Doherty’s lawyer asks Court for a gag order
Freehold-Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Katie Gummer ruled Wednesday that the new pay to pay ordinance in Belmar, dubbed “Matt’s Law” in honor of Mayor Matt Doherty who the measure would immediately benefit, is not law, has never been law and will not become law unless approved by Belmar voters in a referendum or unless the Court rules otherwise in coming weeks as a suit regarding a protest petition filed under the Falkner Act is further litigated.
For now, Doherty, who is running for Monmouth County Freeholder, and all candidates for office in Belmar are bound by the pay to play ordinances, passed in 2004 and amended in 2005 and 2011 (the current ordinance), that restrict campaign contributions from Belmar vendors, developers, liquor license holders and professionals to $300 and/or require that the office holders to recuse themselves from matters regarding the contributors that come before them.
Additionally, Judge Gummer ruled that Belmar Clerk April Claudio must reverse the changes she made to the online and any printed version of codified Belmar Revised General Ordinances that reflect the passage of “Matt’s Law” and replace such with the prior ordinances within 48 hours. If Claudio has filed “Matt’s Law” with the New Jersey Secretary of State, she is to reverse that filing forthwith.
At the end of the hearing on Wednesday afternoon, Belmar’s attorney, Ruben Rivera, asked Judge Gummer to impose a gag order on the Belmar citizens who filed the petition opposing the loosened pay to pay/ethics ordinance and filed suit to compel Belmar to follow the provisions of the Faukner Act. Judge Gummer declined to impose a gag order. Rivera told MoreMonmouthMusings that he asked for the gag order because he wants the proceedings and the Court’s decision reported after the matter is resolved.
The issue is before Judge Gummer because Belmar’s governing body rejected the petition opposing the ordinance after it had been certified by Claudio at its April 5th council meeting, based they said, on a legal opinion authored by Rivera. Rivera’s opinion addresses alleged deficiencies in the current pay to pay ordinances and recommends rejecting the petitions, but provides no legal basis for the rejection. The opinion can be read here.
The petitioners, Thomas Fahy, Linda Chelsen, Linda Sharkus, Katrina Clapsis, and former Mayor Kenneth Pringle filed suit last week seeking to compel Belmar to comply with the Faulker Act and either hold a referendum or repeal “Matt’s Law.” Belmar, represented by Rivera counter sued, asking the Court to dismiss the petition, the petitioners suit, and declaring Belmar’s current pay to pay ordinances unconstitutional.
Pringle, representing the petitioners, and Rivera asked Judge Gummer to decide the entire matter today. Judge Gummer said she wanted briefs on the constitutional issues raised by Rivera. The attorneys and Gummer will confer via phone of Thursday afternoon to schedule future hearings.
Unless ruled otherwise, Belmar will have to hold a referendum on the matter within 40-60 days of May 5, Pringle told MMM.
Doherty, who has raised over $100,000 for his Freeholder campaign since the now suspended ordinance was passed by the Belmar governing body, according to social media posts by Monmouth Democrat Chairman Vin Gopal, did not return a message for comment. Previously, Doherty told MMM that the current ordinance is unenforceable and that it had nothing to do with his campaign for freeholder.