Leak Case Against Congressional Candidate Can Proceed
Judge rules complaint against Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Scott Garrett, can move forward.
A judge has found probable cause to move ahead with a complaint by a longtime political foe of Teaneck’s deputy mayor, in which she accuses the now-Congressional candidate of leaking confidential information about her to the media.
Former Councilwoman Barbara Toffler alleges that Adam Gussen, who is running against Republican Rep. Scott Garret in the 5th District, leaked a personnel complaint filed against her by Township Manager William Broughton, and that he shared with a newspaper reporter information about a closed session council meeting in Jan. 2011.
"I have evidence which provides probable cause to believe that this confidential information, and in all likelihood the letter itself, was provided ... by Deputy Mayor and Councilman Adam Gussen," Toffler said in a statement to police. "I believe that the release of the information was for the purpose of harming my professional and political reputation."
Gussen has not been charged with a crime. Bergen County Municipal Court Judge Roy McGeady found probable cause for the complaint, which was filed with Teaneck Police in June, to proceed, but prosecutors must now decide if they will pursue a criminal case.
"Once a judge finds probable cause, the matter goes into screening, during which we'll decide whether to retain it … or dispose of it in some other manner such as remanding to municipal court," Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said Friday, without speaking specifically about Toffler's complaint.
In a statement Friday, Gussen denied Toffler's allegations, calling them "groundless and unsubstantiated."
"I have not been notified by the court about the results of this hearing and therefore cannot speak to them," Gussen said. "That being said, Toffler has a history of making baseless accusations to further personal attacks."
In the sworn statement, Toffler wrote that Teaneck Suburbanite reporter Howard Prosnitz left her a voice message on Jan. 31, 2011 to ask about a closed session council meeting set for the next day. The subject of the meeting was reportedly about the manager’s confidential complaint against Toffler.
"I am calling because it was overheard at the Cresskill office, The Record reporter apparently speaking to Councilman Gussen on the telephone about ... I presume the subject of the [closed] session,” the Suburbanite reporter said in a voicemail to Toffler, according to a transcript she provided.
The next day, an article was published in the Record under the byline of reporter Joseph Ax containing the confidential information, the statement said.
Toffler’s statement said the Suburbanite reporter told her he was informed of Gussen’s conversation with Ax by Christopher Lang, the editor of the Northern Valley Suburbanite, who allegedly overheard the call.
Jennifer Borg, vice president and general counsel for North Jersey Media Group, declined to comment.
Gussen and Toffler repeatedly battled during their public careers and the leaked letter came after Toffler accused officials of spreading news of an accident she was in as retaliation for her opposition to a failed plan to create a public safety director. The council voted to censure her for the "erroneous and unsupported" public accusations and she later lost a lawsuit seeking to have the censure overturned.
Gussen pointed to Toffler's censure in rebuffing her claims Friday.
"Her censure by a supermajority of council and the subsequent dismissal with prejudice of her suit against the governing body makes it clear that her brand of destructive character assault deserves no merit or attention," his statement said.
Township officials have denied a public records request to release Broughton’s compliant, citing confidential personnel matters.