Shades of 2011: Lyon drops $100,000 on cable ads

Just like in 2011, Hank Lyon's 2017 campaign just got a $100,000 infusion of cash from an undisclosed source.  The question is... will it lead to the same mess as in 2011, only this time will it give the Democrats the opening they've been looking for?

Here's the buy:

The question is:  How do you buy nearly $100,000 in cable ads with just $11,000 in your campaign account?

We all remember how Hank Lyon won a seat on the Morris County Freeholder Board in 2011.  A late infusion of cash from a corporation controlled by his father -- an infusion allowed only because of an election law loophole that says if a candidate still lives at home with his parents, their money is treated as if it was the candidate's own money.

D. Use of Personal FundsUse of a candidate’s personal funds on behalf of his or her campaign must be deposited into the campaign depository and must be reported as either contributions or loans to the campaign in the same manner as all other contributions or loans. If the candidate intends to be reimbursed fully or partially for personal funds used on behalf of his or her campaign, then the funds must be reported both as a loan and as an outstanding obligation to the campaign if still outstanding at the end of the reporting period. Once a candidate’s personal funds are reported as contributions, the funds cannot be later characterized as loans and be repaid to the candidate. There is no limit to the amount of personal funds a candidate may contribute or lend to his or her own campaign (except for publicly funded gubernatorial candidates). See Gubernatorial Public Financing Program Manual for more information.  Also, a corporation, of which one hundred percent of the stock is owned by the candidate, or by the candidate’s spouse, child, parent, or sibling residing in the candidate’s household, may make contributions without limit to a candidate committee established by that candidate, or to a joint candidates committee established by that candidate.

That infusion of corporate cash was improperly reported.  A judge overturned a close election, a lawsuit followed, another judge overturned the first decision, while an appeal wasn't pursued after the opposing candidate received a gubernatorial appointment.   Lyon's campaign still owes an huge amount of money to this corporation: 

But apparently, this large infusion of corporate cash is only legal while Hank Lyon and his father reside in the same household.  So we find it strange that Freeholder Hank Lyon is so reticent about providing his legal address on personal financial disclosure statements as required by law:

And the financial disclosure statement he submitted to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC) claims his father's address as his own:

And yet, sloppily, Freeholder Hank Lyon's biography on his official Morris County website page provides this conflicting information:

"He is a lifelong resident of Morris County, specifically the Towaco section of Montville Township, where he was a member of the Montville Housing Committee.  He now lives in Parsippany."

Lyon even pictured his new home in campaign advertising:

If the candidate no longer lives at home with his parents, then how is he using this money and keeping to the law? 

Are we all set to have 2011 happen all over again?  Are we going to see more headlines like this...

Lawyer seeks $162,000 from Morris County Freeholder Hank Lyon

Morris County Freeholder William “Hank” Lyon has been accused of owing his former lawyer $162,000 in unpaid legal bills while Lyon also is battling with the state over alleged campaign violations.

“What a worm,”  said attorney Sean Connelly about his former client, Lyon. “We never expected to be in this position. We won precisely how we said we would win.”

Lyon, a Montville resident, did not return several calls for comment and an email to his freeholder address.

Connelly and the law firm of Barry, McTiernan and Wedinger of Edison represented Lyon during a nine-month court battle that ended up with Lyon winning the freeholder seat.

Lyon had won the 2011 Republican primary by four votes over Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom of Washington Township.  Nordstrom sued and won, gaining her seat back.

Lyon appealed the ruling and a state appeals court ruled in his favor in February 2012 and removed Nordstrom from the position. Lyon later won the freeholder post at a special election in November 2012.

Connelly said that after Lyon refused mediation and other offers to settle, the firm finally filed the suiton June 13 in Superior Court in Middlesex County against Lyon and his father, Robert A. Lyon, both of Montville, and their organization, “Lyon for Conservative Freeholder.” Connelly said Lyon has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Connelly said that before the court action, he had told Lyon that the lawsuit would be very costly.

“They said they were going to fund this to the end,” Connelly said.

The legal effort included extensive court representations and $18,000 for transcripts.

“We filed motions upon motions upon motions,” Connelly said. “It tied up my practice for six months.”

Connelly said his firm has offered several discounts on the outstanding legal bills.  “They kept ignoring us,” Connelly said. “We offered them great terms to pay over time.”

Connelly also said he filed the lawsuit in Middlesex County in an effort to limit publicity in Morris County.

“I don’t want to embarrass him,” he said. “I want to get paid.”

Connelly said the freeholder avoided being served with the lawsuit summons, forcing him to hire a professional toserve him at Lyon’s freeholder office.

Connelly said he also named Lyon’s father, Robert, in the lawsuit because the elder Lyon initially had agreed to pay the legal bills.

Connelly said he believes Lyon and his family have significant assets, including real estate holdings and restaurants.

Lyon’s income includes $24,375 a year as a freeholder. He also works with his father in the family’s business, which owns four restaurants, including Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurants and Maggie Moo’s ice cream parlors.

Election Violations

The N.J. Election Law Enforcement Commission also has accused Lyon of four violations of campaign finance laws during the 2011 Republican primary. Each violation could result in a maximum $6,800 fine.

The same alleged violations were cited by Superior Court Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck when he ruled against Lyon and in favor of Nordstrom.

The commission names Lyon and his father who was the campaign treasurer.

One alleged violation involves a $16,000 loan made to the campaign a week before the primary but not reported until July 8. The state says that because the contribution was more than $1,200, it should have been reported within 48 hours.

Another alleged violation occurred when Lyon and his father certified the information on the loan and campaign report was correct but that they changed it in a subsequent report. Initially, Lyons reported that he had made the loan but it was later changed to identify Robert Lyon as the contributor, the state said.

Additionally, the state claims the information about the contribution was submitted after the June 27 deadline.

Further, the complaint says that $16,795 in expenditures were listed on July 8 but were due on June 27.

(Editor Phil Garber, December 11, 2013,

Stay tuned...