An alleged conflict of interest dispute involving Secaucus Town Councilman Michael Gonnelli is heading to Hudson County Superior Court.
The Secaucus Town Council last night passed a resolution that will allow the town’s labor attorney to “commence…a civil action to determine the compatibility of the offices of Secaucus Councilperson and Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department Chief and the rights obligations, duties, and liabilities of Michael Gonnelli’s holding such offices simultaneously,” according to the language of the resolution.
Gonnelli was the subject of a conflict of interest complaint that was filed with t he state’s ethics board by a political opponent after he won his council seat in 2006.
According to some lawyers, Gonnelli’s positions as a Volunteer Fire Department supervisor and as a councilman are incompatible because in Secaucus, the Town Council oversees the Fire Department.
The state ethics board has, however, failed to act on the matter for more than two years.
According to Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and Town Attorney Frank Leanza, going to court is the only option available now that other attempts to resolve the alleged conflict have been unsuccessful.
Leanza has recommended that Gonnelli not participate in council meetings and vote with the governing body until a temporary agreement can be reached regarding how he can participate without violating the law.
Although Gonnelli attended the Jan. 13 council meeting, he sat in the audience and did not vote on town business matters.
Secaucus’ labor attor ney, Ralph Lamparello from the law firm of Chasan, Leyner, and Lamparello, is expected to file legal paperwork on behalf of the town by Jan.23. Gonnelli’s lawyer will then have the opportunity to file a response.
It is unclear how long it could take for a judge to rule on the matter.
For more coverage of the Tues., Jan. 13 Town Council meeting and the Gonnelli case, be sure to read the Sun., Jan 18 edition of the Secaucus Reporter, also available on this site.