Editor’s Note: This article was updated with comment from Valencia and the Dover Democratic Committee at 7:52 p.m.
Dover Mayor James Dodd, who saw the Morris County Democratic Organization abandon him and his slate of candidates earlier this year, on Friday attacked the party and Alderman candidate Carlos Valencia over theft charges relating to two incidents from 2005.
In one incident, Valencia was charged with stealing more than $6,000 and a car from an elderly man for whom the candidate worked as a handyman. In the other, Valencia was accused of stealing $311 from a collections basket at St. Virgil’s Roman Catholic Church.
Valencia pled guilty to the charges in both cases according to state criminal conviction records.
“Carlos Valencia’s crimes shock the conscience. Based upon his criminal record, he is unfit to hold elected office or safeguard the public trust. How can the public trust someone who stole from the elderly and from the church collection plate for the poor?” Dodd said. “I’m just curious if Chip and the rest of the politicians who endorsed this guy and the others knew they were endorsing a gang of criminals. Perhaps they should have done their homework and exercised better judgement. Dover deserves better. Maybe it’s time for Boss Chip to step down.”
Morris County Demcoratic Chairman Chip Robinson was the one who decided to drop Dodd and his slate of mostly-white candidates. An overwhelming majority of Dover residents – about 71% are Hispanic – and Robinson chose to back the more diverse slate of Dover First candidates.
The Dover Democratic Committee released a statement later on Friday in which Valencia apologized for the incidents.
“13 years ago, I, like many others, was in a desperate situation and I allowed that to impede my judgement,” stated Valencia. “I made a mistake and I apologize for that. I have paid my dues and have moved forward since then, giving back to my community and becoming a better person. I have never hidden these accusations and I’m more than willing to discuss them openly. I remain committed to my role as a leader in my community. Though these actions are unfortunately a part of my past, they do not reflect the man that I am today.”
The committee is standing behind Valencia.
Since losing party support, Dodd and his camp have grown increasingly hostile towards their challengers.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz tossed a case brought by Alderman Ronald Camacho, who is aligned with Dodd and whom Valencia defeated in June’s primaries, that alleged voter fraud in the town.
Valencia and the rest of Dover’s alderman candidates are running unopposed, so the candidate’s criminal history might not amount to much. Though, they could prove a valuable defense to Dodd next year, when he will likely have to defend the mayorship from a county-backed challenger.