A video released by the Mayor’s office shows evidence of a city councilman tampering with evidence, which was used to make false police reports and create a local stir about the destruction of political signs.
On Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at approximately 5:28 p.m., Linden Councilman John Frances Roman entered the city’s Department of Public Works (DW) yard after hours, although he was unauthorized to do so.
At that time, Roman searched for and located the DPW pick-up truck which contained campaign signs removed from the public right of way, accessed the truck and shuffled the signs around hiding signs belonging to Column C candidate for the 7th Ward, Ralph Strano.
Roman is backing Column A candidates, including Strano’s rival, Theresa Brown. Strano is chair of the public works committee.
Roman took pictures of the signs, then used the manipulated evidence as the basis for the letter Senator Scutari sent to the stte Attorney General asking for an investigation.
“This is a flagrant abuse of power,” said Brown. “I began receiving calls and text messages earlier in that day from residents, who observed city workers removing the signs. Heck, they even stole the sign off my front lawn!”
As his rival’s story was unveiled as a lie, Strano said the video makes it is clear that Roman “manipulated” the alleged evidence to suit his purpose.
Brown claimed to have filed a police report, which could land her in trouble if it contains information she knows to be false.
“I am shocked and outraged that a colleague on Council would falsely promote that this administration was removing signs illegally and then to take a picture of those signs, covering up my signs as well, which were also taken by DPW employees,” said Strano.
Mayor Derek Armstead echoed Strano’s remarks.
“It’s one thing to campaign aggressively, but it is another to tamper with evidence and make false reports to law enforcement. Based upon video evidence we have, we will be submitting our own request for an investigation to the Attorney General,” the Mayor said.
Armstead also called upon Scutari, who is also chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee, to come clean with regards to his involvement in creating a false fact pattern and then requesting a criminal investigation into it.
“As a Senator, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and as a licensed attorney in the State of New Jersey, he has an obligation to abide by the law, and not abuse his positions of power,” said Armstead.
“Let them trash my name, they had no business using your tax money to pull up signs off of private property,” said Roman, but work crews confirmed that the sign were not taken from private homes but only when they were placed on municipal property, such as the strip of land between the curb and sidewalks.
Earlier in the day, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office took over an investigation that the Union County Prosecutor had opened concerning allegations city employees had been otdered to tear down signs of political opponents in tomorrow’s Democratic primary, according to the New Jersey Globe, a website published by David Wildstein, a Republican political operative who has been spinning stories to benefit Scutari.
Sources with direct knowledge of a probe who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that and then cancelled interviews with potential witnesses, telling them that the Attorney General’s office has taken over the investigation.
Among the signs in the truck were posters advocating the election of Strano and his opponent, who is backed by Scutari.
In stories circulated by partisans, is was alleged that only the Column A candidate’s signs were removed and that they came from private property.
In fact, Strano’s signs as well as those of his opponent were collected when they were placed on city owned land because they obstructed visibility and posed a traffic hazard.
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