HELMETTA - A state lawmaker wants a criminal investigation into whether former Mayor Nancy Martin abused her power in an attempt to thwart protests outside the now-closed Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter. 

Kane In Your Corner exposed unhealthy conditions at the shelter in 2014. Days later, the Middlesex County Health Department ordered the facility quarantined. It has since closed.

At issue now is an email Martin allegedly sent to her police director amid the controversy, asking him to crack down on animal rights protesters, especially organizers Steve and Collene Wronko, of Spotswood. 

“I need these people off the boro property and out of the council meetings for good,” Martin writes.  She instructs the police director to “write the summons for all kinds of offences, stretch the law if you have to,” promising to “speak to the prosecutor…and the Judge” to make sure the charges will not be dismissed.

The Wronkos were arrested at one protest, and the email is “Exhibit A” in their lawsuit against Helmetta, Martin and others. 

“It’s appalling to find out that a mayor, someone the people trusted to elect into office to run their town, was using the entire system as if this was her little kingdom, as if she was the queen of some small country someplace,” Collene Wronko says.

“She actually says to trump up charges, essentially” says Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R – Red Bank), who says he contacted the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office to request an investigation.  “She’s probably not the only municipal official who believes the police are her private attack dogs, so the others should be put on notice as well that this won’t be stood for,” O’Scanlon says.

In the meantime, former Helmetta Councilwoman Yvette Bruno says she witnessed Martin removing selected emails from a stack of documents that were supposed to be released to the Wronkos under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. Bruno says Martin and the borough clerk “were going through emails, saying ‘Nope, not that,’ ‘Nope, don’t send that,’ basically picking and choosing what they were going to send.” Tampering with public records is against the law.

Kane In Your Corner repeatedly left messages for Martin seeking comment, but she did not respond. But the Trentonian newspaper reports Martin said she does not believe she wrote the email, suggesting someone may have hacked her account.