A deputy attorney general handling an election challenge in Atlantic County was replaced on Wednesday morning, although it’s not clear whether his benching was prompted by complaints that he didn’t consult his client, the Board of Elections, before representing their position to a judge.
Beau C. Wilson did not participate in a conference yesterday with Judge Joseph Marczyk, the New Jersey Globe has learned. Another deputy attorney general, George Cohen, appeared instead and told the court that he would be handling the matter going forward.
In a letter filed with the court last week and in appearance before the judge on Monday, Wilson opposed a bid by Democrats seeking to admit expert testimony in opposition.
Republicans were seeking to invalidate the November election results in a District 3 County Commissioner race where the county clerk’s blunder led to 544 voters not receiving the correct ballot. Marczyk overturned the election, where Democrat Thelma Witherspoon had defeated Republican Andrew Parker by 286 votes in a decision that partly relied on the state’s position.
“We are aware of an issue which has arisen concerning the brief you prepared for the court representing the Board of Elections in the Witherspoon/Parker matter,” Evelynn S. Caterson, the Atlantic County Board of Elections Chair, said in a letter to Wilson. “You wrote and submitted this brief without contacting and without receiving any input from any of the four Commissioners nor the board’s senior clerks.”
The attorney general’s office declined to comment on Wilson’s departure from the matter.
It’s not immediately clear whether an ethics complaint will be filed against Wilson with the state Office of Attorney Ethics.
In Atlantic County, election officials from both parties are fuming that their state-assigned attorney went rogue and failed to discuss the matter with any of the four commissioners before representing their position in a hearing with Marczyk.
“I feel Mr. Wilson overstepped his authority. He cannot speak for the board. I hope Mr. Wilson will learn from his error,” said John Mooney, the Board of Elections secretary in an email obtained by the NJ Globe. “I feel that the board and myself have been disrespected in this matter by Mr. Wilson at the Attorney General’s office.”
Caterson is a Republican and Mooney is a Democrat. None of the four commissioners discussed their legal options with their attorney, Wilson, before the hearing.
A move to have the Board of Elections support seeking a stay in Marczyk’s decision to hold a do-over election tentatively set for April 20 was rejected by a 2-2 vote along party lines on Tuesday.
Democrats have filed an appeal of Marczyk’s decision.
Witherspoon was not sworn in when the Atlantic County Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday.
Update at 10:36 PM: according to a court filing on Thursday morning the attorney general’s office formally replaced Wilson with another deputy attorney general Susan Scott.