Council’s role defined in elections

ORANGE, NJ — The Orange City Clerk’s Office has stated that nominating petitions for the mayoral and at large City Council elections will not be available until the second week of January but, based on recent announcements by candidates, campaign season has unofficially begun.

This was made clear on Monday, Nov. 16, at the council’s last regular meeting before the annual League of Municipalities meeting, scheduled to run from Tuesday, Nov. 17, through Friday, Nov. 20. North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason, who is not running for re-election, used her time during the council members’ comments to the audience to remark about a social media posting, in which Councilman Harold L. Johnson Jr. allegedly said a candidate was endorsed at the Orange Municipal Democratic Committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The meeting was not broadcast because it was on a Monday, and Channel 34 is only scheduled to air council meetings on Tuesdays.

“We had a Democratic Committee meeting and Councilman Johnson put out on social media that the committee endorsed a candidate,” Eason said on Monday, Nov. 16. “I come to these meetings and I sit here and there was a lot of discussion at the last Democratic Committee meeting. But the committee didn’t endorse anybody. We shouldn’t do that. We don’t do that.”

In response, on Monday, Nov. 16, Johnson said, “I don’t think any council members should be talking about what I post on my social media account about the OMDC, because it has nothing to do with this meeting.”

The exchange between Eason and Johnson prompted council President April Gaunt-Butler to lay down the law with regard to council conduct during elections and the time beforehand. She is also an at-large council member up for re-election in 2016.

“We’re going into an election season and there’s going to be a lot of things going on that need to be unencumbered by anyone trying to make this into any kind of a platform,” Gaunt-Butler said on Monday, Nov. 16. “We’re here to do the city’s business for the people and taxpayers of Orange and that’s it. I just hope everybody will respect that.”