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The 2020 Moving Teaneck Forward candidates: Mark Schwartz, Karen Lew Orgen and Michael Pagan.

Victorious Teaneck Council candidates face ELEC complaint

By Nikita Biryukov, July 29 2020 7:39 pm

A complaint filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) seeks an investigation into campaign finance reports filed by Moving Teaneck Forward (MTF), the slate of candidates that won a May non-partisan election for three seats on the township Council.

“We believe that only an investigation — including a Commission review of the records of the MTF slate’s account with Cross River Bank — will clarify what was actually occurring in the revenues and expenditures by this Committee,” said local political activist Chuck Powers in the complaint.

All three members of the MTF slate — then-candidates Michael Pagan, Karen Lew Orgen and Deputy Mayor Mark Schwartz — defeated Board of Education President Ardie Walser, Planning Board member Denise Belcher and Democratic County Committeewoman Gina Gerszberg, who ran on the People for Progress slate.

Powers’ complaint alleges the MTF slate failed to properly report eight ads that appeared in the Jewish Link, a community newspaper co-founded and co-published by Schwartz.

Additionally, Powers, who ran for council in 2018, claims discrepancies between the closing balance of the MTF slate’s 11-day pre-election report and the opening balance of its 20-day post-election report should be investigated.

He also says the organization reported payments that were never made.

“I find it unbelievable that there’d be all those questions about that set of reports,” Powers write in his complaint. “Most of the numbers don’t jive,” he said. “Why in the world there was a claimed payment to somebody in one report … that then get amended to take it away on the 26th?”

The MTF slate’s original 11-day pre-election filing listed a $2,500 payment to Parano & Associates, a political field operations firm run by Dave Parano, but that payment was removed in an amended report filed some weeks later.

In its latest filing, the slate reported a $10,000 payment to Parano & Associates that Powers claim was never made.

“In a personal communication, David Parano categorically denies that he or his firm has at any time worked for — or invoiced — MTF,” the complaint said.

But Gerald Reiner, who served as chair and treasurer for the victorious slate’s joint candidate committee, says that wasn’t the case.

“It was just an accounting error,” he said of the $2,500 payment. “We didn’t pay Parano & Associates until the end because it was derivative of how much work they were doing for us. We paid them for phone bank, GOTV and other outreach. That’s the reason why ELEC lets you amend reports. You make a mistake, you make an amendment.”

A report field by the People for Progress slate shows that they paid Parano $6,500 on May 13, according to reports filed with ELEC.

Parano declined to comment.

The complaint was mailed on July 14 and reached ELEC on July 20.

Narrative of the request for investigation
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