Friday, July 13, 2012


The Optional Municipal Charter Law or Faulkner Act
Due to the length of this post one half will be posted early this morning; the rest later in the morning..
Monday the Council is going to approve on second reading an ordinance calling for (1)a referendum if there should be a study about a Charter revision; and (2) election of  5  members of a committee to make that study.

This is the mandated methodology for the change or its study of any municipality charted under the Faulkner Act in  New Jersey. Whether it is applicable to Plainfield mighty be open to legal dispute; however that is the route that Plainfield’s Solicitor in his role as de facto Corporation Counsel has advised.

My basis for that comment is based on the fact that Plainfield is not chartered under the Faulkner Act but has a special charter issue in 1968. However, we must first have some understanding about where Plainfield differs from an OMCL municipality.

There are two types of special charters in New Jersey: 1) "Orphan" charters issued by the state legislature in the 19th century prior to the major constitutional revision of 1875, which prohibited "special" or locality specific legislation. Most "orphan" charters are a variation of the weak mayor-council type. 2) Special charters issued by the state legislature under the provisions of the state Constitution of 1947 and NJSA 1:6-10 et seq. These special charters defy simple classification, and include variations of the weak mayor-council form, council-manager form, township committee form, and the village form.

Plainfield’s Charter differs in that it is a “strong mayor” albeit part time-council form with the addition of a City Administrator responsible for all the day by day operations of the city.

The Faulkner Act itself enacted in 1950 provided for three forms of 
government: Mayor-Council, Council-Manager and Small Municipality. This became the available alternates to the special Charters or those operating under the 1920s Adams Act. Plainfield’s new Charter was granted during this period and fit none of the 3 available.

In 1981, the Faulkner Act was significantly amended. The Council-Manager plan was amended to include the option of having a mayor chosen by the electorate. A new form, Mayor-Council-Administrator, was added. Municipalities were also given greater flexibility to amend their Faulkner Act charter without having to place the entire charter on the ballot.

The revised Faulkner Act provide for four (4) forms of municipal governments:  
The Mayor-Council form features a mayor with strong powers. Municipalities under this plan establish three to ten executive departments, headed by a director appointed by the mayor with the consent of the council.
The Council-Manager plan places complete responsibility for municipal affairs in the council. The council appoints a municipal manager who is the chief executive with broad authority.
The Small Municipality plan can be adopted by communities with a population of fewer than 12,000. All legislative powers are vested in the council with the mayor presiding over council sessions and having both voice and vote.
The Mayor-Council-Administrator form with the addition of an appointed professional administrator. There can be no deviation from the prescribe form unlike variations permitted in the other three. It is thus organized: Mayor and 6 council members. At-large, staggered terms, Mayor: 4 year term. Council: 3 year term.  
  THE MAYOR exercises executive power of the municipality and presides over Council BUT. Votes only to break ties. Has veto subject to override by 2/3 of all Council members. Appoints municipal clerk, administrator, attorney, tax collector, tax assessor, treasurer, and department heads with Council approval. May remove department heads upon written notice to Council.
   The COUNCIL exercises legislative power of the municipality. Approves Mayor's appointees for municipal clerk, administrator, attorney, tax collector, tax assessor, treasurer and department heads. May remove department heads for cause after a hearing. Prepares budget with assistance of municipal administrator and treasurer Administrator supervises administration of each department Up to six departments may be created by ordinance. 
(see next post)

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