County election officials were told about allegations of vote-by-mail improprieties in Elmwood Park two months before the November 2018 general election but did nothing to investigate at the time, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
“I have become aware of serious concerns regarding alleged improper actions in the handling of Vote-by-Mail applications, voter certifications and completed ballots, during the 2017 elections,” John J. Piserchia, an attorney for the Republican borough council candidates, wrote to mayor Francisco Caramagna on September 6, 2018, putting him on notice as to the legal requirements of mail-in ballot applications.
Piserchia sent copies of his letter to the Bergen County Board of Elections and the director of the state Division of Elections.
Caramagna resigned on Monday after the county prosecutor charged him with tampering with mail-in ballot applications between March 2017 and November 2018.
Eight days later, Carmamagna’s lawyer responded by slapping Piserchia for “a mythical reference to improper actions.”
“Your letter is merely designed to impugn Mayor Caramagna’s integrity,” wrote Brian Chewcaskie. “Mayor Caramagna is fully familiar with the statutes and does not require you to point out the requirements of the same.”
Also copied on that letter were the same election officials: Bergen County superintendent of elections Patricia DiCostanzo, deputy superintendent Theresa O’Connor, state elections director Robert Giles, and the four members of the county Board of Elections.
“The Division of Elections did not receive this letter,” said Trudi Gilfillian, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Secretary of State.
Chewcaskie told Piserchia that by noticing elections officials “was designed to infer improper action and to impugn Mayor Caramagna’s reputation.”
Acting Bergen County prosecutor Dennis Calo said on Monday that his office received a complaint against Caramagna in early April of 2019, which appears to indicate that election officials did not notify the prosecutors when the allegations were made last September.
The office of the Superintendent of Elections has statutory authority to investigate allegations of voter fraud.
Four sources with direct knowledge of the investigation say that Elmwood Park Republicans provided copies of the specific incidences of vote-by-mail improprieties to the Superintendent of Elections offices days before the 2018 general election.
One of the Republican candidates running in that election, Maggie Giandomenico, posted copies of the envelopes addressed that included detailed allegations to election officials on social media on October 31.
“Protecting the integrity of this election,” wrote Giandomenico on her Facebook page, which identified her location as One Bergen County Plaza. She also included a photo of the door to the county Board of Elections.
The state attorney general’s office declined to say if Bergen county elections officials forwarded letters from Piserchia and Chewcaskie to them. The New Jersey attorney general’s office acts as counsel to the county election board.
“It’s our policy to neither confirm nor deny investigations. We also do not confirm whether we have received allegations,” said Sharon Lauchiere, a spokesperson for the attorney general.Elmwood Park 2018 lawyers letters