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Bergen County Sheriff Resigns After Racist Remarks Caught On Tape

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino has resigned after an audio recording was released where he's heard making racist remarks.

Saudino apologized after his comments to colleagues were made public. His resignation is effective immediately.

In addition Saudino, Executive Undersheriff George Buono, Undersheriff Robert Colaneri, Undersheriff Brian Smith and Undersheriff Joseph Hornyak also resigned.

"In other words, let the blacks do whatever (expletive) they want – smoke marijuana, do this, do that. And don't worry about it. We'll tie the hands of cops," he can be heard saying.

In the recording from January, obtained by public television's WNYC, Saudino criticized Gov. Phil Murphy's appointment of Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a Sikh.

"He didn't do that to help our county, he did that because of the turban," he said.

Then, he made comments about New Jersey's Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Oliver.

"Is she gay? Because she's never been married. Is she gay?" he said.

Sheriff's Office Chief Kevin Pell will be the officer-in-charge of the sheriff's department's operations and Bergen County Sheriff's Office Warden Steve Ahrendt will be the officer-in-charge of the Bergen County jail's operations until New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy appoints an interim sheriff.

Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco said Friday he was surprised by the comments.

"That's not the person that I know in Mike Saudino - forget about Sheriff Saudino, but in Mike Saudino," said Tedesco. "That's the part that's hard for me as a friend."

Murphy was among a growing number of public officials that called on Saudino to step down.

"They're comments that Shelia and I are, and our entire administration, find completely, utterly unacceptable - inconsistent with not just our values, but New Jersey values, American values," said Murphy. "Then there's no choice as to the step that needs to be taken."

Chris Weston, president of the local police benevolent association, organized a rally earlier this year when a former officer filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Bergen County sheriff's office, claiming he was fired for being gay.

"Somebody who makes these types of comments should not be in charge of this great, diverse agency we have," he said.

In a statement Thursday evening, Saudino said he's worked hard to increase diversity in the department, adding "these remarks are 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."

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