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Attorneys Update West Orange Township Council on Prism Lawsuit; Risk Management Brokers Approved

Cynthia Cumming

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 • 5:36pm

WEST ORANGE, NJ – During the Jan. 28 Township Council meeting, township attorneys McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, LLC provided an update regarding the lawsuit filed against the township and Prism Green Associates, LLC by township residents Windale Simpson, Mark Meyerowitz, Althia Tweiten, Michael Scharfstein and Rosary Morelli.

The five residents attempted to force a referendum vote on the 6.3 million in bond monies the township council voted to provide to Prism for infrastructure work when the first phase of construction is nearly completed. In addition, the plaintiffs contest that the township failed to apply for approval of the issuance of bonds to cover the grant with the Local Finance Board of the state’s Department of Community Affairs. 

On July 23, 2013, an appellate panel agreed with West Orange, ruling the redevelopment grant was exempt from the referendum sought by the plaintiffs. The five plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

William Northgrave of McManimon, Scotland, and Baumann apprised the council that on January 24, the Supreme Court of New Jersey granted certification to the plaintiffs, but will only consider whether the municipality failed to get the grant properly approved. It will not overturn the Appellate’s ruling on the referendum. 

The Supreme Court will only hear the case if the petitioners can first demonstrate their action challenging the ordinance is not time-barred.

The case is In re: Petition for Referendum to Repeal Ordinance 2354-12 of the Township of West Orange, Essex County, Windale Simpson, Mark Meyerowitz, Althia Tweiten, Michael Scharfstein and Rosary Morelli v. The Township of West Orange, et al., and Prism Green Associates IV LLC, et al., case number C-473, in the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Northgrave said that he would review the issue and advise the council on how to proceed at the next Township Council meeting, scheduled for Feb 11.

In other Township Council news, the council approved Resolution 26-14 authorizing the execution of a Risk Management Consulting Agreement with Fairview Insurance for 2014.

Risk management insurance covers all non-medical insurances for the Township.

During the Conference portion of the Jan. 28 Township Council Meeting, Heather Taylor, Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Citizens Campaign, presented their “Best Price Insurance” ordinance. Taylor said that the goal of the Best Price Insurance ordinance was to create transparency, accountability, and create competition, as well as save money.

Town Administrator Jack Sayers explained that the Citizens Campaign program was a good program, but not the right fit for West Orange because it would limit the township’s ability to negotiate. Councilman Victor Cirilo expressed concern that West Orange should not be compared to other towns, noting that “Waste and abuse is not happening here.”

Sayers informed the public that the township’s financial information regarding insurances was always available for viewing by the residents. 

Resolution 26-14 was passed 4-1, with Councilman Krakoviak voting no.

“The insurance process is very complex,” Sayers told the Alternative Press. “There are many other cost factors in addition to broker fees.  We are always looking for ways to save money for the township and residents.  I’ve been in public service for my entire professional career on every level.  One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you don’t limit your resources when negotiating.”

 

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