The Linden city attorney arguing that a vacant 8th Ward council seat should be left vacant rather than seat the choice of the local Democratic organization argued the other side of a nearly identical issue ten years ago.
In 2009, the Republican majority on the Roseland Borough Council decided to leave a vacant Democratic seat vacant until after the election, rather than seat the candidate picked by the local Democratic organization.
Daniel Antonelli, the attorney for Linden, represented the Roseland Democratic County Committee in that case.
He told the Star-Ledger at the time that refusing to seat Joseph Rolli, who was picked by Roseland Democrats after the GOP council refused to pick one of three names submitted by the county committee was “partisan politics at its worst.”
“This was an attempt by the majority Republicans to frustrate and repress the voice of the minority party,” Antonelli said.
Antonelli cited 40A:16-11, which lays out a seemingly clear process to fill local government vacancies in municipalities with partisan elections.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Costello agreed with Antonelli’s arguments and ordered Rolli seated immediately.
The case in Linden, which has been in court since February, is nearly identical to Roseland.
The Linden Democratic organization submitted the names of Coates and two others to the city council as replacements for Michele Yamakaitis, who left her 8th ward seat on January 1 to become the new council president.
But mayor Derek Armstead, who doesn’t get along with the county committee, refused to accept any of the choices. He said he wants the seat to remain vacant until a November special election and has refused to seat Coates.
Linden Democrats are arguing the same case that Antonelli cited in 2009, but this time the lawyer has a different interpretation.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Regan Dupuis reversed her own ruling late last month, finding that Paul Coates should be seated as the new councilman – but she stopped short of issuing a final order until she can schedule a new hearing to determine if county committee members were properly noticed.
Dupuis denied the request of Linden Democrat to order the city to seat Coates. Instead, she set a hearing date in March – leaving the people of the 8th ward without representation on the city council.
Back in 1985, Kit Dupuis was the Democratic candidate for Westfield Town Council against a Republican incumbent who had been appointed to fill a vacancy using the same law Coates is citing.