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Board of Trustees of Free Public Library v. City of Union City

Decided: December 3, 1970.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY OF THE CITY OF UNION CITY, IN THE COUNTY OF HUDSON, A BODY CORPORATE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF UNION CITY, IN THE COUNTY OF HUDSON, A BODY CORPORATE AND POLITIC OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



Larner, A.j.s.c.

Larner

[112 NJSuper Page 486] This opinion is limited to the issues raised by the third count of the amended complaint wherein plaintiffs seek to quash subpoenas summoning Herbert Borneman and Kenneth E. Traphagen as witnesses before the investigating committee of Union City appointed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-25 et seq. , and 2A:67A-1 et seq. , and to enjoin defendants from undertaking any investigation pertaining

to the operations of the Free Public Library of Union City. By consent of the parties the matter was heard in a summary manner and is to be determined by the court as a matter of law.

The controversy arises as a result of the creation of a municipal investigating committee by the Board of Commissioners of the city pursuant to the authority of N.J.S.A. 40:48-25, which grants the power of subpoena to a committee of the governing body of a municipality appointed to consider "any subject or matter within its jurisdiction."

The municipal resolution in question provides:

WHEREAS, by reason of a Municipal Election held in the City of Union City on Tuesday, May 12, 1970, there was elected to the office of Commissioner, HARRY M. CALANDRILLO, JR., JAMES E. LAGOMARSINO, PAUL J. LOMBARDO, WILLIAM J. MEEHAN and FRANK X. CLARK: and

WHEREAS, said newly elected Commissioners, upon taking their oath of office, and having undertaken the duties of their respective offices, have ascertained certain deficiencies in records heretofore kept, and in other practices in the various departments; and

WHEREAS, it is deemed necessary for the purpose of promoting efficiency and economy in government and in the best interests of the City of Union City to have said investigating committee;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it

RESOLVED, that HARRY M. CALANDRILLO, JR., JAMES E. LAGOMARSINO, PAUL J. LOMBARDO, WILLIAM J. MEEHAN and FRANK X. CLARK, be and they are hereby designated as an Investigating Committee to examine any and all officials, officers and employees of the City of Union City in relation to the discharge of his or their official duty or conduct, as the case may be, and to examine and investigate such additional subject, persons or matters falling within the jurisdiction of this Investigating Committee as may, in the judgment of said Committee, require or necessitate such examination and investigation.

Plaintiffs are the board of trustees of the Free Public Library and two members of the board under subpoena. (The legality of the board and the appointment of its members is under attack in another phase of this litigation). They challenge the proposed investigation into their operations and activities on the following grounds that (1) the Free

Public Library is an autonomous body, free of control or supervision by the board of commissioners of the city; (2) the individuals who were subpoenaed are not officials, officers or employees of the city subject to investigation within the scope of the resolution creating the investigating committee; and (3) the intended investigation ...


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