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Random Notes on NJ Government

State Ethics Board: Swapping appointment votes is ethically OK as long as the one who votes first resigns a few days before the second vote.

After a three-and-a-half-year investigation, the Local Finance Board (LFB), the primary entity that enforces New Jersey’s Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL), ruled that a former Westampton Township (Burlington County) Committeeman did not violate the LGEL by voting to appoint a former Mount Holly Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) Commissioner to a $90,000 fire chief position two months after the Commissioner had voted to appoint the Committeeman to the MUA’s $129,492 executive director post.

According to my February 11, 2015 ethics complaint, Westampton Committeeman Robert Maybury voted “aye” on December 12, 2014 resolution to appoint Jason Carty as Westampton Township’s $90,000-per-year fire chief and EMS director.  Carty, who had resigned his MUA Commissioner post two days before Maybury’s vote, had on October 9, 2014 voted “aye” on a resolution that appointed Maybury as the MUA’s executive director.  According to DataUniverse, the MUA pays Maybury $129,492 a year.

In her September 13, 2018 Notice of Determination, LFB Chairperson Melanie R. Walter wrote that the LFB dismissed my complaint (the New Jersey Libertarian Party joined me in my complaint) for “not having a reasonable factual basis” because “Jason Carty had resigned from his position as MUA Commissioner prior to [Maybury’s] vote for him to be Fire Chief and EMS Director of Westampton Township.”

Accordingly, it is ethically permissible for Maybury and Carty to both act in their official capacities to appoint each other to paid public jobs provided that Carty had the foresight to resign a few days prior to Maybury’s vote.  In my complaint I wrote that “[i]f the Board determines that Carty’s eleventh hour resignation from the MUA immunizes [Maybury] from what would have been an ethics violation had he not resigned, such a ruling would hopefully prod the legislature to consider strengthening the LGEL to close up this and other loopholes.”

According to the MUA’s website, Maybury still serves as its executive director.   In a federal lawsuit, Carty claimed that Westampton improperly eliminated his position and terminated him in April 2016.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project