Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 5, 2015

NJ Appeals Court Finds No Conflict Where Mayor Appoints Lawyer Who Previously Represented Him in a Personal Matter to Position of Borough Solicitor

A claim was filed against the former Mayor of Haddon Heights, claiming that the Mayor violated the Local Government Ethics Law, N.J.S.A 40A;9-22.1 to -22.5 by proposing and supporting a candidate for Borough solicitor who represented him in a family law matter. The Mayor in response stated that the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics of the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that an attorney is ethically permitted to represent a municipal official in any matter that is unrelated to the municipality and there were no situations in which there was a direct financial or personal involvement that impaired his objectivity or independence of judgment. In reviewing the matter, the Legal Finance Board decided that the relationship between the Mayor and the Solicitor was too tenuous to constitute a prohibited involvement and could not reasonably be expected to impair the Mayor’s objectivity or independence of judgment. This appeal followed.

In deciding whether the Mayor’s appointment of his personal lawyer to the position of municipal attorney created a conflict of interest, in an unpublished decision the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division found no conflict and determined that the Finance Board correctly determined that the relationship between the counsel and the Mayor was too tenuous to support a violation. The court further found nothing in the record that would suggest that a private family law matter affected any public interest pertaining to the municipality. The Court reviewed invoices/billing and found nothing out of the ordinary.

Scoblink-O’Neill v. Local Finance Bd., Dept. of Community Affairs, 2014 WL 6802452 (NJ Sup. unpub. 12/4/2014)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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