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Camden County Superintendent of Schools Carmen Rodriguez. (Photo: Scott W. Anderson/Facebook).

Camden county commissioner covertly resigns to take state job

Carmen Rodriguez quit post four days before winning Democratic primary, allowing Camden Democrats to pick her successor

By David Wildstein, June 17 2022 2:59 pm

Camden County Commissioner Carmen Rodriguez’s resignation was done so quietly that the official county website had still not indicated her departure for at least twelve days after she left office on June 3.

Just four days after she resigned, Rodriguez won a contested Democratic primary for a seventh term.  That happened without any public announcement by the county or the party organization that she had no intention of running in the November general election.

Rodriguez formally submitted her resignation letter to Louis Cappelli, the director of the Board of Commissioners, on May 31, but didn’t announce her new job at the state Department of Education.

“My decision to step down at this time is for personal reasons but I am ever grateful for the wonderful friends I have made along the way and the many individuals whose lives I was able to touch through the services that we provide,” she said.

Since the effective date of her resignation, Camden County has issued 37 different press releases on issues spanning Covid to mosquitos, but none related to the resignation of Rodriguez.

The only public comment on her departure was an announcement she posted on her LinkedIn page.

“I’m happy to share that I’m starting a new position as Executive County Superintendent in Camden County by (the New Jersey Department of Education),” Rodriguez said.

The acting commissioner of Education, Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, did not public announce her appointment of Rodriguez.

Eight days after Rodriguez took the state job, the county website still listed Daryl Minus-Vincent as the acting superintendent.

The agenda for the June 16 meeting of the county commissioners did not include any resolution marking Rodriguez’s 18 years of service.

Molly Shelly, a spokesperson for Camden County, declined to comment on the circumstances of Rodriguez’s departure

On Friday, two weeks after Rodriguez left office, the Camden County Democratic Committee filed a notice to fill her resignation at a special election convention on June 29.  The new county commissioner will fill the remaining six months of Rodriguez’ term.

Democrats must also replace Rodriguez on the ballot for the November general election.  The new candidate will be picked by a vote of the county committee, not primary election voters, but that election cannot be noticed until Rodriguez is certified as the winner of the June 7 Democratic primary next week.

“This is the latest example of what we call the Cherry Hill Shuffle,” said Sue Altman, the state director of New Jersey Working Families and a critic of the Camden County Democratic machine.  “Ms. Rodriguez’s resignation at the precise moment she was on the ballots gives the Camden County Democrats an opportunity to hand-pick her successor.”

Altman found it “hard to believe that someone at the county or party didn’t know” Rodriguez was seeking a state job before the April filing deadline.

“It has a stench of fraud,” Altman said.  “If Camden County Democrats were serious about Democracy, they would appoint one of the two highly-qualified progressives who ran in the primary.”

Rodriguez was the only Hispanic county commissioner and one of two women on the seven member board, which likely locks Camden County Democrats into picking a Latina replacement.

The candidate Democrats pick  to run in the fall with longtime incumbent Edward O’Donnell does not necessarily need to be the same person they choose to fill the unexpired term.  Camden County Democrats have made caretaker appointments in the past.

Possible candidates include Camden at-large City Councilwoman Nohemi Soria-Perez, who serves as chief of staff to the state legislators from the 5th district, or Camden school advisory board member Jeanette Alvarez.

But Democrats might see Soria-Perez as more effective on the city council, where some of the members are split from the county Democratic organization.  She was elected in 2021 and party leaders might not want to see a special election for her local seat.

Rodriguez and McDonnell outpolled Rebecca Holloway and Wilhelmus Schrieks by more than 20,000 votes in the recent primary.

Republicans have not won a countywide race since 1990.

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