The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hornstine
Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment to render N.J.S.A. 40:45-10.1 inapplicable to a Mayor-Council form of government. Additionally, Plaintiff requests the removal of council candidate, Gwendolyn Faison, from the ballot in the upcoming municipal election in the City of Camden. Plaintiff, Frank J. Fulbrook, is a resident and taxpayer of Camden and a candidate for the Office of Mayor in the May 13th, 1997 municipal election. Defendant, James Reynolds, is named in his capacity as the Municipal Clerk for the City of Camden.
Defendants, Arnold W. Webster, Dwaine Williams and Charles A. Ashley are named in their capacity as members of the Committee on Vacancies for the slate of candidates proceeding under the slogan "Moving in the Right Direction".
Defendant, Gwendolyn Faison, is named in her capacity as a replacement candidate for the Office of Council-At-Large on the slate proceeding under the slogan "Moving in the Right Direction".
Defendants, William Jenkins, Milton Milan, and Robert Boyer, are named in their capacity as members of the Committee on Vacancies for the slate of candidates proceeding under the slogan "A Better Camden".
The attorneys for plaintiff and defendants submit the matter to the court on the following uncontradicted facts. *fn1
The City of Camden is governed under the mayor-council form of government as set forth in the Faulkner Act, N.J.S.A. 40:69A-1 through -30 and 40:69A-31 through -32. See also Governor's Reconsideration and Recommendation Statement, Senate No. 1206-L. 1935, c. 374. Under the "mayor-council plan" the Municipal Clerk is appointed by the council and performs "... such functions as may be required by law". See N.J.S.A. 40:69A-38.
The next municipal election is scheduled for May 13, 1997. Cognizance must be given to N.J.S.A. 40:45-8, 40:45-9, and 40:45-13 which set forth the statutory requirements for candidacy:
a. the potential candidate must file a petition of nomination with the Municipal Clerk of the City of Camden no later than fifty-four (54) days prior to the date of the municipal election;
b. the petition of nomination submitted by the potential candidate must be supported by individual certificates of at least one per cent (1%) of the registered voters of the municipality but not less than twenty-five (25);
c. the potential candidate must also file an oath regarding the petition statement;
d. the Municipal Clerk must examine the said petition for conformity with the Uniform Nonpartisan Elections Law, (N.J.S.A. 40:45-5 et seq.) and the general election laws; and
e. no later than forty-four (44) days prior to the election date, the Municipal Clerk must publish the names of the persons qualifying as candidates.
On March 20, 1997, plaintiff Frank J. Fulbrook, submitted his petition of nomination for the Office of Mayor. The petition was tendered to the Municipal Clerk, supported by the requisite individual certificates and met all applicable legal requirements. Upon review, the Municipal Clerk designated plaintiff as a qualified candidate.
On March 20, 1997, Terry A. Mason, Jr. submitted his petition of nomination for the Office of Council-At-Large. Shortly thereafter, the Municipal Clerk qualified his candidacy based upon a review of the submissions and applicable law.
On March 20, 1997, Arnold W. Webster filed his petition of nomination for the Office of Mayor. His petition was also ...