Atlantic City mayors are so corrupt they’re bad for casino industry’s image By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports December 5, 2018 at 8:00 pm Atlantic City has been making an economic comeback, but it appears Mayor Frank Gilliam may not be around to celebrate it. Like so many New Jersey mayors before him, he’s otherwise occupied by a political corruption investigation. And to think there was a time some people believed casinos would be bad for Atlantic City’s reputation.Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam leaves his home after a raid by the FBI and IRS. (Photo via Press of Atlantic City)FBI and IRS agents raided Gilliam’s home Monday as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Although authorities aren’t talking, Mayor Gilliam has already been to court. He was charged with the theft of a $10,000 check from the Atlantic City Democratic Committee, but a judge believed him when he swore it was an accident. Given Atlantic City’s long history of much larger political corruption, the purloining of only 10 Gs actually sounds like a clerical error. The charge was dismissed in April. Gilliam gained more notoriety this year after surveillance cameras at the Golden Nugget casino captured him in a brawl at 2:30 a.m. outside a nightclub. That sounds bad, but Gilliam will have to up his game considerably to challenge previous mayors of Atlantic City and New Jersey’s many other municipal mobsters. When Hollywood makes movies about your mayors’ shady side, you know you’ve reached the big time. In the early era, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson was Atlantic City’s political boss nonpareil. He didn’t bother to run for office because it was less expensive and far more efficient to own the politicians. He balanced the vice rackets of the Boardwalk with the political thirsts of a generation of men who did his bidding. Some folks would argue that things haven’t changed much in the better part of a century. A generation of political appointees and patronage lapdogs came and went before Michael J. Matthews in 1982 became the first popularly elected Atlantic City mayor. He lasted two years. Although Matthews managed to avoid being caught up in the FBI’s undercover Abscam investigation (the background for the movie “American Hustle”), he was arrested in 1983 in a separate FBI sting for accepting what he believed was a $10,000 bribe. Matthews behind-the-scenes influence came from none other than mobster Nicodemo Scarfo. Matthews served longer in prison, more than five years, than he did in the mayor’s office. By 2007, the office was back in the news when Mayor Bob Levy resigned amid allegations he had lied about his military services and defrauded the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. As counted by the staff at Insider Jersey magazine, “Ending with Levy, five of Atlantic City’s previous nine mayors had been charged with some form of corruption.” The Atlantic City Mayor’s job is historically so corrupt the FBI could have saved taxpayers a fortune by opening a satellite office at City Hall. And the ethical malady isn’t limited to the Boardwalk empire. Mayors throughout the Garden State have taken falls for corruption in recent years. From Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and Sharpe James of Newark to Passaic’s Sammy Rivera and Hoboken’ Peter Cammarano, you can’t swing a dead cat in New Jersey without hitting a corrupt public official. To learn more about the state’s remarkable record of political sleaze, check out this jaw-dropping article on NJ.com. It’s amazing, really. Las Vegans buzzed like schoolyard gossips at the prospect of electing mob lawyer Oscar Goodman mayor. He won by a landslide, was re-elected twice, and would still be on the job if it weren’t for term limits. He can readily recognize his replacement, Carolyn Goodman, from their wedding photos. Atlantic City, it appears, preferred to skip past the mob lawyers and elect the actual hoodlums. Fashion is fickle, styles come and go, but in Atlantic City the mayors prefer pinstripes. Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.