Linden mayoral candidate slapped with $1,550 fine

LINDEN – Mayoral candidate Derek Armstead has been slapped with $1,550.80 in fines by the State Election Law Enforcement Commission for failing to file his expenses in the 2011 mayoral race that he lost.

Armstead, who is challenging Mayor Rich Gerbounka for his seat for the second time on Nov. 4, received notice last week that the ELEC Commission had filed a complaint against him four years after the 2011 election violation.

According to the complaint, which LocalSource obtained from the ELEC Commission, Armstead was seeking election to a municipal office in a general election and was required by law to file a 29-day pre-election report, a candidate-sworn statement or a joint candidates committee sworn statement for the general election and failed to do so.

The 29-day pre-election disclosure that Armstead failed to file should have included contributions he received during the period of time he received the first contribution or first made expenditure, whichever came first. This should have also included contributions of goods or services exceeding $300 through October 2011, including the names and addresses of the contributor’s employer. The candidate also was required to report all expenditures made, incurred or authorized, but failed to do so.

The ELEC Commission complaint maintained that Armstead “violated and continues to violate” the law to this date and has not certified or filed the information required by the commission.

Armstead was first elected to the city council in 1993 and is currently serving his third term. This is his second attempt at ousting Gerbounka from the mayoral seat, having lost the bid in 2011 by 200 votes.

He also did not endear himself to the Democratic Party, whose slate he ran on. In fact, when the primary rolled around this year, four years after his first try, the party snubbed him, selecting 5th Ward Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling. However, voters picked Armstead as their candidate of choice, forcing the Democratic Party to run the 4th Ward councilman on their ticket.

Armstead has continued to avoid both the media and any public forum where he could be on the hot seat since the primary, having appeared at the League of Women voters forum prior to the primary in June. At the forum LocalSource pressed for answers regarding the candidate not paying $40,000 in taxes on homes he owned in the city until this information was published in the newspaper. He also was questioned about why he voted for the city garbage tax but failed to pay it.

Armstead held a data programmer position in the Union County Economic Development Department until April when he was transferred to Runnells Specialized Hospital. Meanwhile, there is no love lost between Armstead and the Democratic hierarchy in Linden or at the county level. Quite simply, they are not contributing to his campaign, or going door-to-door in support of his candidacy.
Gerbounka reacted to Armstead receiving such a heavy fine from the ELEC Commission, pointing out that “if I have to follow the law, so should he.”

“He should file what is required by the ELEC Commission. Obviously, if he can’t keep his personal affairs in order, how is he going to run the city if he is elected mayor,” the mayor said, adding that Armstead also set a poor example as a candidate for mayor by not paying his city taxes until under the gun.

“He paid his taxes after he was called out on it. My argument is that he was the chairman of the finance committee in 2011 and 2012 and he was a member of the finance committee in 2013 and 2014. He also voted for the garbage tax. So what kind of example does this set for taxpayers if he doesn’t pay $40,000 in taxes or his garbage tax?” said Gerbounka Tuesday in an interview.

Monday, Linden Democratic Chairman and current Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak said he had not heard from Armstead, and had no comment regarding the ELEC Commission fine.