Bergenfield mayor Arvin Amatorio has filed a defamation lawsuit against the incumbent he unseated last year.
Just days before the general election, Norman Schmelz accused Amatorio of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and practicing law without a license. He called on Amatorio to withdraw from the race.
According to Amatorio, a press release from Schmelz referred to an unrelated immigration case in a bid to misrepresent his character.
“In the run-up to the November 5th election, I was smeared by my opponent and his team for political purposes. They alleged that “immigrant families have been ruined by Mr. Amatorio’s selfish, wrong, and deliberate misfilings [sic] that served to enrich his own and his client’s pockets”. They further added I was illegally practicing law. These false allegations hurt my personal and professional reputation, and I am taking measures to clear my name.”
Amatorio defeated Schmelz by 317 votes, 53%–47%, in the 2019 general election.
In a court filing, Amatorio’s attorney alleged that Schmelz attempted to “break the link of affection and political appeal between Mr. Amatorio, a successful Filipino immigrant, and Filipino and other minority and immigrant voters in Bergenfield by falsely painting him as an exploiter of immigrants.”
Schmelz was a two-term mayor. He was the Republican candidate for Bergen County Executive in 2018 and lost to incumbent Jim Tedesco by a 63%-37% margin.