Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Justices Say Donovan Overstepped

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Justices Say Donovan Overstepped

Article excerpt

Though the state's high court ruled against her on two of three issues related to a 2014 lawsuit, former Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan called the outcome a victory for taxpayers.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Donovan had exceeded her powers both when she first moved to strip an annual $5,000 stipend from volunteer commissioners for a local utility authority and when she later tried to fire seven of the Northwest Bergen County Utility Authority's nine members.

But the court sided with Donovan on one issue -- she was authorized to eliminate medical benefits for the volunteer commissioners, an item they had bestowed upon themselves, without freeholder approval, a decade ago.

"For the people who pay into the Northwest Utility Authority, it's a huge victory," Donovan said Monday. "The court ruled that the commissioners have no rights to health benefits."

Donovan said that she first scrutinized the authority as county executive because she did not agree that volunteer commissioners should receive full medical benefits for themselves and their families and be paid $5,000 a year for "a couple of hours of work a month."

Current County Executive James Tedesco proposed a resolution in late 2014 that was passed and ended both the annual stipend and medical benefits for the commissioners.

Alicia D'Alessandro, county spokeswoman, said that at the time the authority was one of the few remaining volunteer entities that offered stipends and medical benefits. No volunteer positions under the county's control pay stipends or benefits, she said.

Calls to authority Chairman Brian Chewcaskie at his Fort Lee law firm and the authority's executive director, Howard Hurwitz, were not returned Monday.

Formed in 1969, according to the authority's website, it oversees sewer services for an estimated 75,000 people in 11 municipalities in Bergen County. …

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