January 21, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor. W. Reed Gusciora today gave the following statement announcing his intent to veto City Council Ordinance 20-60, which seeks to create a new Legislative Counsel position in Trenton government that replicates many of the powers and responsibilities that already fall under the City Attorney:
“To put it simply, this ordinance clearly violates the Faulkner Act, which outlines the separate powers of the Council and Mayor, the latter of which appoints the City Attorney per statute. And despite repeated warnings from the City’s Law Department that this effort was illegal, it still passed by a 4-3 vote.
As Judge Jacobson already ruled in McBride v. Gusciora in May 2020, ‘the Council has limited authority under the Faulkner Act, and cannot, on their own, appoint counsel to represent them.’
So why are we treading back down this path? We share Council’s concerns for unnecessary legal fees. But understand that we are bound to uphold municipal law and would have no other choice but to oppose this ordinance in court. This ordinance would in effect create a separate law department that would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.
When I heard that Council President offered an ‘Olive Branch’ to the administration, I was hopeful that it was out of a sincere desire to better cooperate moving forward. I’m still hopeful that is the case. But this ordinance is not an olive branch: it’s a thorn bush.
As such, I will veto this ordinance to spare us more legal battles, so we can focus our renewed cooperation on the major issues affecting our community, including crime, economic development, and COVID-19.”