Ethics Expert Disagrees
Monmouth County Republican Chairman John O. Bennett said that a State Supreme Court Opinion written in 2000 by Justice Daniel J. O’Hern that states that the positions of Borough Attorney and Borough Administrator may not be held by the same person does not apply to his job in Oceanport.
In re ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS, DOCKET NO. 18-98, the Court ruled 5-2, to affirm an ACPE opinion that Gregory C. Hart could not serve the Bergen County Borough of Old Tappan as both attorney and administrator.
We respect the wishes of the Borough to engage for its day to day management an attorney in whom it has reposed great trust and confidence. Likewise, we respect the attorney who is certain that his integrity would assure an unfettered exercise of judgment in either capacity. Yet we must fashion a rule that will apply equally as well in more demanding circumstances, as in a fast-growing suburban community. It asks too much for an individual to be able to give objective advice to the municipality without being materially limited by the “lawyer’s own interest” as the subject of the inquiry.
For these reasons, we hold that one attorney may not hold both the position of municipal attorney and clerk-administrator for the same municipality. As modified, the advisory opinion of the ACPE is affirmed.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Bennett said he became aware of the Opinion after his appointment as Acting Administrator in Oceanport earlier this month, but that he did not believe it would prevent him from holding both positions on a permanent basis.Art Gallagher | Filed under: John Bennett, Monmouth County, Oceanport | Tags: Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Borough Administrator, Borough Attorney, John Bennett, John O. Bennett, Justice Daniel J. O'Hern, Michael J. Mahon, NJ Supreme Court, Oceanport, Paula A. Franzese, Seton Hall University | 7 Comments »