UDPATE: Tuesday 6:22 p.m. The Montclair Times reports that Jerry Fried has collected the extra signatures needed.
After consulting with legal
council counsel this afternoon, Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin told Baristanet that, in fact, Mayor Fried and his group still have time to get the municipal election on the ballot, at least in theory. According to Durkin, all along, the petitioners’ opponents have been unintentionally operating under the belief that there was a 70 day turn around (which was recently changed to 67 days), as indicated by Statute 19A: 37-1, however, that’s not the right statute for this ballot question. “It’s actually the wrong one to govern this situation,” he said. “there was some misinformation throughout the process.”
Michael Byrne, a member of the committee appointed to study the proposed election change, said that as of last Friday, he believed that they were all in agreement about which statute to read: Title 40:69A-184 – 190
Durkin explained that the petitioners have used the guidelines of this non-partisan statute, which requires that a question be submitted for placement on the ballot 40 days prior to the election, as opposed to the 67 that Statute 19A calls for. The County Clerk said that Mayor Fried’s attorney, Bennet Zurofsky spelled it all out to him in a letter.
“The petition has been operating under this statute all along, but everyone was just missing it,” said Durkin.
He said that Title 40’s statute states that “the submission can be amended within 10 days of notification of a deficiency.”
Municipal Clerk Linda Wanat notified the parties on Friday, September 9, that there weren’t enough signatures to make the petition valid. The 10-day clock started then, however to meet the statutory deadline of September 28 (the date Durkin also mentioned on Friday), Wanat would need to certify the petition in time to advertise that an ordinance is up for discussion 7 days before the next council meeting, on September 20. That would mean she would probably have to get something in the paper by end of day today or tomorrow.
“As long as the municipal clerk meets the statutory deadline, I’ll place the question on the ballot,” the County Clerk told Baristanet. “Whether or not she can do that, remains to be seen.”
“There’s no way under the law for them to meet the deadline without seeking a court order,” Byrne told Baristanet. “I would hope that they won’t go that route.”
Even the County Clerk admits that this whole issue is very complex and confusing. Our guess is that it will continue to get more confusing before it is all resolved.