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New Jersey Gas Stations Respond to Accusations of Corrupt Behavior

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram announced last week that inspections of more than 1,000 gas stations yielded 350 violations ranging from inaccurate octane ratings and improperly calibrated equipment to unauthorized price changes. Dealers, however, said last week the initiative is politically motivated.

New Jersey Gasoline-C-Store-Automotive Association executive director Sal Risalvato told The Associated Press (AP) last week that the association denounced the statewide inspection sweep claiming public officials were using it as a scapegoat with regards to the public's outcry over rising gas prices.

The majority of the violations, he said, were for minor infractions many of which were beyond a station owners' control and that the list of violators lumped together "some guy with a faded sticker on a pump" with those who intentionally deceived customers.

"Many of the stations on the list had no infractions, or had infractions so minute that had nothing to do with deception or dishonesty," Risalvato told AP. "We felt it was unfair of the AG to send out a press release making out that there are 350 crooks out there who were caught doing something."

Risalvato, whose group represents about half of the state's more than 3,000 gas stations, said many business owners singled out for infractions have been dealing with rising wholesale gas prices and a decrease in profits.

"Everybody in government is trying to do anything they can to make it look like they are doing something about gas prices for an angry public," Risalvato said. "If gas was at $2 a gallon, there would have been no press conference."

In total, 46 violations were issued for stations having different prices on each side of the pump, 19 instances of inaccurate price totals, and 14 tickets issued for changing gas prices more than once with a 24-hour period, reported the AP.

Attorney General spokesman David Wald told the AP on Thursday that after reviewing the list of stations that had been issued violations, only Academy Exxon in Livingston had been removed for being erroneously included.

"This was not a publicity ploy," Ward told the AP. "It was to encourage drivers to be alert to things like if the price is different for credit and cash, and to encourage them to report any discrepancies."
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