Amatorio denounces attack, is elected mayor of Bergenfield

A dogged campaigner. Councilman Amatorio has been a member of the Council for five years.

UPDATE: Arvin Amatorio was elected Mayor of Bergenfield. He garnered 2,803 votes over Norman Schmelz’s 2637 votes.

Bergenfield Councilman Arvin Amatorio, a candidate to become mayor of the New Jersey borough, denounced the human trafficking allegation by his Republican opponent dropped on the eve of the elections as straight out of the playbook of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Insider NJ reported on November 2 that Czesar Hernandez, a Filipino physical therapist, has filed charges of “fraud, forced labor and wage exploitation” against lawyer Amatorio; the company he represents, RN Staff Inc.; and three of its officers namely Manuel Garcia, Ramon Villegas, and Antonina Haskins. 

INJ says the complaint was filed in the Northern District of New York in January, transferred to the Southern District of Indiana in July of 2019, and amended on October 24, 2019, “to include Amatorio as a named defendant in this case. Previously, Amatorio was mentioned in the case, but is now waiting to be added as a defendant by the court.”

Amatorio, a Democrat, slammed the accusation by his opponent, Republican Mayor Norman Schmelz, as “intentionally dishonest” and “salacious.”

“Mayoral candidate Arvin Amatorio is condemning in the strongest possible terms a blatantly false, desperate attack launched on him at the 11th hour before Election Day by his opponent, Republican Mayor Norman Schmelz,” says a statement issued by Amatorio campaign spokesman Dan Knitzer. 

Republican Norman Schmelz has been Bergenfield mayor since 2013.

Knitzer said the candidate is preparing to countersue for defamation.

“Arvin is already drafting a $10 Million defamation lawsuit and will file it against Norman Schmelz and his team of Ira Treuhaft, Mandy Suero and Wendy Lozinski as soon as possible. He will not allow Schmelz to drag him into the gutter and destroy his reputation with these outright lies,” says the statement.  “The intentionally dishonest attack by Norman Schmelz is right out of the Trump Immigrant bashing Playbook and is nothing but a desperate attempt to defame Arvin Amatorio and distract from Schmelz’s failures as Mayor in the final days of the campaign.”

It is not immediately clear how Hernandez is connected to the campaign of Schmelz. This development  also calls into question why the complaint was amended to include Amatorio weeks before the elections on November 5.

According to the complaint, plaintiff Hernandez was invited by defendants to work for them. He was offered employment visa sponsorship, a transfer of his H-1B visa to RN, and a net income of $1,200 a week. He agreed. Plaintiff alleged in the complaint that his H-1B visa petition was later denied because it was not acted on in a timely manner by the defendants. As a result, he lost his legal status.

“I am calling on Mr. Amatorio to resign his candidacy for Mayor effective immediately,” says a statement by Schmelz published in INJ. “I call upon all people in Bergenfield who care about the rights of those who are trafficked, on those immigrants who are abused and taken advantage of to call on Mr. Amatorio to withdraw his candidacy and resign from Bergenfield Council as well.”

Schmelz also alleged Amatorio is not licensed to practice law in the State of New Jersey.  Filipinos in New Jersey are confused by this allegation because Amatorio has been practicing law for over a decade, and Schmelz  must have known that being a colleague in the Bergenfield Council.

“I believe this is a sheer form of desperation from his opponents,” said incoming PAFCOM President Helen Castillo. “He is doing very well in his campaign.”

© The FilAm 2019

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