The Latest: AG to discuss protester’s removal with chairman

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The Latest on a hearing on tax incentives in which a critic of the political powerbroker testifying was removed by police.(all times local):

5:30 p.m.

The New Jersey attorney general’s office says it will speak with the state Senate chairman about his decision to order troopers to remove a protester during a hearing on tax incentives.

In a statement late Monday, the attorney general’s office says it will discuss Democratic state Sen. Bob Smith’s decision to use the troopers during a hearing Monday with him.

Troopers removed Sue Altman, the director of New Jersey Working Families, during Monday’s Senate hearing in Trenton featuring George Norcross.

Altman is a critic of Norcross, an insurance brokerage and hospital executive, at the center of an inquiry over how the state’s tax breaks were awarded.

The attorney general’s statement says the state police will review the matter, as they do with any issue involving troopers’ conduct.

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1:25 p.m.

An influential, unelected Democratic powerbroker says a task force established by Gov. Phil Murphy unfairly and inaccurately targeted him and businesses tied to him as part of its probe of state tax breaks.

George Norcross, an insurance brokerage executive and chairman of the Cooper University Hospital board, told a state Senate panel Monday that the Democratic governor’s task force was hurting Camden’s “renaissance.”

Norcross’ testimony came shortly after state troopers dragged a woman from the meeting after the committee chairman directed them to remove disruptive members of the audience.

New Jersey Working Family director Sue Altman had been helping organize protests against Norcross

The task force reported stakeholders linked to Norcross helped craft tax credits benefiting their business interests.

Norcross said his businesses invested millions more than they got back.

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Noon

A woman who was leading protests against an influential, unelected Democratic powerbroker has been removed by New Jersey State Police from a hearing on tax breaks.

Troopers removed Sue Altman, director of New Jersey Working Families, during Monday’s Senate hearing in Trenton featuring George Norcross.

Altman helped organize protests against Norcross, an insurance and hospital executive, who is at the center of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s tax break probe.

After some people booed and others seemed to applaud, Democratic state Sen. Bob Smith directed troopers remove those disrupting the hearing. Altman was then dragged out of the hearing over protests from allies.

Norcross denies wrongdoing and says he’s working to help Camden, one of the state’s poorest cities.

Tax breaks established during former Gov, Chris Christie’s administration expired in July.

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10 a.m.

An influential New Jersey Democratic political powerbroker and insurance executive in the middle of Gov. Phil Murphy’s business tax break probe is set to testify before lawmakers.

George Norcross, an executive at Conner Strong & Buckelew and chairman of the board of Cooper University Hospital in Camden, will testify Monday before a Senate panel conducting its own separate inquiry on tax breaks.

Norcross and his businesses were at the center of a June report from the task force probing tax credits that Murphy established this year. Their findings included that stakeholders linked to Norcross helped craft tax credits to benefit their business interests.

Norcross has denied wrongdoing and says he is working to help Camden, one of the state’s poorest cities.

Tax breaks established during former Gov, Chris Christie’s administration expired in July.

One of New Jersey’s most influential Democratic powerbrokers disputed corruption allegations at a legislative hearing Monday where a woman organizing protests against him was dragged from the room by state police.

George Norcross is an executive at insurance broker Conner Strong & Buckelew and chairs the board of Camden’s Cooper University Hospital and health system. He has long been one of the state’s loudest cheerleaders for Camden, once known as the country’s poorest and most dangerous city.

During his hour-plus testimony before a Democratic-led state Senate panel, Norcross rebutted assertions from a task force Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy established this year to probe tax breaks that Norcross and his partners helped craft the legislation and then benefited from.

The most unexpected part of the hearing, though, happened before Norcross spoke when Sue Altman, director of New Jersey Working Families, was hauled from the hearing by troopers.

The confrontation came after some in the audience applauded and booed another witness. Smith told troopers to remove people toward the back of the group over the disruption, even though Altman was on the side.

The disruption lasted five to 10 minutes, and at one point troopers dragged Altman by her arms past a seated Norcross toward the exit.

She said she was cited for disorderly conduct. A message has been left with state troopers seeking comment.

Altman and the protesters contend Norcross operates a political machine that seeks to maintain its own power — to the detriment of Camden residents.

Murphy at an unrelated event called Altman’s removal “outrageous” and called on lawmakers to apologize to Altman.

Monday was the first time the public has heard directly from Norcross, a Democratic donor and former Camden County party chairman, in the yearlong disagreement between lawmakers and Murphy over how to reestablish business tax breaks that expired on July 1.

“I am here ... to speak for myself, not through lawyers or spokespeople, to defend Camden and to correct many misstatements, mischaracterizations and outright mistruths that are having serious negative impact on the revitalization of our city. They need to stop. The residents of Camden and New Jersey deserve better,” Norcross said.

The hearing would have been raucous even without Altman’s removal.

When Norcross walked in, protesters wearing stickers reading “Trenton Makes Norcross Takes” began chanting “Down with King George, Down with King George,” and committee chairman Bob Smith warned that he would ask state police to remove protesters who disrupted the hearing.

Norcross didn’t address the scene when he spoke. He responded in part to a June report from the task force that Norcross’ brother and a partner rewrote tax break legislation to help Conner Strong and that the size of Conner Strong’s award hinged on their role in writing the bill.

Norcross said he and his partners invested $300 million in the city, including a new waterfront office that now hosts his businesses in the city. He disputed having a role in crafting the legislation himself.

Conner Strong got an $86 million award, while Cooper was approved for a $40 million award to move jobs to Camden.

New Jersey state approved $8 billion in awards. The expired program dates back to 2013, when Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature enacted the award.