As Election Day approaches, Parsippany's hotly contested mayoral race took another heated turn last week.
Parsippany Mayor James R. Barberio’s campaign released a document from
the National Student Clearinghouse that claims his opponent, Jonathan Nelson,
did not earn a degree from the University of Maryland-College Park.
Nelson responded by providing a college transcript to prove he received a bachelor's degree in 1991.
However, since then,
Barberio's campaign has claimed the transcript is counterfeit.
“Misrepresenting yourself to voters is
reprehensible,” Barberio said. “Lying about
attaining a college degree will get you fired from just about any job. But it's
even more serious when you misrepresent yourself to the voters, because that's a
violation of the public trust.
"In addition to explaining himself to voters, Nelson must answer just how far this goes? Has he been lying on his resume in his effort to find employment? If Mr. Nelson is willing to lie about a college degree, how can voters trust anything he says?”
Nelson fired back that Barberio's campaign also obtained the document fraudulently through the National Student Clearinghouse since it was without his consent.
And on Monday, Nelson told Patch he will be "suing for defamation and violation of federal privacy laws."
On Tuesday, Alan Zakin, of Barberio's campaign, sent Patch an enrollment verification document he had received from the University of Maryland – College Park, Office of the Registrar. The provided document shows that Nelson was enrolled from Fall 1986 to Fall 1992. In the Fall of 1992, he was a half-time student and in Spring 1993, he was listed as 'Not Registered.'
Nelson was elected to the Township’s Council in 2012 and his bio on the Township website lists a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.
According to the document from Barberio’s campaign, the National Student Clearinghouse shows Nelson attended from 1986 to 1992, but did not earn a degree.“I have been advised by various Republican operatives that Jaime Barberio, defeated Council candidate, Milin Shah, and County Republican boss John Sette, at the direction of the Township Attorney John Inglesino, have conspired to put out a slanderous and libelous political hit on my reputation," Nelson said. "The actions to date by my opponent have been reckless and disregard the truth. Just like the way Jamie has mismanaged the township, his campaign has been equally mismanaged and is full of false accusations and lies.”
“We stand by our documents as the true and accurate record of Mr. Nelson’s academic performance,” said Zakin. “It appears Nelson not only lied about his record, he has now falsified an official transcript in order to perpetuate the lie.”
Zakin said an unofficial transcript Nelson provided supports the one they received, indicating the Democrat left college in 1992, not 1991 and without a degree.
“In 1992, I was in Bejing, China, where I was taking graduate classes,” Nelson responded. “On the township’s website, Barberio states that he attended Montclair State. Please supply us with your transcripts and your graduation date like I have done. I have often said that when campaigns get desperate, the truth is always the first casualty, and Jamie Barberio is just plain desperate.
Barberio said he became concerned about the truthfulness of Nelson’s claim as published reports indicated he had multiple tax liens placed against him, forcible entry claims filed against him by his landlord, two bankruptcy filings, the repossession of his Audi in 2009 and false State Election Law Reports, which he signed, according to Barberio’s campaign release.
“While I am sure that Jonathan will try to again deflect from the situation—the Clearinghouse is the foremost center used for degree verification in the country," Barberio said. "Together, with records already discovered from the Federal Bankruptcy Court, the State Judiciary, and the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission we have woven a web of truth that has caught Nelson in his most shameless lie of all.”
In Nelson’s statement in response to this latest claim from Barberio’s campaign, he called out the mayor to answer several questions about himself such as “why you were terminated from your job in 2009? Were you ever accused of embezzlement? How about the judgment against you by a small family business called Dixon Brothers for non-payment of your oil bill? Were you ever employed by Parsippany-Troy Hills Township prior to becoming Mayor and which job did you hold? Were you ever terminated from that job? Can you explain why you were terminated? Did you ever file a claim or collect workmen’s compensation from the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills before being terminated?”
“I find it most interesting that since the political season began in January, Jamie Barberio has conducted a smear campaign against political opponents, with total disregard to the impact this behavior has on families and the individuals themselves," Nelson said. "He is a desperate individual who will do anything or say anything to save his own skin. But I know for a fact that the voters of Parsippany are just too smart and too sophisticated to fall for his tricks."