The race for Perth Amboy’s mayorship has turned decidedly negative.
Joe Vas, one of five candidates seeking Mayor Wilda Diaz’s seat, on Friday attacked Diaz and three incumbent councilmen seeking her post over a series of suits against the city’s police department dating back to 2015.
“There is significant independent confirmation that things are terribly amiss in the Police Department and it all comes down to mismanagement, dishonesty and incompetence in the city’s leadership,” Vas said. “The Mayor and City Council are entirely responsible for this situation. They made it happen, they knew what was going on and they did nothing to stop it.”
The incumbent responded to one of the incidents Vas cited, during which a police officer shot a mentally ill man who authorities said attempted to attack them with a knife.
“The person in question charged a police officer with a knife raised overhead in striking position,” Diaz said in a statement. “The other police officer fired his weapon to protect his partner, potentially saving her life.”
Vas further claimed Diaz improperly promoted her campaign manager to the role of acting-captain within the city’s police department.
“Not only is a city employee doing political work that benefits the Mayor, but she has special influence over him, and he is receiving undue monetary rewards for his political service,” Vas said. “The situation is entirely unfair to the police who are in line for appointments to captain but have been held back so someone with political connections is collecting their paycheck.”
Diaz did not respond to that accusation, though she pointed to declines in crimes the city reported to the FBI in Uniform Crime Reports.
“Mr. Vas is incapable of telling the truth about Perth Amboy, myself, or our city council,” Diaz said. “For example, Despite his lies, crime in Perth Amboy is down 27% this year.”
Vas’s camp isn’t the only one launching accusations. Earlier Friday, Councilman Helmin Caba accused the Diaz and Vas campaigns of posing as a separate mayoral candidate to send emails attacking Caba over business debts.
“The attacks against me began when an anonymous supporter of Mr. Vas or Mayor Diaz disguised themselves as Councilman Fernando Irizzary to fire off a malicious September 30th email-blast, misusing Mr. Irizzary’s name and photo,” Caba said. “This was clearly a desperate act to discredit me as the leading candidate for mayor.”
In a statement sent out by Caba’s campaign, Irizzary, who is also seeking Diaz’s seat, said he was not involved in the emails.
“My name and photographs were misused in that E-blast, without my knowledge, to damage Mr. Caba’s reputation,” he said. “I categorically deny that I, or anyone involved in my campaign wrote, approved, or sent that email. I would never use such disgraceful and deceitful smear tactics.”
Caba said the Vas and Diaz campaigns propagated the attacks on social media, though the New Jersey Globe found no evidence of this one their Facebook and Twitter pages.
This story was updated with comment from Diaz at 6:13 p.m.