Goow’s Lawyer Calls Akhtaruzzaman’s Appeal “Utterly Frivolous”
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 • 12:25pm
PATERSON, NJ – Former Councilman Aslon Goow’s attorney said there was nothing new about the August 2011 voter registration form upon which Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman is basing his court appeal to regain his City Council seat.
The appeal, which was filed on Monday, says that Akhtaruzzaman submitted a voter registration form in August 2011 that listed his correct address as Carlisle Avenue at that time. The appeal goes on to argue that if Superior Court Judge Thomas Brogan knew about that form he would not have deemed Akhtaruzzaman’s voter registration invalid and would not have nullified his victory in the May election.
But Goow’s lawyer, Michael DeMarco, said in an interview on Tuesday that Akhtaruzzaman’s appeal was “utterly frivolous.’’
“The new evidence isn’t new at all,’’ said DeMarco, adding that it was part of the discovery in the case. “This was available to everybody at all times.’’ In dismissing the significance of the voter form, DeMarco pointed out that neither of Akhtaruzzaman’s two lawyers during the trial used it as evidence on his behalf.
But Akhtaruzzaman’s two trial attorneys, Joe Garcia and Curtis La Forge, said they were not aware of the August 2011 form during the trial.
“False,’’ Garcia said of DeMarco’s claim that the voter form was commonly known to all parties.
“I did not know that form existed until Mr. Akhtaruzzaman presented it to me last week,’’ said La Forge. “So I would have to disagree with Mr. DeMarco on that.’’
Akhtaruzzaman’s newest attorney on the case, Theodore Kyles, said the August 2011 form was contained in the business records of the county elections superintendent. Kyles said DeMarco had obtained the form in his discovery for the case, but he was not sure if the other attorneys knew of it.
DeMarco and Kyles gave similar accounts on what prompted the exchange of letters and forms between Akhtaruzzaman and the county elections office.
In spring 2011, the county mailed a sample ballot for the June primary to Akhtaruzzaman at the 122 Carlisle Avenue address under which he was registered, the lawyers said. But the post office returned the ballot to the county election office because Akhtaruzzaman was living at 109 Carlisle and had not yet moved to 122 Carlisle.
So the county office then sent Akhtaruzzaman a letter and form in August asking whether he lived at 122 Carlisle, the lawyers said. By then, Akhtaruzzaman had moved to 122 Carlisle and he received the form, filled it out and sent it back to the county election office, Kyles said.
DeMarco asserted that the August 2011 voter form did not represent an attempt by Akhtaruzzaman to correct his invalid voting records, but simply was his response to a routine letter issued by the Passaic County elections superintendent's office.
“This does not represent a good faith effort by Akhtaruzzaman,’’ DeMarco said.
Meanwhile, the appeal filed by Akhtaruzzaman casts some degree of uncertainty over the city’s plan to hold a special election on November 6 to fill the vacant 2nd Ward seat. Candidates have begun collecting voters’ signatures on nominating petitions, which are due at the city clerk’s office by Friday at 6 pm and the clerk is scheduled to hold a drawing for ballot positions on October 4.
But a hearing on Akhtaruzzaman’s appeal motions isn’t scheduled until October 12, court officials said. The campaign will already be two weeks old before a ruling is made on whether the election should move forward.
As of the end of business on Monday, seven potential candidates had picked up nominating petitions – Akhtaruzzaman, Goow, Joseph Atallo, Maidul Islam, Sonia Torres, Taj Uddin and Zalal Uddin. Goow finished second in the May election, almost 500 votes behind Akhtaruzzaman, while Torres was third and Atallo fourth. The other three potential candidates did not run in May.
Kyles filed motions with Brogan asking the judge to reconsider his ruling, to grant a new trial and to allow Akhtaruzzaman to continuing serving in the council seat until the case is resolved. Kyles’ appeal also asks Brogan to render a decision as soon as possible because of the “urgency” of the case.
“The removal of Defendant (Akhtaruzzaman) has imposed severe hardships on him, the City Council and the citizens of the Second Ward,’’ Kyles wrote in his motion. “Staying the Court’s decision pending the appeal of this matter would relieve those hardships.”