Roselle Democratic Committee members are up in arms after discovering that their funds were used to mail an invitation to residents in the borough to attend an event announcing Mayor Donald Shaw’s re-election bid in the upcoming June primary election.
The committee’s chairman, Assemblyman Reggie Atkins, is under fire for allegedly misusing party funds without prior approval, a move that committee members deem as stealing from the organization.
The situation has further escalated since former Assemblyman Jamel Holley announced his plans to run against Shaw, whom he considers as having failed the town through controversies and scandals.
Holley, a former mayor and council president in Roselle, has built a reputation for himself as a legislator who could work across party lines, sponsoring over 60 laws during his tenure in the state legislature.
One of the contentious issues in the upcoming mayoral race is taxes. Roselle residents have seen a significant increase in their property tax bills under Shaw’s administration, with the average bill at $10,293, which is higher than neighboring communities.
Holley’s campaign promises to address these concerns, with a focus on improving the lives of Roselle residents and restoring integrity to the mayor’s office.
Shaw was also caught in the act of passing along thousands of dollars in fines for EZ Pass violation that revealed his frequent abuses of motor vehicles owned by the borough, which he used for late night driving in New York despite prohibitions against out of state and personal use of the car.
Documents showing that Shaw has amassed nearly $5,000 worth of E-ZPass violations over a two-year period at the Goethals Bridge, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel came to light after Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson learned about a check for $4,952 in taxpayer funds made out to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that was signed by the Mayor.
In a letter to Senator Nicholas Scutari, the Union County Democratic Committee chairman, former Democratic Councilman Samuel Bishop expressed his concern over the unauthorized use of party funds for campaign purposes.
Bishop argued that the costly mailer was a direct violation of the Roselle Democratic Committee bylaws, which require approval from the committee members for any expenditure of funds outside regular activities or expenses.
The Roselle Democratic Committee Bylaws state, “No expenditure of funds of the committee shall be made by the treasurer outside of regular activities or expenses thereof, except upon the approval of a majority of the committee members at a special or regular meeting.”
“Clearly this action was blatant and an egregious violation of our very own bylaws,” said Bishop. “It also is a violation of the precious Democratic principles that we as a nation hold so near and dear. Dictatorial actions hold no place in our society of laws, fairness and common decency.”
The Roselle Democratic Committee Bylaws also specify the procedure for candidates who wish to be endorsed to seek approval, but Shaw failed to formally ask members of the panel for their support.
Bishop called on Scutari to investigate the matter and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
This is only the latest incident in which Atkins has brought vitriol and division to the once-unified Democratic organization since he was entrusted with power as mayor, a post in which he served briefly from 2020 to 2021, following the resignation of Christine Dansereau.
Atkins was caught stealing state and federal unemployment funds by falsifying weekly benefit claims and he collected thousands of dollars in questionable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Atkins publicly admitted that he neglected to report more than $15,500 of income each week he falsely claimed to qualify for unemployment benefit payments beginning in 2018 and continuing through some point in 2019.
Instead of prosecuting him, officials allowed Atkins to return the stolen money when he was a candidate for the Legislature.
Atkins also received $8,041 from the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) in May, 2020, without having a qualified payroll expense.
To mitigate the political damage in the 2021 Democratic primary election, Atkins claimed that he was repaying the total amount he received but those claims remain unconfirmed.
With the upcoming mayoral race in Roselle expected to be fiercely contested, both candidates are vying for the support of the town’s voters, with Holley’s track record of public service and commitment to the town’s well-being, presenting him as the change that Roselle needs.
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