Above photos: LEFT: One of two times Daniels met Hillary Clinton during the 2016 elections. RIGHT: Daniels with New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker, with former Westampton committee member Carolyn Chang (green jacket) and Burlington County Democratic Committee Chairman Joe Andl (top right) in the background.
This article features an interview with Westampton Township Mayor C. Andre Daniels. It is also an in-depth look at the controversies swirling around the town’s committee during the past few years. There is more than one smear campaign being waged against Daniels, and at the bottom of this article, some of those assertions are debunked.
By: Jeff Epstein, 6/4/2017
UPDATE: The anonymous administrator from the Facebook page, “Westampton is a great place to live,” responded to this article. The dialogue is at the bottom of this post.
WESTAMPTON, NJ — C. Andre Daniels has three kidneys. His original two are incapable of sustaining life. The third used to belong to a young man named Shane in Maryland. In 2002, soon after graduating high school, Shane was killed in an auto accident. His family decided to donate his organs to save the lives of others. Daniels said how he promised himself and God that, were he to make it out alive, he would “run real hard,” meaning: be active in his community, do good, and make a difference. Daniels received Shane’s kidney in his fourth year of dialysis, and said that, since then, “All of my work has been dedicated to Shane’s promise.”
In 2008, after living in Westampton Township, New Jersey for seventeen years, Daniels was elected to a seat on the five-member Town Committee (also called Town Council). In January of 2016, while serving in his third term, his fellow council members voted for him to become mayor; he was reelected by his peers in January 2017. Committee members hold three-year terms; mayors hold one-year terms.
On this Tuesday, June 6, 2017, Westampton voters will decide if Daniels should have a fourth term on the council. Despite being the incumbent, Daniels is not “on the line” with his fellow Democrats. In fact, Wilbur Williams, Daniels’ only competitor, told the Burlington County Times on May 28:
I can’t say it any more clearly than I am not a candidate. If elected I will not take the seat…. I’m 70 years old and I want to do whatever I want, when I want to do it.
Despite this, Williams is the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party and is indeed listed on the Democratic line. It is unknown who collected signatures for Mr. Williams in order to get onto the ballot.
Daniels and his running mate are on the far-bottom right-hand corner of the ballot. Except for the governor candidate at the very top, columns two through six are completely blank. While column one has fourteen candidates in it, Daniels and his running mate Machell Pettis (who is also running for committee) are by themselves at the bottom of the right-most column, with the eight-year incumbent listed below newcomer Pettis—something she calls “incredibly disrespectful.”
The ballot positioning alone will likely cost Daniels the election. According to Daniels, if Williams does win and chooses not to serve, the Burlington County Democratic Committee (that is, the portion of the county committee that exists within Westampton) will then get to pick three candidates. The final decision among those three candidates is made by the Westampton Township Committee—including Daniels himself.
In other words, Williams’ existence on the ballot seems to function only as a way of giving the the party a way to hand-pick Daniels’ replacement after the election, suggesting a suitable replacement may not be immediately apparent. This is the definition of a “placeholder” candidate. As described near the end of this article, some prominent members of the county Democratic committee (in Westampton) are among those individuals that are very unhappy with Daniels.
Daniels believes that his being excluded from the process and not included in the Democratic line is a violation of his 14th Amendment rights, and of the long tradition of the Burlington County Democratic Party—in which incumbents, unless accused or convicted of a criminal charge, are listed along with their peers.
In addition to being swept off to the far corner of the ballot, Daniels and Pettis were excluded from the Burlington County Democratic Convention. They are still not sure when or where it took place. There were also no debates or town halls scheduled during the primary. Finally, Daniels said he was offered support to run for state senate in the eighth legislative district, but only if he agreed to not run again for committee; it is a position in which Daniels is not interested, and in a district he says is unwinnable.
There are at least two smear campaigns being waged against Daniels. The goal of these campaigns is to paint Daniels as a “#FakeDemocrat”: a Republican in Democratic clothing, who actively endorses, campaigns for, and votes with Republicans—particularly Tom MacArthur, the representative of New Jersey’s third congressional district, which includes Westampton. The campaigns are on Facebook pages; one called Westampton Tea Party Republicans and the other, Westampton is a great place to live (“Great Place”). The two main photos on Great Place show Daniels with the text “fake Democrat Daniels” and “Christie puppets,” the latter referring to Chris Christie, the divisive and outgoing Republican Governor of New Jersey.
The pages feature photos of Daniels along with various Republicans, examples of which are at the end of this article. In one photo, Daniels and MacArthur are about to shake hands in front of MacArthur’s large pickup truck. In two others, one of the men is shown speaking while the other sits and listens. Another refers to an article analyzing MacArthur’s healthcare amendment, something clearly unrelated to Daniels. However, the post is accompanied with the comment, “Andre Daniels supports Congressman MacArthur. MacArthur supports Trump’s quest to eliminate healthcare for millions of citizens.”
When asked to provide evidence that Daniels has actually supported, endorsed, or campaigned for MacArthur or other Republican candidates, the anonymous administrator of Great Place responded:
Well documented last year on social media. He made numerous appearances with the congressman. In addition to campaigning for the local Republican candidate…. [He] deleted most of the posts now that he realized he needed to be a Democrat again to get reelected. I’m sure someone has screenshots as he loves to post everything on FB [Facebook] not realizing it would come back to bite him. Ask any Democrat and they will tell you about his record.
Tom MacArthur is the representative of Westampton Township. A mayor or committeeman attending an event with his town’s congressional representative is not, in and of itself, unusual. It’s protocol. As far as Daniels’ personal opinions of MacArthur, Daniels does agree with him on some important views, such as keeping Joint Base MacGuire (Air Force Base) open, and in supporting veterans and seniors.
Daniels strongly disagrees with MacArthur on issues such as MacArthur’s writing and fighting to pass an amendment that would take healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans, while enriching the wealthiest among us. Here is Daniels directly confronting MacArthur about pre-existing conditions [at around the sixteen minute mark]. Daniels adamantly rejects the idea that he has ever endorsed or campaigned for MacArthur or any other Republican candidate. As described in the final section of this article, the truth seems to back him up.
Daniels has indeed voted with his fellow Republican committee members, sometimes in direct opposition of his Democratic peers. Todd McHale of the Burlington County Times stated in February 2017, “The five-member committee is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, although Democratic Mayor Andre Daniels consistently votes with the Republicans.” Daniels says that, despite these votes being portrayed as betrayal to his party, it is actually a reflection of his independence; how he does the right thing for the people and votes his conscience, regardless what his party tells him to do. It demonstrates how he can cooperate with those that otherwise disagree with him.
Daniels has also voted with Democrats in opposition to the Republicans. In the last month alone, he voted to block the Republican committee members from posting information about their Republican-only town hall on the Township’s website, and only hours after our interview, to construct seventy-two units of affordable housing.
Daniels becomes mayor, tensions boil over
On January 5th, 2016, Daniels was voted in for his first term as mayor by a three-to-two margin. Daniels and the two just-elected Republicans voted in his favor, and the two Democrats voted against. In the same meeting, one of the Republicans was voted in as deputy mayor with the same partisan division. In addition, immediately after being sworn in mayor, Daniels appointed himself and the two Republicans to seven of nine available positions—multiple positions for each—including Police Liaison and Public Works Liaison. Was this a “power grab“? Daniels responded, “That may be the devil’s advocate point of view, but anyone who knows me knows that that’s not how I play the game.”
Although January 5th was the night it boiled over, according to the Burlington County Times, tensions among his fellow Democratic committee members had been building for years:
Township Committeeman Andre Daniels finds himself in a unique position…. [His] fellow Democrats accusing him of a deal that would put him in the mayor’s seat and give control to the GOP. Daniels denies any deal, but there is no doubt he will be in a position of power in the new year as his swing vote on the five-member board could decide key issues.
Mayor Carolyn Chang and Deputy Mayor Robert Maybury claim Daniels secretly has agreed to vote on items with the two GOP newcomers — Abraham Lopez and Maureen Smith-Hartman, who take office Jan. 5 — in exchange for their votes regarding who gets to be the next mayor.
Maybury alleged that Daniels had tried to form alliances with Republicans in previous elections in attempts to become mayor or deputy mayor, dating back to 2010. At the end of Tuesday’s meeting — the last before Lopez and Smith-Hartman are sworn in — Maybury warned November’s victors against cooperating with Daniels, saying they would have major problems should they give him power.
On the night that Daniels became mayor, January 5, 2016, the same partisan margin voted to appoint the law firm of Long and Marmero to Westampton Township Solicitor (a solicitor serves as the town’s official lawyer). At the time, the firm was facing an ethics complaint, accused of using nearly $200,000 in client trust funds for personal and business purposes. The case was filed in 2014 and, at the time of this vote, was being heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Long and Marmero was also being considered for solicitor by the Township of Trenton, but upon discovering this ethics complaint, the town immediately withdrew consideration.
In July 2016, Long and Marmero, the individuals, not the firm, were “reprimanded” and “admonished” respectively, which are the mildest forms of discipline. As of May of 2017, the firm still serves Westampton.
Tensions between Daniels and Chang at least partially come from the committee’s investigation into her dealings with a firetruck purchased by the town in 2013. While Mayor in September of 2015, Chang signed a warranty extension on a consistently faulty firetruck, without discussion with, or authorization of, the committee. The agreement prevented the town from pursuing future litigation against the truck’s manufacturer.
Chang’s action was investigated by the committee in October of 2015, while Chang was out of the country. As of March 2017, the truck continues to be plagued with issues and has spent at least ten months out of service for repairs. Difficulties between Chang and Daniels were apparent even before this controversy, when Chang allegedly used her gavel to prevent Daniels from speaking during a regular monthly meeting in April 2015.
Within three months, two public officials used their positions to give each other high-paying jobs
On October 27, 2014, seven days before Election Day (and a full year before Daniels was elected mayor), a special meeting was held to vote on the appointment of a new Fire Chief. Since this was a special (that is, unscheduled) meeting, the Open Meetings Act requires that the public be given 48 hours notice. Two days before the meeting, a notice was posted in the township building and delivered to the local newspapers. However, it was not published in the newspaper until the day of the meeting. The Township Solicitor at the time, George Saponaro, argued that simply delivering the notice to the local papers 48 hours in advance was enough to satisfy the Open Meetings Act—actually publishing it was not necessary. The Burlington County Prosecutors Office determined that, in this case, the township was in violation of the Act. The township was required to repeat the vote in a subsequent meeting with proper public notification. (As an aside, the Westampton Solicitor before Saponaro, was current Assemblyman and Democratic candidate for governor, John Wisniewski.)
According to the meeting minutes, then-Mayor Chang stated that the meeting was explicitly “to address the issue of the head of the EMS/fire department.” The first and only motion made in the meeting was to appoint Jason Carty to the position of “Director/Head of the EMS/Fire Chief.” The position title is important according to Daniels, because it was created explicitly to circumvent the law. First, because Carty was not qualified for the position of Fire Chief, and second, there is a state law that requires that Township positions be filled by promotion from within, not by appointment of an outsider. Carty was voted in by 3-2 margin, with Daniels one of the dissenting votes. The previous Fire Chief made $95,000 a year.
Four days prior to his appointment, Carty resigned as board member of the Mount Holly Municipal Utilities Authority (MHMUA). (He was on the board in November, absent from the regular monthly meeting the day before being appointed as Fire Chief, and announced his resignation in the first meeting in 2015.) In October 2015, however, two months before he himself was appointed to a $95,000-a-year position by the Westampton committee, Carty voted to appoint a Westampton Committeeman, Robert Mayberry, to the position of Executive Director of the MHMUA. The previous director made $110,000-a-year.
Throughout the first half of 2015, the committee was dogged with public comments expressing concern that an outsider was chosen instead of promoting from within, questioning whether doing so is legal, and disgust that “conflicts of interest seem to surround this committee.”
In February, a citizen’s complaint was filed alleging blatant quid pro quo between Carty and Mayberry. The complaint is still pending in the courts. The complainant is Libertarian John Paff, who told me:
It is not uncommon for the LFB [Local Finance Board] to take 3, 4, 5 or more years to complete an investigation. I serve on the Board of Directors of New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, Inc. We tried to get the LFB to speed up its investigations and to be more transparent on the investigation process by filing a Petition for Rulemaking. We were rebuffed. See our article here.
Another complaint was filed in July by then-candidate Lopez, one of the two Republicans to vote for Daniels to become mayor in January of 2016.
In August 2015, the Westampton fire department became the first in the nation to win a competitive $200,000 grant in order to “help recruit and retain volunteers.” According to committeewoman Patricia Winsett Teleisa (who happened to be a Republican before switching to Democrat in 2011 in order to run with Daniels) in the September 8 meeting, Carty was instrumental in obtaining it. Also on September 8, 2015, committeeman Mayberry announced that he would not be running for reelection, stating, according to the minutes:
He [Mayberry] also wants to talk about blatant lies that are circulating; he isn’t resigning from his position he is simply not seeking reelection. He worked his way up at the MUA and wasn’t given anything over the 32 years he has worked there. He stands behind his vote for Chief Carty who is well qualified and is doing a great job.
Then, on October 27, 2015, exactly one week before the election and less than one year after originally being appointed to Fire Chief, Carty’s contract was put before the committee. This caught many members of the public by surprise, who were both unaware of who the contracts were for, and unsure why three contracts were being voted on as a unit, instead of separately for each individual. When a member of the public asked what Carty’s contract length had been up to this point, the response was: “There was no contract. It is a director’s position and he was appointed.”
Even from the sanitized meeting notes, it is obvious how contentious the meeting was. Although there was some support for the committee’s behavior, most of it was against:
- A majority of members in the audience raised their hands when asked by another audience member if the vote should be postponed.
- An audience member said that he was disgusted at all members of the committee except for Daniels. When asked if Carty was ever subject to a background check, committeewoman Teleisa said “this is like a witchhunt,” and Mayor Chang said that she “will not accept political grandstanding” and will “not allow him [the audience member] to obstruct the work going on in the township.”
- An audience member expressed shame that three Boy Scouts in the audience were witnessing this meeting: “I don’t know what to tell them.”
- Mayor Chang stated, “There are a lot in the audience who are obstructionists; they would like [the committee] to shut down. [We] are going to do the business of the town.”
Before these comments were ever made, the contracts were approved. Daniels attempted to postpone the vote, but his motion was not seconded.
On December 8, 2015, Congressman Tom MacArthur praised the committee for appointing Carty as EMS Chief. One month later, Daniels was elected as mayor for the first time.
On April 3rd of 2016, only four months into his five-year contract, Carty’s position was eliminated by Daniels and the two Republicans, via Reduction In Force because, as Daniels states, “His position was duplicative,” and eliminating it (along with one other position) reduced the tax burden for residents. Almost exactly a later, Carty filed a federal lawsuit against Daniels and his two Republican colleagues, claiming he was fired in retaliation for managing the campaigns of some current and former committee members. Although Daniels is named as one of the defendants, he is otherwise not referred to anywhere in the lawsuit. The case is still pending.
Daniels said that Carty was a registered Republican when he served as campaign manager for Daniels’ own reelection campaign in 2014. Despite believing that Carty is not qualified to be Fire Chief, he speaks highly of Carty in his position as campaign manager.
(Republican committeman Lopez asserts that Carty has had a business relationship with former solicitor Saponaro, and that there are many inappropriate relationships among Westampton and Burlington County government officials.)
A billion reasons
Another piece of this admittedly incomplete puzzle is a billion-dollar hospital currently being proposed in Westampton Township. The existing hospital in Mount Holly cannot be further expanded or upgraded, and plans for a new site in Westampton have been at least preliminarily approved by the zoning board and Township committee. A plot of land was purchased for $10 million. Daniels says that there are “a billion reasons” for wanting him to no longer be on the committee. He also emphasizes that the problems began long before this. He says that his position has always been limited and minimized by fellow Democratic committee members. “There are some on the Democratic side of the aisle that would’ve been happy if I never became mayor.”
Indeed, at the end of his first term as mayor, Daniels says that he was given an ultimatum. In a private meeting, he met with the local Democratic Party chairman (and former committeeman) Robert Mayberry, Burlington County Democratic committeewoman (and former mayor) Carolyn Chang, Westampton committeeman-elect John Wisniewski (no relation to the gubernatorial candidate), and current committeewoman Patricia Winsett Teleisa.
Except for Wisniewski, everyone in that meeting—those giving Daniels this ultimatum—was, and still is, a member of the Burlington County Democratic Committee. This is the organization that chooses the three candidates to be named in Wilbur Williams’ place (should he win but refuse the position). Mayberry and Chang, who have a years-long history of difficulties with Daniels, are effectively hand-picking his replacement. (I was also personally shown correspondence clearly demonstrating Mayberry’s outright malice towards Daniels, years before Daniels became mayor.)
Unfortunately, it is currently impossible to more cleanly connect all these dots: being banished on the ballot, shut out of meetings he deserves to be part of, aggressive smear campaigns waged by anonymous figures, ultimatums forced upon him by his own party. Whatever the connection, it is clear that those in power in Daniels’ own party want him gone.
Specifically, the ultimatum given in this meeting in the final days of 2016 and at the end of his first term as Mayor was this: Daniels’ re-election candidacy would be endorsed and supported by the party in exchange for his agreeing to not accept another term as mayor or deputy mayor. He was given five minutes to respond. Daniels told them, “I don’t agree. I yield my final three-and-a-half minutes back to you.”
More information about C. Andre Daniels:
- Daniels’ profile and Mayor’s Message on the Westampton Township municipal website.
- Armed forces profile
- Story about Daniels’ fight to get custody of his son from Georgia after his mother’s passing.
Postscript: Examples of the smear campaign against Daniels and, when possible, the truth behind them
UPDATE: The anonymous administrator from the Facebook page, “Westampton is a great place to live,” responded to this article. The dialogue is at the bottom of this post.
This is a “prayer and unity vigil” on July 10, 2016, [in the article, this is picture eight of nine] where Daniels, MacArthur, and other public officials spoke on the violence by and against police. Five officers had just been shot in Dallas Texas, and many unarmed black man were being killed by police.
Assertion regarding the below picture:
[link to post] “If you needed more proof that Andre Daniels is a fake Democrat- The literature he is handing out is paid for by a REPUBLICAN Political Action Committee. No wonder the Westampton and Burlington County Democrats do not support him. Prosperity for NJ is a REPUBLICAN PAC.”
A statement from Prosperity for NJ chairman Doug Donoris:
The accusation of Prosperity for NJ being a Republican only PAC is ridiculous. Prosperity is clearly bipartisan. Just look at the ELEC filing. I’m a registered Democrat as is the treasurer.
Given the fact that the person who is trying to label Prosperity as a Republican PAC won’t reveal themselves proves to me that this is nothing more than a poorly executed smear campaign against a stand up candidate. The question is: “Who in Westampton has an axe to grind with Andre”?
Having known Andre for many years, I believe him to be a solid candidate that has the best interest of Westampton at heart. He has an excellent track record as a community servant. If I didn’t believe this to be true, I would not have allowed Prosperity to be involved with this race.
And another by Treasurer Lance Forbes:
Prosperity for NJ a non-partisan PAC. To suggest it is a Republican PAC is preposterous. I am a lifelong registered Democrat. The mere notion that I would be acting as a Republican operative would literally make my friends spit their drink out.
Assertions regarding the below picture:
- “The truth hurts sometimes. Andre Daniels sold his soul to the Republicans for a title and now must pay the piper. “
- “Fake Democrat Alert- Republican puppet Andre Daniels will NOT have the support the Westampton Democrats or the Burlington County Democrats. The organization has chosen to support real democrats that don’t take their marching orders from trump loving republicans like Christie crony Abe Lopez.”
- “Mayor Andre Daniels has no shame. He sells his soul to the republicans then wonders why he doesn’t get invited to meet democratic candidate Phil Murphy at a local campaign stop. Because the Democratic Party no longer supports you Daniels! #fakedemocrat”
This is July 5, 2016, the night that Daniels was voted in as mayor, and the night that the two Republicans took their oath of office.
Assertion regarding the below picture:
[link to post] “The truth hurts. Fake Democrat Daniels does not really reside in the town he represents.”
Assertion regarding the below picture:
[link to post] “Look who loves to support and appear at photo ops with Congressman Tom MacArthur – why it’s the Westampton Mayor, C. Andre Daniels who would have YOU BELIEVE that he is a Democrat. Don’t be fooled – he is ONLY a Democrat when it works for HIS personal benefit !”