Democrats filed complaint and investigation against Mayor Barberio

mayor james barberio
Parsippany-Troy Hills Mayor James Barberio

PARSIPPANY — The Morris County Democratic Committee filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission a complaint and a request for investigation of James R. Barberio and his campaign accounts, on Tuesday, October 10.

Charles Robinson, Chairman of the Morris County Democratic Committee said “The complaint alleges violations of a New Jersey regulation that guards against the use of taxpayer dollars to promote the campaigns of incumbent elected officials. The allegations levied in the complaint are serious, as are their consequences, and they would not be made if they were frivolous or not well-grounded in both fact and law. Nonetheless, it is important that the complaint be made.”

“Good, decent people like Michael Soriano will never be able to compete in fair elections in Morris County if incumbents are permitted to leverage the power of town hall for their candidacies and fund their campaigns with taxpayer dollars. Raising funds for campaigns is the most difficult, and quite frankly unenjoyable, aspect of running a campaign. We cannot stand by and watch as incumbents get a pass on this daunting task because they are able to use public funds to promote their own candidacies. Nor can we sit on our hands when faced with an egregious breach of the tremendous trust placed in our elected officials,” said Robinson.

The complaint states “Parsippany Mayor James R. Barberio (d/b/a “Team Barberio” and
“Friends of Jamie Barberio” for violation of N.J.A.C. 19:25-10.11 (b) by failing to disclose a contribution made to the Barberio Accounts by the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills (“Township”). Both a “newsletter” published by the Township and publications on the Township’s Facebook page are “political communications” within the definition of the cited regulation, and as such the cost of the publication must be reported as an in-kind contribution from the Township to the Barberio Accounts.

parsippany-troy hills
Picture of Lake Parsippany on one side of the newsletter

The “newsletter” entitled “Pride in Parsippany” was received by an unknown number of Parsippany residents. It was published within 90 days of the upcoming November 7, 2017 general election – 33 days to be exact- in which Mr. Barberio is a candidate for the office of mayor of Parsippany-Troy Hills. The newsletter is entitled “Pride in Parsippany”. This phrase is a campaign slogan used by Mr. Barberio frequently and as recently the June 2017 primary election.

Last week, Democrat Michael Soriano, who is challenging two-term incumbent Republican Barberio in the general election, said he has filed an Open Public Records Act request “to determine the exact amount of taxpayer dollars spent to prepare, print and mail this publicly-funded campaign material.”

Parsippany Focus also filed a similar request with the Township Clerk, Khaled Madin, on Friday, October 6.

Soriano stated, “On behalf of the taxpayers of Parsippany, I am demanding that Mayor Barberio immediately reimburse the township for all expenses incurred in the production of this flyer.”

He added, “This is exactly the kind of mismanagement and waste that inspired me to run for office.  This sort of behavior, violating the trust of Parsippany’s taxpayers, has been emblematic of Mayor Barberio’s administration. Calling out this behavior for all to see is the first step in cleaning up Parsippany.”

According to the complaint,  other blatantly-political communications within the “newsletter” include:

• An article entitled “Police Sub-Station Comes To Western Parsippany” which credits Mr. Barberio with the upcoming opening of a new police facility, and features a photo of a banner for the facility with Mr. Barberio’s name prominently displayed. The article boastfully claims, among other things, that “[r]esidents in the western portion of Parsippany can rest easier as Mayor Barberio has secured a police sub-station …. ”

• An article concerning a farmer’s market which credits “Mayor Barberio’s Wellness Campaign” with formation of the market.

• An article concerning the opening of a golf driving range in which “Mayor Barberio is pleased to announce” the opening of the new range.

In addition to the mailer, the Township’s Facebook page, maintained by Township employees at taxpayer expense, appears to have been hijacked by the Mr. Barberio’s campaign organization. Sometime prior to and at all times since August 9, 2017 (90 days prior to the general election), the posts on the account have been near-completely dedicated to promoting Mr. Barberio. Too numerous to recite in their entirety. Some egregious examples of posts promoting Mr. Barberio include:

• “Throughout his term as Mayor, Mayor Barberio has made preservation of open space a priority.” (20 September at 09:18).

• “Throughout his term as Mayor, Mayor Barberio has made preservation of open space a priority.” (20 September at 09:18).

• “Labor Day message from Mayor James Barberio – The Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills ranks as the 5th Best Place to live in America. The Township received this ranking because of the combined efforts of my administration and the township employees.” (4 September).

Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Facebook page maintained by Township employees

A “political communication” as defined by N.J.A.C. 19:25-10.10(b), is:

A written statement, pamphlet … or other printed matter or statement, communication, … or an advertisement delivered or accessed by electronic means, including, but not limited to, the Internet, that does not contain an explicit appeal . . . for the election or defeat of a candidate … if it meets the following conditions:

  1. The communication is circulated or broadcast within 90 days of the date of any election in which the candidate on whose behalf the communication is made is seeking nomination for election or elected office;

  2. The communication is circulated or broadcast to an audience substantially comprised of persons eligible to vote for the candidate on whose behalf the communication was made;

  3. The communication contains a statement or reference concerning the governmental or political objectives or achievements of the candidate;

  4. The production, circulation or broadcast of the communication, or any cost associated with the production, circulation or broadcast of the communication, has been made in whole or in part with the cooperation of, prior consent of, in consultation with, or at the request or suggestion of the candidate.

Mayor James Barberio did not respond for request to comment for this article.

Click here for complete copy of the complaint. (Download Exhibits here)