Commissioners battle in Monmouth

Monmouth County Board of Elections commissioners Leah Falk and Jo-Ann Dinan this week are filing suit in state superior court against fellow commissioners Karen Haines and Norine Kelly; the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders; and Fredrica Brown, director of county personnel.

Their lawsuit contends that Haines and Kelly, the two Republican appointees to the commission, failed to acknowledge a vote awarding the job of chief clerk of the Board of Elections to Robin Major, and further charges that the GOP-dominated Freeholder Board is attempting to usurp the powers of the commission to appoint a clerk of its own choosing.

The county’s been without a chief clerk of the Board of Elections for eight months.

According to the account of Democrats Falk, who is the commission chair, and Dinan, the bi-partisan commission voted 3-1 on May 10th to hire Major as the chief clerk. Voicing concerns about the fact that Major did not at that time reside in the county, Kelly registered the lone “no” vote. When the commissioners ended the meeting, Falk and Dinan said they had the understanding that the commission would check on the residency requirement for the job, and that if no statute existed forbidding a non-county resident from being clerk, Major would be certified as the majority choice.

Falk and Dinan said they determined that there was no residency requirement for the job, and looked forward to welcoming Major as the new chief clerk, but at a special meeting called by the Republicans on May 23th, Haines abruptly announced that she was no longer supporting Major and that she wanted to change her vote.

Major’s mother has roots in the Republican Party and once unsuccessfully ran against Democrat Barbara McMorrow in a muncipal race. Major is a Democrat, but Falk and Dinan said they became aware of her party affiliation only after they selected her.

“We had 13 candidates,” said Falk. “She was the best qualified, and that was why she got the job.”

Falk says it’s likely Haines would have changed her vote to Delilah Malave, a Republican.

When the Democrats wouldn’t budge from their view that the votes were already cast, Freeholder Director William Barham put a hold on Major’s hiring. Now the Democratic Party appointees are arguing that the freeholders have no authority to hire or dismiss in the Board of Elections, and are demanding that the court uphold the initial 3-1 vote, which would give the clerkship to Major.

Commissioners battle in Monmouth