Resign for intimidating a constituent into resigning her job

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In late March, Sally Avelenda, an assistant general counsel at Lakeland Bank, learned that Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen had written a member of the bank's board, Joseph O'Dowd, to complain about her activism against him. Avelenda is a member of the steering committee of NJ 11th for Change, a grassroots organization that wants the 11-term Republican to hold an in-person town hall--something he hasn't done in over four years.

Frelinghuysen wrote the letter to on stationery from his reelection campaign, and warned that "organized forces" both inside and outside his district were working against "limited government, economic growth, (and) stronger national security." In a handwritten note to O'Dowd, Frelinghuysen added, "P. S. One of the ringleaders works for your bank!" He then attached a copy of an article copying Avelenda.

In part due to the pressure generated by Frelinghuysen's letter, Avelenda was forced to resign from Lakeland. She believes that Frelinghuysen's decision to call her out personally for her opposition to him was "a very deliberate act," and was understandably shaken that he "used his name, used his position, and used his stationery to punish me."

It is entirely possible that this move is not illegal, since Frelinghuysen wrote the letter on campaign stationery rather than his congressional stationery. However, there is no doubt that this is despicable and outrageous. It breaches one of the most sacred trusts in our democracy--that no one should have to fear that your government will retaliate against you for speaking out.

There is no place in any self-respecting democracy for this behavior. The only appropriate thing for Frelinghuysen to do is to resign from the House.



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