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Walsh v. City Council

Decided: September 12, 1936.

BERNARD J. WALSH, PROSECUTOR,
v.
CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF TRENTON, DEFENDANT



on certiorari.

For the prosecutor, Frank I. Casey.

For the defendant, Sidney Goldmann.

Before Brogan, Chief Justice, and Justices Lloyd and Donges.

Brogan

The opinion of the court was delivered by

BROGAN, CHIEF JUSTICE. This writ of certiorari brings up for review a certain resolution passed by the city council of the city of Trenton, dated October 8th, 1935, finding Bernard Walsh guilty of certain charges and expelling him from the office of councilman of the city of Trenton. The

charges are divided into several classes alleging offenses that were violations of the laws of this state and of the United States; criminal conduct during his term of office as a city commissioner of Trenton; misfeasance and malfeasance in that office; unlawful acts for his own personal gain at the expense of the public, and failure to disclose the known embezzlements of others under his jurisdiction.

No purpose whatever is served by an analysis of the charges, which were detailed with great particularity. In our view, it is merely necessary to discuss the legal situation presented. The history of the prosecutor in the service of the public is, however, pertinent. He has occupied public position since 1910, when he was secretary to the then mayor of Trenton. In 1911, the people of Trenton adopted the provisions of the Walsh act or the commission form of government, as it is generally known. The prosecutor was appointed secretary to the mayor under the new form of municipal government. He continued in this post until 1926, when he was appointed deputy mayor, in which office he continued until 1933. At this time the mayor resigned from the governing body because of ill health and Mr. Walsh was elected by the members of the commission to serve for the unexpired term.

In March, 1935, the voters of Trenton adopted the Municipal Manager Form of Government act. Pamph. L. 1923, p. 217. The prosecutor became a candidate for the office of councilman at the election held on April 16th, 1935, was elected, and at the organization of the new municipal form of government, on May 14th, 1935, took office as councilman. Shortly thereafter, that is, on July 23d, 1935, the city manager, who (under the statute, supra), is the chief executive and administrative officer of the municipality operating under this form of government, preferred the charges against Mr. Walsh, which have been mentioned above. He was tried by the other members of the council, found guilty of certain of the charges and, by the resolution before us for review, dismissed from office.

The members of the governing body who conducted this hearing on the charges, and voted to expel the prosecutor from

office as a member of the council, depend for their authority so to do upon the provisions of chapter CCC, Pamph. L. 1874, which is an "Act to provide for the more efficient government of the City of Trenton." Section 20 of that charter, provides as follows: "That the common council shall * * * appoint its times and places of meeting, determine the rules of its own proceedings, be the sole judge of the * * * qualifications of its members, keep a journal of its proceedings, and may punish or expel a member for disorderly ...


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