A Hudson County Superior Court judge has rejected Second Ward Kearny Council candidate Alexis Campos’s and mayoral hopeful Sydney J. Ferreira’s motion that Campos be allowed on the June primary ballot.
In a decision reached Wednesday, April 21, Judge Jeffrey R. Jablonski issued his decision from the bench with a four-pronged brief by dismissing the aforementioned complaint. He wrote: “The relief sought by means of the plaintiff’s order to show cause be and is hereby denied. The plaintiff’s complaint is dismissed. The prior restraints as to the printing of the ballots for the June 8, 2021, election are hereby dissolved. This court shall forward this order to the parties and upload it to e-courts.”
In the original complaint submitted to the court, a copy of which was obtained by The Observer, Campos and Ferreira made several sweeping allegations about Mayor Alberto G. Santos — who initiated the challenge to Campos’s candidacy — and Town Clerk Patricia Carpenter — whose job it was to rule on the challenge, as prescribed by law — that Jablonski clearly did not buy.
Acting on his own behalf before (without the representation of counsel) the court, Ferreira — in written briefs — asked for Campos to be returned to the ballot because by the time the general election came around, he claimed she would have been a resident of the Second Ward for the requisite one-year period.
Click below to read the court-case documents:
He also claimed Campos moved into the Second Ward in August 2020, though by her own admission, Campos said in an email to Carpenter she didn’t switch her voter registration until March 9, 2021. She also reportedly voted in the Third Ward in the 2020 election.
He also argued, unsuccessfully, that the law, which requires residency in the “local unit” for a year before being eligible to run, actually meant residency in the “town” for a year and not the individual ward.
He also argued, unsuccessfully, that Santos “exerted his authority” over the tenured Carpenter.
“This campaign believes that the mayor exerted his authority over the town clerk to place her in the awkward position of taking sides, by deciding to accept his objection, and force our campaign to file or legal action,” Ferreira wrote. “The town clerk should have recused herself as it is a conflict of interest to rule in favor of her employer in his dual role as both mayor and chairman of the town’s Democratic Party.”
However, as was the case just a few weeks ago in neighboring Lyndhurst, it was clear there is no conflict of interest as it is state law requiring municipal clerks to handle matters of election-based discrepancies.
Ferreira also claimed Santos did not provide adequate notice of the objection to the complaint.
He also said because Campos moved just “10 blocks” from her residence in the Third Ward to her new home in the Second Ward, that should be enough to place her back on the ballot.
“Therefore, we conclude that his attempt to keep Ms. Campos off the ballot is a subversion of democracy,” Ferreira wrote in his pro-se complaint. “…Furthermore, he (Santos) is attempting to subdue the will of her fellow residents of the Second Ward, who signed her petition to appear on the ballot and to run to represent them as their councilmember. Lastly, we would like to reiterate that this appears to be a coordinated effort and conspiracy to handicap this campaign in favor of the incumbents.”
THE SANTOS & CARPENTER RESPONSE
Attorney Gregory J. Castano Jr. represented both Santos and Carpenter, the two defendants named in the Ferreira/Campos suit. He argued against nearly every point proffered by the plaintiffs as to why Campos should be returned to the ballot.
First, Castano said Santos does not possess the “power to deny” an opponent from running for office, neither as mayor nor as chairman of the local Democratic Party.
Castano also noted bring certified as a clerk and obtaining tenure are both hallmarks of professionalism for any municipal clerk, including Carpenter.
He also argued, successfully, that the “local unit” is, indeed, the ward itself and not the entire town.
Castano also made it clear the mayor has no power to exert over Carpenter.
“…the mayor does not have any authority over her because she has tenure in her position. The mayor is not her employer. She was required by state statute to review and pass upon the objections and perhaps, more importantly, she never communicated with the mayor and he never attempted to communicate with her about any of these issues.”
He also objected to Ferreira’s assertion Santos didn’t provide adequate “notice to the objection to this campaign.”
“Plaintiffs cite no support for this novel theory,” Castano wrote. “The objections were filed in accordance with applicable law.”
Castano also argued against Ferreira’s accusation that the whole ordeal involved “malicious intent” by the town, the clerk and the mayor.
“This accusation is raised only in brief. It is not certified, nor does it have any other support. Moreover, it is refuted in … Ms. Carpenter’s certification.”
Castano concluded his written argument stating that even if the November election date were the one to be used to determine a year’s residency in the Second Ward, it still wouldn’t satisfy the one-year requirement.
“…Plaintiff would still not satisfy the one-year requirement because voting records conclusively demonstrate Ms. Campos voted from a different ward on Nov. 3, 2020. …Perhaps most importantly, they offer no explanation as to why Ms. Campos voted from a different ward in the Nov. 3, 2020, election if she was really living in the Second Ward as of Sept. 1, 2020.
And while it’s not yet clear whether Jablonski did so, Castano asked the court to strike from the official record the terms “coordinated efforts,” “subversion of democracy,” “conspiracy” etc., “which appear to have been made solely for political theater.”
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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.