignations of a Trenton councilwoman, the Bergen County sheriff, and the mayors of Atlantic City and Clark, over various misdeeds.
Solomon pushed back on the governor's reluctance.
“I think what's upsetting people in Jersey City and I sat through five hours of public comment, so I think I can speak about this, is the perception that someone that has political power, powerful political connections is treated differently than … everybody else,” she said.
Murphy said he understands the frustration.
“This is America, whether we like it or not.” he said. “And there's a legal process, and that’s going to have to play out, and then whatever the political realities are at the ballot box for her or whatever will play out.”
Ask Governor Murphy is a production of WBGO in Newark in partnership with WNYC and WHYY. It’s hosted by Solomon, a senior reporter for WNYC and Gothamist.