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Congressman Slammed For Fostering Hostile Work Environment In Solicitation Letter To Bank Exec

Republican US Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey is under fire for taking a personal vendetta too far. It seems that Frelinghuysen complained to the employer of a political activist about her active participation in the political process, damaging her career and eventually leading to her resignation from a senior management position.

Saily Avelenda, a senior vice president and lawyer for Lakeland Bank, claims her boss showed her a fundraising letter that Frelinghuysen sent to a member of the bank's board of directors.

The letter solicited donations to combat the ongoing organized opposition to the Republican agenda. However, there was a handwritten note at the bottom of the letter: "P.S. one of the ringleaders works for your bank!"

Note that Avelenda was not fired, but she claims the letter from Frelinghuysen led to notable professional consequences and her eventual decision to resign.

"I had to write a statement to my CEO," she explains. "It was not something that I expected, and I thought that my congressman put them in a situation and put me in a really bad situation as the constituent, and used his name, used his position and used his stationery to try to ... punish me."

Apparently, Avelenda was criticized by Frelinghuysen because of her involvement in NJ 11th for Change, a liberal organization that was founded after the election that has been pressuring Frelinghuysen to have meetings with constituents and to stand up against the Trump agenda.

The organization began with a single Facebook post after Trump’s win and rapidly grew to over 7,000 residents of Frelinghuysen's district. Heir to a political dynasty, Frelinghuysen has been in Congress for 22 years, but today he facing his greatest-ever political opposition, and he complained about it at a telephone town hall last week.

He said: "For people who have jammed our lines and made it difficult for us to meet our constituent needs," he said, "it would be nice for you to back off. I'm not suggesting people don't have a right to speak and let their views be known, but some of this is highly orchestrated and it's unfortunate."

Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, notes that Frelinghuysen’s letter is rare because members of Congress don't typically use businesses in their district to hurt their political opponents.

"It's certainly troubling," Libowitz noted. "Whether or not it breaks a criminal statute is one issue, but the very clear issue is that it appears that a member of Congress might be using his power to threaten someone's employment because of their political activities."

Frelinghuysen's campaign spokesperson released an email that called the letter "innocuous," and claimed the congressman had no information or influence on Avelenda's status with the bank.
Lakeland Bank noted on its Facebook page that the bank's philosophy is to "promote our employees' full awareness and interest in civic and political responsibility such that each employee has the opportunity to support community activities or the political process in the manner that she or he desires."

Source: NPR
Photo: YouTube

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