WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange mayoral candidate Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. filed an Objection to the Petitions Filed on Behalf of Mayor Robert D. Parisi for mayor less than a half-hour before the start of Tuesday night's Township Council meeting.
Petitions for all candidates running for office in West Orange must be officially certified by Sept. 11 to move forward with the November elections.
As a result, Township Clerk Karen Carnevale requested legal representation in the matter and the council voted to retain Thomas P. Scrivo, Esq., of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP, as an Independent Counsel to Carnevale, who had verified the petitions on Sept. 6. Township attorney Richard Trenk can neither represent Carnevale or Mayor Parisi. Scrivo will work with Carnevale beginning Sept. 10 at a rate of $200 per hour to assist in the review of Hawkins' objection, which noted that Parisi's petitions "may be deficient for various reasons."
Some residents in attendance at the Township Council meeting yelled from the audience that the resolution to approve counsel be pulled, saying it was not on the agenda. Carnevale said that it was an "emergent matter" that needed to be dealt with that night.
Council member Joe Krakoviak, who is also running for mayor, wanted to ask questions but was advised by assistant township attorney Ken Kayser to recuse himself and say nothing on the matter. Councilman Victor Cirilo asked about a putting a cap on Scrivo's retention fees, but Township Administrator Jack Sayers strongly opposed, saying there was a "possibility that Hawkins would file litigation in Superior Court," depending on the outcome of the review and certification process, costing the township additional money.
Carnevale is entitled to legal representation paid for by the township. Should Parisi choose to retain an attorney, it would be at his own cost.
Hawkins is no stranger to litigation in West Orange, having sued the township multiple times beginning in 2007 for allegations of discrimination and demanding permanent disability for an injury he suffered while on the job as a West Orange police officer. On June 10, 2014, a judge dismissed all remaining lawsuits filed by Hawkins, stating they were "without merit."
Parisi, who was a Township Council member for 12 years before being elected mayor in 2010, was named in Hawkins' suits. Since deciding to run for mayor, Hawkins has been a harsh critic of Parisi in his campaign emails, even commissioning a poll from a company in Texas that determined that "63 percent of the voters in West Orange would vote for someone other than Parisi," and saying attendees at Parisi's campaign kick-off, which Hawkins attended, "was filled with mostly with status quo loyalists and political cronies who continue to get fat off of the township’s tax dollars."
Hawkins did receive his police pension and disability, though questions arose from the public regarding his ability to campaign as mayor of Orange while on disability. Hawkins said, "We successfully defeated Parisi's attempt to illegally retroactively terminate my employment when a judge and the Civil Service Commission found that his actions were improper. We also successfully obtained my police pension and disability retirement over West Orange officials' interference and objections."
Township litigation costs for Hawkins' suits, according to West Orange Public Information Officer Jessica Glicker, were approximated a half a million dollars.
TAP into West Orange will provide updates as they become available.