Frelinghuysen ratted out woman as ‘ringleader’ anti-Trump activist to her boss, she says
NEW YORK — A former vice president of a New Jersey-based bank is accusing Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of "outing" her as being part of a political group opposed to President Donald Trump.
Saily Avelenda told WNYC radio that Joseph O'Dowd, her then-boss at Lakeland Bank, asked her about her involvement with the group 11th for Change when he received a fundraiser letter that mentioned groups opposing the president.
In the letter, Frelinghuysen said there were "organized forces ... who are already hard at work to put a stop to an agenda of limited government, economic growth, stronger national security," according to the report. A hand-written addition accompanied the copy sent to the bank, saying "One of the the ringleaders works in your bank" at the bottom. It also a newspaper clipping quoting Avelenda, she told the station.
Avelenda, who told the station she was senior vice president and assistant general counsel for Lakeland when the letter was received in March, told the station she had to explain her affiliation to the bank CEO and was pressured about her membership to the point where she had to quit.
O'Dowd has made political donations to the 22-year congressman's campaigns in the past, according to public records.
"We are outraged and alarmed by Representative Frelinghuysen’s intimidating action against an ordinary constituent, as reported this morning by NPR," 11th for Change wrote on its Facebook page. "His targeted, retaliatory letter to Saily Avelenda's employer was intended to create an uncomfortable work environment for her. As a result, she was subjected to professional scrutiny about her personal political activities which directly contributed to her decision to resign."
Avelenda is listed on the steering committee for 11th for Change. The group's website features a countdown clock since the 80-year-old congressman's last in-person town hall. The group also protests regularly outside his Morristown office.
Messages left for Avelanda and Lackland Bank have not yet been returned. The phone at Frelinghuysen's Morristown and Washington D.C. offices was not answered.
"Sally Avelenda is a name that every resident of Morris County, and the 11th Congressional District, should be familiar with going forward," Chip Robinson, chair of the Morris County Democratic Committee, wrote in a statement sent to New Jersey 101.5. "Shame on Lakeland Bank for even considering her political activities as an appropriate discussion point regarding her employment. Shame on Congressman Frelinghuysen for using his powerful perch against an average citizen. And shame on all of us if we fail to hold the Congressman accountable for actions that fly in the face of our societal norms and constitutional protections."
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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