EDISON — It may take months –or even years — before the public will know who is responsible for distributing the racist flier by mailing during the 2017 board of education elections, according to Township Attorney William Northgrave.
Northgrave shared with the Township Council at a meeting on Sept. 12 he just finished defending a client in an Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) matter concerning a 2009 election.
“While ELEC will get to the bottom eventually, it might not be this year, next year, or the following year,” he said.
As campaign season gets underway in Edison, elected officials on both sides of the aisle do not want the hatred they witnessed last year to ever happen again.
The 2017 election season took an offensive tone when a racist flier was distributed by mailing on Oct. 31, 2017. The faces of the two Board of Education candidates, Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel, who are of Asian descent, were accompanied by the statement “Make Edison Great Again” and the word “Deport” under their faces.
The incident garnered national attention.
Northgrave said the failure to identify who paid for the printing and dissemination of the fliers is clearly an ELEC violation.
“It’s definitely in [ELEC] domain, whether it’s a crime is a separate issue,” he said.
New Jersey law requires a candidate or other committee paying for communications, which includes a flier, promoting the election or defeat of a candidate or ballot issue to include the name and business or residence address of the committee financing the communication.
A communication financed by a person not coordinating with a candidate or the candidate’s committee must contain a “a clear and conspicuous” statement that the expenditure was not made with the cooperation or prior consent of the candidate, according to the election statute.
The penalty for a violation is a fine of up to $6,000 for the first offense and up to $12,000 for the second and subsequent offenses, according to the election statute.
The Township Council approved a resolution during a meeting on Sept. 12 in support of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office efforts to bring “criminal charges” against the individual(s) who participated in the preparation and/or dissemination of the flier.
“We are making it clear tonight that this action, this type of political strategy you want to employ, this type of shenanigan, whatever you want to call it, this will not be tolerated,” Councilman Robert Diehl had said.
Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan said the investigation on the fliers is in the hands of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. Peter Aseltine, public information officer for the Attorney General’s Office, said the office’s policy “is that we neither confirm nor deny investigations.”