Middlesex County Democrats shut out media from public event

Reporter Charlie Kratovil is confronted by Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer Shari Eisenberg.

Middlesex County Democrats prevented members of the media from attending a reception that was widely advertised to the general public, shortly after Freeholder Director Ron Rios issued a blanket invitation to everyone attending another ceremony.

The reception took place on the Edison campus of Middlesex County College immediately following the annual reorganization meeting of the county’s Board of Chosen Freeholders, where Governor-elect Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker-designate Craig Coughlin were honored guests.

After County Surrogate Kevin Hoagland, Freeholders Charles Tomaro, Leslie Koppel and Shanti Narra were sworn in at the Middlesex County College Performing Arts Center, the reception was held at the College Center..

The reception was promoted on the Middlesex County Democratic Organization’s Facebook page, which shows that Kratovil had submitted an RSVP for the event.

“It appears that three reporters, including me and my colleague Carlos Ramírez, were the only people not permitted to enter the event, which law enforcement claimed was a ‘private’ gathering,” said Charlie Kratovil, the editor of New Brunswick Today.

Video of the confrontation is available online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S7eKZMpyd0

The video shows Robert Zuckerman, a legislative staff employee who works for Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen, physically blocking Kratovil from entering the room.

When the reporter protested his exclusion, Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer Shari Eisenberg got involved. 

The uniformed officer was joined by several other county law enforcement personnel who repeatedly told Kratovil the press was not permitted in the room.

The clip includes footage of several elected officials and Middlesex County Democratic Organization Chairman Kevin P. McCabe reacting to questions about the bizarre policy, where no one was turned away except for members of the press.  

McCabe, a former McGreevey administration cabinet member who was recently nominated by Republican Gov. Chris Christie to a seat on the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, told Kratovil, “It’s not for the press.”

“For the record, I am a registered member of Democratic Party and a 14-year resident of Middlesex County,” said Kratovil. “This marks a departure from prior years when reporters including me have attended the reception without incident.”

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