Despite a request by the plaintiffs to postpone a trial over controversial vote-by-mail ballots in last November’s Asbury Park City Council election, a Superior Court judge has ruled that the trial will proceed as scheduled, beginning Mon., Feb. 23.
Asbury Park Mayor John Moor, one of the defendants, said that a conference call on the trial was held with all parties Feb. 17 and that the judge has decided the case will move on.
“I am looking forward to the judicial process moving forward,” Moor said. “The residents deserve finality and there is a reason this process is supposed to happen quickly though the results may directly affect my election as mayor.”
Moor said he has faith in the judiciary.
“I hope to see the trial come to a swift and appropriate conclusion. I object to any adjournment on this case,” he said.
Superior Court Judge Dennis O’Brien ruled last month that the hundreds of voters will testify during a lengthy trial set for Feb. 23 through Feb. 27.
Remond Palmer, who ran for mayor, and Arva Council who ran for a seat on the Board of Education filed the lawsuit. They were both unsuccessful in their bids. The lawsuit seeks to have 343 vote-by-mail ballots disqualified by the Monmouth County Board of Elections to be ruled as valid.
If about 230 out of the 343 ballots in question are deemed valid, it will trigger a runoff election for the mayoral position between Moor and Palmer.
Moor easily defeated Palmer in the November election with 1,258 votes, or 54.53 percent, with Palmer getting 639 votes, or 27.7 percent.
When reached by phone Remond declined to comment on the court case.
Judge O’Brien allowed Moor to be sworn in as mayor on Jan. 1 pending the outcome of the trial.
Moor points out that the ballots were ruled invalid by Monmouth County Clerk Claire French and the county Board of Elections
“No one in Asbury Park played any part in the conclusion that approximately 343 Vote-By-Mail ballots should be discarded. The county came to that decision, not to disenfranchise any voter, but to maintain the integrity of the election. I support their decision,” Moor said.
French and her office will have representation throughout the trial to defend the county’s decision. The state Office of the Attorney General will be there to represent the state in its defense of the election outcome. Moor is representing himself.
O’Brien ruled last month that 230 to 350 voters filing vote-by-mails ballots in Asbury Park’s last municipal election will each be called to testify in court about their individual applications.
If enough ballots are ruled as qualified, then there is also the potential for Council to be seated on the Board of Education.
Under the city’s new form of government recently approved by voters, mayoral candidates must win with a majority of more than 50 percent of the vote.
The four -member Asbury Together City Council ticket, who ran with Moor, consists of Amy Quinn, Joseph Woerner, Jesse Kendle and Barbara “Yvonne” Clayton.
Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn, who is a respondent to Palmer’s petition, said she is glad the judge denied the adjournment. She said she is concerned that there remain key positions that will remain unfilled in Asbury Park as long as there is any question about the city’s political future.
“We have viable candidates for some positions who are reluctant to take a job until this trial is over because they are unsure about the city’s future,” she said.
Asbury Park currently has no permanent or duly-appointed staff in the positions of city manager, city clerk, police chief, or chief financial officer.