A former longtime mid-level Jersey City administrator with a troubled past passed away July 26 at the Guilford Health Care & Rehabilitation Center in Greensboro, N.C.
Funeral arrangements for Eugene McKnight, 74, were being handled by the Callands Funeral Home in Greensboro.
The family is planning a memorial service to be held in Jersey City at a date yet to be announced, according to a longtime associate of McKnight who noted that, until this year, his former colleague still maintained close ties to the community.
In 1992, McKnight, a onetime Ward F ward leader who campaigned for several local City Council ward candidates over the years, was handed a 9-year prison sentence for participating in a racketeering scheme in which, as city Human Resources director, he was charged with approving rental aid and welfare payments to friends and employees who cashed the checks and shared the proceeds with him.
He was ordered to thousands of dollars in restitution.
After serving less than two years in state prison, McKnight eventually returned to the city payroll. In 2014, he was hired as a $75,000-a-year employee of the Jersey City Employment & Training Program, an autonomous city agency then headed by former Gov. James McGreevey, to help ex-offenders secure employment.
Four years into that job, McKnight was terminated after program officials determined that he was taking monthly cash payments from ex-offenders referred to the program for whom he found jobs.
McGreevey was subsequently let go by the JCETP board. He is now being touted as a potential candidate for mayor of Jersey City in 2025 when the term of current Mayor Steven Fulop expires. Fulop has declared himself in the running for governor and will not seek another term as mayor.
McKnight’s longtime friend Daoud-David Williams, who has spearheaded the city’s Community Awareness Series and the Spirit of Life Ensemble, credited McKnight for his support of what has become an annual cultural event in the city.
He said McKnight also volunteered his assistance in ensuring the success of the city’s Juneteenth celebration that began last year and the Wall of Pioneers project at the city’s Bethune Center honoring the contributions of African-Americans to the city.
“Gene was always a bubbly person who had a great sense of humor,” Williams said.
Recent health issues prevented him from participating in community events, Williams said.