UPDATE: Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso today ordered the city clerk to put a referendum on the ballot requiring top city officials to live in Bayonne. Bariso gave the City Council twenty days to repeal a residency ordinance, or the issue goes on the ballot either in a June runoff election or if that’s unnecessary, a special election.
Bayonne is headed back to court today, where a Judge is deciding whether to allow a referendum creating a residency requirement for the city’s business administrator and corporation counsel. Mayor Jimmy Davis opposes the ballot initiative, which could impact the vote in the May 8 election.
Residency has become an issue in the heated race for mayor, where challenger Jason O’Donnell has promised to give top positions to residents. At issue is Joe DeMarco, a Bernardsville resident who was Mayor Jimmy Davis’ top appointee, and city attorney Jay Coffey, the mayor of Oceanport.
Longtime activist Pat Desmond filed petitions to put the residency issue on the ballot. City Clerk Bob Sloan initially certified the public question, but later changed his mind and said the petitions were thirteen signatures short. No word on what prompted Sloan’s reconsideration.
Bayonne failed to produce any witnesses in Superior Court yesterday. Judge Peter Bariso is bringing the crew back today; in the meantime, Bariso ordered that no ballots may be printed or mailed until the issue is resolved.
DeMarco, a former Democratic councilman in Bernardsville, took a leave of absence from his job as Bayonne Business Administrator to manage Davis’ re-election campaign. He is expected to return to the city post if Davis wins a second term, and the referendum – likely to pass regardless of the outcome of the election – could force him to chose between his Somerset County home and his Bayonne job.