Friday, July 13, 2012


The Optional Municipal Charter Law or Faulkner Act

The Mayor-Council plan, the other form under the Faulkner Act that resembles Plainfield’s charter, depending on the municipality’s size provides for a specific number of elected Councilmen.  That would be 7 for Plainfield, and the breakdown is the same as in our charter.
The mayor may attend council meetings and has the right to speak, but not to vote. The mayor has a veto power over ordinances, which may be overridden by two-thirds majority of the council.

The council exercises the legislative power of the municipality and has various investigative and fiscal control powers. The council’s only appointment power, under the Mayor-Council Form of government, is that of municipal clerk, a council attorney, and certain boards and authorities. They may remove municipal officers only for cause.

In many communities using this form of government, the mayor and council disagree over who has the power to appoint the municipal attorney. The Commission recommends that the statute provide that the mayor shall appoint the municipal attorney as a department head.

As can be observed; Plainfield’s Charter of 1968 is a bastardized combination of both the Mayor Council and The Mayor-Council-Administrator configurations of the revised 1981 OMCL Act.

There are at least three major differences:
The first and perhaps most annoying to the Mayor is that she is a “guest” not an official part of the Council at its meeting and thus can only speak at the consent of the Council President.

Another big difference is that Faulkner’s-Mayor Council structure gives the Council the right to appoint the City Clerk. Since much of the Municipal Clerk’s work load is for the Council that might be a desired change.

The third and most serious difference is under the OMCL act the Council can appoint its own attorney. The “Conflict of Interest” inherent in the Corporation Counsel’s office initiated by being appointed by the Mayor and adviser to the Mayor makes it desirable for the Council to have its own legal adviser.

It is my opinion that the only absolute needed change it the Charter is in the Council’s legal support

Since the Council is responsible for the budget under Plainfield’s Charter it should be able to pass an Ordinance  creating  that position and be able to override the anticipated Mayor’s veto.

The wheels are turning on a Charter revision; however would it not be simpler to just create a Council Counsel to have an annual term concurrent with the Council’s? That should make a revision study moot.

I also have trouble with the concept of an elected committee to study the charter. Those that do so should be well versed in municipal government structure and/or philosophy. They would be better equipped if they had an administrative background.

Unfortunately the history of popular nonpartisan elections (BOE) in Plainfield has shown that they are minimally participated popularity contests often impacted by small agenda group blocs. The result can and may be a committee consisting of highly motivated but not the best qualified individuals.

Since Plainfield is not a Faulkner Chartered community I cannot see why it should be bound by Faulkner Act’s rules. A ruling on this could be obtained from the State.

We know what the Corporation Counsel’s position is but perhaps some other legal minds can also opine. That might give us guidance in how to approach this problem.

All that wrote; I would be much happier if there was a somewhat larger but small committee appointed by the Mayor  preferably but not necessarily jointly with the Council.

One of the reasons being that too often those who would have the best input are reluctant to volunteer but if asked would willingly serve. Another reason is that many of these individuals feel that they would not be elected and cannot face that fact.

I may post Saturday am some info on the Council Agenda and on Sunday if there is any change from last Monday’s  session.


  1. As I recall there was a study a number of years ago by a committee of citizens which recommended some changes to the charter. I suspect those recommendations and the study itself may have wound up in the dustbin of history. The council might do well to unearth and review it before setting up another committee!

  2. Dottie, the 1999 study are not even in the dustbin; no one can find a copy. There was one re3cewntly located but it too is missing. It would be nice for the Public,Council and Committee to know their recommendations.

  3. The administrative structure of three departments with mix and match divisions should be addressed. Social Services, from PAS, to Recreation and Seniors would be better handled by a community-based non-profit with a stong tri-partite board of directors. An Economic Development Corporation would be more pro-active and yield better results freed from the musty offices at City Hall where obscure political maneuvers and paybacks are arranged. The distance between our police department and North Plainfield's is a generous 7/10s of a mile. Can a joint working arrangement with North Plainfield yield a more pronounced East-West axis and cut down on crime? It's time to shake, rattle, and roll off the quicksand.

  4. Alan, of course the weird Department structure has to be addressed. That does not need a Charter study but can be done within the present Charter by Ordinance. This was done in 2002 when the present arrangement and the PMUA were created,

  5. Hi Doc do you know if Mrs. Pellum is sick, or is she just sick and tired of Plainfield. Miss reading what she had to say.


  6. Correction the change in Department alignment and PMUA was in Fury's administration about 1992 not 2002.

  7. Renee, wish I knew. Tried to contact her but was unable.I too miss her blog. If she is sick and tired of Plainfield (BOE) I would not be surprised.

  8. Doc, I believe Donna Vose was on the charter study committee, but I'm not sure. If she was, I bet she kept a copy of the committee's recommendations.

  9. Doc, I believe PUMA was set up in the mid- or late 1990s, not 1992. Mark Fury was mayor and as I recall Al McWilliams cast the deciding vote on the Council.

  10. Dottie, you are correct that Fury was the Mayor and had initiated the PMUA plan;also the restructuring of the Departments. I did not think that the PMUA was approved while Fury was in office;he was only a one time mayor. Dunn opposed the PMUA and after McWilliams was elected to the Council he passed the deciding vote. But did Mitchell succeed Fury for one term?Your time is probably correct.