Morris County Democrats want the Board of Freeholders to conduct an independent audit of election practices by county clerk Ann Grossi after a Superior Court Judge ruled that she circulated an illegal memorandum and failed to understand state election laws.
A group of thirty residents attended the freeholder meeting and several addressed the board with a request to exercise their oversight powers and conduct an audit of Grossi’s office.
Freeholder Director Doug Cabana told the group that the board does not have oversight authority over elections, according to a county spokesman, Larry Ragonese.
“The freeholders finance constitutional offices like the county clerk and sheriff, but election practices are overseen by the Secretary of State and the Division of Elections,” Ragonese said.
Grossi’s Democratic opponent, attorney Shala Gagliardi, is pushing back on Cabana’s position.
“This year, Morris County is home to two congressional races with national implications, 4 competitive races for county offices and at least 40 important local races. Candidates and voters on both sides of the aisle deserve to know that our elections are conducted fairly and freely,” said Gagliardi, “It’s unfortunate that the Freeholders do not seem to believe that the integrity of our elections is important to the welfare of Morris County.”
Gagliardi accused the freeholders of failing to fulfill their responsibilities.
“It may be natural for the all-Republican Board of Freeholders to want to protect one of their own, but the integrity of our elections is too important to be the subject of partisan wrangling,” said Rupande Mehta, a Democratic candidate for freeholder.
The issue involved a challenge to county committee petitions in Rockaway Township, where five candidates were challenged because they did not have enough signatures. Judge Ernest Caposela ruled allowed the candidates to remain on the ballot because they had relied on “illegal” information supplied by Grossi, but ordered that future elections be run in accordance with state statutes.
“An independent judge has shown that there is a problem within the Morris County Clerk’s office and Morris County citizens have expressed their concern directly with the Board of Freeholders,” said Butler Democratic Municipal Chair Judy Woop. “Now it is time for the Freeholders to do the responsible thing and exercise their authority to investigate the election practices within the County Clerk’s office.”
Gagliardi, who is seeking to become the first Democrat to win a Morris County Clerk election since before the Civil War, appears to be seizing on Caposela’s ruling as an election issue.
“We can’t just turn a blind eye to the County Clerk’s failure to understand election law. This problem affects citizens, candidates, and elected officials from both parties,” Gagliardi said. “We can all agree that our elections need to be free, fair, and conducted in full accordance with the letter of the law. Morris County leaders take responsibility for the County Clerk’s oversight so that we can begin working together to ensure the integrity of our elections.”Rockaway ruling