City Officials Still Weighing Timing of Special Election for 2nd Ward Council Seat
Tuesday, September 18, 2012 • 11:08pm
PATERSON, NJ – City officials have not yet determined when to hold a special election for the 2nd Ward City Council seat that became vacant when a judge last week annulled Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman’s victory.
City Corporation Counsel Paul Forsman said municipal officials are waiting for a formal written judgment on Superior Court Judge Thomas Brogan’s ruling before they can determine their course of action. That document, Forsman said, may determine which of two state laws would be used for scheduling the election.
One law, adopted in 1979, says a municipality must wait at least 60 days after a vacancy before holding a special election, according to Forsman. Under that law, the election will have to wait until 2013.
But there is also a state law from 1930 governing nullified election results that would allow a special election to be scheduled between 45 and 50 days after the election results were nullified, he said. Under that law, it’s possible that the special election could be held this November, officials said.
On Tuesday night, at the city council’s first meeting since Brogan’s ruling, City Clerk Jane Williams-Warren declared Akhtaruzzaman’s seat officially vacant. But even that is subject to change. If Akhtaruzzaman appeals Brogan’s decision, he can file legal papers requesting a “stay” of that ruling, officials said. If a judge grants Akhtaruzzaman a stay, he could return to the council seat until there’s a decision on his appeal, officials said.
When asked whether Akhtaruzzaman would be able to run in a special election, Forsman said that question required addition legal research that would depend on the substance of the judgment in the case.
But Michael DeMarco, attorney for Aslon Goow, who filed the lawsuit against Akhtaruzzaman, has said he believed the ousted councilman could not run for the seat.
Akhtaruzzaman did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. But a group of about 10 of his supporters were there. They were particularly upset that some council members have said they would support appointing Goow, who represented the 2nd Ward for 12 years before losing to Akhtaruzzaman in May, to the vacant seat. Under state law, the council could appoint an interim 2nd Ward representative until a special election is held.
“There was a message sent from the 2nd Ward that the three-term councilman wasn’t doing his job,’’ said Aheya Khan, a staunch Akhtaruzzaman backer.
Joseph Atallo, who finished fourth among the five candidates in the 2nd Ward race, also attended Tuesday’s meeting. He urged to hold the special election as soon as possible. If the law doesn’t allow the election until next year, Atallo said the council should appoint someone to the seat who makes a commitment not to run in the special election, so that person doesn’t gain an unfair advantage in the contest.