October 16, 2015

Doug Long (via e-mail to [email protected])
Marion Kennedy, Jr. (via e-mail to [email protected])

Dear Messrs. Long and Kennedy:

I write to you in your capacities as chairpersons of the county and local Democratic organizations, respectively, in hopes that you can shed some light on my concern about the manner in which your party’s candidates for Fairfield Township Committee were selected.

By way of background, three candidates sought the chance to run for Fairfield Township Committee on the Democratic ticket on the June 2, 2015 primary ballot: Marvin Pierce and David Gonzalez, who were both endorsed by the “Cumberland County Regular Democratic Organization” were listed under Column A and Geneva Griffin, who was listed under Column B.

The June 2, 2015 primary election yielded the following vote totals:

Pierce: 172
Gonzalez: 102
Griffin: 82
Write-ins: 36

Also on June 2, 2015, a fourth candidate for Fairfield Township Committee, Bernard H. Manson, submitted a petition to run in the November 2015 general election.  Even though N.J.S.A. 19:13-4 permits independent candidates to designate a three-word slogan that will appear on the ballot, Manson chose to leave that area blank.  He did, however, erroneously write the word “Democrat” in the space on the petition intended for the office for which was running, i.e. “Township Committee.”

Until this point, everything is clear to me: Pierce and Gonzalez are eligible be on the November general election ballots as the Democratic Party’s candidates and Manson should appear as an independent candidate.

The main source of my confusion is the following statement that was published on June 2, 2015 on the “Eagles N Fairfield” Facebook page.  I understand this Facebook page is the de facto party organ for the Fairfield Democratic Executive Committee (FDEC).

The name David Gonzalez appears on the ballet [sic]. David is an excellent candidate but the Pierce team filed a complaint challenging the date of David’s retirement paperwork from the Federal Government and he cannot be on a ballot until 2016. The candidate that the FDEC supports is Bernard Manson and we would appreciate your writing in his name as candidate for Township Committee on David Gonzalez’s line.

An October 10, 2013 Eagles N Fairfield post notes that Gonzalez was then employed at the Federal Correctional Institution, Fairton “and has advanced to the point where he lobbies in Washington and meets congressmen face to face.”

From this, it appears that a) Gonzalez was not permitted to “run for the nomination or as a candidate for election to a partisan political office” due to the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. 7323(a)(3) and b) the FDEC knew about Gonzalez’s ineligibility to run for office on the primary election day (June 2, 2015) at the latest, and probably was aware of his ineligibility at an earlier date.

As evidenced by a letter from Fairfield Township Municipal Clerk Linda M. Gonzales to County Clerk Celeste Riley, Gonzalez’s withdrawal of his candidacy was not formally received until August 5, 2015–the date Fairfield Township received Gonzalez’s August 4, 2015 letter.  By letter of August 11, 2015, the FDEC requested that Clerk Riley place Bernard Manson on the November 2015 general election ballot in Gonzalez’s stead.  Although I haven’t received a copy of the official general election ballot (Omarey Williams from Riley’s office is still processing my OPRA request), I have been informed that the ballot lists Pierce and Manson as the two officially recognized Democratic candidates for the two Fairfield Township Committee seats.

It seems to me that if Gonzalez was ineligible to run for office, the fact that he received the second-highest number of votes in the primary is of no moment-his election should have been declared null and void–and that the third-highest vote receiver–Geneva Griffin–ought to have been listed on November’s general election ballot, along with Pierce, as the Democratic candidates for Township Committee.  (NOTE: In a subsequent writing, I have reconsidered my conclusion that Gonzalez may have been “ineligible to run for office.”)

Griffin apparently also believes the same thing as she is appearing before Superior Court Judge Darrell M. Fineman at 11:30 a.m. today for a Case Management Conference in Griffin v. Riley, et al, Docket No. CUM-L-714-15.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and I hope that you are able to clarify this matter for me. Please be advised that I have published this letter on the Fairfield Township Informant and will likewise publish your response.

Very truly yours,

John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]