Home>Campaigns>In Cedar Grove, where the polls are closed, write-in candidates go down in flames

Cedar Grove Councilman Harry Kumburis rings a doorbell after 10 PM on Election Night

In Cedar Grove, where the polls are closed, write-in candidates go down in flames

Peterson, Zichelli re-elected. Skabich wins open seat

By David Wildstein, May 11 2021 9:13 pm

A write-in campaign for three seats on the Cedar Grove Township Council failed miserably, with Mayor Kerry Peterson, Councilman Joseph Zichelli and newcomer Melissa Skabich thumping a trio of write-in candidates: former Councilman Harry Kumburis, perennial candidate Robert Dombrowski, and John Martinelli.

Peterson received 568 votes, followed by Zichelli (571) and Skabich (553).  Just 73 write-in votes were cast.

Kumburis lost his seat in 2019 by 27 votes, but was then caught on video ringing doorbells in search of mail-in ballots more than an hour after the polls closed.

After a 14-month investigation, the Essex County Prosecutor’s office declined to file criminal charges.

The U.S. Postal Service confirmed that at least one man sought to deliver VBM ballots two hours after the polls closed, according to an email sent to Essex County Board of Elections Clerk Linda von Nessi obtained by the Globe through an Open Public Records Act request.

“The postal police officer on duty Tuesday 5/14/2019 at approximately 10:00 PM stated he was approached at the guard post by a man requesting a Postal mark date on 4 ballots,” said Bonita A. Terry, the customer service manager at the Newark Post Office, in an e-mail to von Nessi.  “The officer informed him the Post Office windows were closed but the pickup window #7 was open and he may be able to obtain a post mark at the window.  The man went to window #7 and received a post mark on the ballots.”

The man who delivered the ballots has not been identified and it is not known whether the four ballots were for Cedar Grove and not one of the other municipalities that held non-partisan municipal elections in May 2019.

For Dombrowski, a retired New Jersey Highway Authority employee who held posts with the International Federation of Professional, Technical Engineers Local 196, this was his unsuccessful bid for public office.

In a November 2020 special election, Zichelli pummeled him by a 64%-36% margin after Dombrowski faced criticism for more than $17,000 in judgements and liens for unpaid bills.

Courts have ordered Dombrowski to pay $17,079 to compensate those that he stiffed after seven separate lawsuits filed between 2008 and 2020, court records show.

In July, Glen Ridge physician Naveen Ballem sued Dombrowski for $1,270 for an unpaid medical bill in March 2019.  Dombrowski never answered the complaint, and a Superior Court Judge entered a default judgment against him on October 16.

A 2016, a judge entered a $2,200 judgment against Dombrowski when someone who did work at his home claimed he was never paid.

Other judgments and liens included $10,692 to Capitol One Bank, a credit card company.

Dombrowski’s Facebook page la his campaign literature and lawn signs, but the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has no reports of contributions or expenditures in their records.  Indeed, they have no documentation of his candidacy at all.

His lawn signs said he is “The Homeowners’ Choice,” but records obtained from the Essex County Register of Deeds and Mortgages show that he is not a homeowner.  His house is in his wife’s name.

It’s not immediately clear whether Dombrowski, who is on one mortgage for the Cedar Grove residence, is not on the deed in an effort to protect his wife’s home from his creditors.

Dombrowski first showed up in politics in 1993, when the North Arlington resident ran against the Bergen County Democratic organization freeholder candidates in the primary election.  He got thrashed, losing by a 3-1 margin.

By 1999, Dombrowski had moved to Fairfield and set his sights on a State Assembly seat against Republican incumbents Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany) and Carol Murphy (R-Montville) in the 26th district.  DeCroce crushed him by 8,781 votes, a margin of more than 2-1.

Later, Dombrowski set his sights on becoming a councilman in Fairfield.  He lost by nearly 1,000 votes in 2008 and was shellacked by a margin of almost 3-1 in 2010.  Fairfield voters rejected him for a third time in 2011, this time by a more than 2-1 margin.

Zichelli, a 24-year-old law student at Seton Hall University, was appointed in July 2020 following the resignation of Robbie Vargo.  Councilman Joseph Cicala did not seek re-election.

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