PATERSON — Mayoral candidate Alex Mendez did not submit the state campaign finance reports that were due April 9, continuing his track record of missing deadlines for filing the election documents.
In his three previous bids for public office in Paterson, Mendez waited until after the elections were over before filing reports that were supposed to be available for citizens to review before they voted, state records show.
Meanwhile, campaign reports that were filed by other contenders in the mayor’s election showed Andre Sayegh and Pedro Rodriguez running neck-and-neck for the fundraising lead, far ahead of their rivals.
Sayegh has raised $171,122, compared to Rodriguez’ $169,400, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission’s 29-day pre-election reports, which were made public on Monday. Both of them have about $67,000 left in the campaign accounts, according to the reports. Rodriguez’ report says he has donated $105,000 of his own money to the campaign.
William McKoy reported raising $81,793 and Michael Jackson $10,063. In addition to Mendez, Alex Cruz also did not submit the 29-day reports within the deadline, according to state officials.
Cruz said he mailed in the reports and was not sure why they were not received in time by the state commission. Mendez’ campaign manager Henry Sosa said his candidate would be filing his 29-day pre-election report soon.
“It might be a couple of days late,” Sosa said.
Mendez did not respond to a phone message seeking an explanation for his track record of delinquent campaign documents. State records show that Mendez filed his pre-election finance reports after the election in his unsuccessful 2012 for the 3rd Ward city council seat, in his 2013 school board victory and his 2014 win in the city council at-large race.
In some cases, candidates are fined for filing late reports. State officials could not explain why Mendez has not been penalized for his late reports.
The state commission requires candidate to file reports detailing their contributions and spending at three junctures – 29 days before an election, 11 days before an election and 20 days after an election.
“One of the reasons for the disclosure law is so voters know the sources of money that candidates receive and how they spend it,” said Joe Donohue, spokesman for the election commission. “That information may or may not be relevant to the voter, but at least they have a chance to see the information and make a decision whether it’s relevant to their vote.”
In March, Mendez had filed a quarterly report – which is separate from the deadlines pertaining to the May 8 election – that showed he had raised $36.705 and spent all but $105 of that.
Rivals in the mayoral election took shots at Mendez’ finance reports, saying that the spending he reported back in March does not seem to match the extent of his campaign.
“There’s discord between what we see on his reports and what we see on the streets,” said Rodriguez.
“He has more signs up in the city than anyone else,” said Jackson.
“He’s made the statement that he has a lack of funds, but he has a tremendous amount of literature and signs and other material out on the streets,” said McKoy.
Sayegh said Mendez should file his finance reports before the election. “He’s always pounding his chest, saying he wants transparency,” said Sayegh. “It’s hypocritcal if he can’t deliver that transparency by filing these reports.
Sayegh, who has come under fire from opponents for campaign contributions from people from outside Paterson, said his $171,000 total does not include money raised at the $1,000-per-plate cocktail party he had last week. That event, Sayegh said, generated about $60,000, which he said would be included in his 11-day pre-election report.
Rodriguez said he does not expect to keep pace with Sayegh’s fundraising. “He has money coming from special interests,” Rodriguez said of Sayegh. “I have to keep going back into my pocket.”
Several candidates wondered how Rodriguez, whose salary as a city telecommunications analyst is $73,000, could afford to put $105,000 into a mayoral race.
“His whole notion of self-funding is interesting,” McKoy said of Rodriguez. “I just hope he can prove the source of his funds. That’s a big personal investment for someone with a family to put into a political campaign with a marginal chance of success.”
Rodriguez said he had collected a six-figure salary for many years when he worked as operations manager for a major telecommunications firm. He said he also has a graphic design and printing business as well as real estate investments that generate income for him besides his city salary.
“It all comes from my bank account,” he said.
Cruz, who works as a city police officer, said he was not sure how much his campaign has raised. “It’s in the reports,” he said, referring to documents not yet available on the state’s website.
“It’s not about how much money you raise,” Cruz added. “The money from outside interests doesn’t vote, it’s the community that votes.”
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