AG Investigating Racist Campaign Fliers: Edison Police Chief
- May 14, 2020
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EDISON, NJ — An investigation into racist campaign fliers sent during the final days of the 2017 Board of Education election is underway by the state Attorney General’s Office, Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan said at Wednesday night’s council meeting.
The confirmation of the investigation came during a tense open public comments section at the end of the four-and-a-half hour meeting. Although not on the official agenda, the Edison Republican Party and Keith Hahn, a former Republican candidate for mayor, had organized a group of Republicans and concerned citizens to call on the council to pass a resolution demanding an investigation, something that Bryan said is already underway.
When asked specifically about the police department’s role in the investigation, Bryan confirmed that a complaint had been made to Edison police. He said that they worked with “another agency” before the Attorney General’s office took over, but did not specify which agency.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service confirmed to Patch that they were investigating the flyers in conjunction with the Edison Police Department. Spokesperson Greg Kliemisch said that no charges have been filed at of yet, but that it was an active investigation.
Bryan declined to elaborate further several times, saying he was not at liberty to provide more information because it was not his investigation. The Attorney General’s Office said their policy is to neither confirm nor deny investigations, and they declined to comment.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office did not respond to Patch’s request for comment by press time.
Edison committee members were receptive to the idea of a resolution demanding action from the Attorney General’s office, and all denounced the fliers, with council president Ajay Patil calling it a “slap on the face of the community.”
“The people who put [the flier] out have never owned up to it. These people are cowards. They haven’t come forward. I’m frustrated also; where are we with the flier?” Councilman Robert Deal said, calling the fliers embarrassing and asking to “get to the bottom of rumors and find out what happened.”
No action was taken on a resolution last night, but council members said they anticipated having something ready to vote on at the Sept. 12 meeting. It was not clear what enforcement the resolution might actually have; the township attorney declined to speculate until officials had a chance to look into it.
The fliers, which said “Make Edison Great Again” and featured photos of Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel, two Board of Education candidates of Asian descent, with the word “deport” stamped on them. Both were elected onto the board. Their running mates on the BOE Unity Team, Beth Maroney and Paul Distefano, both of whom are white, were also elected. Maroney and Distefano were not mentioned on the flier, nor was the date of the election.
Not everyone received a copy of the flier, and its mailing appeared to be targeted, Deal said, asking Chief Bryan if he could confirm that it was sent to specific addresses. Bryan declined to comment. Still, Deal called for a show of hands at last night’s meeting, and not one of the roughly 30 people in the room said they had received the flier in their mailbox.
Hahn called the support for the resolution “significant,” saying it was an unusual step for the council to voice support for this type of resolution.
“Never before have I seen the governing body agree to pass the resolution pursuing a criminal investigation, so I think that was very significant and I look forward to the next meeting where the council will pass the resolution asking Attorney General Grubir Grewal to bring charges or expose those involved,” Hahn told Patch Thursday morning.
Despite a consensus at last night’s meeting that the flier was abhorrent, tensions ran high as speakers accused the fliers of influencing the election against candidates not on the BOE Unity Team, and of other politicians unfairly placing blame on the Edison Republicans.
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Edison has a large Asian population, particularly Southeast Asian. According to the 2010 census, the town’s population of just over 100,000 is 43 percent Asian. Caucasians make up 44 percent of the town’s population.
Main image: Hahn speaks to the council, Katie Kausch for Patch. Flier images provided to Patch and used with permission