Candidates in the South Orange Village Board of Trustees 2017 election raised more than $20,000, according to the latest filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). A final filing deadline for the campaigns is coming at the end of the month.
As of the last filing by the campaign committee for Nureed Saeed on April 28, the campaign had raised $6,899.76. Of that amount, $2,070 had come from contributions or loans of $300 or less; $630.76 came from in-kind contributions of $300 or less; $1199 came from in-kind contributions in excess of $300; and $3,000 came from monetary contributions in excess of $300.
The contributions in excess of $300 are:
- Kelly Quirk, LCSW Program Director at BRC and Saeed campaign manager; Maplewood, NJ: $500
- Stuart Wainberg, President, Wainco Realty, South Orange, NJ; resident of Livingston, NJ: $2,500.
The following was an in-kind contribution in excess of $300:
- Erin Harper, fillmmaker, Milburn Media Arts, South Orange, NJ; South Orange resident: $1,000 for campaign video shooting and editing
As of May 3, South Orange 2017 campaign of Walter Clarke, Karen Hilton and Steve Schnall had raised $14,920. Of that, $7,100 were contributions or loans of $300 or less; monetary contributions of $300 or more came to $5,020; and in-kind contributions of more than $300 equalled $2,800.
SO 2017 received contributions in excess of $300 from the following as of April 12:
- Karen Hilton (candidate): $1000 ($500 check; $500 for catering)
- Steve Schnall (candidate): $500
- Walter Clarke (candidate): $500
- Donna Smith, attorney and South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education member: $500
- Sam Joseph, realtor, Berkshire Hathaway, Montclair, NJ (former South Orange resident): $1,000
- Kate Lee, homemaker, Short Hills, NJ: $500
- Carl Wolf, CEO of Lakota Holdings LLC (a family owned investment company, according to LinkedIn) and former Board member of SOPAC: $500
- Gregory & Rysonia Clarke, retired, parents of Walter Clarke, Springfield, NJ residents: $500
- Kelly Leight, retired, South Orange resident, $500
Also listed on the form is a $20 contribution from Jill Zimmer, a South Orange resident and teacher in Warren Township.
In kind contributions valued at over $300 are also listed:
- Matt Peyton, photographer, South Orange resident, for photography services: $500
- John Lawler, consultant, Arrow Advisory LLC (corporate consulting based in NYC), South Orange resident, for event catering: $1,700
Stuart Wainberg, who made a donation of $2,500 to Saeed’s campaign, has approached the town about the potential redevelopment of 75 South Orange Avenue, appearing at the April Development Committee meeting to discuss marrying development of his property with the proposed 130-unit Hub Realty-Lustbader/Blockbuster development.
When Village Green questioned if the Wainberg contribution might have any potential impact on Saeed’s ability to serve on the South Orange Development Committee (although Saeed lost the election, she has expressed a desire to serve the town in an unelected volunteer capacity), Saeed’s campaign manager Kelly Quirk responded on a Nextdoor West Montrose post. (Village Green did contact Quirk and Saeed via email as well; however, Quirk wrote that her Nextdoor post should be considered “a public statement from Nureed Saeed’s campaign.”)
In part, Quirk stated on Nextdoor, “We filed these disclosures in accordance with the law and on time. They have been publicly available on the ELEC website. There is nothing hidden.” She noted that the Development Committee is only advisory and said, “Nureed’s retail development experience will help in guiding how the committee asks questions of developers about retail space.”
Quirk also stated, “Nureed Saeed lost. She wants to contribute. Everyone on team Nureed who lost feels a little sad, but happy that she will still have a voice.”
Quirk also questioned why Village Green had not pursued listing contributions that were made to the 2015 campaign slate of current Trustees Mark Rosner, Howard Levison, Deborah Davis-Ford and Village President Sheena Collum, writing, “Why is this suddenly a story? Why wasn’t this a story in 2015, when the lawyers of some developers donated both as individuals(1000) and as a firm(500)? It was publicly disclosed then. And by the way, I’m not insinuating they did anything unethical or illegal.”
Searching ELEC forms, Village Green found that former South Orange resident Elnardo Webster had made a contribution of $1,000 to the SO 2015 campaign. His firm Inglesino, Webster & Wyciskala had also contributed $500. Although neither was representing a downtown development project at the time of the contribution, Webster later represented Landmark Realty in its proposal for the redevelopment of Village Hall.
According to SO 2015 campaign treasurer Michael Auer, $750 of Webster’s contribution was returned:
“Elnardo Webster and his wife Samantha were 20-year residents of the Newstead section of South Orange and hosted a fundraiser for the South Orange 2015 team in which he and his wife donated $1,000. At the time, he was not actively involved with any projects in the village as an attorney. After the election was completed, the candidates were made aware that he may be representing a client and asked me to return $750 to him which I did and sent an amended form to the State putting his family below the reportable limit contribution.“
Regarding the contribution from Webster’s firm, Collum responded, “Nobody from Elnardo’s firm is doing business in the village except for him.”
Village Green also asked about a $500 contribution from Ralph LaMendola, who was listed as the CEO of the Joint Meeting of Essex & Union Counties (the town’s sewer system). Collum responded, “The joint meeting doesn’t receive any contracts from the Village nor do they bid on anything in the village. There’s no conflict.”
Other $300+ contributors to the 2015 campaign of Rosner, Levison, Davis-Ford and Collum:
- The Committee to Elect Britnee Timberlake: $350
- Marian Cutler, VP of Public Relations, Medical Dynamics, NY; South Orange resident: $1,000
“The South Orange 2015 team did not accept any developer contributions and noted on their website a checkbox that all donations needed to comply with state Pay to Play Laws and conform to our local ordinance regarding Pay to Play which far exceeds that of the State,” Auer wrote in an email response to Village Green. “This ordinance covers professional services contracts and requires a fair and open process for awarding of bids and each entity responding to any solicitation from the Village must sign a certification that they made no political contributions to any Village candidates in the previous 12-month period.”
“As Treasurer, I was asked to return several checks by the candidates of which I gladly complied not because the donations were in violation of any laws but because the team was uncomfortable accepting certain monies. Ultimately these laws are put into place to protect the public’s interest and avoid any appearance of impropriety whether one exists or not. If for any reason any candidate elected feels they cannot be impartial, there’s the ability to disclose and recuse oneself. The campaign received a total of 115 donations totaling roughly $15,000 with the average donation being $150.”