Councilman-elect Alex Mendez is accusing mayor Andre Sayegh of abusing his power by using police to target candidates and Hispanic voters.
Mendez made the allegations against the mayor during a news conferences on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday.
“The use of Paterson police officers by the mayor is a total and complete abuse of power. Instead of protecting our citizens, the mayor is using police personnel for his own personal political gain. This is completely unacceptable,” said Mendez.
The mayor used members of the police force to “surveil candidates” that were running against his picks in the six ward elections, alleged Mendez.
Sayegh also used police to intimidate voters after the election, alleged Mendez.
Mendez’s campaign provided a video that captures the alleged misconduct. The video shows three men interviewing a woman about her family voting in the May 12 vote-by mail election. One man is identified as police sergeant Edwin Morillo, who is part of the mayor’s security detail. A second man has a badge around his neck. And a third man is taking notes of the interview. Mendez said the incident in the video happened on Friday. The three men were at 255 East 27th Street.
“It’s abundantly clear that authorities are investigating irregularities and potentially unlawful behavior, pertaining to the recent Council elections, as per media outlets. While Mr. Mendez imprudently attempts to control the narrative regarding these investigations, we can rest assured that justice will ultimately prevail. My focus has always been safeguarding the ideals of democracy that we hold sacred,” said Sayegh in a statement.
Sayegh did not address Mendez’s allegation that police assigned to his security detail were conducting some sort of an investigation into the recent elections.
“Let me reiterate, I have no authority in law enforcement or investigatory matters,” said Sayegh.
“I have no information to confirm or deny any investigation,” said public safety director Jerry Speziale. “With regard to allegations of improper conduct, by any member of the Paterson Police Department, that should be directed to the department’s internal affairs division, which will be handled in accordance with the laws and guidelines involving NJ law and Internal Affairs investigations.”
Sayegh backed incumbent William McKoy in the race. Both Mendez and Sayegh are longtime rivals. Mendez finished second place in the 2018 mayoral race that brought Sayegh to the city’s highest office.
Mendez’s attorney Gregg Paster has sent a letter to both the U.S. Attorney and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to investigate.
“The city government has no authority to question or investigate any election law issues,” said Paster.
Paster said there are 15 such videos. Mendez provided one two-minute video to reporters after the press conference.
The video provided by Mendez is below:
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