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.