Passaic County Superior Court judge Ernest Caposela ruled on Tuesday morning to block councilman-elect Alex Mendez from taking office at the City Council reorganization meeting on July 1.
“It would be a tremendous undermining of the voting system, the public trust, to let Mr. Mendez be sworn in tomorrow,” said Caposela in ruling against Mendez.
Longtime councilman William McKoy, who was ousted by Mendez, filed in court for an injunction to keep Mendez from taking office.
McKoy’s attorney Scott Salmon argued “irreparable” harm would be caused if Mendez is allowed to “reap” the benefit of his alleged fraud.
“If Mr. Mendez is sworn in, he will be able to vote on the budget, on personnel matters — he will be able to award public contracts and so on,” argued Salmon. “We believe it is manifestly unfair and will cause irreparable harm both to Mr. McKoy as well as to the city Paterson voters of the 3rd Ward if Mr. Mendez can take the seat when there is credible evidence that he only obtained that seat by virtue of fraud.”
Mendez’s attorney Gregg Paster opposed the injunction. He said McKoy’s campaign is arguing using “hearsay” evidence. He argued there’s a conspiracy against Mendez by political leaders like mayor Andre Sayegh.
Paster said the Mendez campaign has no idea who Yahaira “YaYa” Mendez is. She was allegedly hired by the Mendez campaign to handle bundles of ballots, according to allegations made by McKoy in court filings.
“She could be working for the McKoy campaign for all we know,” said Paster.
Paster argued blocking Mendez from taking office would be “unprecedented” and violate his constitutional rights. He said his client is innocent until proven guilty.
Caposela granted the injunction. He is expected to issue a written opinion later.
Mendez can appeal Caposela’s ruling to the appellate division, said the judge.
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