McDaniel continues efforts to recall the mayor

IRVINGTON, NJ — It’s a new year, but Elouise McDaniel, president of the Irvington Joint Block and Nesbitt Terrace Block associations, is continuing the effort to recall Mayor Tony Vauss, which she began with Dee Fuqua and Cathy Southern. Fuqua is president of the Orange Avenue and Oakland Avenue Block Association and Southern has run for various municipal offices.

McDaniel is expanding her list of grievances against Vauss to include alleged ethics violations by Vauss and Councilwoman October Hudley.

McDaniel is questioning the Irvington Municipal Council’s 2016 decision to pay Vauss’ legal fees and expenses related to his defense against the rape and sexual harassment allegations leveled at the mayor by township employee Tamara Smith after he was elected in 2014, before he was sworn into office.

Additionally, McDaniel alleges that Vauss and Hudley violated the New Jersey Code of Ethics Statute by failing to list all their job titles and personal income on the financial disclosure statements filed with the state authorities.

McDaniel has corresponded with Timothy J. Cunningham, chairman of the state’s Local Finance Board; Jeffrey Lenox, director of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office’s Citizens Services and Relations Department, and other county and state authorities to ask why the Irvington Municipal Council, led by former President and at large Councilwoman Charnette Frederic, was allowed to pass a resolution authorizing Vauss to hire the lawyers at a rate of $250 and hour “not to exceed $75,000” for his legal defense in the Smith case.

“On Feb. 3, 2015, Irvington Municipal Council members voted to pay Mayor Vauss’ legal expense in the matter of Tamara Smith V. Township of Irvington,” McDaniel wrote in a letter addressed to the council dated July 22, 2016. “The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 20, 2014, in New Jersey Superior Court in Essex County. Mayor Vauss is accused of having sex with an employee in Town Hall. Taxpayers are not responsible for something that happened outside the scope of Mayor Vauss’ job description.”

Vauss had taken an official leave of absence from his job in the township’s business department in order to run for mayor and had not yet been sworn into office when, according to Smith, he cornered her in her office and forced her to have sex with him. Vauss maintains he never forced Smith to do anything; it was consensual.

McDaniel, however, said this is irrelevant and, as far as she is concerned, what matters to her as a taxpaying citizen is the fact Vauss wasn’t working for the town when the event occurred and, consequently, the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay his legal bills. McDaniel is upset that the council, led by Frederic, agreed to pay his legal fees anyway.

McDaniel’s July 22 letter of complaint to the chairman of the the state’s Local Finance Board reads: “The council members’ decision to allow taxpayers money to pay attorney fees for this case warrants an investigation. I have enclosed documents to substantiate proof.”

On Nov. 20, McDaniel wrote a letter to the state Department of Community Affairs Division of Local Government Services complaining that Vauss and Hudley were “not providing all of the necessary data that is required from elected officials.”

“I think it warrants an investigation,” McDaniel said in that letter. “In their financial disclosure statement, I notice they didn’t list all of the jobs they hold. Mayor Vauss didn’t list his wife, Mia Miller Vauss’, position also.”

McDaniel noted that the mayor’s wife “works for the Irvington Board of Education and Irvington Town Hall” in her Nov. 20 letter, adding that, “According to data, Mayor Vauss did not list his housing inspector position.”

“Mayor Vauss is supposed to be living at 155 Park Place in Irvington,” said McDaniel in her Nov. 20 letter. “This address was not listed on the disclosure statement. Councilwoman Hudley did not list her position with the Irvington Board of Education.”

On Nov. 28, 2016, the director of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office’s Citizens Services and Relations Department responded to McDaniel, saying he had referred her complaint to the Department of Community Affairs Local Finance Board “for review and appropriate action.”

On Dec. 1, 2016, Tina Vignali, of the state DCA Local Finance Board, sent McDaniel a letter acknowledging receipt of her initial complaint and assuring her that her board would investigate the allegations against Vauss and Hudley.

“It is the board’s practice and intent to conduct a thorough investigation of all complaints. The board’s staff is processing your complaint at this time and will, subsequently, present it to the board for review and authorization of any necessary formal investigation. The board will correspond with you as soon as a determination is made in this matter,” Vignali wrote.

Attempts to contact Vauss and Hudley for comment about McDaniel’s ethics violation complaint or Frederic about the council’s approval of funding for the mayor’s legal defense were unsuccessful by press time this week.