HOBOKEN – Members of the City Council have filed a lawsuit over the recent appointment of At Large Councilman James Doyle. The seat was left vacant in September by Carol Marsh. Council members Theresa Castellano, Beth Mason, Tim Occhipinti, and Michael Russo have said they believe the appointment of James Doyle on Oct. 6 was illegal. All four members who have filed are part of the council minority who publicly oppose Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
While some members of the council and the public would have preferred a special election in November to fill the vacant seat, this could only be done if March’s resignation was before Sept 1. She resigned on Sept 19, leaving the task of appointing a replacement to the council.
As Doyle was being appointed, a dispute arose over the process. The law governing the appointment process, the Municipal Vacancy Law, stipulates that the governing body appoints the person to fill the vacancy by “majority” vote. If all eight remaining members of the council had been in attendance, this likely would have led to a 4 to 4 tie, and in the event of a tie, by law, the mayor can cast a fifth vote.
On Oct. 6, Mason was absent for the vote and Councilman Russo abstained, resulting in a final vote of 4-2-1. Amid disagreement over what comprised a “majority” vote, Zimmer stood up and cast a fifth vote anyway, despite the lack of a tie.
This further confused the vote and elicited claims of illegality from the board minority.
A press release Wednesday from a city spokesperson said, “The City believes that their claims are entirely without merit. It is extremely unfortunate that instead of focusing on properly representing the interests of their constituents that these Council members are attempting to paralyze our government for political reasons to the detriment of the citizens of Hoboken who they were elected to serve.” – Amanda Palasciano