The Election Law Enforcement Commission Friday said it has no jurisdiction over a complaint from state Sen. Ray Lesniak alleging that former members of the Elizabeth School Board used board employees to solicit donations and that they did it on school property.
In a letter to Lesniak, who filed the complaint against former Democratic 20th District Senate candidate Jerome Dunn and Assembly candidates Tony Monteiro and Carlos Cedeino, ELEC said the current law prohibiting soliciting campaign contributions on state property does not extend to schools.
“In making its decision, the Commission examined several state statutes, none of which hold that boards of education are included under the rubric of “State agency” or “State Property,” ELEC Director of Review and Investigation Shreve Marshall wrote.
Marshall said ELEC “views your allegations as very serious,” and suggested Lesniak forward the complaint to Attorney General Paula Dow or to the state School Boards Association, which Lesniak did today via email.
The complaint stems from a lawsuit filed by Lesniak earlier this year in the heat of his primary battle with Dunn. Lesniak’s suit followed a Star Ledger report detailing pressure put on school employees to contribute to political campaigns. Lesniak succeeded in getting the court to issue a restraining order prohibiting the candidates from spending campaign money, including funds raised at an event honoring Elizabeth schools superintendent Pablo Muñoz, but the order was later lifted by the Supreme Court.
In her letter, Marshall said the agency would welcome an amendment to the statute to specifically include school boards as State agencies.
Friday, Lesniak set out to do just that.
In an email sent to all state Legislators, Lesniak asked for support for the amendment.
“Currently solicitation of campaign contributions on state property or an agency of the state (which includes county and municipal properties) is an ELEC violation with a $5000 per violation fine,” he wrote. “Leaving out school property is a serious and no doubt unintended omission. I have requested that (the Office of Legislative Services) prepare for pre-filing this amendment. I would welcome your co-sponsorship of the legislation. Thank you for your consideration of this request.”