LIVINGSTON, NJ — The names of the three individuals being considered to fill the empty position on the Livingston Township Council were officially announced this week, along with an explanation as to why the selection committee considered only registered Democrats despite receiving several resumes from Republican candidates.
After careful deliberation over the last two weeks, the Livingston Democratic County Committee (LDCC) has selected Michael Vieira, Laurie Kahn and Scott Goldman as the three finalists to be submitted to the township council for consideration. Mayor Al Anthony, who announced these names during Monday’s council meeting, said he was “glad to see that such qualified people put their names forward” and was eager to begin conducting interviews alongside his fellow council members.
As state law requires a decision by Jan. 30, Anthony expects to announce the council’s final decision during the next public meeting on Jan. 28.
Since the vacancy left on the council upon Michael Silverman’s resignation was a Democratic seat, the task of selecting candidates fell to the LDCC pursuant to state law (N.J.S.A. 40A:16-11). According to LDCC Chair Pat Sebold, the “procedure of selecting three names by the political committee is mandated by the governing statute without discretion.”
She added that many resumes were submitted following Silverman’s resignation announcement, and that “all of the resumes were excellent.”
In response to public suggestions that the LDCC should consider the November election’s runner-up Republican candidates for the open seat, Sebold explained why the committee could not legally consider a Republican.
“I want to be clear…the committee did not take the responsibility of selecting three names lightly,” said Sebold. “In that regard, I sought the opinion of several lawyers on several key issues about the process.
“One key issue which was brought to my attention was whether the committee was bound to select a registered Democrat. For this issue, I retained outside election counsel, as I knew this issue was being discussed and debated on social media and I wanted to have an impartial opinion that could not be called into question.
“In addition, having received resumes from individuals who were not registered Democrats, I felt it was my duty to ensure that I handled the process fairly, correctly and lawfully.”
According to Sebold, the election counsel provided her with the opinion that “the Livingston Municipal Council may not appoint a registered Republican, or an individual registered to any political party other than the Democratic Party, to fill a vacant office where the retiring incumbent was elected as a registered Democrat.”
She noted that this legal opinion was based upon the attorney’s interpretation of the state law, the LDCC's explicit fiduciary duties and the by-laws of the Essex County Democratic Committee. Upon review of this legal opinion, the Livingston committee followed the advice of counsel and only considered registered Democrats to fill the seat of the retiring Democrat.
“The committee, in holding its vote and selecting three names, simply followed the law and its attorney’s advice,” said Sebold. “It would have been unlawful for the committee to consider either of the Republican runners-ups.
“As an aside, I personally believe that this was the proper procedure. How could the committee consider two candidates who the town of Livingston had the opportunity to select in the general election this past November and affirmatively chose not to?”
According to state law, the LDCC had 15 days after Silverman’s official resignation date of Jan. 1 to provide three names to the council. State law requires the council to select a new member to fill the vacancy by Jan. 30, or 30 days after the resignation date.
Sebold explained that if the council is unable to make a final decision by the Jan. 30 deadline, the names will be returned to the LDCC for the final selection. Should the new member wish to continuing serving on the township council in 2020, he or she will run in a general council election that will now be held in November. Read more about this process by clicking HERE.
All three candidates have been contacted for comment to be shared in a follow-up article.
Sebold concluded that she believes Livingston to be “in great hands with our current town council” and wished the new member the best of luck in a new appointment.