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Scott v. Town of Bloomfield

Decided: March 23, 1967.

DONALD H. SCOTT AND THEODORE DUNN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE TOWN OF BLOOMFIELD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, RALPH G. CONTE, H. JOSEPH NORTH AND BOYS' CLUB OF BLOOMFIELD, A CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS



Civil action in lieu of prerogative writ.

Camarata, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Camarata

This action comes before the court on a motion by plaintiffs for summary judgment in an action in lieu of prerogative writs challenging the validity of a resolution adopted on December 6, 1965 by defendant Town of Bloomfield (hereinafter town) granting a lease to defendant Boys' Club of Bloomfield (hereinafter Boys' Club) and challenging the execution on December 30, 1965 of a lease between the Town and Boys' Club executed pursuant to the resolution.

Ralph G. Conte (hereinafter mayor) and H. Joseph North (hereinafter clerk) are also defendants.

The answer of the town was suppressed by order of this court for failure to answer interrogatories propounded by plaintiffs.

From the affidavits of Theodore A. Rath, Donald H. Scott, David C. Thompson, Conte and North, the basic facts are not in dispute.

Plaintiffs served the Attorney General with a notice to intervene, pursuant to R.R. 4:37-2. The State has not intervened.

The property in question (hereinafter referred to as Center School site) was formerly owned by the Bloomfield Board of Education and used as a grade school for about 75 years. The board leased the Center School site to the Bloomfield College and Seminary (hereinafter college), an accredited nonprofit educational institution providing courses in the arts and sciences. In January 1965 the school site was conveyed by the board to the town, which continued a lease with the college by a renewal expiring August 31, 1966.

Bordering the Center School site is property owned by the college on the north, east, southeast and southwest.

In the spring of 1965 Boys' Club made known to the town its desire to lease a portion of the property then under lease to the college. At that time the mayor was defendant Conte and the town clerk was defendant North. They were also members and directors of Boys' Club and continued in those positions through December 30, 1965.

Public and private meetings were held with the mayor and town council to hear and determine Boys' Club's request. The mayor and clerk attended all the meetings. At one of them the college stated its opposition to a lease to Boys' Club, expressing its desire to purchase the Center School property for $250,000. The mayor has at all times opposed the sale to the college and interrogated the representatives of Bloomfield College at several of the meetings.

On November 29, 1965 the town council met to consider the matter in the council chambers at a so-called conference meeting. Present at this meeting were the mayor as presiding officer, the town council, the town clerk, representatives and numerous students of the college, and other citizens from the community and elsewhere. The mayor called upon Mr. Neil, the town planner, to express his views. He spoke in favor of Boys' Club. The clerk spoke in favor of Boys' Club lease "as a citizen and taxpayer."

After many persons had given their views, the mayor and clerk refrained from further participation and the council members withdrew to a private room. Later one councilman returned to the public chambers and announced that the council had reached a tentative decision to grant a lease to Boys' Club.

On December 6, 1965 the council formally adopted a resolution at a public meeting granting a lease to Boys' Club for 99 years at an annual rental of $1, as more particularly set forth therein. The mayor abstained from voting. The clerk was present at the meeting.

The clerk attended a private conference meeting of the town council in October 1965. The mayor was present and the Boys' Club matter was discussed. The clerk told the mayor he was speaking as a citizen and taxpayer.

N.J.S.A. 40:60-45.3 was never -- prior to final enactment -- published in the 21 counties of the State.

I

The statute under which the town acted is N.J.S.A. 40:60-45.3. Its legislative history follows. The 1950 Legislature enacted L. 1950, c. 184, whose title reads:

"An act authorizing the leasing of certain real estate by municipalities to incorporated boys' clubs, and supplementing chapter 60 ...


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