Former mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams’ challenge to the the outcome of Sea Bright’s 2007 mayoral election can continue, a Superior Court judge has ruled, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The fact that Kalaka-Adams failed to post a $500 bond to cover court costs shouldn’t impede “the will of the people as expressed through an election,” Judge Robert Coogan, sitting in Freehold, wrote in a May 27 opinion, the Press says. To dismiss the case on that basis would be “draconian,” he wrote.

Kalaka-Adams, a Republican completing her first term, initially appeared to have lost, 272 votes to 269, to then-council president Maria Fernandes in Novermber’s vote. A recount put the vote at 273 to 270, again in Fernandes’ favor, and she was sworn into the office in January.


From the Press:

“The case continues forward,” he wrote, referring to Kalaka-Adams’ challenge.

Fernandes’ attorney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“We are pleased with the result, and fully expected the favorable decision based upon long-standing election law,” Kalaka-Adams’ attorney, Timothy Howes, said of the decision in a prepared statement.

Howes said the parties can now get to the merits of the election challenge, adding that his client has raised a number of valid questions about the narrow result.

Kalaka-Adams has contended in her suit that five or six people who voted were not Sea Bright residents, and other potential voters were turned away when the polls closed a minute early.

Fernandes has said in a deposition that no voters were turned away.

The matter still has some ways to go before it approaches the record books for post-balloting municipal disputes in New Jersey. What is believed to be the longest such case on record in New Jersey ended in January when a mayoral contender in Parsippany lost her court challenge after two years of litigation. That case concerned a 39-vote margin of victory.

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