LINDEN – The three-way primary race for mayor has been anything but calm, but last week Councilman Derek Armstead, the True Democrats For Change Candidate running for mayor in the primary June 3, upped the ante by distributing a flier his opponents claim is nothing but lies.
Armstead claimed in the flier that when candidates were being screened by Regular Democratic Party Municipal Chairman Chris Hudak, who also is chairman of the Union County Freeholder Board, he was told there was a price for getting their nod for the mayoral line.
The councilman said in the flier that Hudak told him that in order to receive the Regular Democratic Party support, he would have to allow the party to select his running mate for council president. Furthermore, he would have to appoint Hudak the city’s new business administrator.
“When I could not be bought and refused Hudak’s back room deal, he turned to my opponent, 5th Ward Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling, who swiftly fell into line as an instrument of party bosses,” Armstead said in the flier, adding that Hudak awarded Cosby-Hurling with a $28,000 a year county job if she named him the new city administrator, a position paying over $100,000.
Hudak, who is paid $29,500 for his elected position on the freeholder board and $66,000 as a Kean University employee, flatly denied Armstead’s accusation.
“The statements made about me by Derek Armstead are lies, plain and simple,” said Hudak in an interview with LocalSource Monday. He went on to explain what actually took place and also why he could not step into a position as business administrator for the city.
“For the record this latest attack represents yet another contradiction of previous statement Armstead has made during the campaign about his request for support by the Linden Democratic Committee,” said the Municipal Chairman, pointing out that as recent as May 14, at a candidates forum, Armstead said he was not given Democrat party support because he would not agree to support the organization’s choice of council candidates.
“Now in the closing hours of the campaign he has chosen to engage in the lowest form of politics,” Hudak fired back.
“What makes this attempt to mislead the public worse is the ironic fact that the position he claims I requested is a position in which I am ineligible to serve,” he added, pointing out that according to Linden Municipal Ordinance 57-62 the business administrator cannot be politically affiliated.
“The city administrator shall not engage in any partisan political activity of any nature in the city of Linden, County of Union or State of New Jersey,” Hudak said, noting that as the Democratic municipal chairman and elected member of the New Jersey State Democratic Committee, “my appointment would not be permitted.”
“Armstead voted for the ordinance and should be ashamed of lying to residents of Linden. Again,” Hudak said.
Armstead, who said in the flier that Linden cannot move forward and rise to the challenges of unemployment, high property taxes, home foreclosures and crime “if we have governing individuals tugging in different directions catering to special groups, short-changing our community,” recently was called on the carpet for racking up more than $40,000 in back taxes and not paying the tab.
LocalSource also brought out in April that the 4th Ward councilman, who introduced the city garbage tax of $10 a month and voted his approval on council for the measure, had not paid his own garbage tax.
More specifically, according to city records, Armstead has never paid the $10 a month garbage tax on any of the four properties he owns since the tax went into effect. This was brought out at the Candidates night forum by LocalSource, but Armstead evaded the issued and refused to explain why he did not pay the special tax. He has, however, since paid the $40,000 back taxes he owed.
Armstead selected Richard Puschel as his running mate for council president, the county employee who recently had an administrative hearing for his involvement with taking home a county owned generator for personal use during and after Superstorm Sandy hit the state in 2012.
Armstead said in the flier that he and Puschell are “eager to serve Linden and restore the kind of integrity and accountability to city hall that has been deteriorating in recent years.”
“Working families can no longer afford to keep their homes and are forced to choose between putting food on the table and pay their monthly bills. Your stories, your struggles are why I’m running for mayor,” said the 4th Ward councilman who ran against Mayor Rich Gerbounka four years ago and lost by a handful of votes.
The primary will determine which of the three Democratic candidates, all from opposing party lines, will run against Gerbounka, an independent, in November.