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State Opens Investigation Into Brick BOE Campaign Complaint

Victoria Pakala (from left), Stephanie Wohlrab, John Lamela and George White

Victoria Pakala (from left), Stephanie Wohlrab, John Lamela and George White

The state Election Law Enforcement Commission has opened a formal investigation into a complaint alleging improprieties with campaign finance reporting on the part of a ticket of Brick Board of Education candidates last year.

The complaint was filed by a citizen against four candidates who ran under the banner of the Clean Slate Team. The candidates, who were successful in their election bid, were Board President John Lamela and board members Stephanie Wohlrab, Victoria Pakala and George White.

On the condition of anonymity, a source with knowledge of the investigation provided Shorebeat access to documentation from the commission confirming that the complaint was deemed credible and that the agency had launched an investigation. The complaint made three allegations: the ticket failed to complete required campaign financial disclosures, commingled funding with the Democratic party in the nonpartisan school election, and acted improperly in awarding a series of no-bid contracts after they took office.

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While school board elections are technically nonpartisan, it is not uncommon in New Jersey for parties to lend tacit support to tickets on which their members run. In last year’s election, the Clean Slate team was supported by the township’s Democratic organization.

According to the state document, the commission decided to open an investigation into the allegations of failure to complete disclosure forms and whether party fundraising was used for the campaign, but declined to open an investigation into the allegation that contracts were not properly awarded.

The complaint alleges that the campaign did not file all of the forms required that detail which persons, organizations or PACs made donations that would have had to be reported. The complaint also alleges that the campaign likely spent a significant amount of money, with the filer asking the state to look into the possibility that the school board candidates used money from the Democrats’ township council campaign to fund their own. The school board candidates sent out two glossy mailers and had lawn signs printed up that were displayed around town, yet reported raising $6,400 – specifically, $1,600 from each candidate. The complaint argued that the mailers, signs and campaign materials should have cost more than $6,400.

A spokesman for the commission has said the agency cannot comment on cases until a formal complaint is filed, which would come after the investigation, if at all. There is no timeline as to when the allegations may be considered by the commission.

Lamela, the board president, did not respond to a request for comment.