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Passaic County Surrogate Bernice Toledo

Toledo claims ACJC accusations wrong

Passaic Surrogate charged with abusing office to help a friend

By Nikita Biryukov, January 31 2020 12:51 pm

Passaic County Surrogate Bernice Toledo claimed the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct got it wrong when they accused her of awarding control of a $600,000 estate to a personal friend.

Last month, the ACJC charged that Toledo failed to recuse from a case in which she had a personal stake and abused her office to benefit a friend.

The surrogate named Keith Stewart the administrator of Mark Halchak’s estate over Estelle Halchak, the deceased’s cousin.

The ACJC charged that Toledo failed to disclose the nature of her relationship with Stewart. It said the two had known each other for decades and claimed Stewart helped Toledo with her campaign.

Toledo claimed Stewart was just an acquaintance, saying that their social encounters were incidental and the two were not close.

The surrogate further said she informed the deceased’s kin that she knew Stewart and his sister outside of the court and provided Estelle Halchak with the opportunity to have the case tried in superior court instead.

She further charged that Halchak improperly disbursed portions of her dead relative’s estate.

According to the surrogate’s filing, Halchak gave cash and objects worth $68,553 to Brian Hurtt, a non-heir.

The ACJC has yet to schedule a formal hearing on the matter.

Toledo has said she intends to serve out the remainder of her term, and Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie declined to call for her resignation, saying there was a presumption of innocence.

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