Rupande Mehta, a Democratic candidate for State Senate in the 25th district, has missed 24 of the last 27 meetings of the Denville Green Sustainability Committee, according to minutes of the panel reviewed by the New Jersey Globe.
Mehta cites her volunteer membership on the municipal committee in her campaign materials and on her LinkedIn page, but records show that she has not attended a meeting since July 2017.
She faces former Morris Township mayor Jeffrey Grayzel and attorney Clifford Dawkins in a battle for the Morris County Democratic organization line at the party’s convention on March 15. The winner will take on State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) in a special election for a fourteen-month unexpired term.
Denville mayor Tom Andes, a Republican, said that Mehta has used her appointment “as a stepping stone” to run for public office.
“She wrote me a beautiful letter about how she wanted to serve our community,” Andres said. “I gave her an opportunity to serve. She hasn’t participated. I didn’t realize it was as bad as it was.”
Still, Andes said he has no plans to remove Mehta from her local post.
“I try never to dismiss people off committees,” said Andes. “I want to keep the community together. It’s a small town. Let the chips fall as they may.”
Mehta’s attendance record could be an issue as she approaches the county convention, or a wedge for Republicans to smack her on in the fall.
“Since she’s put her service on the committee front and center on her web site and in her news releases, it would be reasonable for a county committee member to ask Mehta how she has contributed to its work,” said Micah Rasmussen, the executive director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “It’s not likely to a be a front-burner issue at the county convention, but it could certainly be the focus of a mailer in the fall campaign, or complicate her ability to make hay out of Bucco’s work ethic.”
Mehta did not offer a comment on her attendance when reached by telephone at 2:20 PM and asked for additional time. She did not respond to a 5:45 PM call and a 5:55 PM text message.
Denville created the Green Sustainability Committee to help the municipality qualify for a certification under the Sustainable Jersey Certification program. The township has moved from Bronze to Silver in recent years.
Meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month, according to the township website. The committee has met four times since Mehta announced her bid for State Senate.
Attendance records were not an issue in Mehta’s 2017 campaign for Denville council, or in her 2018 bid for Morris County freeholder.