Gene Murray wanted to apologize to the Borough Council.
You see, during the special primary election held on August 13, Murray, of 8th Avenue, signed a petition outside the borough hall polling station. Murray explained that he thought it was a petition in favor of the boardwalk pavilions, which he supports.
It was quite the opposite.
The petition was one that was later delivered to the borough council opposing the pavilions – a petition circulated by a group called “Let the Citizens Decide,’’ that seeks to have the redevelopment plan for the boardwalk, which includes a pair of new two-story pavilions.
“I made a mistake on Election Day,’’ Murray said, addressing the Borough Council at its last meeting. “When I came out (of the polling place) I was approached by somebody with a petition. They said it was for the pavilion.”
Murray said he signed it, misunderstanding the petition’s intent.
“It was my fault,’’ Murray said. “I didn’t read it. I was in a hurry.”
But Murray then said he was later told that the petitioners should not have been within 100 feet of the polling station.
“I shouldn’t have signed it," Murray said. "But they shouldn’t have been there.’’
Monmouth County election officials agree.
“No one can do that within 100 feet of the door of a polling station,” said Hedra Siskel, county superintendent of elections.
Belmar municipal clerk April Claudio said she contacted the Board of Election and the police following Murray’s report. Board of Elections workers on Friday said there was nothing they could do about the matter after the fact, but would act on a complaint on the day of an election.
The state law that covering electioneering strictly prohibits “any activity or display of materials that is intended to advocate, solicit or suggest support for a candidate, political party or public referendum.”
But former Mayor Kenneth Pringle, speaking for the Let The Citizens Decide group, said the group member collecting signatures outside the polling station was doing nothing wrong. Pringle said there is no ban on collecting petition signatures on an issue that has nothing to do with the election that was taking place.
The Aug. 13 polling was a special primary election for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Attempting to collect signatures on a petition is not the same as attempting to sway voter opinion in favor of a candidate or for a public question on the ballot, Pringle said, and the group member was not stumping for or against anything on the ballot that day.
“There is no question that my clients had a clear constitutional right to collect petition signatures on the Main Street sidewalk outside of the Borough Municipal Building on August 13th,’’ Pringle said. “This apparently orchestrated attempt by the Mayor and his Democratic colleagues on the Council to suggest the petitioners broke the law is simply the latest in a series of shameful attempts by them to demean and marginalize residents who disagree with the decisions they make.”
Mayor Matt Doherty said it was out of the question that he or anyone on the council would have orchestrated the events surrounding the August election.
“To think that we would orchestrate this is completely ridiculous,’’ Doherty said.
Pringle also said that the petition stated its intent in bold print at the top of each page.
It was unclear Monday whether Murray’s name was removed from the petition. Borough Clerk April Claudio was unavailable for comment.