NORTH BERGEN — With just over a week before the town’s nonpartisan election, mayoral hopeful Larry Wainstein and his attorney this afternoon accused incumbent Nick Sacco of being party to a “voting fraud scheme” meant to “usurp the voice of North Bergen residents.”
During a press conference in their office off of John F. Kennedy Blvd. here, Wainstein and his attorney, Mario Blanch, told a group of residents that a complaint had been filed in Mercer County by the team’s campaign manager, North Bergen resident Luis Gutierrez, alleging over 50 non-North Bergen residents who’ve falsified their addresses in order to cast ballots in the May 12 election. They said the complaint also details “voter intimidation techniques” used in previous elections, including the escorting of voters to voting booths.
“Presumably, both the township of North Bergen and Mr. Wainstein want a fair election, free of improprieties,” Blanch said.
Blanch said the complaint had been filed with the New Jersey Division of Elections two weeks ago, and that the team had “waited until the Attorney General commenced and investigation” before announcing it. He said it was his understanding that the division as well as the county Board of Election had already begun investigating the fraudulent voters, adding that “from the initial findings, which were provided to me today, it can be said beyond a shadow of a doubt that individuals who do not reside in North Bergen have voted in past elections in North Bergen.”
The voter fraud issue was originally brought up during Gov. Chris Christie’s Essex County town hall earlier this month when Howard McPherson, a businessman from North Bergen, claimed he had sent the AG’s office “about 35 photographs of three and four sets of legs inside the polling booths” during this year’s school board elections.
“We want to reduce the need to come back on May 13 and ask for a re-vote because nonresidents decided to usurp the voice of North Bergen residents,” Blanch said.
The allegations are the latest political grenade to have been lobbed between the two camps as the race approaches its inevitable culmination. Wainstein, a local businessman and longtime critic of the county’s establishment, has hit Sacco over various accusations of impropriety and misconduct, including for holding simultaneous positions in the legislature and in city hall and having own of his offices recently raided by the Attorney General’s office; Sacco, for his part, has called into question Wainstein’s own residency status (some claim he’s a resident of Bergen County’s Franklin Lakes) and has accused him of being a front man for convicted former Township Clerk named Joe Mocco.
Earlier today, Sacco’s team announced that Union City had zapped Wainstein with an official notice of violation and order to terminate along with a $10,000 fine per week if the business remains in violation. Wainstein brushed off the news today by saying he “has all the permits” for the business.
“I have impeccable history within the township and within the county,” Wainstein told a reporter. “Shame on his part for creating fantasies.”
Gutierrez’s own complaint names Walter Somick, one of the parks department employees who was charged for falsifying time sheets in connection with the Attorney General’s raid on North Bergen’s town hall last month. Waintstein’s team, who referred to Somick as the “son of Sacco’s girlfriend,” claims that Somick also faked his address and actually lives in Wayne.
Blanch and Wainstein added today that they had requested “neutral monitors and or state police at every polling location” on May 12, but evidence provided by the opposition camp refutes the legitimacy of the pair’s claims beyond that of mere accusation. According to a brief about the allegations from the Attorney General’s office provided by North Bergen spokesman Phil Swibinski, the office “did not find any improper activity” after conducting an initial inquiry and advised the court dismiss the complaint.
“Lying Larry Wainstein’s gang of thieves actually asking law enforcement to come in at the 11th hour and rescue their failing campaign is like a drug cartel asking for help from the DEA,” added Paul Swibinski, Sacco’s campaign manager and Phil’s father. “We’re talking about a lawsuit full of ridiculous lies and deliberate falsehoods filed by a deadbeat attorney who owes almost $200,000 in back taxes on behalf of a campaign being run by the biggest political crook in North Bergen history for a candidate who doesn’t even live in the town he wants to run. This is just another desperate political stunt from a candidate who is going down in flames. ”
Wainstein, for his part, was met with raucous applause by the attendees at today’s press conference, despite speaking little throughout. He told reporters that it’s “time for a change” and that North Bergen “deserves a leader they can trust.”
“It’s time we end the 25 year Sacco dictatorship,” he said.