Redefining ‘nuclear’ in LD40

A GOP campaign mailer distributed this weekend in the 40th District redefines “going nuclear” and has even some Republicans in the district criticizing the need for the piece.

The mailer from Republican Assemblyman Scott Rumana is essentially a full campaign’s worth of opposition research against Democratic opponent Bill Brennan, slapped into one glossy brochure and sent to homes in Wayne Township.

Included in the piece are pictures of at least five police reports filed against Brennan, excerpts from a judge’s ruling in a court case filed by Brennan, a copy of a building code violation issued to Brennan and even a picture of the shirtless Democrat in the act of blocking a code inspector from photographing his patio.

“This is an act of retaliation,” said Brennan who has been embroiled in several conflicts with Rumana and others in the township. “It’s an act of desperation. It’s petty and vindictive and completely unlawful.  You can’t just cast somebody in a false light and get away with it.”

For his part, Rumana said all of the info in the piece is true and all of the reports were obtained through a simple Open Public Records Act request.

“Mr. Brennan has a very interesting background and I think people should be aware of it when they go to the polls on Tuesday,” Rumana said in a phone interview Sunday.

There is no doubt Brennan has given his opponents a windfall of material to work with and it seems they’ve taken full advantage in the mailer.

There are the police reports filed by his ex-wife claiming he kicked in the door of the couple’s home after she had changed the locks. (Brennan said no charges were filed and police determined he had a right to be in the home after his wife changed the locks.) 

There’s the report filed by his current wife, where police say she told them he grabbed her from behind and choked her as she tried to call for help.  (Brennan said his wife never told police that and no charges were filed against him, but police confirmed a 911 call from his wife that evening.)

There’s the police report filed by a local newspaper reporter claiming Brennan harassed him at a council meeting, making racial slurs and intimidating him to the point that he needed an escort to get to his car. (Brennan said a police officer was present during the altercation and will say the racial slurs and intimidation never happened.  Anyone can file a report alleging anything, Brennan said, and in this case the reporter, Sirrano Keith Baldeo, filed a false report with police, he alleges. Baldeo alleges the harassment was unprovoked and said he plans to file a formal complaint against Brennan.)

There is Brennan’s removal by police from a council meeting last month after he refused to be quieted and continued to try to engage a councilman after he had been gaveled down.

In short, the wealth of oppo on Brennan makes him an easy target.

“He’s been nothing but lying about people in our community far beyond me, council candidates, sitting council members, people who volunteer their time or work for various boards. It just has gone on and on and on. When those tales are being told they are being told by somebody that doesn’t have credibility and I’m pointing out the fact that there is a great lack of credibility on the part of Mr. Brennan.  There isn’t one item in there that’s untrue. There is no spin. You read and you decide.”

But Brennan claims the ad is simply retaliation for his criticism of Rumana over the years including his recent attacks over the hiring of two employees in Wayne, one the former law partner of a former Wayne Planning Board attorney convicted of bribery and the other a man with a criminal record who was appointed to the township’s environmental commission.

That man, Jerry Bello, was convicted in 1994 of official misconduct for taking bribes while he was chairman of the Paterson Improvement Authority and was sentenced to four years probation and served 300 days in jail.  Brennan filed suit against the township to have Bello removed.  Bello stepped down, but Brennan has since railed against his wife, a Wayne Councilwoman, demanding she step down for knowingly approving a convicted felon to sit on a township board.

“Rather than talk about any of those things, they are inventing this hysteria,” Brennan said.  “I was threatened that if I didn’t stop criticizing his wife, (Republicans) would ‘go nuclear.’ ‘” 

Brennan says the police reports in the cases involving his wives should never have been available via OPRA and he will ask for a State Police investigation into why Wayne Police released them.

Rumana disputes that claim and says they were all obtained through OPRA requests.

Republicans in town have no use for Brennan, criticizing his constant threats of litigation and what they call “bizarre behavior” at local council meetings. But some still believe Rumana’s ad was over the top.

“This is a good example of how not to do a political piece,” said one Passaic County Republican who saw the ad.  “There is no political motive for this. Rumana was going to win anyway. It’s revenge politics plain and simple.”

The Republican source said other members of the GOP were particularly annoyed that Rumana, the chairman of the county GOP, would waste valuable resources in going after a no-hope candidate, even as the party has several competitive county and local races.

“Why would they spend money on this nonsense,” the source asked.  “It had to have cost a few thousand dollars at least. Why not spend that on the freeholder’s race? You’re the party chairman; you are supposed to be helping your party win, not taking vengeance on your opponents.”

But Rumana disputes that assertion, saying the piece will also help other candidates who have faced Brennan’s wrath.

“There is not one single person that is involved in this operation who believes that the truth of what Mr. Brennan is about should not be shown to the voters,” Rumana said. “He has literally tried to destroy people’s lives in our town and you can’t have that. The people who have listened to this stuff that Mr. Brennan has put out there will see the person who is making all these statements does not have credibility.”

A copy of the mailer is attached below: