Independent Council-At-Large candidate Yasmin Coello’s petition for the 2017 general election has been determined to have a ‘fatal defect’ and, therefore, she will not be on the general election ballot.
The decision was reached by the County Clerk’s Office in response to a challenge formally filed by Republican Council-At-Large candidate Joseph DeIorio.
Per New Jersey law NJSA 19:13-5, an Independent candidate for municipal office must have 2% of the entire vote cast for members of the General Assembly at the last preceding general election. According to the Union County Clerk’s Office, that number was 33 since Council-At-Large is a position that is voted on throughout the borough.
In the petition filed with the Union County Clerk’s Office, there were 35 petitioners but 33 signatures. This fulfilled NJSA 19:13-5 but a challenge filed Monday afternoon questioned the validity of 17 petitioners in total under NJSA 19:13-4 which reads, in part, ‘that the petitioners are legally qualified to vote for such candidates’. Eleven (11) of them were challenged on the basis that those signers were not registered to vote in Roselle Park. Six (6) signatures – including that of the candidate – were questioned as to their authenticity since, according to Mr. DeIorio’s challenge, they did not match up with scanned signatures on file with the Union County Board of Elections.
Union County Deputy Clerk Nichole DiRado – in her finding published this afternoon – determined that five (5) of those who signed Ms. Coello’s petition were not registered to vote in Roselle Park and that five (5) were not even registered to vote in New Jersey. One (1) petitioner, listed as an “Incomplete voter”, did not have their signature on file with the Board Of Elections.
The removal of those 11 signatures reduced the number of valid petitioners from the required minimum of 33 to 22. Finding that there was an insufficient number of signers, the County Clerk’s Office did not proceed with determining the authenticity of the six questioned signatures.
“Upon a review the petition, something didn’t look right. From 11 signers who were not registered in Roselle Park and five more whose signatures did not match, it was clearly defective,” stated Mr. DeIorio when reached for comment. He added, “I found it suspicious that an independent candidate would have that the mayor’s personal attorney [Frank Capece] who was the borough’s labor attorney and heavily involved in Democratic Party politics notarized the petition when you can find a notary anywhere else. My senses are telling me there is something more going on than just a candidate running for office and that should not be tolerated.”
“I have nothing to do with this,” replied Mayor Carl Hokanson in response to Mr. DeIorio’s statement, “Frank Capece is my friend but if he got involved I’ve got nothing to do with that. It’s not my cup of tea.”
Under NJSA 19:13-12, Ms. Coello has an opportunity to appeal the decision of the County Clerk’s Office to a Superior Court judge within 12 business days of the filing, which is June 22nd.
Mr. DeIorio in his statement concluded by saying, “I am glad the Union County Clerk’s office agreed with my challenge to the legality of the petition but I would like the opportunity to meet with Yasmine and talk. If there is a sincere interest to become more involved, I would like to offer that help.”
This leaves two candidates running for the office of Council-At-Large in Roselle Park – both of whom are political party candidates: Republican candidate Joseph DeIorio and Democratic candidate James McCrady.
The First Ward still has three candidates running for office – Current First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola who filed as an Independent, Republican candidate Jayme Lynn Negron, and Democratic candidate Maxine Padulsky.
No challenges were filed for any other candidate.
Attempts to reach Ms. Coello in time for this article were not successful.
Below are copies of the decision and original challenge:
Download Union County Clerk’s Office Decision (June 13, 2017)
Download Petition Challenge (June 12, 2017)