An attorney for two committee members from Ewing has filed a lawsuit against Mercer County Democratic Chair Janice Mironov as part of a bid to stop tomorrow night’s vote in a contested county chair election.
Angelo Genova is representing Charles Geter and Margaret Nicol, both supporters of Ewing Councilman David Schroth, Mironov’s challenger.
In a complaint filed late Monday, Genova argues that the Mercer Democrats never amended their by-laws to enable a reorganization meeting be changed from the Tuesday after the primary election and from an in-person vote to Mironov’s proposed “tele-town hall” style where elected county committee members can vote by telephone.
“The fatal defects in both timing and procedure that attend these actions will have the effect of stifling the full participation of members in the MCDC’s business,” Genova wrote. “The totality of these actions illustrate a distressing lack of transparency on the part of Mironov, who as Chair is obligated pursuant to the Bylaws to carry out the goals and directives of the MCDC.”
Gov. Phil Murphy moved the primary election from June 2 to July 7 in an election conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots. Murphy’s executive order extended the window that VBM ballots postmarked by Election Day could be returned from two days to seven.
Later, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal settled a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters and others that extended the period of time a ballot could be cured – repairing a defect that otherwise would have invalidated the ballot – until July 23.
The Mercer County Clerk did not certify the election of county committee until late Friday.
Genova disputes Mironov’s view that she is bound by state regulation.
“In actuality she relies on unconstitutional authority in support of the complete abrogation of her duty,” Genova said. “Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 164 is of no consequence.”
Genova states in a brief that Murphy’s executive order “attempts to regulate and set a new date for the reorganization meetings for county party committees, those portions of EO-164 are unconstitutional.”
“The Governor does not have the authority to regulate the internal affairs of a political party,” Genova said.
Genova’s firm, Genova Burns, also represents the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, of which Murphy is the titular head.
Daniel Antonelli and Jarrid Kantor, the attorneys representing the Mercer County Democratic Committee, disputed Genova’s claims and said more than 300 of the 450 eligible county committee members have already registered for the telephonic election.
“Many other organizations use this platform, including neighboring Middlesex County Democratic Committee who used this meeting platform and voting process, for their reorganization meeting last week,” Antonelli and Kantor say.
The lawyers say that Mironov and the party executive committee “have taken the necessary steps, during a State of Emergency and Global Pandemic, to ensure that a member’s vote remain secret.”
“The selection of both Tele Town Hall and ElectionBuddy to oversee the meeting to ensure ballot secrecy, along with the decision of the MCDC Executive Board to hold the BOM on the first Tuesday after the July primary election results are certified, in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 164, fully and completely complies with the MCDC bylaws,” Antonelli and Kantor told Genova.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes had called for a postponement of a county chair election until June 2021.
Mironov responded by releasing endorsements from a majority of the county’s elected officials. She has the backing of all seven Mercer County freeholders, Sheriff Jack Kemler, State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro), and five democratic assemblymen, including labor leaders Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) and Verrelli (D-Hopewell).
She also has the backing of Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, and top Democrats in Hamilton, Lawrence Township, Hopewell Township, Hightstown, Ewing and East Windsor, Pennington and Robbinsville.
In addition to Hughes, Schroth has the support of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence), Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton), Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann, Hopewell Borough Mayor Paul Anzano, and Mercer County Central Labor Council president Mike Maloney.Genova clients v Mironov