Bogota Mayor Christopher Kelemen was evicted from his home on September 16, after a two-year foreclosure process that include not paying any local property taxes for nearly a year, records show.
The judge found that Kelemen owed $488,508 in unpaid mortgage and property tax payments.
Kelemen, a Republican, is already facing a tough challenge for re-election this year against Council President Mary Ellen Murphy.
Records also show that Kelemen’s mortgage company, Wells Fargo, began foreclosure proceedings against Kelemen in August 2016.
Wells Fargo also sought to foreclose on Kelemen’s home in 2006, 2010 and 2013.
Jon Stears, a foreclosure manager at Ras Citron, the law firm representing Wells Fargo, declined comment.
Kelemen is now living at the home of his late father, Alex F. Kelemen, a former Bogota mayor who died in June.
The eviction had initially been ordered for August 30, but Superior Court Judge Joan Bedrin Murray gave him an extra two weeks.
“Defendant states that he will be moving into his father’s house and needs time to get his family moved,” Bedrin Murray wrote on the order.
Voters frequently consider a candidate’s finances in deciding who to vote for, according to Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey politics at Rider University.
“The classic campaign response to any candidate’s personal financial trouble is to ask how he can be trusted to handle the borough’s finances when he can’t handle his own,” Rasmussen said. “A slightly more charitable assessment would be for borough voters to ask whether this might be a major distraction that would prevent him from dedicating his full attention to his borough responsibilities. That seems more than fair.”
Kelemen was elected in 2015 with 62% of the vote.
Personal financial disclosure statements filed with the state show Kelemen is an owner of Reggo and Kelemen Real Estate in Bogota.
But state Department of Banking and Insurance records show that Kelemen’s real estate license was placed on inactive status on June 30.
Kelemen’ business partner, George Reggo, was fined $1,000 by the state for using his post as Englewood Cliffs tax assessor to lower the assessment on a property he owned, according to a report in The (Bergen) Record.
In addition to his real estate business, Kelemen lists his ownership of the Queen Anne Deli on his financial disclosure. The phone number listed on the sign outside the deli has been disconnected.
The Record reported today that Kelemen is expected to be the a defendant in a lawsuit filed by local tavern owners who said they were forced to close their bar because the borough pushed to buy their property.
Calls to Kelemen’s cell phone at 11:35 AM, 1:03 PM and 2:43 PM have not received a response. He did not respond to an 11:37 AM text message.
Editor’s note: Wells Fargo has been paying the property taxes on Kelemen’s home, which is part of his debt to the bank. The Borough of Bogota has not lost any tax revenue.
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