The Hoboken City Council approved a measure allowing the governing body to appoint three regular members, as well as two alternates, to the rent leveling and stabilization board – taking two appointments away from the mayor – at Thursday’s special meeting.
6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, the vice president of the board, expressed disappointment with Assistant Corporation Counsel Alyssa Bongiovanni’s legal opinion earlier in the week claiming the legislative action would be illegal.
Instead, she compared it to when then-Council President Dawn Zimmer led the governing body to take over the zoning board appointments in 2009.
“As it turns out, prior to this meeting, we were presented a preposterously, inaccurately … based on a completely flawed argument to claim exactly that [the ordinance is illegal]: I’m not surprised,” Giattino began.
“By moving the appointment authority for three of the seven ranking rent board members of the city council, we are merely enacting a more cooperative version of what former Council President Zimmer and the council majority did at the time that they passed the ordinance that moved the appointment authority of all zoning board members to the city council in 2009.”
Giattino also introduced a legal opinion from Jason Ryglicki, a partner at the North Bergen law firm Ryglicki & Gillman, P.C., that said the council had the ability to usurp rent control appointment power from the mayor.
” … The right of a Municipal Council to determine the procedure to appoint members to the rent control board, in Mayor-Council Municipalities is standard practice throughout the State, including, but not limited to: Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Irvington, Old Bridge, Passaic and Paterson,” he wrote.
“The Corporation Counsel and Mayor’s assertion Council’s proposed ordinance would somehow violate the Faulkner Act is contrary to a plain reading of the full terms of the Faulkner Act, current Case Law, Common Municipal practices, and the New Jersey Legislature’s clear intent to separate the powers between the executive and legislative branches of a Municipality.”
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco called the service of Mike Lenz and Cheryl Fallick on the rent control board “exemplary” and was critical of Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s decision not to reappoint them.
” … And when we tried to work with the mayor, proactively, in a way that is becoming of elected officials, there was no conversation: it’s either the mayor’s way or take the highway – or Washington Street out of town,” DeFusco said.
“And that’s not the way this government can work. We cannot continue fighting in political wars when there’s absolute policy that needs to be made here.
Councilman-at-Large James Doyle, who ran for re-election on Bhalla’s ticket in November, scoffed at the notion that the seats were owed to Lenz and Fallick.
Like Giattino, 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo reminded everyone of the parallels between now and 2009.
Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, another recent running mate of Bhalla, said she had not heard about a new legal opinion being sought in this matter until the meeting began.
“I’m concerned because I did not receive any of the information that was referenced earlier by council president regarding the contradictory interpretation until I sat down at 7 o’clock tonight, which doesn’t allow me an opportunity to … digest whether or not these are in conflict of one another,” she said.
“What I do know is that corporation counsel is looking out on behalf of the city and that corporation counsel is employed by the city to do what’s best for our residents. I’m not sure who these attorneys are or what paid them … that’s a logical question to ask.”
Giattino interjected that Ryglicki and Gillman were not paid for their legal opinion in the matter.
The council approved the measure by a vote of 6-3, with Doyle, Jabbour and Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco voting no.
While the governing body was going to initially approve the measure as an emergency ordinance, they thought better of that, and therefore, they did not vote on the appointments of Lenz, Fallick, Warren Hall or Heath Urban.