In a stunning decision that intensifies the LD20 contest, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and the Supreme Court of New Jersey ordered the lifting of a temporary restraining order on the funds of Democrats for Change, pending further court proceedings.
“It is ordered that the motion for leave to appeal is granted and the temporary restraints are dissolved,” Rabner wrote today in response to an appeal by Democrats for Change to a decision issued a week ago by Assignment Judge Karen Cassidy.
Only Justice Virginia Long abstained.
On a compliant filed by incumbent state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) and his team, Cassidy had kept the freeze on monies raised by Democrats for Change pending further examination of how the challengers raised those monies. Specifically, Cassidy kept restraints in place on funds raised at a fundraiser last month attended by numerous friends and employees of the Elizabeth Board of Education. Today, in front of the weekend before Tuesday Election Day, Rabner freed the finances of Elizabeth Schools Assistant Superintendent Jerome Dunn, Elizabeth Councilman Carlos Cedeno and businessman Tony Monteiro. Filed this week, the challengers’ ELEC report shows at least $74,000 of their $122,000 raised this cycle coming in the form of checks from Board of Education employees, School Board members and their relatives and friends.
“The Supreme Court is giving a green light to those who have repeatedly violated campaign finance and ethics laws,” Lesniak said. “It subjects them to penalties only after the election. The appellate court got it, the supreme court did not.”
Allied with Democrats for Change, Elizabeth Board of Education Spokesman Donald Goncalves issued a statement in response to Rabner’s decision.
“This morning, the Honorable Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court Stuart Rabner issued an order dissolving all restraints against the Elizabeth Board of Education and other defendants in the matter of Raymond J. Lesniak, ET AL vs various parties including the Elizabeth Board of Education,” Goncalves said.
“We have many reasons to celebrate in Elizabeth. Elizabeth Public Schools is now considered the best urban school districts in New Jersey. This week we celebrated the inclusion of our own Elizabeth High School in the rankings of the top high schools in the nation and lastly performance has increased in schools throughout the district. We will continue to maintain our focus on excellence. Elizabeth Public Schools is preparing itself for the introduction of a new strategic plan for July 2011 that will put us on a path to being one of the best school districts in the nation.”