By JACQUELINE DURETT
EDISON — The fallout from Keith Hahn’s appointment in June as Edison Democratic Committee chairman continues.
The Edison Democratic Organization (EDO) counsel Bhavini Shah has taken legal action following her termination by Hahn.
Hahn has had challenges with others in the EDO since he was voted into his position. For many in the party, he represents a changing of the guard and a breaking with the longtime party chair, Thomas Paterniti, who retired from the role in May.
Shah filed an order to show cause in Middlesex County Superior Court on Jan. 22, according to court records.
Shah’s and Hahn’s respective interpretations of the events that led to that termination differ. Where both agree is that Shah was not present for at least two recent EDO meetings.
For her part, Shah said she was never notified of the meetings and does not even know how many she has missed. “If I had known about them, I would have appeared,” she said. “He didn’t inform me once.” If he is going to terminate her, she maintains, it needs to be for cause, and since she wasn’t notified of those meetings, his reasoning is not a valid cause.
Shah said she feels Hahn’s move does more to serve him than the EDO. “The whole purpose of the EDO is not to serve one person, it’s to serve one group,” she said. “It’s not a one-man show.”
She said he’s been telling EDO members that he wants someone “more in line with [his] thinking,” but added that’s not the role of a legal adviser, who instead should be impartial. Shah said that she has enjoyed being counsel for the EDO in the unpaid role, which to her is a way to be present in and give back to her community.
Shah also said she can accept if she’s not the right fit for what the EDO needs right now, but takes issue with how Hahn has handled the matter. “If they want new blood, they want new blood; that’s fine, too. But you have to do it the right way,” she said, adding he has no cause to terminate her.
However, Hahn says he did notify everyone, including Shah, who he said was aware of meetings and did not attend them. Hahn said he has used email and mail for notification and has always included Shah when doing so.
Hahn said he followed the bylaws, which say that if an executive member of the committee has three unexcused absences in a row, that member forfeits his or her position, so he was just notifying her of that consequence by terminating her.
Hahn said it’s actually Shah’s course of action — a lawsuit — that is improper, although he added that he has yet to be served with papers as of Friday.
“Court isn’t even the right venue for this,” he said explaining the proper channel for concerns would be the Middlesex County Democratic Organization. He added that he wasn’t sure a judge would agree to hear the issue. When he first learned of the possible lawsuit a couple of weeks ago through others, he said, “That was very surprising.”
He said he and Shah haven’t had any arguments. He denies that he has a replacement lined up. However, he added that Shah hasn’t gone out of her way to make herself accessible as legal counsel. She did not provide him with a cell phone number until three months after his appointment, he said.
Hahn said he anticipated his win as EDO chairman would ruffle a lot of feathers, but even this level of pushback surprises him. “I didn’t think they would resist change as much as they have,” he said.