Public records request reveals controversial emails sent by New Jersey election law commission director
Some of the emails obtained by WHYY News appear to commend someone who spoke out against Black Lives Matter signs at their school.
Calls for Jeffrey Brindle, executive director of New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, to resign have intensified following the release of emails that advocates allege attack the LGBTQ community and reveal racial prejudice.
A public records request initiated by attorney and government transparency advocate, C.J. Griffin, revealed a string of emails Brindle appeared to have sent to a colleague dating back to June 2021, using his official ELEC email address.
In some of the emails obtained by WHYY News, Brindle appeared to commend someone who spoke out against Black Lives Matter signage posted at their school. Another email appears to show Brindle lamenting state guidelines about preferred pronouns.
“Give me a break,” Brindle wrote to a colleague referring to the June 1, 2021 edict on pronouns.
Griffin said she hoped publicly releasing the emails would spur a larger investigation.
“My goal in sending these to the press was just to say, ‘hey, dig deeper, there might be more here, do investigative reporting.’ That’s what reporters do. Let’s let the public know the full story of what’s going on,” Griffin said.
Brindle’s attorney Bruce Afran said the focus on the emails comes after he filed a lawsuit alleging that the Murphy Administration conspired to force Brindle out of his role as executive director last year. Afran told WHYY News on Friday that Murphy’s counsel Parimal Garg, Chief of Staff George Helmy, and Chief Ethics Officer Dominic Rota called a meeting with Brindle on Nov. 2 — a couple of days after Brindle published a political satire critical of “dark money” groups. Murphy has been criticized in recent years for involvement with so-called groups.
During the meeting, Afran alleged, Rota demanded that Brindle resign, claiming that Brindle had sent an “anti-gay” email that Murphy officials declined to furnish at the time. Afran claimed that Rota later urged the Election Law Enforcement Commission board to fire Brindle and that Murphy officials claimed that Brindle also emailed “racist” remarks.
Afran contended that the emails were not meant to be critical of either LGBTQIA groups or Black Lives Matter.
“Jeff was not objecting to a policy to respect people’s pronouns. That’s false,” Afran told WHYY News. “The email said that everyone should consider adding their personal pronouns to their email line and that’s what Jeff said ‘give me a break to.’ It wasn’t saying, I don’t respect other people’s choices. He was saying ‘give me a break. I don’t need to be told to do that.’”
Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, a statewide nonprofit prioritizing LGBTQIA rights, has called on Brindle to resign.
“We have lost all trust in Jeffery Brindle’s ability to serve honestly and fairly as the chief enforcement official overseeing New Jersey elections,” Fuscarino said in a statement Friday.
Afran claimed that Brindle’s support for a Minnesota student who protested against Black Lives Matter signage in her school was not racist.
“I think what he’s trying to say there is that this young woman was standing up and protesting for what she thought was right. And nothing to do with Black Lives Matter. He’s saying it’s a good thing when young people stand up and protest for their own beliefs. She thinks the school is forcing ideology on people,” Afran said. “After tens of thousands of emails, to criticize a handful of emails on political issues, is really an attempt to destroy a man and his career.”
The controversy comes as state lawmakers have fast-tracked a bill giving Gov. Phil Murphy the power to appoint new ELEC board members.
Murphy declined to comment on the subject during his monthly call-in show with tri-state NPR affiliates on Wednesday.
“It’s a personnel matter and there’s litigation,” Murphy said.
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