The Hackensack Board of Education has rejected a nominating petition filed by Soheila Spaeth after a political opponent filed an objection claiming that she does not meet residency requirements to run in the April 16 school board election. Now a court battle is looming.
Interim Board Secretary Dennis Frohnapfel received a complaint about Spaeth’s residency from Regina DiPasqua, a frequent critic of city government, on March 1 and immediately ruled against Spaeth without contacting her, according to Spaeth’s attorney.
“This is a gross violation of Soheila’s right to due process and a violation of her civil rights as well, “ says Martin Cramer, an attorney who is representing her. “The Board Secretary issued a ruling without even asking her a question or giving her the opportunity to present her own information. This is an outrageous way to treat a private citizen who is volunteering to run for an unpaid office and another example of bad faith by this Board of Education.”
Spaeth is running on the Hackensack Smart Schools Team with Michael Scott-James Vickery and Ira G. Goodman. All three candidates are being supported by Cramer and Hackensack Smart Schools Inc, which led the successful fight to defeat a $170 million school construction referendum on January 22. Two other slates are also running, one headed by Board President Lara Rodriguez and another led by Board Vice President Timothy Hoffman.
DiPasqua claims that Spaeth is not eligible to run for office in Hackensack because she last voted from an address in Upstate New York in 2018 and has never voted in Hackensack. Spaeth says the New York address is a summer home and that she has lived at Apartment 25C at 160 Overlook Drive in Hackensack continuously since 2004 and has served as a President and Board Member of the condominium association for many years.
“The fact that Soheila has a summer home in New York and was previously registered to vote there is completely irrelevant,” says Cramer. “She is a long-time Hackensack resident and is now registered to vote in Hackensack. That makes her clearly qualified to run according to state law.”
Spaeth says she has never been involved in local politics prior to helping Cramer form Hackensack Smart Schools Inc. in January to fight the referendum, which voters overwhelmingly defeated by a 78% to 22% margin. “It’s very disappointing that the Board Secretary disqualified my petition without even contacting me,” she adds. “But this type of arrogant behavior is what we have come to expect from the Board of Education and its staff.”
Spaeth says her next door neighbor is a retired Superior Court Judge who will personally state that they have been neighbors for many years.
Cramer and Spaeth are calling on Frohnapfel to change his decision to avoid a court fight. “Unless this unjust decision is withdrawn, we will be going to Superior Court very shortly to preserve Soheila’s right to run in this election,” Cramer added. “This will be another waste of taxpayer time and money, just like the poor decisions made by the Board of Education in the referendum campaign.”