BRADLEY BEACH — Mayor Larry Fox is challenging the Bradley Beach borough council’s decision to refuse payment of legal fees resulting from his retention of independent counsel to sue the governing body over his authority to initiate appointments of borough personnel.
“We’re encouraged as a municipality to pay our bills by the state,” Mayor Fox told The Coast Star. “It’s a legitimate bill, and I know that it will be deemed a legitimate bill that we need to pay or we get sued.”
In an Aug. 16 ruling, Judge Richard W. English cited the state’s Faulkner Act on municipal governance, stating, “there is no legal rationale to permit the Borough Council to take action to appoint Borough officers without the Mayor’s input as executive of the Borough … While the Borough Council may exercise advice and consent under certain circumstances, it cannot unilaterally make those appointments without the Mayor’s input.”
The board, which was represented by borough attorney Greg Cannon in the suit voted 4-1 on Oct. 11 to exclude an invoice for $7,710 to Victoria A. Flynn LLC for representation of the mayor from an official list of bills scheduled for payment by the borough.
Following the ruling by Judge English, Mayor Fox appointed former Council President Meredith DeMarco borough administrator over the objections of the council.
As of Wednesday, the borough’s chief financial officer and Ms. DeMarco had not commented on next steps regarding the unpaid invoice for Ms. Flynn’s legal services to the mayor.
During the council’s Oct. 11 meeting, several council members took issue with the invoice.
“The mayor has a campaign fund that seems pretty flush with money,” said Councilman John Weber. “If Ms. Flynn wants to get paid, I don’t see why she can’t get paid from the mayor’s campaign fund.”
Councilman Al Gubitosi, directing his comments to the mayor on Oct. 11, said, “All five of us who are sitting here at a time hire one attorney to represent us … You’re the only person sitting who would even dare to try to spend the public’s money… I firmly believe this is inappropriate.”
Defending his decision to take the dispute to court, Mayor Fox said, “In May, I said to the council ‘If you move forward and try to appoint people — which is not part of this form of government, you’re crossing a line and I’m going to have to take action.
“The judge clearly ruled that the line was crossed, and if you want to change the form of government, talk to the town and put a referendum in place … I felt to protect not only the office of the mayor but our form of government that I was sworn in to ensure it was maintained.”
Ms. Flynn, whose firm submitted the invoice said the borough stalemate over it is “definitely a first.”
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