A group of Dover residents that include the leaders of the local Democratic organization are asking the state Attorney General to investigate whether Mayor James P. Dodd used a taxpayer-funded Colombian Festival to pitch voters for his re-election campaign.
Critics say that Dodd used town resources to put on his own festival, something that had been organized by the local Club Colombia for three decades.
In a video obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Dodd makes a direct pitch for votes and campaign support to the festival attendees last Saturday.
“We have a long way to go in the town of Dover. And that’s why I’ve decided to run again for mayor. I will be running again as your mayor in 2019, this coming November, Dodd said. “So many great things are happening in our community – things like today’s Colombian festival to celebrate all of our cultures.”
The line between local events and campaigns is often blurry in New Jersey – especially when it involves free food and music — but it was Dodd’s next statement that could extend beyond the thin line between government and politics.
“In just two weeks, I will be opening my campaign headquarters right across the street,” Dodd told the crowd. “You can join us, you can support us, you can help us. Come support our campaign.
Dodd’s Spanish language interpreter was Sol Sostre, who is a candidate for Alderman on Dodd’s ticket.
The group who wrote to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal alleged that a slideshow on a giant screen that served as the backdrop of the stage included only Dodd at events with leaders of the Colombian community.
“Now Dover’s taxpayers will find themselves footing the bill for a re-election campaign,” the group, which included Democratic Municipal Chairman Edward Correa and mayoral candidate Carolyn Blackman. “We strongly believe that concerned citizens are the first line of defense against official misconduct, tyranny and corruption. This sort of behavior violates the trust of Dover’s taxpayers.
Dodd chose to run as an independent rather than seek renomination in the Democratic primary.
Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, a Republican seeking re-election this year, spoke immediately before Dodd. Gannon did not make a pitch for votes.
The anti-Dodd group also claims that a 4th of July fireworks display was co-opted to help the mayor’s campaign.
”We should never take the proven results of our elected officials for granted. Elections have consequences, and if you like the programs offered by the Town of Dover, be sure to remember to exercise your freedom to vote,” a program printed by the town said.
They also allege that the lead singer of the Dr. Cheeko Band contracted by the town to perform at the fireworks “asked the audience several times to support the Mayor of Dover and vote for him.”
Dodd did not immediately return at 5:29 text message seeking comment.