Suswikileaks: Lawyer does other lawyer dirty

This is the first in a series of email dumps.

 

SCMUA Commissioner Dan Perez is a politically connected Sussex County lawyer who counts Freeholder George Graham, Assemblyperson Gail Phoebus, New Jersey Herald attorney Kevin Kelly, and New Jersey Herald reporter Eric Obernauer among his confederates. 

 

Obernauer has a very close relationship with Phoebus, and during her 2015 legislative campaign he wrote some very damaging pieces against her opponents, including Marie Bilik, Richard Vohden, and a number of career civil servants working for Sussex County. 

 

In June of 2015, John Williams was in the process of being appointed to fill the vacancy left after the retirement of longtime Sussex County Attorney Dennis McConnell.  Phoebus, then a county Freeholder, just days before had won the Republican primary for Assembly over Marie Bilik and Nathan Orr. 

 

Phoebus was urged to oppose Williams by Perez, who dug up the dirt to do it, as this email shows:

Perez had wanted Phoebus to openly oppose Williams, but a friend of Phoebus had been dating Williams, so they used Obernauer to put out a rumor about Williams and who some of his clients had been.  They even came up with a nasty name to mock Williams by:  "Juice Bar Johnny."  It was expected that the rumors against Williams, spread by Obernauer, would do their work and eventually undermine the County Attorney and force him out. 

 

Subsequently, the inside joke they shared with Herald reporter Obernauer became such that they became reckless and Obernauer included someone on an email to Phoebus that he shouldn't have.  The "Juice Bar Johnny" reference was questioned and brought to the attention of the Herald's management, resulting in a reprimand of some sort for reporter Obernauer but no ramifications for politician Phoebus or lawyer Perez.

 

This is the power of rumors and "whisper" campaigns.  It is how politics is sometimes conducted in close-knit communities -- when smiles are lies and honesty is at a premium.  It almost destroyed the career of County Attorney John Williams as well as those of several county employees.