Councilwoman Hedy Grant has filed a lawsuit against Councilman Austin Ashley, Mayor Ann Subrizi and the Borough of New Milford petitioning the court to invalidate the appointment of Borough Attorney, Marc Leibman of the law firm Kaufman, Semeraro, Bern, Deutsch & Leibman.
The complaint, filed in Superior Court in Hackensack, submits that as Leibman's client in the matter before the New Milford Zoning Board regarding the potential development of the United Water property by the S. Hekemian Group, Ashley was "disqualified by self-interest" from voting for the appointment of Leibman as Borough Attorney. Grant seeks a judicial determination that Ashley had a "disqualifying conflict of interest" by nominating and voting on the appointment of Leibman.
Had Ashley recused himself from voting on Leibman's appointment, the vote would have been 3-2 against the appointment. Instead, the vote resulted in a 3-3 tie, giving Subrizi the tie-breaking vote.
Supporting documentation contends that Grant believes Leibman's appointment to be nothing more than 'pay to play' whereby Ashley's nomination and vote for Leibman as Borough Attorney represents payment for Leibman's legal services provided to Ashley.
Prior to filing this lawsuit, Grant had placed a motion before the Mayor and Council at the Jan. 14 work session requesting that Leibman's appointment as Borough Attorney be rescinded. With Ashley voting, the vote to rescind was 3-3 with Subrizi again casting the tie-breaking vote not to rescind.
In petitioning the court, Grant is also asking for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction pending a full hearing of the matter. The court has issued a date of Feb. 22 for a hearing on that motion.
Prior to referring all comments to her attorney, Grant said, "If you're asking why I'm doing this, I'm trying to right a wrong."
Douglas C. Anton, of The Law Offices of Douglas C. Anton in Hackensack, is representing Grant. He said that Ashley's nomination of his private counsel to the position of Borough Attorney, and his refusal to recuse himself from voting on that appointment, "is a clear violation of New Milford's codes, as well other codes."
"Hedy Grant, on behalf of her constituents, and as a taxpayer, sees this as the only avenue to right a wrong," Anton said.
Ashley and Subrizi had not yet seen the court papers and offered no comment at this time.