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Kessler v. City of Passaic A Municipal Corp.

Decided: January 4, 1971.

LOUIS KESSLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PASSAIC A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, AND ANTHONY C. MARTINI, PUBLIC OFFICER, DEFENDANTS



Joelson, J.s.c.

Joelson

Plaintiff is the owner of a multiple-dwelling property which was placed under rent control in the City of Passaic by Anthony C. Martini as Public Officer of the municipality for the administration of rent control. Martini also serves as City Clerk of Passaic. Plaintiff brings this action to have declared invalid the designation of City Clerk Martini as Public Officer for the administration of rent control in that community, and to have the position declared vacant. He bases his contention on the fact that the designation was made by the Passaic city council rather than the city manager.

The facts are not in dispute. On November 22, 1966 the board of commissioners of Passaic passed an ordinance authorizing the regulation of rents pursuant to the enabling legislation provided by N.J.S.A. 2A:42-74 et seq. Thereafter, in 1967, the voters of Passaic adopted a council-manager form of government, and it is undisputed that the city council replaced the board of commissioners as the governing body of the municipality.

In the November 22, 1966 rent control ordinance the board of commissioners provided in section 1A with respect to the public officer designated to administer it that "'Public Officer' shall mean the Assistant Health Officer of the City of Passaic or any other city employees so designated by resolution adopted by the Board of Commissioners."

Subsequently on August 7, 1969, the new governing body, the city council, adopted a resolution (No. 260-69) which relieved the assistant health officer by name and provided that "Anthony C. Martini is hereby designated and appointed Public Officer in conformance with and under the original jurisdiction of" the rent control ordinance. In the "whereas" provisions of that resolution which preceded the designation of Martini, we find that the city council referred to the fact that section 1A of the rent control ordinance had defined public officer as the assistant health officer or any other city employee so designated by resolution. It then went on

to state as follows before designating Martini by name as the public officer:

Whereas, the City Clerk, Anthony C. Martini is an employee of the City of Passaic whose functions and duties come within the purview of the ordinance entitled "An Ordinance Authorizing the Regulations of Rents * * * Designating a Public Officer and Defining his Duties * * *."

Martini has been serving since August 7, 1969.

The court will now deal with plaintiff's contention that the new public officer should have been designated by the city manager rather than the city council in August 1969. He grounds this contention on the Administrative Code of Passaic (Ordinance No. 1-67), which was adopted pursuant to the Optional Municipal Charter Law, and specifically upon N.J.S.A. 40:69A-95(c) which gives broad powers of appointment to the city manager.

There is no doubt that both N.J.S.A. 40:69A-95(c) and the Administrative Code indicate sweeping powers, including the power of appointment generally, in the city manager to the exclusion of the city council. However, it is the opinion of the court that the controlling factor must be N.J.S.A. 2A:42-74 et seq. , which is the enabling legislation for municipal rent control. N.J.S.A. 2A:42-75(a) provides:

"Public Officer" shall mean the officer, officers, board or body who is or are authorized by ordinances adopted hereunder to exercise the powers prescribed by such ordinances and by this act. [Italics supplied]

The above-quoted subsection clearly states that the public officer shall be authorized by ordinances. It is a well-settled rule that full effect must be given to every word of a statute, and that it cannot be assumed that the Legislature used meaningless language. Gabin v. Skyline Cabana Club , 54 N.J. 550 (1969). The statute uses the word "ordinances," and a city manager ...


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