NJ Congressman Sends Letter To Employer Of Activist Protesting Him

New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen in Washington on Jan. 2 2013. Alex Wong  Getty Images

A New Jersey woman who joined a group urging a Republican congressman to diverge from President Donald Trump's policies says she quit her job after the congressman referred to her in a fundraising letter to her employer.

Avelenda is the head of 11th for Change, a group that hammered Frelinghuysen for skipping the meeting, and clearly she got under Frelinghuysen's skin, because when he wrote to thank her boss, one of the bank's board members, for his $700 donation and request another, he warned him that the dastardly Avelenda was on his payroll.

Avelenda says that she wasn't asked to resign but that being confronted about her outside activities led to her resignation.

He also enclosed a news clipping that identified then-employee Saily Avelenda as a co-founder of the group NJ 11th for Change, a recently formed group of Frelinghuysen's constituents who called on him to oppose the Trump agenda.

Frelinghuysen isn't up for reelection until next November, but sent a form campaign letter to supporters in March, citing "organized forces-both national and local-who are already hard at work to put a stop to an agenda of limited government, economic growth, stronger national security".

Frelinghuysen represents parts of Morris, Essex, Sussex and Passaic counties in northern New Jersey, where Lakeland Bank has its branches, and chairs the House Appropriations Committee. She says the pressure she received over her political involvement was one of several reasons she chose to leave.

The group has been a thorn in Frelinghuysen's side by holding weekly protests at his offices. A hand-written addition accompanied the copy sent to the bank, saying "One of the the ringleaders works in your bank" at the bottom.

The letter came attached to a newspaper article quoting Avelenda.

She told WNYC that she "had to write a statement to my CEO, and at my level as an assistant general counsel and a senior vice president, at this employer it was not something that I expected..."

"Frelinghuysen has gone from simply refusing to meet with his constituents and telling them to 'back off, ' to threatening constituents who are exercising their freedom of speech", Sherrill said in a statement. And the fact that Frelinghuysen apparently put the job of a constituent in jeopardy undermines the fundamental relationship between a representative and his or her district. "A lot of people were on the front lines, but I wasn't part of that".

A lawyer told WNYC that Mr Freylinghuysen's letter is not illegal because he used campaign stationary to write the letter not his official Congressional letterhead.

On Monday afternoon, Lakeland Bank's Facebook page offered up a statement about the "outside civic involvements" of employees that did not mention Avelenda by name.

Lakeland Bank isn't commenting, according to WNYC.

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