Appeals Panel: Belmar Erred When Placing Referendum on Ballot to Rebuild Taylor Pavilion

f87c3474e80624057058_taylor.jpg
Belmar has been ordered to pay some $47,000 in legal fees incurred by residents who sued over irregularities in the placing of a referendum on the November 2015 ballot to rebuild the Taylor Pavilion. Credits: Cathy Goetz
f87c3474e80624057058_taylor.jpg

TRENTON, NJ — An appeal court has upheld a decision that the borough acted improperly when drafting an interpretive statement to a public question that would be narrowly approved by voters to rebuild Taylor Pavilion after Superstorm Sandy.

As a result of the affirmation by the three-judge panel of Superior Court Judge Katie Gummer’s September 2016 decision, Belmar must now pay the plaintiffs' attorney some $47,000 in legal fees and other costs, according to the court’s decision.

Led by Judge Scott Moynihan, the appellate panel agreed with Gummer that “the interpretive statement was invalid because it was misleading and contained extraneous language; and that defendants' actions deprived (the) plaintiffs of a substantive right protected by the (New Jersey Civil Rights Act).”

Sign Up for E-News

In the summer of 2015, the borough started the process of placing a referendum on the November 2015 ballot, asking voted to approve an appropriation of $4.1 million for the rebuilding of the pavilion, including the issuance of nearly $3.9 million in bonds. A group of residents opposing the bond ordinance petitioned to have the question placed on the ballot for a decision by residents.

However, the referendum was submitted without an interpretive statement and when it was drafted and resubmitted, the statement had not been officially approved through an official vote by Mayor Matthew Doherty and the borough council.

In September 2015, a lawsuit was filed against the borough by Belmar residents Joy DeSanctis, Michael Seebeck, Patricia Corea, Noreen Dean and James Bean, represented by attorney and former Belmar Mayor Kenneth Pringle. They sought a judgment declaring the interpretive statement invalid because it was not voted on by the mayor and council, “thereby depriving (the) plaintiffs and the public the opportunity to comment on and object to its content which contained inaccurate, misleading and extraneous information, presenting another ground for invalidation.”

Regarding the wording of the statement, which alluded that the funding would be secured through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gummer’s ruling on its invalidity was also upheld by the appeals court, which also pointed out it was the fourth attempt by the borough to finance the rebuilding project. In that last referendum, residents approve it by a 17-vote margin.

“Most of the brief interpretive statement was designed to sway — not inform — voters in defendants' attempt to finance construction of the pavilion. This was their fourth attempt to garner public support for the project. Despite knowing that FEMA funds were not secured — albeit perhaps obtainable — Borough Administrator (Colleen Connolly's) wording of the interpretive statement conveyed to voters a misleading sense that funding was readily available. And the intent of the last sentence, which read “This ordinance was unanimously approved by Belmar Mayor and Council on July 7, 2015,” was “a blatant attempt to influence voters by presenting a unified front, in clear contravention of the interpretive statement statute's spirit and letter. Lest we forget, defendants submitted the interpretive statement without a public vote. These actions derogated what our Supreme Court held to be a substantive right protected by the (civil rights act).”

The appeals court continued: “Judge Gummer credited the borough administrator's testimony that the last sentence was added to the interpretive statement 'at the suggestion of certain members of the council, who thought it was a matter of importance that the public know that the vote on the referendum was not contentious or on the ordinance was not contentious.' The judge found that "(the) only purpose  ... for that last statement was  ...  a means of persuasion to indicate to the voters that the mayor and the entire council was unanimous. It does not inform them as to the substance of the issue put before them.”

TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como is Belmar and Lake Como’s only free daily newspaper. Accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, it is the official electronic newspaper of both municipalities. As a locally owned news organization, TAPinto through its advertisers is able to publish online, objective news 24/7 at no charge. Sign up for its free daily e  and follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

Download the free TAPinto App!  Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Belmar/Lake Como

Turtle Back Zoo Extends Hours, Holds 'Zoo-vie' Nights for Summer

July 14, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Essex County Turtle Back Zoo will have Family Nights with extended evening hours to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the months of July and August, with the last admission to the zoo at 8 p.m.

In addition, on Wednesday evenings during July and August, Zoo-vies, featuring animal-related movies, will be shown on the top floor of the Turtle Back Zoo ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_44ec4f3ccc7320049f9d_belmar_logo

Mon, July 16, 7:00 PM

Belmar Municipal Building, Belmar

Belmar Planning Board

Carousel_image_79fa0c100d0b47e86966_belmar_logo

Tue, July 17, 6:00 PM

Belmar Municipal Building, Belmar

Belmar Mayor and Council Meeting

Carousel_image_bed6d648278ffca768ba_lakecomolakesign__2_

Tue, July 17, 7:30 PM

Lake Como Borough Hall, Lake Como

Lake Como Council Meeting

Carousel_image_817e51e87bc125f5a722_belmarsandcastlecontest2018

Wed, July 18, 8:00 AM

Rain Date: July 19, Belmar

New Jersey Sandcastle Contest

Carousel_image_add1bfb8486e00dd4dde_bbpcruisenights2018

Wed, July 18, 6:00 PM

Rain Date: July 19, Belmar

Belmar Cruise Night

Carousel_image_9d1f6a9a61fd7b576c97_18concertflyer

Thu, August 2, 4:00 PM

Milt Campbell Fields, Plainfield

Music in the Park @ Milt Campbell Field - Free ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Belmar and Lake Como

July 6, 2018

Belmar Police Department reported the following 76 arrests occurred in Belmar and Lake Como from May 1, 2018 to May 30, 2018.

BELMAR

Mark Lawrence, 54, was charged with shoplifting after his arrest in Belmar Plaza on May 1 by Police Officer Brian Poppert.

Christopher Palermo, 49, of Springfield was charged with disorderly conduct and interference with business after his arrest in Belmar ...

Congressman Smith Leads Human Rights Dialogue with Russian Lawmakers

July 7, 2018

BERLIN, Germany — On the sideline of a four-day meeting of more than 300 lawmakers from 57 countries, Rep. Chris Smith led a meeting today, July 7 with lawmakers from the Russian parliament to discuss what Smith called “highly contested human rights issues.”

The Americans “reached out and sought dialogue” with the Russians in the “hope of changing, or at ...

5 Things You Should Know About Your Air Conditioner

How an air conditioner works

Air conditioners use refrigeration to cool indoor air. When a liquid converts to a gas, it absorbs heat. This process is called phase conversion. Air conditioners use phase conversion by forcing refrigerants to evaporate and condense over and over in a closed system of coils. 

What air conditioner filters do

Filters remove particles from the air, keeping ...