Under a cloud of allegations emanating from the May municipal elections, in which he unseated incumbent Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, Shahin Khalique took the oath of office to claim the 2nd Ward council seat on Friday afternoon.
“There’s a lot of things to do,” said Khalique, at the auditorium of John F. Kennedy High School, vowing to work together with his colleagues to improve quality of life in the 2nd Ward.
Khalique was sworn into office by assemblyman Benjie Wimberly.
Khalique will continue the street cleaning program that he began during his 18-month long campaign to win the council seat, according to his campaign manager Henry Sosa. He will also have to continue battling to hold on to his seat against his predecessor Akhtaruzzaman, who has launched a lawsuit to in New Jersey Superior Court to unseat him.
Akhtaruzzaman alleged widespread mail-in vote fraud brought Khalique to office in various court filings. The new comer won the election with 1,401 votes to Akhtaruzzaman’s 1,381. His victory is attributed to the 1,010 mail-in votes that he was able to secure.
25 men allegedly worked in the back of Khalique’s headquarter to process 221 mail-in ballots, according to court papers submitted by Akhtaruzzaman’s attorneys. Steve Olimpio, a private investigator hired by Akhtaruzzaman, discovered almost 40 ineligible voters had cast mail-in ballots in the 2nd Ward.
Olimpio said the 40 did not reside in the 2nd Ward, but voted in the election. He said some were residents of the city, but did not live in the 2nd Ward, while others lived in different towns and even states. He said he found people from Michigan, Texas, and Puerto Rico voted in the election.
Khalique was accused of exploiting mail-in ballots by all three of his opponents in the election even prior to Akhtaruzzaman’s court filings. Passaic County judge Ernest Caposela has scheduled a September 12th, 2016 trial date for Akhtaruzzaman’s case to unseat Khalique.
“Whatever happened, happened,” said Akhtaruzzaman on Friday afternoon. “I’m confident the truth will come out.”
There were other council members who took the oath of office at the high school. Luis Velez, who won the 5th Ward council seat, was sworn into office by Passaic County surrogate Bernice Toledo. Michael Jackson, William McKoy, Ruby Cotton, and Andre Sayegh were also sworn into office.
McKoy was sworn into office by Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop while Sayegh was sworn in by congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. The congressman told the council members they have to be focused on addressing the issues facing the city.
“We cannot afford distractions,” said Pascrell.