Councilwoman Grant Makes Motion to Rescind Appointment of Borough Attorney
Borough Attorney says there is no conflict of interest; motion fails with Mayor's tie-breaking vote.
Citing "the appearance of a conflict of interest," Councilwoman Hedy Grant placed a motion before the Mayor and Council requesting that the appointment of Marc Leibman as Borough Attorney be rescinded. Leibman had represented Councilman Austin Ashley before the Zoning Board against Hekemian in the potential development of the United Water property. The motion was seconded by Council President Randi Duffie.
"All ethics rules say we must keep the faith of the public trust," Grant said. "A breach of the public trust is the ultimate failing of a governing body."
Leibman responded to the motion by saying that there is no conflict of interest in his representation of the borough.
Encouraging Leibman to step down, Grant referenced the conflict of interest that caused the Borough's planner, Burgis Associates, to be recused from representing the Borough on the Zoning Board in the matter of the development of the United Water property due to a "tenuous connection" between Burgis' wife and Hekemian.
At the Feb. 14, 2012, Zoning Board meeting, Zoning Board attorney Scott Sproviero informed the board that Burgis was recused from the proceedings at the request of the applicant because the applicant's attorney performed work on behalf of the planner's wife.
Because of this, Grant questioned how Leibman could represent the Borough when matters regarding the United Water property come before the Mayor and Council.
Leibman responded that there are no issues currently before the Mayor and Council regarding the development that would cause a conflict, although Grant reminded him that he had just prepared a memo for the Mayor and Council regarding the United Water property.
Grant insisted, "We have a sitting councilman with a close personal and professional relationship with the Borough Attorney."
According to Grant, Leibman did not submit his resignation as Ashley's attorney in the matter of the United Water property development until the day after his appointment to the position of Borough Attorney.
In putting forth the motion, Grant stressed that it is the responsibility of the council to "maintain the highest ethical position as possible."
During Leibman's first appearance before the Zoning Board on Feb. 14, 2012, he told Patch that he was representing Ashley because, "Applications of this magnitude in towns of this character hold decisions that should be made by the mayor and council because it amounts to a complete rezoning." He added, "The board can't usurp the authority of the mayor and council to zone."
Despite Grant's suggestion that Ashley abstain from voting, he sided with Republicans Diego Robalino and Dominic Colucci in voting against the motion to rescind Leibman's appointment. Democrats Grant, Duffie and Michael Putrino voted in favor of having Leibman step aside, resulting in a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Ann Subrizi who voted the motion down.