Job fair e-mails state link to Khan campaign work

Camden mayoral candidate Amir Khan (right) with Irv Richter at Monday's job fair for a new factory.
Camden mayoral candidate Amir Khan (right) with Irv Richter at Monday's job fair for a new factory. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 19, 2013

CAMDEN More than 600 people who preregistered for a combined job fair and political rally hosted by Camden mayoral candidate Amir Khan received e-mails telling them they would get priority hiring if they volunteered for his campaign.

The e-mail, provided to The Inquirer, told job applicants who filled out a preapplication form online that they would be "first in line for receiving a position" based on agreement to volunteer for the event Monday, and "for election work" on Wednesday and Nov. 5.

The event was a ribbon-cutting for Acts Industries L.L.C., a maker of modular housing units, which says it will employ as many as 1,000 people in assembly-line work at $15 an hour, with the first 300 to 400 hired in the next three to four months, owners say.

Khan, who knows Acts owner Irv Richter and helped arrange bringing the business to Camden, hosted the event, which drew thousands.

Richter, also chairman and CEO of Hill International, said that he had no knowledge of the e-mail and that all hires would be based on capability.

Khan described the e-mail, which he said he did not authorize his campaign to send, as poorly worded. He acknowledged that job applicants were invited to volunteer but said there was never a quid pro quo.

"Do we want them to register? Absolutely. Do we want them to vote for us? Absolutely," Khan said. "Was it strategic to have this prior to the election? Absolutely. Do we want anybody to be pressured or feel it's a prerequisite? Absolutely not."

On Monday, volunteers, some of whom had received the e-mail, arrived at 11 a.m. to get T-shirts. They circulated around the crowd with voter registration forms.

The event showed the desire for jobs in Camden, where the unemployment rate is 19 percent. More than 5,000 applications were turned in by the end of the rally, organizers said.

Khan said the preapplication forms were set up in anticipation of a large crowd. He said that 602 people completed them and that those people would be called first for interviews regardless of whether they volunteered with the campaign.

The e-mail offers people a "last chance" to sign up to volunteer and concludes with, "Remeber Your Initiative and Support Will Determine Your Future!"

Richter said he had nothing to do with the e-mail.

"I don't care who they vote for. I don't even care if they made a mistake in their background," said Richter, who said he was open to hiring ex-convicts. "We want the most qualified people. I'm trying to run a business. He's trying to run a campaign."

Khan does not own any part of the company and has no say in hiring practices, Richter said.

Joseph Donohue, deputy director at the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, said the e-mail did not appear to violate campaign-finance laws.



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