Wednesday, September 12, 2012


10am: I noted and corrected an "computer transposition" of a sentence from "my letter" to a preceding paragraph that made no sense.

I have contended that we could make at least three much needed changes in the city’s Charter relating to its organizational structure without resorting to a time and expense consuming two years series of Referendum and a Commission.

Therefore in late June in the hopes of convincing the Council that it would be possible I sent this letter to (a) Jeffery Chiesa, the Attorney General, (b)Thomas Neff, the Director of Local Government Services and (c) Richard Constable III, the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.

My letter:

You may be aware that Plainfield has a Special Charter issued in 1969 probably under the Adams Act of 1920. It should therefore be exempt from the provisions of the Faulkner Act of 1950 and as revised in 198.

However following Faulkner Act protocol the Council on July 16 passed an Ordinance calling for a Referendum on the November ballot asking if there should be a Committee formed for a Charter Revision Study. As required by the Faulkner Act there also will be election of five individuals at that time to serve on the study committee if it is so voted.

It is my opinion that with the exception of the following three items Plainfield’s Charter is satisfactory and the necessary changes could be by Ordinance negating the study procedure.

The first change needed is the provision for the Council to have its own legal support. At present the Corporation Counsel is appointed by the Mayor with Council consent and approval. He is to serve both Administration and Council; impossibility when where is a conflict.

The second change is in the makeup of the three Departments. In Mayor Fury’s term (2002) there was a shifting of divisions by Ordinance. Cannot such realignment be done now by the same methodology? Could the number of Departments be altered by Ordinance alone or would that require a Charter change?

Finally, the Municipal Clerk is appointed by the Mayor through the designated appointment process (advice and consent). He serves as Secretary of the Council and under the Faulkner Act in a similar Mayor/Council type government the Council can have the right to select the Clerk. Can such a change be made by Ordinance?

I would be most grateful if you could reply in the coming two weeks to my three questions relating to changing Plainfield’s Charter.

Once again I thank you for your consideration.

On August 8 the Attorney General’s office sent the following:(the letters can be enlarged by clicking on them)

On Sept 5 The Director of Community Affairs wrote.

As of this date I have not heard from Commissioner Constable’s office.

It is obvious under our system of “Government of the People, by the People, for the People” there is no place for a citizen. No one in officialdom is willing to render an opinion but can find a way to “legally” avoid such action.

Note that if you have trouble enlarging the letters; the Attorney General's says "The Attorney General is authorized to offer legal advice only to mdepartments,agencies,and instrumentalities of State government, ------is not empowered to render legal advice to---private citizens or organizations.--"'DOLGS's letter notes that "State Executive Order #6, enacted by Governor Florio on 3/14/90 prevents the Department and any other state agency save for the Attorney General's Office from rendering a legaal opinion.


  1. oh sorry Doc.. you were talking about the city council and our "new" study.. I was waiting for the punch line.

  2. Our charter says all the city's operating divisions will be placed into one of three departments, at the discretion of the City Council.
    So any realignment of divisions within this structure should be able to be accomplished via ordinance without the need for a commission.

    However, one of the problems I've noted is that some services the city provides would be better handled outside the auspices of city government- social services, such as PAS, WIC, PCTV, seniors, and recreation would be infinitely better off under the umbrella of an independent non-profit with a strong community-based board of directors; an economic development corporation would breathe new life into boosting ratables and increasing employment opportunities. Neither of these initiatives would require changes to the charter.

    Aside from the obvious conflict of interest issues surrounding the Corporation Counsel position, as you've noted, a commission should study eliminating the three departments and their directors, perhaps replacing them with two lower-level assistant city administrators.

    Another area ripe for change is our antiquated and somewhat dysfunctional ward system. Two additional wards might bring added representation and accountability into the mix. Then again, maybe realigning the 1st with the 2nd, and the 3rd with the 4th, would achieve better balance and eliminate some of the polarity.

    Let's also not forget the costs associated with a charter commission. It will need financial support if it is to do a credible job. Witnesses will testify and public hearings will be held before any determinations are made. There will be materials and dissemination expenses. This costs real money and the City Council and Administration should make known what support the city will offer so the commission's work is successful, forceful, and not simply a committee of concerned citizens going through a civics exercise.

  3. There are some good ideas in your email and the comments, Doc. I hope people in the City Council and the study group are paying attention and taking notes.

  4. Alan is right--we citizens should be made aware of how much this will cost us before we're asked to vote on it. How about it, administration and council?