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Committee to Recall Theresa Casagrande From Office of Spring Lake Heights School Board Member v. Casagrande

September 25, 1997

COMMITTEE TO RECALL THERESA CASAGRANDE FROM THE OFFICE OF SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER; ANNETTE M. SMITH; BETH BERNARDO AND JOANNE KUCINSKI, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THERESA CASAGRANDE; CLAIRE BARRETT, CLERK OF THE BOROUGH OF SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS; LINDA DALY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE BOROUGH OF SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS; CLAIR FRENCH, CLERK OF THE COUNTY OF MONMOUTH; AND BERTHA SUMICK, SPECIAL DEPUTY CLERK OF THE COUNTY OF MONMOUTH, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Opinion of March 5, 1997,

Approved for Publication September 27, 1997.

Before Judges Havey, Newman and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Newman, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman

The opinion of the court was delivered by

NEWMAN, J.A.D.

Plaintiff, Committee to Recall Theresa Casagrande (Committee), appeals from the denial to hold a recall election on the ballot of the general election to be held on November 4, 1997. We affirm.

These are the facts. Theresa Casagrande serves as a member and chairperson of the school board for the Borough of Spring Lake Heights. She was elected to a three year term in April 1995. She is in the final year of her term. The Committee has already been unsuccessful in its effort to have her recall placed on the ballot for the school election held this past April. As a consequence, this appeal is limited to the issue addressed by Judge Lehrer barring the placement of the recall election on the ballot of the general election scheduled for November 4.

The specific basis for denying placement of the recall vote on the ballot of the November general election is the following prohibition contained in N.J.S.A. 19:27A-13a(2):

The date for a recall election shall not be fixed, and no recall election shall be held, after the date occurring six months prior to the general election or regular election for the office, as appropriate, in the final year of an official's term.

Parallel language also appears in N.J.S.A. 19:27A-4a, which reads in pertinent part:

No election to recall an elected official shall be held after the date occurring six months prior to the general election or regular election for that office, as appropriate, in the final year of the official's term.

It is undisputed that Casagrande's term ends April 21, 1998. Thus, the general election of November 4, 1997 occurs less than six months before the end of her term.

In concluding that the recall election cannot be placed on the general election ballot of November 4, 1997, Judge Lehrer found that the provisions of both N.J.S.A. 19:27A-4a and 19:27A-13a clearly and unambiguously prohibit the holding of a recall election within the last six months of an elected official's term. N.J. Super. (Law Div. 1997) (slip op. at 18). He concluded that tax dollars should not be utilized to hold an additional election when, in less than six months, the public will have its opportunity to vote on the particular official or office involved. Id. at 18-19.

On appeal, the Committee argues that the general election is less than six months from the timing of the school board election but more than six months from the election of other municipal officials. They reason from this difference in timing that municipal officials could be recalled at the general election but that school ...


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