BRICK – Just how important are the charges the state brought against four Board of Education candidates from four years ago? Is it a violation of the public trust, like their opponents state? Or is it a clerical error?
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission issued complaints against the “Clean Slate for Brick BOE” team of John Lamela, Victoria Pakala, Stephanie Wohlrab and George White, and their treasurer Joseph Nezgoda (Pakala’s husband). They ran in 2015, but only Wohlrab and Pakala are still on the board.
One charge was that they filed Form D-2 74 days past the deadline. This form lists candidates, the bank they’re using, and who in the campaign handles the money.
On Sept. 18, 2015, they deposited four contributions totaling $6,400. Anything more than $300 is to be reported within 29 days. They should have reported it by Oct. 2, but instead they reported it on Nov. 25.
In a separate charge, they deposited five contributions totaling $4,157.80 on Nov. 12, 2015 that had not been reported back then.
There were four other charges involving the candidates individually. Each one had an account with just their name, such as “Lamela for Brick BOE,” opened with $750. In each case, they failed to report that initial $750. They also filed the paperwork between 66 and 74 days late.
Each of the charges carries with it a fine that would be not more than $7,600.
The five people named in the charges will have an opportunity for a hearing, the state said.
Joe Donohue, spokesman for the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, said that he can’t comment on specific cases.
Generally speaking, if a candidate has fewer violations, it represents a less severe issue. Some candidates, by comparison, have had dozens of violations.
With regards to the fines, he noted that $7,600 is the maximum, and that most candidates who cooperate see a reduction in fines. Most candidates try to fix their paperwork errors to comply.
The Commission offers training for candidates and treasurers in order to avoid mishaps in filing paperwork, he added.
The board of education is technically a nonpartisan position, but that doesn’t mean that politics doesn’t get involved.
An opponent, Robert Canfield, who is running for a board position, responded to initial reports calling for her resignation.
“Ms. Wohlrab and her team need to resign. They cannot follow campaign law, how can we expect them to keep the kids and taxpayers best interests in mind?” he wrote in a message to newspapers.
Wohlrab, who now serves as the board’s president, said that after the complaints were issued, the candidates addressed them. She shared the paperwork with this newspaper to back up her statement. The complaint came out on July 3, and the paperwork addressing the complaint was filed on July 10.
The treasurer, having done this for the first time, didn’t realize he had to file a particular form. She said it was an easy mistake to make.
“This is just a political game,” she said of all the publicity this issue has received.