A New Jersey bank worker claims she is out of a job because a sitting Republican Congressman alerted her boss to her progressive activism.
Saily Avelenda says she was forced to leave her job at a branch of Lakeland Bank, after Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey penned a fundraising letter to her boss, and added a handwritten postscript identifying her as a problem constituent.
The 11th district of New Jersey, which Frelinghuysen represents. is an affluent district that functions as a suburb of New York City. Although the voters there are moderate, Frelinghuysen has served in the district’s seat since 1995. He’s often described as “New Jersey’s most powerful Congressman.”
But this year, Frelinghuysen, like a number of Republicans in Congress ducked out of his typical home district holiday town hall after rumors swirled that Indivisible, a progressive activist organization, was packing GOP constituent meetings with angry activists hell bent on shouting down Republican legislators. He held “telephone town halls” instead, with carefully selected participants.
Avelenda, who was a vice president and assistant general counsel at the bank, 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.
“P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!” the letter says at the bottom. Frelinghuysen attached an article naming Avelenda.
Her boss, she says, took the situation seriously, telling her she wasn’t fired but “had a lot of explaining to do.” She then resigned rather than cause any further trouble for her employer.
“I 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,” Avelenda told local media in a statement. “I thought 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.”
Although Frelinghuysen used official stationery and called out a constituent by name, there don’t appear to be legal provisions against his letter. But that doesn’t mean Frelinghuysen won’t face punishment. Congress can consider his love note an abuse of power and investigate, even reprimand him, and he’ll certainly face consequences in any future races.