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Council Hires Lawyer for Edison Redevelopment Petitions

Attorney was hired to review residents' petitions seeking a referendum on project.

The West Orange council approved the hiring of an attorney to help the municipal clerk in her review of petitions seeking a referendum on the Edison redevelopment project's bond issue.

The resolution was approved Tuesday with Councilman Joe Krakoviak voting no and Councilman Sal M. Anderton absent.

The resolution calls for the hiring of Edwin Matthews, an attorney with Summit firm Bourne, Noll & Kenyon. He will be providing counsel to Karen J. Carnevale, municipal clerk, as she reviews submitted petitions from residents who are part of an on-going campaign to stop the Edison redevelopment project.

Matthews will be hired for a fee of $150 per hour with a cap of $3,000, according to the resolution.

Krakoviak said he took issue with the resolution because he thought the township's existing legal counsel could handle the case at no extra cost to residents.

"I felt we didn't need to spend an extra $3,000," he said.

The issue concerns the . The ordinance would issue general obligation bonds to the developer of the Edison property on Main Street, Prism Capital Partners, LLC. 

The bonds in question will cover the infrastructure costs on the proposed project that would erect 333 luxury apartment units for rent and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the Edison battery building.

Last week, a petition from residents for a referendum on the project was rejected, Carnevale explained, because any ordinance that pertains to local redevelopment or housing cannot be changed through referendum, according to state law.

Besides land rules stating that a referendum cannot change the ordinance, the municipal clerk also cited the following reasons why the petition was rejected: some of the signatures were considered invalid, and not every petition sheet had a resident attesting under oath that the signatures were valid, as detailed in a .

But residents were given the opportunity to resubmit the petitions to the clerk and they did, said Windale Simpson, one of the residents behind the referendum campaign.

George Dougherty, attorney for the referendum campaign, also wrote a letter to the clerk taking issue with the reasons on why the initial petitions were rejected. Krakoviak brought this letter up as well as a lawsuit filed by two residents, Kevin Malanga and E. Michael Taylor, who are seeking to overturn the ordinance on the project's bond financing.

Krakoviak provided copies of the letter and the suit on his website, West Orange Grassroots.

Gary Englert April 25, 2012 at 07:16 PM
@ Lisa: I don't know that it's objectionable for Mr. Krakoviak to post the suit on his ( albeit, self-serving) website, as the document is obtainable by anyone under the Open Public Records Act. The whole matter does raise a myriad of questions about the Councilman who presents himself as a champion of transparency.
Will Rod April 25, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Whats so hard to understand? We finally have someone on the town council who represents his constitunents. Is this not an issue effecting our town? Why shouldnt he post it? I also think its unfair to assign this effort to any one person. Although they are 2 plantiffs to the lawsuits, many of us support the cause and feel the same way. How Joe K feels about this should be secondary to his obligation to represent us, the taxpayers of WO. The problem isnt Joe, its those on the council who put their personal feelings about the project ahead of their constituents, especially when it appears they were not completely informed.
Gary Englert April 25, 2012 at 08:39 PM
The generally accepted legal axiom is , "If there's the appearance of a conflict, then there is a conflict."
Gary Englert April 25, 2012 at 10:50 PM
@ Wil Rod: Absent from your observation suggesting those members of the Council favoring redevelopment put their "feelings ahead of their constituents" is the fact that those supporting the project have been repeatedly and consistently elected an re-elected while doing so, If the majority of the constituency was diametrically opposed to the plan, these people wouldn't be occupying seats on the Council.
Cynthia Cumming April 26, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Perhaps other people in town do not feel like you. It then becomes transparent and wise to hire outside counsel to deal with the issue. Councilman K does not support redevelopment and signed the petition. Outside obejective counsel is the smart way to go, though the question remains, how much does that cost the taxypayer.
Adam Kraemer April 26, 2012 at 10:50 AM
I signed the petition. I know the people who ran the petition drive. I have reason the think the signatures are valid. I am really confused at to why the municipal clerk did not accept it. Though I am not a member of the bar in my view the town has to explain to a judge as why the rejected the petition. The redevelopment should be decided by referendum.
Mick Erickson April 26, 2012 at 12:43 PM
why is the town council allowed to even hire an attorney to argue against the people? talk about tyranny!
Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA, PP April 26, 2012 at 01:13 PM
What a great country. Everyone has a right to sign or not to sign a petition. However, there are rules with how a petition is presented and may be the people who pushed this document forward to the Twp. Clerk, should have completed their homework? These are the same people (their right of course) that constantly complain about the high cost (taxes) of living in WO and worked hard to move the Bd of Ed election to Nov. to save $ but thought nothing of wanting a special election to stop the downtown redevelopment and now the need for a $3K cap for the twp. to secure an independent review of the petition. These are the same people who are supporting candidates who are violating the zoning ord. in the placement of their campaign signs in all the wrong places all over town.
Gary Englert April 26, 2012 at 07:31 PM
@ Adam Kraemer: Without examining each singature and pages (as is the responsibility of the Municipal Clerk) how could you possibly "think the signatures are valid?" I've seen the notes prepared by the Clerk and it's readily apparent that a significant number of the names, addresses and signatures provided were (1) illegible (2) signatures/names/addresses missing, and/or (3) not registered voters. These issues, however, are secondary to the fact that the Clerk has obtained legal guidance the referendum by citizen initiative in the matter are contraindicated by existing state law. The Council was duly elected and given the power to entertain and pass legislation of this type and a referendum is neither necessary nor an enhancement to the democratic process alreayd in place.
Cynthia Cumming April 28, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Not true, Mick. Way more people read articles and posts than will ever comment, and I tend to believe that a. more people in town want to see the project underway or b. don't even care.
Joe Krakoviak April 29, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Video of the council meet is here http://bit.ly/KnHcjw
Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA, PP May 01, 2012 at 11:35 AM
K-Team and any others who do not believe in the Edison Battery Building Development should buy the NY Times today and read the article on page 20 about Jersey City's long standing redevelopment (Newport) that they started way back in 1986. While we are not JC we have a viable and historic downtown. The ideas for the corridor to my knowledge extend back to 1976 and probably even before that. Politics aside, unless we can move this project ahead the view of the the glass as being half full in my statement "as Main St. goes..............so will West Orange!" and filling up as many of us hope will be emptied if the K-Team majority is elected.
wohopeful May 01, 2012 at 01:07 PM
With all due respect Mr. Eben, the downtown main street area has experienced urban blight and been a slum for the last 30 years yet much of West Orange remains standing. We have been able to keep this blight at bay from much of the town, no thanks in part to Mayor Parisi who salvages critical police jobs to fill his budget gaps. I believe your repeated claims of gloom and doom are overrated and have yet to come to fruition in the last 30 years.
john anthony prignano May 01, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Councilman Krakoviak - The streets around here { Westwood Drive South , Westwood Drive North , Carolina etc.} have fallen apart It's been like this for a long time. Not that long ago, a huge branch fell from the town tree in front of my house and shattered .The branch looked like it had rotted from within ..Trees need to be trimmed , and loose branches need to be removed . { We've asked twice for service , but nothing's been done } One night, BEFORE The Big Storm, a town tree fell over, narrowly missing a neighbor's home . In another part of town, A tree fell through a familie's kitchen . The streets around here get about 6 cleanings a year . After The Big Storm, Jack and Lenny toured the entire town . Nothing has been done about any of the things I've described . I haven't read or heard anything is even in the planning stages . But you think Jack and Lenny are doing a great job .Councilman , how about doing something about the problems I've described ?
john anthony prignano May 02, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Mick Erickson Right again. In 1998 the West Orange School Budget was defeated . Whoops! Hot potato ! There was a Mayoral race, and two Council seats were .being contested . It is the Council's duty to review the budget . They are not obligated to cut a penny , but they are obligated to review the budget . No Council member ever made public what conclusions they had reached after their review . As I said " Hot potato, election year ! " So the Council hired a consultant , He found cuts.... totaling $30,000. The consultant said he was very comfortable with keeping the entire budget intact .Comfortable, as in " I am very comfortable saying whatever you tell me to say, because I want more work "
Joe Krakoviak May 03, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Mr Prignano, please send me an e-mail at jkrakoviak (at) westorange.org, and I'll be glad to see if I can help.
Joe Krakoviak May 03, 2012 at 07:02 PM
The West Orange Municipal Clerk yesterday rejected the revised petition seeking a referendum on the town's $6.3 million taxpayer-guaranteed redevelopment financing. The petitioners resubmitted the petition after trying to meet the clerk's e...arlier objections, and the petitioners added more signatures. The clerk indicated the petitioners had filed a total of 2,541 signatures, and she had found 620 of them valid. The clerk's certification http://bit.ly/JTec7Q is at West Orange Grassroots http://bit.ly/K9ZhXN.
Gary Englert May 03, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I'm reminded of an old Jimmy Breslin novel that became a movie, as its title more than appropriately identifies the leadership of this petition drive: "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067124/

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