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New Jersey Democratic State Chairman John Currie. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Currie: Toledo allegations ‘disconcerting’

Passaic Democratic chairman stops short of calling for surrogate’s resignation

By Nikita Biryukov, January 03 2020 5:30 pm

Democratic State Chairman John Currie said allegations that Passaic County Surrogate Bernice Toledo abused her office to help a friend and failed to recuse from a case in which she had a personal stake should be investigated but stopped short of calling for her resignation.

“I just had an opportunity to read the news report with regard to a complaint filed against Surrogate Toledo.  While there is a presumption of innocence and this complaint needs to be heard through the proper channels, the details of the complaint are certainly disconcerting,” Currie said in a statement. “I hope that the facts are resolved in the near future, and, when appropriate, I plan on discussing this matter with the surrogate and exploring next steps.”

Currie is Passaic County Democratic Chairman.

The State Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct on Thursday charged Toledo for presiding over a case in which she named Keith Stewart the administrator of Mark Halchak’s $600,000 estate over the deceased’s cousin, Estelle Halchak.

The ACJC’s filing said Toledo failed to disclose and misrepresented her personal relationship with Stewart.

Though she denied having any non-official contact with Stewart in the time between March 23, 2017, when he filed his application to become administrator of the deceased’s estate, and June 6 of that year, when the Surrogate Court heard arguments in the case, phone records showed the two had a 23-minute phone conversation on March 27 and exchanged 22 texts during the time period.

Toledo told the committee Stewart was “not somebody I’d call to talk on the phone.”

The two were Facebook friends, and Stewart assisted Toledo with her campaign. According to the ACJC filing, Stewart attended more than one fundraiser for Toledo, and the two exchanged at least six phone calls in the six months before the hearing and have been friends for decades.

Toledo’s decision was overturned on appeal.

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