Between the lines

Election fraud indictments rock Hoboken

Whether or not Frank Raia will go from singing “Satisfaction” at his annual birthday party on the pier to singing “Jail House Rock,” a far less less upbeat tune, remains to be seen.

But the latest indictment of a campaign worker regarding the alleged buying of votes does not bode well for anyone planning similar tactics in the upcoming municipal election.

The latest indictment expanded the scope of the alleged voter fraud from the 2013 election — in which Raia has been accused of allegedly buying votes to help defeat a rent control referendum — to the 2015 midterm council elections.

“People just do not get the fact that the political landscape has changed,” said one official involved in overseeing elections.

The old school concept that you can buy votes with money or lottery tickets is a thing of the past, he said.

“In the old days, people thought they would only get a slap on the wrist,” this official said. “Those days are over. The situation has changed. What used to be routine can wind up getting people into real trouble now.”

Hoboken is not unique. But the lesson of Raia’s indictment may not have sunk in yet with a number of old school political people.

“Everybody uses vote-by-mail to guarantee they get their vote out,” another source said. “Most people think they can still get away with it as long as they don’t get too sloppy or make it too obvious.”

But officials claim this is a bad way to view the current political climate. The landscape has changed, partly due to the perception that the Russians influenced the national elections in 2016, and the 2018 midterm congressional elections where some seats were won or lost by a handful of votes.

The impact may be felt in November when the council again faces mid-term elections and control of the council is at stake. With Councilman Michael Russo clearly in the camp of Mayor Ravi Bhalla, and the rest of the council split into factions, a few previous votes might well decide who will run Hoboken government until the 2021 mayoral election.

Not my job, man

The passing of the buck when it comes to who should have investigated rape claims made by Katie Brennan may well rival a classic Marx Brothers movie — minus the comedy.

Brennan has accused a key campaign worker for then Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial effort of raping her in April. 2017.

Albert J. Alvarez, who has since stepped down from his state position as chief of staff to the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, has denied the allegations against him, but also refused to testify before a legislative committee looking into how public safety officials may have bungled the investigation.

While the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office initially investigated the matter and later decided not to prosecute, disclosures after Murphy became governor seem to indicate a passing of the buck.

The state attorney general’s office claimed that because the alleged crime happened when both Brennan and Alavarez were working for the campaign, it did not have authority to investigate. Some officials in the State House suggested that the matter be investigated by the Murphy campaign itself.

The matter exploded into statewide headlines, when the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 14, 2018 wrote a story about Brennan’s situation.

At that point, Alvarez resigned. Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez recused herself, saying she knew both individuals. Murphy Chief of Staff Peter Cammarano, who learned about the rape charge on Dec. 1, 2017, has testified that he was originally told an arrest was imminent, but within a day was told that the Hudson County Prosecutor would not press charges, but was unaware of who was being charged until later when he advised Alvarez – months before the Wall Street Journal article – to resign from the state post. Cammarano, however, said he had not contacted Murphy about the matter at the time.

Other people in state government stepped back from the investigation because they also claimed to know both people involved.

The Office of Equal Employment Opportunity should have investigated but apparently was not asked to.

Cammarano is expected to step down from his state position due to circumstances unrelated to this case.

While the Attorney General has since authorized the Middlesex County Prosecutor to investigate Brennan’s allegations, this comes nearly two years after the incident allegedly occurred.

This whole mess is something akin to having an accident victim bleeding to death on the side of a highway while ambulance drivers argue with police and others about who should drive the victim to the hospital.

Bayonne first ward election will be a race

Early reports suggest that Neil Reynolds, a longtime associate of former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, will likely run against Neil Carroll III.

Carroll, who will probably get the backing of Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, was named to fill the unexpired term of Tom Cotter, who resigned to become the Department of Public Works superintendent.

Carroll is the grandson of former Freeholder Neil Carroll, who was the father-in-law of former Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith.

Reports suggest that Smith may be considering a run for county sheriff later this year.

To comment on this story on-line, go to our website, www.hudsonreporter.com. Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com