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Why an FBI raid of this small N.J. city has been a long time coming

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By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on January 17, 2017 at 7:05 AM, updated January 17, 2017 at 5:49 PM

ORANGE — When about two-dozen federal agents rolled up in their black-tinted SUVs to Orange City Hall this past week, forcing the government to shut down for the day as they combed through its files, few people gave much notice – and none seemed all that surprised.

There were no flashing lights or police lines. Passersby shrugged and continued to their cars with their shopping bags. A make-shift sign on the front door said city hall would reopen the next day, and a janitor politely turned people away.

“It’s going to be a long day,” he said.

But records show it’s a day that’s been a long time coming.

An NJ Advance Media review shows that, for at least five years, a tightly knit web of political operators has left behind a trail of financial problems in Orange, a city of about 30,000 where playing fast and loose with taxpayer funds appears to be the norm.

The three-month review – including hundreds of pages of city and court records, as well as interviews with current and former city officials – found nearly every city department has been cited since 2011 for violating some of the most basic spending rules.

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