Newark mayor's race: Baraka files lawsuit to remove two Jeffries allies from Essex Board of Elections

By Mark Bonamo | March 31st, 2014


NEWARK - Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka has filed a lawsuit in Essex County Superior Court calling for the removal of two supporters of his rival, former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries, from the Essex County Board of Elections. 

The suit, filed on Monday morning, asserts that Frances Abubato and Lee Fisher, who both serve as commissioners on the four-person board, are in violation of election law and ethics codes, including the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law, the New Jersey Uniform Ethics Code, the Essex County Board of Elections Ethics Code and the common law. 

Frances Adubato, the wife of Newark power broker Steve Adubato, Sr., and Fisher both serve as Democratic chairs in Newark's North and South Wards respectively. Adubato and Fisher both endorsed Jeffries in February. 

The lawsuit cites endorsements made by Adubato and Fisher on the Jeffries campaign website, as well as a article written at the time of the endorsement, to back the claims that the two Jeffries supporters should be removed from the board. 

"[Baraka] makes this application because serious ethical violations by [Adubato and Fisher] have created an appearance of impropriety that will forever taint their involvement in the upcoming mayoral election in Newark on May 13, 2014," the lawsuit, filed by attorney Edward J. Florio of Hoboken law firm, Florio & Kenny, reads. 

"Specifically, [Abubato and Fisher] have publicly endorsed [Baraka]'s opponent in the upcoming race. This means that the very commissioners who will be counting ballots, determining who is entitled to vote, appointing district board members, training election workers, certifying election results, and participating in recounts of voting machines, have expressed to the public, in no uncertain terms, that they want mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries to win.

"If the integrity of this election is to be preserved, the the court must remove the defendants from their positions. 

"To claim that such statements and actions would not cause a reasonable, informed citizen to question the objectivity - or perhaps more appropriately, the non-objectivity - of [Adubato and Fisher], is to insult the citizens and voters of the City of Newark."

Adubato and Fisher could not be immediately reached for comment. 

"Ras Baraka has stooped to a new low today in his desperate attempt to attack Shavar because of the widespread support his campaign has built," said Jeffries campaign spokeswoman Lupe Todd. "The reality is, it's our election to win, and Baraka knows it." 

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