George Dougherty, counsel to the Mercer County Republican Committee, on Thursday said Republican County Chairwoman Lisa Richford did not have the authority to override the Hamilton Municipal Committee’s decisions on ballot placement in a contested primary there.
“I advised Ms. Richford this afternoon that her directive to the County Clerk to replace the Hamilton Republican Committee’s nominees with those of her choice exceeded the powers of her County Committee office,” Dougherty said in an email to Richford and Hamilton Republican Municipal Chairman Dennis Pone.
Earlier Thursday, The Trentonian reported Richford overruled the municipal committee’s unanimous decision to award Mayor Kelly Yaede and her running mates, Vinnie Capodanno and Richard Balgowan, the party line.
Richford attempted to give the party line to mayoral candidate David Henderson and his council slate, Cindy Simon and Bill Argust.
Dougherty said the issue had previously been raised by Princeton Republican Municipal Chairman Dudley Sipprelle, who questioned whether there was any basis for the removal authority granted to the county chair by the MCRC’s constitution.
The committee’s counsel found there was no basis for such power and removed the provision from the MCRC’s bylaws.
“Subsequently to that event, I have had occasions to revisit Title 19 in search of any changes or clarification of this age-old system of local governance,” Dougherty said. “To date nothing appears legislatively or judicially to have altered our opinion.”
Ultimately, Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello will decide who gets the line. She told the Trentonian she was seeking the advice of county counsel Thursday.