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Smathers v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Atlantic

Decided: August 16, 1934.

WILLIAM H. SMATHERS, PROSECUTOR,
v.
BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS OF THE COUNTY OF ATLANTIC, COUNTY OF ATLANTIC AND EDMUND C. GASKILL, JR., RESPONDENTS



On rule to show cause why a writ of certiorari should not issue.

For the prosecutor, Samuel Morris.

For the respondents, Cole & Cole.

Before Brogan, Chief Justice, and Justices Trenchard and Heher.

Heher

The opinion of the court was delivered by

HEHER, J. The question at issue is the validity of the employment, by the board of chosen freeholders of the county of Atlantic, of respondent Gaskill, while he held the office of county solicitor, to render what respondents contend were extra-official services in connection with the establishment of the device for the issuance by the county of certificates of indebtedness for circulation in lieu of government currency, commonly called the "scrip plan," and the refunding of its bonded indebtedness to avert default.

On June 10th, 1931, Gaskill was elected, by the respondent board, to the office of county solicitor, for a term of two years. A resolution adopted by the board on that day provided that "the county solicitor shall also be county counsel, county attorney, and have charge and supervision of all the legal business of the county except such as shall be otherwise definitely assigned by this board from time to time." The

term of office was therein fixed at two years, and the salary at $7,000. On May 10th, 1933, Gaskill was re-elected to said office for another term of two years, at the same salary. The services in question were rendered during the period beginning February 27th, 1933, and ending August 4th, 1933, for which compensation was paid at the rate of $50 per day, totalling the sum of $1,650. Gaskill was retained by the finance committee of the respondent board to render these services at the rate of compensation mentioned, and the work was done under its direction and supervision, but the bills submitted by him from time to time for his per diem compensation and disbursements were all approved and ordered paid by the respondent board.

The insistence of prosecutor is that the services in question embraced lobbying, and to that extent are not compensable, and that in so far as they are legally compensable, they were fairly within the scope of the duties incumbent upon him as county solicitor. We find both contentions to be without substance.

Legislation was necessary to empower the municipality to resort to the scrip system, and to confer the necessary authority for the refunding of its bonded indebtedness. It was, of course, essential that the bondholders give their assent to the refunding plan, and this consent could not be procured without legislation that was, in form and substance, satisfactory to them. Concededly, Gaskill managed efficiently this phase of the work, so vital to the consummation of the general rehabilitation plan, and the service thus rendered was entirely devoid of the taint of illegality. There is nothing before us to furnish the basis for even a suspicion that he overstepped the bounds of law or propriety.

Nor was Gaskill obliged, as county solicitor, to render the services in question for the compensation annexed to the office. The duties thus undertaken were not germane to that office. These services, in the main, were extra-official in every fair sense of the term. An emergency early confronted the municipality. It was in dire financial ...


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