Orange clerk disqualifies two prospective City Council candidates

ORANGE, NJ — Despite legal complaints filed by two prospective candidates who Orange City Clerk Joyce Lanier had disqualified from running, she was still scheduled to have a drawing on Wednesday, March 14, at 3 p.m., to determine ballot positions for nine remaining candidates running for four City Council seats on the municipal election on Tuesday, May 8.

Current appointed Board of Education member Kyleesha Wingfield-Hill, who was to run for a seat in the East Ward, and Michael Scott, who was to run for a seat in the West Ward, filed legal complaints with the Newark Superior Court, contesting Lanier’s decision to disqualify them.

“Two people were deemed ineligible and we’re going to court tomorrow,” said Lanier on Monday, March 12. “According to my interpretation of the statute and with the advice of my election counsel, in order to run for an elected position in a ward, you need to live in that ward for one year before the election. That was the case with both, according to their voter registration profiles.”

Wingfield-Hill and Scott, however, did not agree with Lanier’s decision to disqualify them for residency reasons.

“Both in theory filed a show cause with the court,” said Lanier. “My assumption is it’s the beginning of your litigation. I have not received the papers, so I can’t confirm that it’s (Superior Court) Judge (Thomas) Vena.”

Although Wingfield-Hill and Scott had a court hearing before Vena on Tuesday, March 13, in his courtroom in Newark, to determine if they would be allowed to run in the upcoming election, a decision had not been finalized by the time of the ballot drawing.

“Michael Scott has to bring in proof that he resided at 308 Carteret Terrace by the end of today or else we’ll be back in court tomorrow,” said Lanier on Tuesday, March 13. “Kyleesha Wingfield-Hill was given a new court date for April 2. The ballot drawing is still being held tomorrow.”

Attempts to contact Scott or Wingfield-Hill’s campaign manager, Akeem Cunningham, by press time this week were unsuccessful; however, Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin was available for comment about the nominating petition certification process and the standards all prospective ward candidates must meet, in order to run for public elected office in Orange and every other Essex County municipality.

“In the case of the municipal office candidates, the municipal clerk has access to the Statewide Voter Registration System and made the determination on her own,” said Durkin on Tuesday, March 13. “This is not unusual. There was a residency issue with a Bloomfield school board candidate last year and it went to court and the candidate won the election and proved her residency to the court’s satisfaction. Last year, Republican candidates for at-large freeholder needed 100 signatures and we certified 92 and they went to court and a judge ruled them disqualified.”

According to Lanier, 11 prospective candidates turned in nominating petitions by the filing deadline of Monday, March 5: incumbent North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason and challengers Sharief Williams and Tracey Latta; incumbent East Ward Councilman and City Council President Kerry Coley and challengers Dawan Alford and Wingfield-Hill; incumbent West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson Jr. and challengers former West Ward Councilman Hassan Abdul-Rasheed and Scott; and incumbent South Ward Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson and challenger Brandon K. Matthews.

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