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Former Morris County Freeholder David Scapicchio. (Photo: Via Linkedin)

Former Morris freeholders offer to drop suit if county GOP meets demands

Sette, Scapicchio want mailing lists, registration details

By Nikita Biryukov, January 21 2021 4:39 pm

Two former Morris County GOP freeholders opposing the party’s bid to adopt a party line offered to drop their lawsuit against the Republican County Committee in exchange for seven demands Wednesday.

David Scapicchio and John Sette, who chaired the county Republican organization for 17 years, asked the committee to provide email addresses and lists for each of the committee’s members and equal speaking time committee elections, which they want administered by a neutral party.

The move is the latest in an intra-party feud over the future of Morris County Republican politics.

Chairwoman Laura Ali, State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) and others want the GOP organization to begin offering a party line instead of running open primaries, arguing its necessary to hold onto local and county offices as Democrats’ performance in the county improves.

Detractors like Sette and Scapicchio argue the move is to centralize power at the top of the committee and worry it could dissuade new candidates, especially young ones, from stepping into the political fray.

They sued the Morris County Republican Committee earlier this month, successfully stopping a convention planned for Jan. 16 after Morris County Superior Court Maritza Berdote Byrne issued a temporary restraining order after finding the convention was improperly noticed.

That order only stopped the MCRC from holding a convention until Jan. 19, and the body has since scheduled another vote for 10 a.m. on Feb. 6.

Parties are due for a hearing before Berdote Byrne tomorrow, but it’s not likely the convention will see another delay.

Sette and Scapicchio’s focus has turned toward lobbying committee members against the line, but they say they’ve been denied the means to contact the Republican party officials who’ll decide if the Morris GOP will adopt an organizational line.

“While the Plaintiffs are against the proposed bylaw change, the purpose of this suit is not to stop the bylaw amendments, it is simply to ensure a fair election that follows the bylaws and protects the rights of all members — to be assured all members are properly noticed, properly registered and that votes are properly counted,” their attorney, Alan Zakin, said in a letter to MCRC Counsel Joe Bell.

But they’re still waging war on procedural grounds. Zakin’s letter requested the Morris GOP draft credentials, rules and program committees, saying its bylaws require such bodies, and follow provisions in the MCRC’s bylaws they say require bylaw changes be carried out over separate meetings.

Morris GOP rules say its bylaws can be amended by a two-thirds supermajority vote “provided that the proposed Amendment or Amendments shall have been presented at a regular or special meeting.” It may come to Berdote Byrne to decide whether that rule requires amendments be introduced at a previous meeting.

Morris Republican Vice Chair Peter King did not immediately respond to a 4:04 p.m. call to his law office seeking comment.

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