NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey judge ordered the city of Newark on Tuesday not to use police escorts for private events following a lawsuit alleging that Mayor Ras Baraka misused city funds by having officers escort a hip-hop DJ to the mayor's birthday party.
At the same hearing, Superior Court Judge Dennis Carey also dismissed claims in the lawsuit that Baraka violated state election laws by sending a flyer to residents within 90 days of an election.
Three Newark residents sued last week.
For Baraka's April 9 party at Newark's Prudential Center, city police escorted DJ Funkmaster Flex from New York. Video posted on the entertainer's Facebook page shows him in a car following another car with flashing lights as it heads into the Holland Tunnel. Sirens can be heard in the background.
Baraka said his campaign already reimbursed the city $200 for the escort but that he would adhere to the judge's order.
"We've picked up authors, reverend, pastors, the president of the United States, all kinds of people," he said. "The problem was it was a private event, which was why we paid for it. So the judge said, 'Don't do that,' so we're not. He made a decision he felt was right, and we're going to abide by it."
The lawsuit also contended Baraka violated state campaign laws by mailing a flyer to residents within 90 days of an election. The mailer touted Newark's crime reduction under Baraka and featured a picture of the mayor.
The plaintiffs claimed the mailer cost the city about $40,000 and amounted to a political communication.
Baraka on Tuesday called the claims "frivolous" and "a campaign tactic."
Attorney Marco Laracca said the plaintiffs are "extremely happy" with the injunction on police services, which he said "sends a clear message on behalf of taxpayers that this is not acceptable."
Baraka is facing city councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins in the May 8 election.