Mayor Onderko & His "Plan B" Candidates File Lawsuit

Mayor Onderko & His Plan B Candidates File Lawsuit

By Manville.Today
June 11, 2024

Last night's Borough Council meeting was mostly uneventful. The budget was approved, several ordinances were discussed, and residents asked many questions. A closed session for "potential litigation" was requested at the June 10th Council Meeting.

After exiting closed session, a motion was made to pass a resolution to hire special litigation counsel, at the rate of $195 per hour not to exceed $2,500 without a further resolution of the governing body. Clerk Bray read the Resolution (#2024-115) text very quickly.

Piquing our interest during the Roll Call vote, Councilwoman Barbara Madak and Councilman Branden Agans abstained from the vote. They were the Republican Primary candidates who did not win last Tuesday's Primary Election.

We located a court case pending with Somerset County Superior Court dated Monday just before 5pm. (Docket: SOM-L-000751-24)

It appears that our Borough Clerk and the Somerset County Clerk are being sued by Theodore "Ted" Petrock and Susan Asher. The resolution was to hire an attorney to defend our Borough Clerk in Court.

Taking a step back to the Republican Primary, there were rumors behind the scenes that Mayor Richard Onderko may attempt to sneak in two additional candidates for the General Election. A "Plan B" of sorts, in case his candidates lost the Primary. Barbara Madak and Branden Agans did lose the Primary. Shortly after the conclusion of the Primary, we were able to confirm a petition was filed.

The lawsuit documents contain a Certification by Mayor Richard Onderko. He certifies that he was the person who filed the Nomination Petition with the Borough of Manville Clerk, William Bray, on June 4th at around 11am.

For those unfamiliar with nominating petitions for elections, Primary Election petitions are filed with the Municipal Clerk. General Election petitions are filed with the County Clerk. These instructions are clearly noted at the top of the petition. Further, Mayor Onderko should already know this. Afterall, he ran "off the line" in last year's General Election with his own set of candidates.

Primary and General Petition Filing Information

Reading through the Certification, Mayor Onderko appears to place blame on Manville's Clerk for the mishap. According to the "Verified Complaint" document, it states that Municipal Clerk Bray forwarded the petition to the County Clerk at 5:30pm on June 4th. This is 90 minutes past the stated deadline of 4pm on the nomination petition.

According to Onderko's Certification, he wasn't aware of any issues with the petition until the day after, June 5th, when a letter was received from the County Clerk stating that the petition was not accepted, as it was filed late.

The lawsuit centers around the "mistake" that the petition was filed with the incorrect Clerk's Office, and seeks for relief that the Judge will grant and enable Mayor Onderko's two chosen candidates to appear on the General Election ballot.

The relief also seeks reimbursement of related attorney fees and court costs for the Plaintiffs, in this case, Susan Asher and Theodore "Ted" Petrock. Will Manville taxpayers be paying for this reimbursement, as a resolution was passed for hiring a special litigation counsel at Monday's meeting? Our Borough Clerk is a defendant in this suit brought on by the Mayor Richard Onderko's two chosen candidates.

Regarding the vote for the special attorney, Councilwoman Jade Puia should also have abstained. She was also involved in obtaining signatures for the nomination petition, clearly seen in the copy of the full nomination petition in the court docket.

If Councilwoman Puia abstained, there would have only been 3 yes votes, which means the resolution wouldn't have passed. Mayor Onderko technically would not be able to break the vote either, because he too was directly involved in this nominating petition.

It seems the Mayor desires to only have his personally-chosen candidates on the ballot in November. Before Madak & Agans lost, he already had a "Plan B" in motion well before the Primary even took place.

Then he goes on to blame Manville's Municipal Clerk for not catching the mistake of filing it to the wrong office. But we beg to differ. Onderko ran "off the line" last year, and would know the process. He ran as an independent of party candidate 3 times since 2006. This process isn’t new to him.