Judge: Doyle’s appointment to Hoboken city council invalid

Jim Doyle DENIED in Hoboken NJ Zimmer vote illegalToday the New Jersey Appellate Division of the Superior Court ruled that James Doyle’s appointment to the City Council was invalid and that the seat shall remain vacant until November when voters head to the polls to elect a replacement.

Doyle’s controversial appointment ended up in court after the Zimmer Administration refused to allow for a Special Election to fill the vacancy on the City Council that was created when Carol Marsh resigned. The appointment was voted on three times.

  • The first vote total to appoint Doyle was 4-2-1 with Councilman Michael Russo abstaining. Zimmer’s Corporation Counsel Melissa Longo stated that 4-2-1 was a tie and Zimmer voted to break the tie and appoint Doyle. Councilwoman Beth Mason was out of state and absent from the meeting.
  • At the second meeting, the Doyle vote was again 4-2-1 this time with Councilwoman Mason abstaining and Russo being absent. Corporation Counsel Melissa Longo again stated that 4-2-1 was a tie and Zimmer voted to break the tie and appoint Doyle.
  • The third vote total was 4-2-2 with both Mason and Russo abstaining. Corporation Counsel Melissa Longo stuck with her argument saying 4-2-2 was tie and that abstentions are counted as no votes. Zimmer again rose from her chair to vote for Doyle.

This morning the Appellate Court ruled that an abstention does not count as a no vote and that Zimmer’s votes were illegally cast. The court also held that the City Council was not required to fill vacancy, lending credence to the argument that the seat could have been filled through a Special Election.

For the past several months Phil Cohen, a political ally of Zimmer, has taken to the microphone at City Council meetings to launch into personal attacks against Council members claiming that they were wrong not to appoint Doyle. His claims were silenced in the decision by the Appellate Court, which stated:

“We, thus, find no merit in the argument that the abstentions were unprincipled or that the abstaining councilmembers were in dereliction of their duties.”

Was Michael Lenz’s Appointment invalid too?

Michael Lenz appointed in Hoboken NJIn January 2010, the City Council voted to appoint Michael Lenz to fill the vacant 4th Ward Council seat. The vote total was 4-3-1 with Councilwoman Mason abstaining. The City attorney ruled that an abstention was a no vote and instructed Zimmer to cast her vote to break the tie, at which time she cast her vote for Lenz. Several months later Lenz was defeated at the polls by Independent candidate Tim Occhipinti.

Lenz received a salary from January through November and also took health benefits from the City of Hoboken, while receiving a bonus from his full time employer for declining the health benefits offered through Hudson County. However, since an abstention is not a no vote then no tie existed and Zimmer should never have cast a vote to appoint Lenz.

This raises serious questions regarding whether or not the votes he cast on the City Council were even valid. And whether or not he was ever really entitled to the salary and health benefits he received from what was arguably an illegal appointment.

Should he return the money to the taxpayers?

Legality of Zimmer’s Doyle Vote Called Into Question

10/4/2012:

Last night, the Hoboken City Council voted to appoint local attorney Jim Doyle to fill the Council-At-Large Seat that was left vacant after Carol Marsh’s questionable resignation.

The appointment is governed by the Municipal Vacancy Law. It states that the seat must be filled by a majority vote of the remaining members of the Hoboken City Council and that the Mayor may only vote in the event of a tie.

The vote total was 4-2-1. The Mayor’s allies on the City Council, Bhalla, Mello, Cunningham, and Giattino voted for Doyle. Council members Castellano and Occhipinti voted against the appointment. Councilman Russo said he believed the seat should be filled through a Special Election and abstained after stating he was “neither voting yes or no.” Councilwoman Beth Mason was absent.

After the vote Councilman Cunningham asked Doyle to come forward to be sworn-in. Russo contended that appointment required a majority of the remaining members of the City Council, which would be 5 votes.

Corporation Counsel Melissa Longo disagreed stating that a “super majority” was not needed and in her opinion the vote was valid. However, Council President Cunningham then asked Mayor Zimmer to cast the 5th vote for Doyle, which led to further debate because the Mayor is only permitted to vote in the event of a tie.

After Doyle was sworn in Councilman Mello stated that he did not believe the Mayor’s vote was necessary. Castellano, Russo, and Occhipinti all repeatedly pointed out throughout the rest of the meeting that they believe Doyle is sitting on the City Council illegally and objected to him casting his vote.

Russo stated that the vote was illegal and the matter will likely be decided in court. Bhalla, who recently had his decision to serve as Mayor Zimmer’s personal attorney called into question, said Russo’s legal argument was laughable.

The Mayor and her Council allies were very quick to shut down the idea of having a Special Election to fill the seat. Last time the Mayor cast a vote to appoint Michael Lenz to the City Council he was soundly defeated at the polls in a Special Election several months later. Needless to say Zimmer was not leaving this to chance as her majority on the City Council hung in the balance.

Why does the Mayor think it is better to have 5 people vote to fill the seat instead of allowing thousands of Hoboken voters to do it themselves?