Edison, NJ - Campaign fliers in Edison are creating more controversy. Edison Police Officer, Detective Keith Hahn, says he is being targeted and harassed by the Township’s Director of Public Works, Anthony Russomanno, and incumbent Councilmen Leonard Sendelsky and Michael Lombardi.
In an email, dated May 7, 2019, Mr. Hahn filed a complaint with Edison Township Business Administrator Maureen Ruane, alleging that a recent campaign mailer sent by the campaign of Mr. Sendelsky and Mr. Lombardi falsely portrays him in a poor light.
Mr. Sendelsky and Mr. Lombardi are running for re-election against the Democratic Party’s candidates. Their slate includes incumbent councilmen Robert Diehl, Samip (Sam) Joshi, and Council President Alvaro Gomez. The group is running as “Edison Democrats 2019” and have tagged themselves as “Real Democrats.”
The mailer, which states it was paid for by Edison Democrats 2019, calls Mr. Hahn a “defective detective.” Mr. Hahn, who has been a police officer for 25 years, is a former Edison Democrat Party Chairman who ran for mayor in 2017 as a Republican. He is not running for office this year.
According to Mr. Hahn, the mailer was “sent out by DPW Director/Campaign Manager Anthony Russomanno and Jaffe Communications on behalf of Councilman Lombardi and Councilman Sendelsky’s campaign.”
Jonathan Jaffe of Jaffe Communications said the firm is not involved in the Edison political campaign.
“The flier, which attempts to depict me as unstable or crazy was a fake news article with a headline of ‘GOP’s Keith Hahn: I’m Going To Tear Edison Apart’, ” wrote Mr. Hahn who also took issue with the imagery contained in the mailer.
“As if this verbiage and depiction of me was not offensive enough the background picture was of a minority woman, gagged while her hands are being duct taped together as if she was being enslaved. A white hand wearing a black sleeve, as if it were me, is shown duct taping the woman’s hands together. (A picture of me wearing a long sleeve black sweater was utilized in the photo),” stated Mr. Hahn in his complaint.
Earlier this week, the Lombardi-Sendelsky campaign came under fire from the New Jersey ACLU and the Metuchen-Edison NAACP based on a separate mailer that the groups say was intended to intimidate voters. The New Jersey South Asian Bar Association also filed a complaint with the Department of Justice based on that mailer.
In an email from Ms. Ruane, provided by Mr. Hahn, she states “Edison employees and public officials remain entitled to First Amendment protection and are entitled to comment on matters of public concern including the political campaigns of candidates for public office.”
"It is unfortunate that yourself and the administration repeatedly turn a blind eye to misconduct," replied Mr. Hahn. "To subtly infer that I’m doing something inappropriate by reporting this misconduct is beyond comprehension and one of the main reasons misconduct goes unreported in town hall. Defending my character, integrity and professional reputation after being attacked in the public domain because of my employment as a police officer by a Director, Township PR Firm and two Council people has absolutely nothing to do with any political campaign," he wrote.
The Township declined to comment for this story. “We don’t comment on personnel issues,” said Melissa Perilstein, the Township’s Administrator of Policy & Strategic Initiatives, in response to an inquiry by TAPinto Edison on whether the Township believed that it could face liability based on the mailer.
Ms. Perilstein is also a candidate on the Edison Democrats 2019 slate. She is running for Middlesex County Sherriff. She declined to comment as to whether she authorized the mailer and whether she believed the image of the woman being tied up and gagged is appropriate.
Mr. Lombardi, Mr. Sendelsky, Mr. Joshi, Mr. Diehl, and Mr. Gomez have not returned a request for comment.
Editor's Note: The response from Jonathan Jaffe was added after publication.