A Bergen County Judge has ordered five candidates, originally deemed ineligible by the township’s clerk, back on the May 11 ballot for seats on the Lyndhurst Board of Commissioners.
The judge, Robert Wilson, says longtime administration critic and the operator of a website that has taken the administration to task on many occasions, David Sivella. and his running mates on the ticket called “Clean Sweep” – Darwin Belen, Brian Chiswell, Mykolas Perevicius and Elaine Stella – were improperly disqualified from appearing on the ballot by Town Clerk Angela White.
To get on the ballot, 154 signatures were required. The candidates had between 189 and 191 signatures, though 16 were deemed by White to have come from non-registered voters. Still, at 173 signatures, that was enough to get the ticket on the ballot legally. However, White reportedly disqualified 49 total signatures, thus leaving the ticket under the 154-signature minimum.
Township Attorney Carmine Alampi, representing White, told the judge in the March 31 hearing the rest of the disqualifying signatures were based on White’s “opinion” of the signatures not being valid. He also told the judge White never contacted the disqualified petition signers to determine whether they had, in fact, signed the petitions and were thus valid – or whether the signatures were “forgeries” and should not be counted.
CJ Griffin, an attorney for the Clean Sweep ticket, said during the hearing that White’s decision to remove the ticket from the ballot was an act of “voter suppression.”
In his decision to return the ticket to the ballot, Wilson said he believed the choice White made to remove the Sivella team from the ballot was based on her “subjective net opinion” that signatures were invalid and he did not seem pleased White didn’t contact any of the ballot signers she believed were invalid to verify whether they were, indeed, “forgeries.”
Sivella, after the judge returned his ticket to the ballot on March 31, claimed the attempt to remove him and his running mates from the ballot was “politics and practices that need to be removed from the Lyndhurst government May 11.”
On Facebook, Sivella says he spent $50,000+ in legal fees to challenge White’s decision, which he says was “total incompetence” and that White employed “questionable petition-certification procedures.”
The Clean Sweep ticket are challenging the Lyndhurst Unity Ticket led by Mayor and Commissioner Robert B. Giangeruso, incumbent Commissioners Richard L. Jarvis Sr., Karen Haggerty and John Montillo and newcomer Lou DeMarco, who seeks the seat currently occupied by retiring Commissioner Thomas DeMaggio.
The Lyndhurst Unity Team, meanwhile, offered a written statement to The Observer following the decision.
“The Lyndhurst Unity team looks forward to putting our collective record of accomplishment, volunteerism and dedication to the community before the voters and letting them decide on May 11 who is better able to manage Lyndhurst,” the statement read.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.