In light of a legal opinion issued by Hoboken Assistant Corporation Counsel Alyssa Bongiovanni, Mayor Ravi Bhalla is urging the council to table an “improper” measure that would allow them to appoint two more members to the rent leveling and stabilization board.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“… It is my opinion that the City Council does not have the power to appoint members to the Rent Control Board, but that said appointment power vests in the Mayor with the advice and consent of the Council,” Bongiovanni wrote in a March 6th opinion to the council.
“Thus, it is my opinion that the ordinance introduced at the February 21, 2018 meeting is invalid pursuant to the Faulkner Act.”
As Hudson County View reported, at the February 21st meeting, the council was set to vote on replacements for two veteran members of the rent control board: Michael Lenz, until recently the president of the governing body and a former councilman, and Cheryl Fallick.
At that meeting, the council approved five of the seven names on the agenda, with resolutions to replace Lenz and Fallick, who both supported 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino’s mayoral run, with Heath Urban and Warren Hall, respectively, tabled.
During the same session, where four rent control board members spoke in favor of keeping Lenz and Fallick on the board, the council approved the first reading of the aforementioned ordinance – which would allow the council to appoint three full-time rent control board members and two alternates.
According to Bhalla, a lawyer by trade, state law is clear how rent control board appointments are supposed to work and the council cannot usurp the mayor’s power on this issue.
“State law is very clear about how appointments should be made to boards. Any decisions made by board members who are improperly appointed calls into question the validity of determinations made by the Rent Board,” Bhalla said in a statement.
“I hope that the Council will reconsider their actions and provide their advice and consent regarding the nominations of Mr. Hall and Mr. Urban, two highly qualified appointees who I know would serve our community well.”
In a letter from Bhalla to the council dated today, the mayor doubled down that he feels Hall, the executive director of MBS Housing for the Hoboken YMCA who supported 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco for mayor, and Urban, a Rutger law school graduate, are eminently qualified.
“To the extent that you don’t believe that you do not believe Mr. Hall and Mr. Urban are deserving of your advice and consent, I would further respectfully request that you place on the record reasons why you believe the candidates lack the qualifications to serve on the Rent Control Board,” Bhalla wrote.
As it stands today, Thursday’s agenda has Lenz and Fallick being reappointed as full-time board members, with Hall and Urban appointed as alternates.
In an email, Council President Ruben Ramos indicated that the governing body currently has no plans to change their agenda for later this week.
“I’m not surprised by this but Municipal Government 101 is anything that is created by Municipal Ordinance can be amended by Ordinance,” Ramos explained.
“Multiple municipalities in State of NJ currently appoint rent control board members as our Ordinance proposes. We crafted ours in similar fashion. We are not reinventing the wheel here because it already exists and functions in other municipalities.”
Ramos also pointed to other northern New Jersey municipalities such as Passaic acting in exactly the same way that Hoboken is regarding their rent control board.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information.