Bergenfield Mayor Amatorio files defamation lawsuit against opponent, demands public apology

Amatorio at the balcony of the Oval Office in Washington, D.C. where he attended the Mayors Day Summit on February 7. Facebook photo

Bergenfield Mayor Arvin Amatorio has filed a complaint and civil litigation suit with the State of New Jersey against former Mayor Norman Schmelz, his running mates, and press spokesman for defamatory allegations against Amatorio in an attempt to damage his reputation three days before the November 5th election. 

Amatorio is seeking compensatory damages to be determined by the court and asking that Schmelz and co-accused publicly retract their “false claims and statements.”

On November 2nd, 2019, Schmelz and Bergenfield Republican Chairman Ira Treuhart disseminated a press release claiming Amatorio was not licensed to practice law and that he has been taking advantage of immigrants. Schmelz said then: “I am calling on Mr. Amatorio to resign his candidacy for Mayor effective immediately…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.”

Former Mayor Norman Schmelz

Amatorio decided to sue the perpetrators, Treuhart, Schmelz, and Schmelz’ running mates Mandy Suero and Wendy Loszynski on January 24. All four have been served within the past week.

“In the run-up to the November 5th election, I was smeared by my opponent and his team for political purposes. They alleged that “immigrant families have been ruined by Mr. Amatorio’s selfish, wrong, and deliberate misfilings [sic] that served to enrich his own and his client’s pockets.” They further added I was illegally practicing law. These false allegations hurt my personal and professional reputation, and I am taking measures to clear my name,” said Amatorio in his lawsuit.

Then-Councilman Amatorio and his team of Ora Kornbluth and Buddy Deauna defeated Schmelz and his running mates despite the latter’s allegations. According to the lawsuit, none of Schmelz, Suero or Loszynski has ever apologized for or recanted their allegations against Amatorio. 

In court documents, Amatorio states the following as facts:

-“Plaintiff (Amatorio) was born in the Philippines, the son of two public school teachers. 

-“He obtained an undergraduate degree in economics in Manila and then attended the College of Law at San Sebastian, where he earned his law degree.

-“He and his wife moved to the United States in 2002, following which Mr. Amatorio worked as an adjunct professor in New York City while studying for the New York bar.  

-“Since his admission to the New York Bar in 2006, Mr. Amatorio has maintained a law office in New York City.  He also sees immigration clients, which is an entirely federal practice, at Washington Avenue in Bergenfield for the convenience of his clients.”

The document disputes the implication that “Amatorio has abused or does abuse immigrants” or “has taken advantage of or does take advantage of immigrants.”

“Amatorio has not taken advantage of ‘his own countrymen’ or anyone else ‘in order to make a quick dollar’…To the extent the term ‘countrymen’ is meant to refer to Filipinos, Mr. Amatorio has not taken advantage of Filipinos,” according to court documents.

Amatorio is represented by Ronald Coleman  of Mandelbaum Salsburg PC in Roseland, New Jersey.

The FilAm has reached out to Norman Schmelz for a statement. We will update the story once a statement becomes available. – With Cristina DC Pastor

© The FilAm 2020

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