By DON STINE
ASBURY PARK – The headquarters of Asbury Park’s A Team political campaign for five City Council seats was raided by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Sat., May 4.
Armed with a search warrant, officers from the prosecutor’s office were sent to the office in connection with a complaint filed about absentee ballots for the upcoming May 14 City Council election.The A Team’s office is located on Asbury Avenue across from Our Ladyf of Mount Carmel Church.
In an April 11 letter, Asbury Out Front campaign manager Stephania Warren wrote to Monmouth County Clerk M. Claire French outlining their concerns over voter fraud.
The campaign said that absentee ballots were being collected by the A Team and submitted unlawfully, especially regarding a provisions that requires a certified “messenger” to sign off on the ballot.
French then contacted the Prosecutor’s Office, which began looking into the complaint.
“We stand by our original letter. We do believe (the allegations) are true and we hope the facts come out. We will let the investigation run its course,” said AP Out Front campaign manager Stephania Warren this week.
But A Team candidate Duanne Small said AP Out Front allegations are just smoke and mirrors and that the raid by the Prosecutor’s Office was expected.
He said the A-Team knew that they were under surveillance for about 24 hours before the raid and that the prosecutor’s office was just waiting for a search warrant to be issued.
“We knew they were watching us,” he said.
Small said that the county officers came in with a search warrant on Saturday, about 2:30 p.m., and searched for about two hours.
“They took out applications for mail-in ballots, copies of volunteer’s names, and other paperwork,” he said.
Small said the A-Team was promised that the seized items will be returned in a timely fashion, after copies are made.
But he said that he believes his entire team will be exonerated after all the facts come out.
“We feel people will realize that the complaints by AP Out Front have no merit. In the public eye it would give some people concern, but for the most part, when people learn who levied this complaint against us, the facts will come out,” he said.
Small also said that he wants the public to come forward if they are upset.
“Where are these so-called voters AP Out Front claims are disenfranchised? Who are they? Mention some names so people can come forward. They are making accusations but they are not backing them up with any facts,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office could not be reached for comment.
A-Team candidates are former Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady, former Board of Education member Remond Palmer, Nora Hyland, Daniel Harris and community activist Duanne Small.
The AP Out Front ticket consists of Clevette Hill, Stephen M. Williams, Rosetta M. Johnson, Dorvil Gilles and Shonna Famularo.
There are also two other five-candidate tickets and two independents in the running- for a total of 22 candidates.
The City Council election is May 14 and all five seats on the nonpartisan council are up for grabs, for four-year terms.
French said last week that requests for absentee ballots have fallen off sharply after the Asbury Out Front team sent her the letter.
She said that every ballot “messenger” (the person that collects and signs off on the ballot) must submit an affidavit stating that they are the designated messenger- and each is allowed to collect only 10 signatures on ballots.
“Every messenger is required to sign an affidavit. We will not accept any ballots without proof. We need a paper trail of where the people live and who authorized them,” French said.