According to City Council President and mayoral challenger Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, a Hatch Act violation has been filed against Mayor James Davis after an employee group called “Female Workers of Bayonne” issued a formal complaint to Bayonne’s Human Resources Director Deborah Falciani, Law Director Jay Coffey, Business Administrator Melissa Mathews, the Office of the Mayor, and the City Council.
The Bayonne Community News has obtained a copy of the aforementioned employee complaint.
The complaint stated that, starting March 1, the mayor started taking photos with female city employees and publishing them on the mayor’s political and personal social media pages as part of an effort to highlight female employees at City Hall for Women’s History Month. According to the complaint, this occurred while the employees were at City Hall during the work day.
“Here is yet another example of the disrespect of residents and workers rooted in the Davis Administration.” said Ashe-Nadrowski.
The complaint cited several incidents where members of Davis’ staff took pictures of female city employees while they were at work and posted them on his political campaign page. The images are usually also posted to the City of Bayonne social media pages. The employee group cited feeling uncomfortable and feared retribution if they refused to be in the pictures.
According to the complaint penned by “Female Workers of Bayonne:” “Female workers are intimidated and unable to refuse the request for fear of reprisals. City workers, male and female, are being forced to voice their political support for the mayor. The photos of the female workers are being used to promote the mayor’s political agenda. Many of us believe it’s an attempt to distract people from the pending harassment suits filed against the city and Mayor Davis.”
Hatch Act violation?
Also in the complaint, the groups claim that over the last several months, the mayor’s political supporters conducted political activities and meetings inside City Hall. It claims that city employees were also reported to have been seen selling political fundraiser tickets during city hours and targeting other city employees at their homes to have them sign petitions to help Davis and his running mates get on the ballot.
“Once again Mayor Davis takes advantage of female employees for his own gain,” said Third Ward City Council candidate and Board of Education President Maria Valado. “The purpose of Women’s History Month is to honor women and not use them as political props.”
Ashe-Nadrowski alleged this was a violation of the Hatch Act, which she said prohibits elected officials from conducting political activities on city property.
“The residents of Bayonne deserve a Mayor who is always going to prioritize working to solve the important issues in our city like improving our trash collection services, parking concerns, affordability, and crime,” said Ashe-Nadrowski. “Not focused on photo ops that raise his political profile with political outsiders at the expense of our city employees.”
According to the Office of the Special Counsel, the Hatch Act is a federal law passed in 1939 which limits certain political activities of federal employees, as well as some state and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs.
The law’s purpose is to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.
Davis campaign responds
In response to the Ashe-Nadrowski press release, Davis campaign spokesperson Phil Swibinski called the move a “stunt” and said the Hatch Act doesn’t apply in this case. Swibinski said the posts do not say anything political nor encourage people to vote for Davis.
“This ridiculous stunt by the failing Nadrowski campaign shows how incompetent they really are, by citing a federal statute that does not even apply to municipal employees,” Swibinski said. “Mayor Davis is proud of the fact that he has hired and promoted women to numerous key positions in City Hall and will not apologize for celebrating their many excellent contributions to the community during Women’s History Month. Nadrowski should spend less time making up fake issues and come clean about what big developers are bankrolling her dark money campaign.”
The Office of the Special Counsel could not immediately be reached for comment. However, a screenshot of email correspondence provided to the Bayonne Community News appears to show email correspondence from the Office of the Special Counsel confirming that a Hatch Act complaint has been filed and the office will open a case file to address the matter.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.