Investigators from the Passaic County superintendent of elections office visited councilman Shahin Khalique’s home seeking identifying information from several members of his family, according to a letter dispatched to the court by Khalique’s attorney John Carbone.
Carbone’s letter to Passaic County Superior Court assignment judge Ernest Caposela states on the day before Khalique was sworn into office investigators visited his home. Investigators claimed to be investigating the residency of Khalique’s wife, sister, and mother, according to the letter.
“They asked questions about their residency, demanded to see their identification, and amongst other things their driver’s licenses,” reads Carbone’s letter dated July 14th, 2016.
“There’s an ongoing investigation,” said Passaic County superintendent of elections Sherine El-Abd when asked about the investigation into Khalique’s residency. Her office has been investigating allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2nd Ward election that brought Khalique to office.
Former councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, who lost to Khalique by 20 votes, has filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify Khalique’s victory over alleged irregularities that occurred during the election.
Akhtaruzzaman has filed documents in court that name 25 men connected to the Khalique campaign, who allegedly handled 221 mail-in ballots at the campaign’s back office. The former councilman’s private investigator Steve Olimpio identified 40 voters said to be Khalique supporters, who cast ballots in the election without being residents of the 2nd Ward.
Khalique did not respond to a call for comment on Friday morning.
“I have no comment,” said Carbone when asked about the letter. His letter to the judge seeks a two-week extension to the filing deadline of July 21st, 2016 by stating the superintendent of elections has not provided them with requested documents sought through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.
El-Abd told the attorney she could not provide certain records that are pertinent to the investigation because it would compromise and jeopardize her investigation.
Carbone requested court intervention to release the documents and extend the filing deadline to August 1st, 2016. He also attacks El-Abd writing she has been “unresponsive, obdurate, dilatory, and otherwise impeding” his request for records.
“I gave the exact same response to the lawyers for Akhtaruzzaman. I responded in an identical fashion to both sides,” said El-Abd. “We’ve released everything by law that is allowed to be released.”
The letter states the records request was submitted on June 1st, 2016. Khalique’s attorney visited the superintendent’s office in late June and objected to the manner his request for record was being handled.
Carbone alleges his strong objections at the office resulted in a “sneak attack” on his client on June 30th, 2016, when investigators began to question the residency of Khalique’s family members.
Khalique’s attorney described the investigators visit as “intimidating” and questions whether it was an act of “retaliation.”
“An investigation is never a retaliation on my part. I’m totally unbiased. I have nothing to gain by who wins and who loses, but I do have a commitment to look into issues,” said El-Abd. Her office has a legal and ethical obligation to investigate claims of election irregularities, she said.
Khalique was first to complain about voter irregularities in the 2nd Ward election that sparked El-Abd’s investigation, she noted. His residency was an election issue a whole year before the 2nd Ward election took place.
In May 2015, several candidates questioned why Khalique, who lived in Wayne prior to December of 2014, was running for office in Paterson. During the election, some questioned whether was living at 19 Rossiter Avenue, the address listed on his voter’s registration.
Khalique changed his voter registration address almost two years before the election. At the swearing in ceremony on July 1st, 2016, his campaign manager Henry Sosa said Khalique began his campaign for the 2nd Ward council seat some 18 months ago.
“He was fooling everybody. He wasn’t living at this house,” alleged Akhtaruzzaman on Friday afternoon.
When asked why he did not challenge Khalique’s residency in his lawsuit, Akhtaruzzaman said, “I didn’t want to go that route.”
Akhtaruzzaman’s election victory in 2012 was nullified due to a residency issue forcing him to win the same seat a second time.