Karasick Responds To Conflict of Interest Claims

UPDATE: Public notice of the ordinance did not appear in the Star Ledger today although notice was sent and space reserved (we’re hearing reports that it was a result of an error at the paper and that a call of apology was made to the town). The publication of the notice was necessary for the ordinance to make the agenda – so at this time, it is off the agenda.

Baristanet spoke with Montclair town attorney Ira Karasick to ask about recent charges of conflict of interest made by Renee Baskerville. Specifically, Karasick says that a statement suggesting he could not advise certain council members on the matter of the petition as he’s already been counseling Fried as well as Township Clerk Linda Wanat is completely incorrect. He also had no recollection of making any such statement to press.

“When it says I advised the mayor and so I can’t advise other counsel, that’s incorrect. When the mayor decided to be part of the petition drive, he asked me whether there was any problem with him doing that as a member of the council. I told him my legal point of view which is he wasn’t violating any laws or rules and that any council members can sign or circulate petition,” says Karasick, adding that was the only specific advice he gave to Fried, and that advisement occurred before the petition process started.

Karasick adds that various council members, including Cary Africk, Renee Baskerville and Jerry Fried, have asked questions about the petition/referendum issue and Karasick has answered those questions with regard to the clerk’s role, the time frames involved and the statutes.

Karasick says the issue of whether Fried could be on a committee of petitioners came up again when Renee Baskerville asked him to find out if the mayor had acted improperly by going out and getting signatures to put the election question on the ballot after the majority of council had voted for an election commission. “I looked into that but could not find anything that violated conduct rules,” says Karasick.

When asked again if he advised Mayor Fried in any other manner in regards to the petition process, Karasick says he did not. He also said that if some of the council were to take legal action regarding the petition and its certification, he would not be able to advise them as he would be the lawyer for the town clerk if any suit was brought against the town concerning the validity of the petition — not because of anything related to Mayor Fried.

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  1. Not much of a story here. How come he doesn’t explain the timeline issues. Why didn’t you ask about that?

  2. ROC,

    Error by the Star Ledger. Clerk appears to have done everything proper, utilizing a procedure that has been done hundreds of times before.

  3. So if Ira didn’t advise Jerry aside from their initial meeting, why in God’s name is the council looking into getting an outside attorney? Just because of a possible misquote in Patch?

    Is it any wonder Montclair seems to have a “throw the bums out” mentality every single municipal election?

  4. Can’t tell what this means:

    “UPDATE: Public notice of the ordinance following certified petition did not appear in the Star Ledger today.”

    Following the certification of the petition?

    The Petition isn’t certified until the clerk does so at the council meeting. The certification starts the clock.

    40:69A-187. Filing of petition papers; examination; certification of result

    … Within twenty days after a petition is filed, the municipal clerk shall determine whether each paper of the petition has a proper statement of the circulator and whether the petition is signed by a sufficient number of qualified voters. After completing his examination of the petition, the municipal clerk shall certify the result thereof to the council at its next regular meeting.

    page 58

    The clause also says nothing about publishing it on the agenda for certification. All I can find in the general code is that it has to be published to be voted upon, but not simply for a petition to be certified by clerk.

  5. Nick — I think they need to get an outside attorney because if they want to show that petition is invalid, any legal action would likely involve Wanat and the certification of the petition, and Karasick has to represent Wanat.

  6. “So if Ira didn’t advise Jerry aside from their initial meeting, why in God’s name is the council looking into getting an outside attorney? Just because of a possible misquote in Patch?”

    reading between the lines. It looks to me like the clerk and the Town Attorney are going to interpret the timeline for placing it on the ballot in a different (and erroneous way, IMHO) from the majority of the council. This will put the council at odds with the clerk and attorney.

    Though no one seems to be talking about their interpretation and no reporters ever seem to ask about it.

  7. If it doesn’t make the agenda for this meeting, does that mean the clock does not start ticking until the next meeting? Does that allow enough time for a November date?

  8. I have not heard anyone say the petition is invalid. Who is saying this Liz? It’s most likely not invalid. There just isn’t enough time to legally put it on the Nov ballot. So it would be on the May 2012 ballot.

  9. Kevin there are less than sixty days until nov 8. Even if certified today, it can’t be on the ballot in november.

  10. What’s the big problem? The commission said they would do their work quickly so we could have the information necessary to vote, and the petition seems to have enough signatures. Ira needs to be available to the township for legal actions, but he also answers legal questions the council members ask him about their activities. Let’s just vote, already. This topic has been an issue for at least 15 years! I don’t understand what’s so scary.

  11. Since I can’t decide which laws are inconvenient for me when I pay my taxes or get a parking ticket, I have to insist township abide by the law. The law says May 2012 is the earliest this can be put to a vote, so thats when it should take place.

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