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Utility Workers Union of America v. Board of Chosen Freeholders

Decided: June 10, 1987.

UTILITY WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 534, ELAINE BERG, JACK REILLY, AND VITO NASTA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVES OF A CLASS OF SIMILARLY SITUATED EMPLOYEES OF THE COUNTY OF BERGEN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS, COUNTY OF BERGEN, WILLIAM D. MCDOWELL, COUNTY EXECUTIVE, THE COUNTY OF BERGEN, A BODY CORPORATE AND POLITIC OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, THE BERGEN COUNTY UTILITIES AUTHORITY, AND NORTHWEST BERGEN UTILITIES AUTHORITY, DEFENDANTS



Ciolino, A.j.s.c.

Ciolino

[220 NJSuper Page 68] This action in lieu of prerogative writs was commenced by the filing of an Order to Show Cause and Verified Complaint seeking declaratory judgment and other related interim relief. On May 7, 1987, all interim relief was denied and a return date was scheduled for May 28, 1987. An Answer and Crossclaim was filed by defendant Bergen County Utilities Authority, an Answer and Separate Defenses to Crossclaim of the defendant Bergen County Utilities Authority was filed by and on behalf of the defendants William D. McDowell, County Executive, and the County of Bergen and an Answer was filed on behalf of the defendant Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority. With the exception of Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority,

all other parties, both plaintiff and defendants, supplied the Court with briefs, letter memoranda and supplementary and reply briefs. Oral argument was heard by the court on May 28, 1987, at which time it was agreed by all counsel and the court that final disposition could be made by the court based upon the arguments of counsel, briefs and documents submitted.

FACTS AND LAW

On November 7, 1985, the voters of Bergen County adopted the County Executive form of government and on November 4, 1986, elected William D. McDowell as Bergen County's first County Executive. This form of government is included within the Optional County Charter Law, N.J.S.A. 40:41A-1, et seq. Similarly, on November 4, 1986, the voters of Bergen County elected the seven current members comprising the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Bergen County. The Bergen County Utilities Authority (BCUA), was reorganized pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:14B-1 (the Municipal and County Utilities Authorities Act). Its function is to provide water and sewer services to the County of Bergen. The Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority (NBCUA) was created by the County of Bergen pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:14B-1, et seq., also to provide water and sewer services to the County of Bergen. The plaintiffs Utilities Workers' Union of America, AFL-CIO Local 534 (Local 534) is the collective bargaining representative for the blue and white collar employees of the BCUA and of the blue collar workers of the NBCUA. The individual plaintiffs, beside being members of Local 534, are citizens, residents and taxpayers of the County of Bergen.

On March 4, 1987, the Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted the Administrative Code of Bergen County, with an effective date of April 4, 1987. Article IX of the Administrative Code, and in particular Sections 9.1.1 and 9.1.2 provide in pertinent part as follows:

9.1.1 Authorities. The following authorities heretofore organized shall continue to operate as provided by statutes except that the executive shall have a veto

right over the actions taken by the authorities through his/her approval or disapproval of the minutes of meetings recording the actions of the authority:

(a) Bergen County Utilities Authority;

(b) Northwest Bergen Utilities Authority;

(c) Bergen County Improvement ...


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