The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) today released eight complaints against municipal candidates for alleged campaign finance violations – but thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this week, none of the eight will result in an official decision or fine.
Under the Elections Transparency Act, all complaints are subject to a two-year statute of limitations, a restriction that will be applied retroactively. The complaints released today are all from the 2018, 2019, and 2020 election cycles, so none of them are valid under the new law.
According to Joe Donohue, ELEC’s deputy executive director, the eight complaints were all in the works before Murphy signed the Elections Transparency Act into law (and before ELEC’s three commissioners resigned in protest).
Without any commissioners, the agency cannot make any final decisions – and that includes dismissing old complaints that are subject to invalidation by the new law. Once Murphy appoints new commissioners, which he has 90 days to do before the normal Senate confirmation process resumes, they will have the ability to officially nullify complaints from outside the two-year window.
Included on the list of eight candidates targeted by today’s complaints are some prominent names.
One is Dupré Kelly, a Newark city councilman from the West Ward, though the complaint is from his unsuccessful 2018 campaign; he returned and won a seat in 2022. Another is Rutherford Mayor Frank Nunziato, whose complaint originates from his 2019 off-the-line Democratic primary victory.
Hightstown Councilman Joe Cicalese, former Linden Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey, Oradell Councilman Robert Jannicelli, Palisades Park Councilman Jae Park, and North Caldwell Councilman Arthur Rees are also the subjects of complaints. (Coincidentally, both Park and Rees have switched parties since the complaint occurred; Park is now a Republican, and Rees is now a Democrat.)
Thanks to the Elections Transparency Act, all of these local officeholders can rest easy. They’ll be forced to live with the knowledge that they may have committed a campaign finance violation – but they won’t have to pay a fine for it.