Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia issued a statement on Thursday accusing his mayoral primary opponent Councilman Joseph Lopez of “blatantly politicizing” a recent Seton Hall Law School study that found racial profiling to be a likely factor in ticketing by police in Bloomfield.
On Tuesday, Lopez held a community meeting with Bloomfield legislators and advocates to address the racial profiling study. According to a statement from Venezia, that move was spawned by Lopez’s goal of becoming mayor. The mayor’s statement cites place cards left on the panel table for himself, township administrator Matthew Watkins and Police Director Samuel DeMaio as indications of political motives.
Mayor Venezia announced on Monday April 18, one day before the Lopez event, that he plans to hold a similar forum on May 3.
“The Lopez meeting was held even though Mayor Venezia had already announced an official meeting scheduled for May 3rd that will include police officials, study authors, representatives from the ACLU and community leaders. Venezia declined to attend Lopez’s meeting along with the Public Safety Director and Township Administrator because an official meeting had been scheduled, but Lopez still left out name cards for them even though they had confirmed they would not be in attendance, an action clearly intended to attack Mayor Venezia,” the Venezia Team statement read.
According to the team Venezia statement, another indication that the event was politicized was a video truck outside of the event. On that truck, newscasts detailing the Seton Hall report were displayed.
“Most damningly, a Lopez video truck was parked directly outside the meeting venue blasting the same negative and dishonest political attacks that have been roundly criticized and were one of many reasons that contributed to his removal from the Essex County Democratic Party ballot line,” the statement continued.
According to the announcement made by Lopez’s team initially announcing his meeting, the discussion was an effort to “foster an open and honest discussion and re-establish trust between the police and minority communities.”
The mayoral race in Bloomfield has been increasingly heated as time before the June 7 primary ticks away. Lopez and his slate are supported by municipal Democratic Chairman Pete Strumolo while Venezia and his slate have the county line. Initially, Venezia declined the line due to council candidate disagreements. After failed backroom negotiations, Venezia was able to secure his position on the line to run for mayor.