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Shala Gagliardi, the Democratic candidate for Morris County Clerk

Grossi failure to understand election law now a campaign issue

Democratic challenger calls for audit of County Clerk practices

By David Wildstein, April 20 2018 1:20 pm

Democrats have not won a race for Morris County Clerk since before the Civil War, but a judge’s ruling yesterday that Ann Grossi did not understand state election law has now become an issue in her bid for re-election to a second term this fall.

Chatham attorney Shala Gagliardi, the Democratic candidate for county clerk, is criticizing Grossi for her decision to follow the instructions of a former Morris County Republican Chairman on county committee petitions rather than obey the easy-to-understand statute that twenty other counties use.

“Ensuring the integrity of our election process is one of the most important duties of the County Clerk. The people of Morris County trusted our clerk to be an effective steward of our elections,” said Gagliardi.

Grossi’s mistake has already brought back a statement she made while seeking a pay raise that she is “overqualified to run” the county clerk’s office because she is an attorney.

Gagliardi says that nearly 1,000 candidates for party office filed deficient petitions because Grossi gave illegal instructions to municipal clerks and candidates.  She smacked Grossi for appearing unaware of the terms of the statute.

“The people of Morris County should be concerned about the fact that a clear state statute governing our elections has been ignored under Clerk Grossi’s watch,” Gagliardi said. “This raises questions about whether any other election laws have also been neglected or overlooked.”

The Democratic challenger has repeated her call for an independent audit of election practices for the county clerk’s office.  She wants the Board of Freeholders to appoint an independent attorney to fill that file.

“While Judge Caposela’s decision graciously allows this year’s candidates to remain on the ballots despite their deficient petitions, Ann Grossi’s oversight could have left nearly a thousand candidates off the ballot throughout Morris County,” Gagliardi said.  “We need to avoid this problem in the future by working together to ensure that the Clerk’s office is conducting our elections to the letter of the law.”

Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela ruled yesterday that Grossi “administered a memorandum that runs counter to the relevant state statute.”

“The rules set in place by the Republican and Democratic party chairmen does not take precedence over the statutory requirements,” Caposela said in his ruling.

Caposela has allowed four candidates for Republican county committee to remain on the ballot in the June primary elections.

“While these four petitions do not meet the statutory requirements,” Caposela said.  “The error was not the faulty of the prospective candidates, and this court seeks to implement open and fair elections to the best of its ability.”

Grossi did not respond to a series of phone and text messages seeking comment.

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3 thoughts on “Grossi failure to understand election law now a campaign issue

  1. Election time is when the smallest misstep gets blown out of proportion as if it’s real news. First, Morris County has followed the same signature requirements for nearly 25 years. Ann Grossi was elected clerk only in 2013. These requirements have never been challenged previously, nor was they ever an issue. If anyone is to blame for this error, it is prior clerks and party chairs who believed they could set their own requirements. It’s apparent that Grossi followed the precedent that they set.

    Ms. Gagliardi described the doomsday scenario of thousands of candidates being thrown off the ballot, but you don’t need to be an attorney to know that a judge would never do that. The courts try hard not to disenfranchise voters, especially with the extraordinary circumstances of this case. One of the most famous cases was the NJ Supreme Court ruling that allowed Frank Lautenberg to replace Senator Robert Torricelli on the ballot after the legal deadline. The courts bent the law because they felt it was best for the voters. Ms. Gagliardi grossly exaggerated this case, in both its potential consequences and its importance. I challenge you to find anyone who was harmed by the signature requirements for Morris County Committee set in 1994. It’s a non-issue, except that from now on, the minimum number of signatures will vary by district and the clerk’s office will have to supply that information accordingly. Big deal.

    Ann Grossi has been a fantastic clerk and deserves a lot of credit for modernizing the office to what it is today. All you have to do is visit https://morriscountyclerk.org/ and you can see a full-service website that is fantastic for many things, especially property and election research. She has really done a fantastic job and does not deserve the negative attention that this case has brought.

    PS. Only the New Jersey Globe website has reported this story. While becoming popular with political insiders, it doesn’t have nearly the reach of mainstream news outlets, who have ignored this story.

  2. I have to disagree with the other commentator. Ann Grossi is County Clerk and has been in violation of New Jersey election law. She may not be the first Clerk to be wrong, but that doesn’t mean she escapes responsibility. An agreement between two chairs of partisan entities is not legally binding, period. I agree with and applaud the court’s decision. As far as New Jersey Globe, I think Mr. Wildstein has done a great job and if he wasn’t popular, NJGlobe wouldn’t have asked to partner with him. I look forward to this publication continuing to hold our leaders accountable.

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