Scutari Allies Sue Mahr to Try to Force Open Convention on Feb. 21st

Five self-identified concerned Democratic Committee people allied with state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22) today filed documents in Superior Court to require Acting Chair Colleen Mahr to “follow the By Laws and Constitution of the Union County Democratic Committee (UCDC)” when it holds its Democratic Convention next week.

Linden-based attorneys Edward Kologi and Michael Simitz are handling the case.

Attorney William “Bill” Northgrave is representing Mahr.

Hillside Democratic Committee Chairman Anthony Salters – a third candidate for chairman – has retained attorney Mal’ee L. Wing.

InsiderNJ first reported on the developments here.

The complainants say they object to Mahr issuing a decree to hold a machine vote on Feb. 21st to select the next chair. They say she has failed to explain the rules and procedures for the vote, and ordered 10 voting machines for the convention and demanded poll workers to staff them. However, they note, in Article IV, Secton 9, the UCDCs By Laws and Constitution state:

“All voting by members of the municipal delegations shall be open ballot.”

Scutari personally made that argument here.

Mahr disagreed here.

In their suit, the senator’s backers point out that as Vice Chair and Municipal Chairwoman of Fanwood, Colleen Mahr has repeatedly supported these By Laws over the past decade but now insists on a change.

“Acting Chairwoman Mahr does not seem to be committed to a fair, orderly election. Instead, she seems intent on cementing her grip on power,” said Rev. Reginald Atkins, of Roselle, one of the five Democratic Committeepeople filing suit. “The UCDCs rules are clear, and in violating them, she sows disruption and confusion at this meeting. People will not know whether to follow Ms. Mahr or follow the rules.”

Other complainants are Louisa Bianco, of Scotch Plains; Lourdes Leon, of Elizabeth; Bruce Bergen, of Springfield; and Kimberly J. Palmieri-Moulded of Westfield. All are Democratic Committeepeople and all support Scutari for Chair of the Democratic Committee. 

“The Union County Democratic Party must work as a team where all voices are heard and valued, not forced to play by whatever rules the Chair finds it convenient to follow or ignore,” said Leon. “Ms. Mahr’s undemocratic, unlawful actions open up the Democratic Party to legal scrutiny and it does not benefit our party members or future leaders to be involved in such a discourse.”

“The position of Chairwoman is one of trust and leadership, and even before she seeks a vote on that position, Ms. Mahr is violating the rules that govern the process,” said Bianco. “Democrats around the country are fighting a President who is ignoring the rule of law, we cannot allow it to happen here in Union County, too.” 

As Mahr seeks to serve as Chair of the UCDC and is currently acting chair, the suit further asks the court to require her to stand down as acting chair prior to the vote, especially given the disputes with Democratic Committeepeople who will be voting.

More than 800 Democratic Committeepeople, representing every election district in the 21 municipalities in Union County, are scheduled to vote for a new Chair at a Convention on Wednesday, February 21 at the Gran Centurions in Clark.

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  • Robert Bolmer

    I am a Committee member and do not want an open vote. I don’t trust Scutari and know he only wants the open forum to work against those who don’t want another Jerry Green controlling the party. To be honest, I think Mahr will be a better choice and knows more about my than Scutari does. He has been here three times for photo ops and doesn’t know anything about our needs or desires. I and many others don’t care about the deals Scutari has made with some mayors or members, we want someone who knows and understands Union County. That person is not Scutari

  • Cory Storch

    I am in favor of a secret ballot. Union County Dems have experienced a top down “boss” system for many years and the by-laws support that. Although I have no problem voting openly (I will support Nick Scutari), I agree with those who are concerned about the perception that a vote for Mahr will have negative consequences for the voter, even though I don’t think Nick Scutari is into that. Perception matters.
    Whatever the outcome of the February 21 vote, I urge my fellow Democrats to call for a review of the county committee by-laws as soon as possible after our meeting.

  • Justin Mytowne

    I am a former NJ resident laughing at the amount of energy not expended on behalf of NJ residents.
    This is like high school cliques, except the battles here are over which coalition controls the expenditure of taxpayers’ cash and gets to allocate political favors.
    Good luck! 😉

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