Thank You for Your (Dis)Service–Corrupt Former Newark Water Agency Head Seeks Pension Payoff

It has been nearly six years since the quasi-public entity that was once responsible for the reservoirs that supply Newark’s drinking water shut down amid widespread corruption that sent at least six people to prison and helped drive the agency into bankruptcy.

Now, the person who once ran the agency and another high-level employee–both currently doing time in federal prison for their on-the-job misdeeds–are trying to collect pensions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it looks like they might get their payday.

Continue reading Thank You for Your (Dis)Service–Corrupt Former Newark Water Agency Head Seeks Pension Payoff

NJ COURTS PROVIDE ICE SHIELD

I was really happy to see last week that the New Jersey courts were taking concrete action to protect people from the harsh immigration policies of the Trump Administration.

Administrative Directive 07-19, released on May 23, states the view of the judiciary “that civil immigration enforcement activities should not take place in courthouses” and that “courthouses must be viewed by the public, all parties, victims, and witnesses as a neutral and safe forum to resolve disputes.” Continue reading NJ COURTS PROVIDE ICE SHIELD

Federal Courts Limit Hiring Protections for Older Workers

As a former employment lawyer and a Baby Boomer, I am dismayed that two recent federal appeals courts, one within the last month, have held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not protect older workers looking for jobs from disparate impact age discrimination, only those who already have jobs.

We are talking about the use of hiring criteria that might not expressly mention age but disfavor job candidates who have too much experience or who graduated too many years ago—factors which correlate closely with age. Continue reading Federal Courts Limit Hiring Protections for Older Workers

DIFFERENT RULINGS ON ACCESS TO POLICE RECORDINGS

People, like me, who believe in open government, were sorely disappointed last month when the state’s highest court, usually so protective of transparency, denied access to police dash-cam recordings under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

On August 13, 2018, a sharply divided New Jersey Supreme Court held, 4-3, in Paff v. Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, that such recordings were not subject to disclosure under OPRA because they were not “required by law” to be made and constituted criminal investigatory records deemed confidential under OPRA.

Just 11 days later, however, a different New Jersey court determined that the same criminal investigatory exemption did not apply to police body cams. Continue reading DIFFERENT RULINGS ON ACCESS TO POLICE RECORDINGS

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES IRONBOUND UPZONING

In a process that took years, spanned three mayors and was led by an urban planner who just won a MacArthur “genius” award based, in part, on those efforts, the City of Newark overhauled its zoning laws in 2015.

It was the first such comprehensive revision in more than 50 years and was widely praised not only for the substance of the new zoning,  which was based upon goals of environmental justice and accountable development, but for the open, participatory process by which it was adopted

Recently, in a move that would seem to undermine the well-thought out plan embraced just two years earlier and to contradict its participatory approach, Newark amended its zoning to increase the maximum building height in part of the Ironbound. And it allegedly did so without providing nearby residents the legally required notice.  Continue reading LAWSUIT CHALLENGES IRONBOUND UPZONING

ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD VOTE TO GO FORWARD

A last ditch effort by the current Orange school board to block a public referendum on whether board members should be chosen by voters rather than the Mayor fell short on Tuesday, when the Appellate Division denied the board’s emergent motion to enjoin the vote and reverse an Oct. 20 trial court decision allowing it.

Presiding Appellate Division Judge Jack Sabatino, along with Judge Mary Whipple, agreed with the reasoning in the Oct. 20 opinion by the lower court judge, Thomas Vena, of Essex County Superior Court.

As a result, voters will get to vote on Nov. 7 whether to change from a Type I school district, with an appointed board, to a Type II school district, with an elected one.  It will be the second time they get to do so. Last year, they overwhelmingly approved it, with about 77 per cent voting in favor. In April, however, Vena declared the vote null and void, finding that the wording of the ballot question and accompanying interpretive statement did not provide sufficient information about the ramifications of the change.

The school board sought to rely on statutes that require a five year wait before a referendum can be resubmitted to the voters. NJ Appleseed Executive Director Renée Steinhagen, attorney for the Committee for an Elected School Board, who sought the referendum, argued in response that the restriction did not apply in this instance, where the referendum succeeded but was subsequently nullified.

The appeals court agreed, stating “We agree with the trial court that the public policies of N.J.S.A. 18A:9-4 and 9-5 against repetitive unsuccessful referenda do not pertain to this distinctive situation.”

See my prior post for more information about the case, City of Orange Township Board of Education v. City of Orange, ESX-L-6652-17.

EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS

With less than two weeks until voters go to the polls on Nov. 7, whether City of Orange voters will get to choose an elected school board as opposed to an appointed one is once again in the hands of the courts.

Last November, voters in a public referendum overwhelmingly favored being able to choose their own school board members rather than having them picked by the Mayor, which is the current system. But a state court judge set aside the result, finding they were not provided with sufficient information to understand the ramifications of the change.

Continue reading EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS