Judge rules against McDaniel and Morris at show cause hearing

IRVINGTON, NJ — On Monday, April 2, Newark Superior Court Judge Tom Vena ruled against an attempt by prospective mayoral candidate Elouise McDaniel and Allison Morris, her prospective running mate for the Irvington Municipal Council, to get on the municipal election ballot, after Municipal Clerk Harold Wiener determined the two had failed to get enough of their nominating petitions certified.

McDaniel and Morris needed to file 292 valid petitions by Monday, March 5, and be certified by Wiener, to run for mayor and an at large council seat on Tuesday, May 8. According to Wiener, McDaniel and Morris were short by six and four petitions, respectively.

McDaniel and Morris disagreed with Wiener’s determination, however, and filed an appeal in Newark Superior Court, requesting a show cause hearing at which they could present arguments as to why their petitions should have been certified.

They had their first hearing before Vena on Friday, March 16, but since no one from the township or the Clerk’s Office was present, the judge rescheduled it for Monday, April 2, and this time Wiener attended with township attorney Ramon Rivera.

“Judge Vena dismissed the order to show cause in each case,” said Wiener on Tuesday, April 3. “That’s why we have the courts. We needed a decision in the matter and the courts ruled and it moves forward from there.”

Rivera said the petition filing and appeal process in this case was proof the electoral process and democratic system works.

“I just want to say that I believe the judge made the correct decision,” said Rivera on Tuesday, April 3. “He did a thorough analysis of all the facts and the law and he concluded that Ms. McDaniel and Ms. Morris failed to meet the required number of petitions to get on the ballot. They failed to give evidence to support their claim that their petitions should have been certified and they should be on the May 8 ballot.”

Wiener said “moving forward” means proceeding with the election Tuesday, May 8, in accordance with state law and local municipal statutes.

“As far as I’m concerned, Judge Vena said the case is over,” Wiener said. “In terms of the prospective candidates, I think they should be applauded for wanting to be involved in their community and they should not be discouraged by Judge Vena’s ruling. There will be other elections and, if they want to get involved again, they should.”

Rivera also said Vena’s ruling means case closed for him, too.

“The judge told them they had the opportunity up until March 19, to correct all the deficiencies and present it as evidence,” Rivera said. “He gave them an opportunity to go out and try to find these individuals. He dismissed both of the cases with prejudice, which means that they can’t file again. I believe he got it right.”

Rivera added that Vena offered McDaniel and Morris a bit of advice in his ruling, as well.

“The judge also noted that they got their petitions in at the last minute,” said Rivera. “They should have gotten them in earlier.”

McDaniel disagreed and said the case is not over, as far as she is concerned, despite Vena’s ruling.

“It is not over,” said McDaniel on Tuesday, April 3. “I don’t think the judge was fair, because we had all of the evidence there to prove our case. If I was them, I wouldn’t be too happy, because you never know what’s going to happen or who is taking an interest in Irvington now, because of what happened in this case.”

Regardless of McDaniel’s prediction, Wiener had already begun moving forward with the election process prior to his appearance in Vena’s courtroom on Monday, April 2. On Monday, March 12, he held the official drawing for candidates’ positions on the ballot, which resulted in Vauss being line 1A, because he is running unopposed for re-election. Barnes Reid is line 2B, running for an at large council seat against incumbent Councilwoman Renee Burgess, who is line 3B; Councilwoman October Hudley is line 4B; and Councilwoman Charnette Frederic is line 5B.

Burgess, Hudley, and Frederic are running for re-election on Vauss’ Team Irvington Strong ticket with the campaign slogan: “Team Irvington versus Everybody.” Reid was supposed to be running for an at large council seat on the same slate as McDaniel and Morris. He turned in 392 petitions, though he only needed 292, and got enough certified to be placed on the ballot.