Ann Grossi just won re-nomination to her job as Morris County Clerk with support of the county’s Republican Committee.
Now, a mere two weeks or so after the primary, that same Republican Committee is suing her.
Also being sued is Dolores “Dee” dePierro, the chair of the Parsippany Republican Committee, and the wife of veteran councilman, Mike dePierro.
Plaintiffs are the Morris County committee and Justin Musella, who is also a Parsippany councilman.
The immediate battleground is Parsippany’s 78-member GOP county committee, which like everywhere else in New Jersey, is largely a group of political insiders elected from individual voting districts in primaries. This has local importance because of an upcoming contest for local GOP chair between Jamie Barberio, who is also mayor, and Susy Golderer.
Beyond that, this is an obvious indication that Republican unity in Morris County, long one of the state’s bellwether GOP counties, is a bit, shall we say, elusive.
As mentioned, there are 78 Republican county committee seats in Parsippany, but all of them are not filled.
This is not unusual. It can be tough to find people to run for these seats even though the job is not all that time consuming.
After this year’s primary, there were 63 filled county committee seats. That meant 15 vacancies.
Chairwoman dePierro moved to correct most of that by naming 13 new members, bringing the roster to 76.
One of those named, interestingly, was former Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, who lost a primary bid to reclaim her seat in LD-26.
The issue here, however, was not who was named, but that dePierro named them.
The suit contends that according to party bylaws, such vacancies are to be filled by the entire committee membership, not unilaterally by the chair.
The suit says that the 13 – the dirty dozen plus one, if you will – were illegally named and that the court should remove them.
Why is Grossi involved?
The suit contends that as county clerk, Grossi “accepted these appointment forms containing the illegally appointed members without vetting them or performing any due diligence as to their appointments.”
The litigation will proceed, but one can not ignore the accusations flying about in GOP circles.
In a June 15 emailed letter to Grossi and dePierro, Laura Ali, the county GOP chair, warned of possible litigation because of the “illegal” appointments. She says “collusion” may be afoot, noting that appointments were made despite there being “no meeting, no vote, no quorum and no reorganization.”
In reply, Kirstin Bohn, Grossi’s attorney, took umbrage at the charges of illegality and collusion, terming it unsupportable and perhaps even “defamatory.” She also said that this issue does not concern the clerk.
Also weighing in is Assemblyman Brian Bergen. Parsippany is in his 26th District, but he doesn’t live there. Bergen is on the side of the plaintiffs.
In an affidavit accompanying the suit, Bergen expresses surprise that Grossi certified the alleged illegal appointees.
In fact, channeling Claude Rains from Casablanca, Bergen says he was “shocked” – that’s right, shocked – to see what Grossi did.
The following is a statement from Clerk Grossi:
On Monday, June 19, 2023, the Primary Election results were certified by Morris County Deputy Clerk Anna McMahon. As you know, I am up for re-election and because I was on the ballot, I recused myself from these election proceedings. Anna and my entire staff did a wonderful job as the election takes a great deal of time and commitment to be successful. I am happy to report that this election was a great success.I would also like to clear up the misinformation about the role of the County Clerk’s Office as it pertains to Morris County Municipal Committee appointments to districts that have vacancies. The County Clerk does not certify the appointments. The County Clerk simply maintains a list of the members of the Morris County Municipal Committees for both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Each municipal county committee is a separate entity and self-governing body that is run solely by its individual members and executive board. The Clerk’s Office has no legal or statutory authority over the individual municipal committees. Anyone who is asserting or writing that the County Clerk has certified the committee appointments is misinformed as to the law and spreading inaccurate information and clearly lacks an understanding of the law as to the scope of the County Clerk’s authority. The County Clerk’s Office does not have the authority nor the ability to verify the appointments. If there is a dispute concerning any actions taken by the individual municipal committees, it is up to the members to resolve the dispute however they see fit. Simply put, the County Clerk’s Office is merely a depository of the members of the various municipal committees that are comprised of elected members and those that are appointed to fill vacancies. I hope this clarifies the County Clerk’s position with regard to maintaining the various municipal committee lists.