NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The sheriff of New Jersey's most populous county resigned Friday amid mounting pressure from his own party after a recording surfaced in which he made derogatory remarks about blacks and about the state's first Sikh attorney general.
A spokesman for Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino announced Saudino's resignation Friday along with the resignations of four undersheriffs.
Bergen County is home to roughly 1 million people, directly across the Hudson River from New York City.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer and several state lawmakers had called for Saudino, also a Democrat, to step down Thursday when the recording was published by WNYC radio.
On it, Saudino is heard saying Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was appointed because of "the turban." He also said Murphy's policies would allow blacks to "come in, do whatever the (expletive) they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that."
Saudino also questioned on the recording whether Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who is not married, is gay.
Murphy said in a statement Friday, "We can now begin the process of restoring faith in the Bergen County Sheriff's Office after so much of it was so quickly eroded. And, we can begin the process of ensuring that the bigoted beliefs displayed by the former Sheriff are not given shelter in any corner of the Bergen County Sheriff's Office - now or in the future."
Grewal, who worked closely with Saudino when he served as Bergen County prosecutor before being appointed attorney general, praised the "overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers" in the county and across the state in a statement Friday. But he added that "the fact that a top official could make racist comments about the African-American community - and that no one in the room would challenge or correct him - raises serious concerns."
On Thursday, Saudino released a statement apologizing for the comments and assuring that they were "not representative of the person that I am and they are in no way consistent with the manner in which I have conducted my life personally and as a law enforcement professional with over 46 years of service to the residents of Bergen County."
He also said in the statement that he had reached out to community leaders and asked for forgiveness.
WNYC radio obtained the tape from a person who was present during the meeting between Saudino and subordinates. It was recorded on the day of Murphy's inauguration in January.
Grewal was at the center of a controversy in July, when the hosts of a popular New Jersey radio show were suspended without pay for 10 days for repeatedly referring to him during a broadcast as "turban man."