Suit seeks video of candidate filing petitions
WASHINGTON TWP. For the third time in advance of the June 3 primary, a lawsuit stemming from persistent party infighting in the township has been filed. This time, the municipality is the target.
The latest suit, filed in Superior Court, claims that the township was wrong in denying a public records request by Gerald Keer, a member of the local Republican Party. Keer had sought video footage of Council President Giancarlo D'Orazio, also a Republican, filing his election petitions in March.
D'Orazio, at odds with his party, is seeking reelection alongside Robert Maloney, a newcomer, against the party-backed candidates Christine Bailey, Joseph Micucci, and Nicholas Fazzio. Three seats - D'Orazio's and those of his two fellow Republicans not seeking reelection - are up on the five-member council.
The local GOP initially challenged D'Orazio's petition because it included signatures of some Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Township Clerk Jill McCrea - a Democrat who gained D'Orazio's vote for her position - disqualified some signatures but affirmed those of unaffiliated voters.
Republicans, through a public records request, had obtained a copy of D'Orazio's petition totaling 59 signatures, said attorney Steve Altamuro, who is representing Keer. The 16 total signatures challenged, the party believed, would have brought D'Orazio below the required 50 signatures for candidacy.
But when the Republicans challenged McCrea's findings in court, D'Orazio's team produced three petitions totaling 77 signatures, Altamuro said. The case was moot.
Republicans want to know why the version they received included only one petition, with fewer than 60 signatures, Altamuro said, and hope video footage will provide answers.
"All I want to see is if she received three forms," he said. "They should have all been stamped in and received by the clerk at the same time."
The township, in its rejection, cited security reasons for withholding the footage. The township solicitor and McCrea did not return requests for comment Tuesday.
D'Orazio maintains that his nearly 80 signatures were all part of the original filing. "If they are successful in getting the films," he said, "then they're going to see I walked in with three petitions." - Angelo Fichera