Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Amended Lawon Benefitsspurs Actionagainst Town

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Amended Lawon Benefitsspurs Actionagainst Town

Article excerpt

SADDLE BROOK -- Residents who sought a public vote on ordinances to eliminate health benefits for elected officials and certain professionals are taking the township to court. The council passed the measures but added changes allowing the current council to remain eligible for benefits.

"My position is they just ignored the law," said Wilfredo Ortiz, a attorney who filed a show-cause order on Friday against the Saddle Brook Mayor and Council and the Bergen County clerk on behalf of residents.

Ortiz wants the court to void the council's action on the ordinances and have the measures -- as proposed by residents -- placed on the November ballot. Ortiz is also asking that the ballots for the general election, as well as sample ballots for that election, not be printed by the Bergen County clerk until the matter is resolved.

In legal documents submitted to state Superior Court in Hackensack, Ortiz argued that the council had been given the task of adopting the proposed ordinances in "substantially the form requested," and had failed to do so.

"As such, there is a blatant violation of the law," he wrote.

A group of Saddle Brook residents -- after months of controversy over local elected officials' receiving health benefits from the town -- recently submitted petitions seeking to have two ordinances placed on the November ballot.

One would prohibit the township from providing health benefits to elected officials and part-time and appointed professionals; the other would prohibit the town from offering such individuals lifetime benefits. Currently, they are allowed to take such benefits after 20 years of service.

The petitions were accepted, but under state statute, the town council first had to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinances and be given a chance to act on them. Had the council failed to act, or rejected the ordinances, they would have gone to the voters.

On Aug. 30, the council unanimously adopted the measures but added an amendment that said the elimination of benefits would only apply to individuals elected or hired after Jan. …

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