Anthony Suarez recall, Ridgefield, New Jersey, 2010
The recall effort began in August 2009 and went through a variety of legal twists and turns. A judge's decision in mid-June 2010 finally set the recall date for August 17.
Recall efforts started after Suarez and approximately 40 other New Jersey politicians were arrested in July 2009 after a federal investigation revealed evidence of corruption and money laundering. Specifically, Suarez faced charges of accepting an illegal $10,000 payment. His federal corruption trial is set to start in September 2010.
Suarez was arrested for allegedly taking bribes from Solomon Dwek. Dwek, who was in reality a federal informant, posed as a developer on the take.
Shortly after the arrest, Gov. Jon Corzine called for Suarez' resignation. In August, Corzine signed an executive order to freeze development permits. The order impacts only those three towns in which mayors were arrested in the corruption scandal; including Ritchfield. Suarez, however, said that he will not step down. The mayors of Secaucus and Hoboken resigned soon after the corruption charges were revealed.
- Votes to keep Suarez in office: 1,023 (51%)
- Votes to recall Suarez: 985 (49%)
NorthJersey.com supported the recall effort, stating in a commentary: "These are serious charges. But Suarez cannot remain in office and effectively do his job while he awaits trial. Many other public officials in similar situations – and in New Jersey there have been far too many of them – have recognized that resigning office while awaiting trial is in the best interests of themselves and the people they were elected to serve.There is an effort underway to recall Suarez. If he does not resign, he should be recalled."
Path to the ballot
Recall organizers were required to collect 1,451 signatures by September in order to place the recall on the ballot. However, in light of the short period of time recall supporters had to collect signatures, a second recall petition was filed.
The second petition was originally rejected by the borough clerk, who said petitioners had to wait a year between filings; however, a superior court judge ruled that the clerk's decision was incorrect. The petition was allowed to proceed.
According to Bob Avery, Republican chairman, there was conflicting information from the borough and the county which delayed signature collections. In order to resolve the matter, Avery took his efforts to court. Avery stated that Borough Clerk Martin Gobbo denied his efforts for a special election due to Avery filing a second notice of intention to collect signatures for special election. Avery withdrew his initial petition after realizing the group had 14 days to collect signatures for the November 3 election. Avery then submitted a second petition for recall, this time for a special election. Avery was then informed by Gobbo that state law requires a year between recall petitions. However, on October 9, 2009, a New Jersey superior court judge allowed the petition to proceed, stating the borough clerk’s interpretation was incorrect.
The second petition with about 1,850 signatures was submitted in late March 2010. On April 12, Ridgefield Acting Clerk Linda Prina said that a check of the signatures indicated that the petition had come up short by 86 signatures. Prina said that 1,365 of the submitted signatures were valid, versus a requirement of 1,451.
On June 11, 2010, Superior Court Judge Robert Wilson heard an appeal from recall organizers of a May 17 decision by Ridgefield clerk Linda Prima that insufficient signatures were filed. Recall organizers said that Prima had rejected signatures on purely technical issues, ignoring the clear intent of those who signed the recall petition.
On June 15, Judge Wilson said that clerk Prima had improperly invalidated a number of signatures, and that when those invalidated signatures were re-validated, there were clearly enough signatures to force a recall election. Wilson say, "...while some of the signatures may have been validly rejected, the Petitioner has nonetheless substantially demonstrated that they obtained the requisite 1,451 to compel a Recall Election."
Stephen Pellino, an attorney representing Suarez, unsuccessfully appealed the decision by Judge Robert Wilson to order that the recall election be held.
Cost of election
- See also: Costs of administering local elections
The cost of administering the Suarez recall election was $16,000.
- The Record, "Ridgefield mayor facing recall election refuses to step down," June 22, 2010
- New York Times, "Mayor in New Jersey Corruption Case Survives Recall Vote," August 17, 2010
- Associated Press, "Ridgefield mayor to be target of recall petition," August 5, 2009
- NorthJersey.Com, "Ridgefield clerk rules petition for recall election still short on signatures," May 17, 2010
- Jersey Journal, "Indicted Suarez vows to stay as Ridgefield mayor," June 16, 2010
- Associated Press, "NJ mayor's refusal to resign sparks house protests," August 7, 2009
- North Jersey.Com, "The Record: We can recall," March 31, 2010
- NorthJersey.com, "The Record: Resign of recall," December 22, 2009
- Philly.com, "Recall petition filed against Ridgefield mayor," August 20, 2009
- Associated Press, "Judge: Recall Can Proceed Against Ridgefield Mayor," October 9, 2009
- Politicker New Jersey, "Suarez recall effort headed to court," September 18, 2009
- philly.com, "Judge: Recall can proceed against Ridgefield mayor," October 9, 2009
- North Jersey.Com, "Ridgefield Republicans file recall petition against Mayor Anthony Suarez," March 29, 2010
- North Jersey.Com, "Petition to recall Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez short 86 signatures," April 12, 2010
- NorthJersey.Com, "Group trying to recall Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez files appeal," June 2, 2010
- Associated Press, "Judge clears way for indicted mayor's recall vote," June 15, 2010
- The Record, "Ridgefield mayor challenging ruling enabling special election ," June 17, 2010
- North Jersey, "The Record: Total recall," August 17, 2010