Berkeley Heights Uses Legal Suppression to Deprive Public of Its Rightful Referendum Say on Debt and Costly Non-Essential Spending.

March 19, 2017

The New Jersey Constitution recognizes that there is a particularly strong need for public participation, in the form of a referendum, in a legislative decision to incur indebtedness.  Mayor Robert Woodruff and Councilmembers Jeanne Kingsley, Marc Faecher,Michael D’Aquila, Craig Pastore, Peter Bavoso and Manny Couto  are going to great lengths to restrictively ignore the public’s wishes regarding the incurring of a huge unnecessary debt.

While it may be beneficial for the town to take small reasonable steps to update and/or expand government buildings, there are few in this town who accept the autocratic rule of Mayor Robert Woodruff and Councilmembers Jeanne Kingsley, Marc Faecher,Michael D’Aquila, Craig Pastore, Peter Bavoso and Manny Couto who are delivering huge additional costs, and $28,000,000 in debt, without increasing services. Now, the Mayor and Council seek to disinherit residents of a say regarding their expensive construction folly knowing full well that this debt-fueled “redevelopment” plan would be dead on arrival in the court of public opinion.

For 4 years, Berkeley Heights residents have been speaking out against “The Swap” and its extravagant, non-essential $28,000,000 municipal castle. Now that Berkeley Heights residents have sought to end the unnecessary tax increase, through popular vote in a Faulkner Act Referendum (to repeal Ordinance 4-2017), the backroom drafted the Township Attorney to intervene.

They want to sideline the expressed need for a referendum to a courtroom – a costly, lengthy process for the public to endure.

Instead of imposing “legal” restrictions, we ask instead that the public’s right to decide on debt be welcomed and allowed.  Let democracy decide debt-fueled taxation.

We anticipated this legal suppression.  On February 27, the Berkeley Heights Petitioners requested Township Clerk Ana Minkov to properly perform her independent legal duties Clerk without being improperly influenced by any political interference orchestrated by the Berkeley Heights Mayor and Council through its Township Attorney operating “in the backroom”. In a Faulkner Referendum statute, there is no role for the Township Attorney until the matter comes before the Council.  The Township Attorney knows to instead test the validity of his disputed claims in the proper legal forum, before a Judge, at the proper time.

But this Township Attorney does not fight for you, for he seeks to add costs to the Faulkner Petitioners and a non-essential debt burden to you by blocking a call for public approval vote.

Whatever claims Mayor Woodruff and the Town Council may have about needing a new municipal building has been overshadowed by the cost and the extreme tactics of redevelopment law that quashes public discussion and dissent. Blowout costs of over $300,000.00 have already been incurred to avoid public scrutiny.

When the planner was asked how the plan was proposed and if alternative approaches were looked at, he replied that the Mayor and Council gave them what was needed for the building and he provided a single plan based on those requirements.

There is little benefit to doing this project and redevelopment law was chosen to limit your voice. It’s time for Mayor Woodruff and the Council to step aside and let the public decide.