Irvington residents seek to recall mayor over allegations he forced employee to have sex

By Bill Wichert | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 05, 2015

Four Irvington residents are seeking to recall Township Mayor Tony Vauss, pictured in this July file photo, over allegations that he forced a township employee to have sex with him in a municipal office

 

IRVINGTON — A group of four Irvington residents is looking to recall Township Mayor Tony Vauss over allegations that he forced a municipal employee to have sex with him in a township office.

But the mayor dismissed the recall bid as an act of political retaliation for him winning the mayoral race.

The residents last week filed a lawsuit against the township and Municipal Clerk Harold Wiener over his rejection of their “notice of intention” to recall the mayor. The group filed the notice with Weiner on Dec. 12.

Wiener found the notice was “prematurely filed” and not in compliance with state law, because Vauss has not been in office long enough for residents to start a recall effort, according to court documents.

That recall process shall not commence until the 50th day before the end of Vauss’ first year in office, Wiener said today in a phone interview. Since Vauss took office on July 1, 2014, the process cannot begin until May 12, 2015, Wiener said.

“The notice of intention was filed too soon,” Wiener said.

Elouise McDaniel, one of the township residents behind the recall bid, however, argued that municipal officials are “trying to deprive us of our freedom of speech.”

“We didn’t think that…we would be prevented from just sitting down and form a committee to talk about it,” said McDaniel, president of the Irvington Block Association Coalition, who has lived in the township for more than 30 years.

McDaniel is pursuing the recall effort, along with fellow coalition members and township residents Daisy Fuqua, Destin Nicolas and Cathy Southerland.

J. Edward Waller, the attorney representing the residents in the lawsuit, argued that the 50-day timeframe cited by Wiener does not apply to the filing of a notice of intention.

That timeframe applies to the “calling of a recall election,” which Waller claimed represents when residents may submit a sample recall petition to the municipal clerk.

Before that timeframe, the residents are permitted to initiate the recall process by filing their notice of intention, which allows them to form a recall committee, raise money for the recall effort and determine if public sentiment exists to pursue the recall, according to Waller.

“They have the right to organize,” Waller said.

In the lawsuit, which was filed on Dec. 29 in New Jersey Superior Court, Waller said the residents are asking a judge to determine that the notice of intention may be filed before that 50-day timeframe and ordering Wiener to evaluate it in accordance with state law.

If a notice of intention and the sample petition are approved by the municipal clerk, the recall committee then would have 160 days to collect signatures from at least 25 percent of registered voters in order to force a recall election.

The residents are pursuing the recall effort, in large part because of a lawsuit filed in October by a township employee, alleging that Vauss forced her to have sex with him on June 9 in the employee’s office.

The employee claims she told Vauss “no” twice, but he wedged her against a desk and performed the sex act, the lawsuit states. Vauss and the township are named as defendants in that lawsuit.

McDaniel argued those allegations don’t show “high morals or good leadership.”

“You as a mayor, to engage in this type…of behavior in town hall, I think that it shows disrespect for the community and for the people that live here,” McDaniel said.

Vauss has claimed the employee’s lawsuit is “ridiculous” and a “lie,” and called her allegations “completely baseless,” according to a press release issued by the township last month.

In a phone interview today, Vauss claimed the lawsuit and the recall bid both represented acts of retaliation for his mayoral victory. In the May 13 election, Vauss defeated incumbent Wayne Smith out of eight candidates seeking the mayoral position.

The mayor noted how McDaniel and Southerland were among the defendants he sued in April, claiming they subjected him to “harassment, ridicule, and defamatory statements,” according to that lawsuit.

“This is politically motivated,” said Vauss, referring to the recall bid. “They don’t represent the community.”

In regard to the residents’ contacting the media, the mayor said “they want to get as much publicity as they can.”

“These people are actually trying to use you guys to further their own agenda,” Vauss added.

But McDaniel rejected the mayor’s assertion that the recall effort is an act of political retaliation. “That is absolutely not true,” McDaniel said. “I don’t understand him saying something like that.”

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