A Salem County Superior Court Judge issued an order blocking Penns Grove Councilman Carl Washington Jr. from performing any official duties pending an August hearing on whether he was improperly appointed to his office.
Penns Grove Council President Carol Mincey and Councilman Michael Bercute sued Washington Jr., former Mayor John Washington and municipal clerk Sharon Williams earlier this month, claiming the three violated state election law when they appointed Washington Jr. to fill another councilman’s vacant seat.
Washington Jr. was appointed to fill Councilman Rafael Leon’s seat in a special session held on Nov. 14, 2019. Three days after Washington Jr. resigned from his own council seat after losing re-election.
“I am disturbed by a recently filed lawsuit alleging that Carl Washington, Jr. was appointed to his position on Penns Grove Borough Council in a manner that was inconsistent with New Jersey law,” Mayor LaDaena Thomas said. “While I am unable to comment on the merits of the lawsuit, I believe the residents of Penns Grove, just like all other U.S. citizens, have the right to be represented in their local government by people who are lawfully elected or appointed to their positions.”
Mincey and Bercute claimed Washington Jr. was improperly appointed to Leon’s seat because the appointment happened more than 30 days after Leons stepped down.
State law requires the municipal committee of the resigning elected official’s party submit a list of three nominees to fill a vacant local seat within 15 days of the vacancy. If they do not do so, the council can fill the seat on its own, but they must do so within 30 days of the vacancy’s start.
“Judge Jean Chetney signed an order this past Friday on July 10th 2020 precluding Mr. Washington from acting in any capacity as a Councilman or Borough employee until next month’s hearing,” Thomas said. “If the lawsuit’s allegations are true, Mr. Washington must step down to ensure the integrity of Penns Grove Borough Council and should resign from all aspects of pharaoh business including running for re-election.”