Saddle Brook Health Benefits Ordinance Won't Appear on Ballot
A judge has denied halting the printing of election ballots for November, but has delayed a decision on whether Saddle Brook council's amendment to resident petitioners' ordinance is permissible.
Two resident-proposed ordinances that seek to immediately end health benefits for part-time elected and appointed officials will not appear on the November ballot, a superior court judge ruled Friday.
Judge Alexander Carver denied the petitioners' application that sought to halt printing of the township's election ballots and dismissed their claim that irreparable harm would result if the petitioners' ordinances were not put up for a referendum vote in the Nov. 6 election.
Carver said that because the township's part-time elected and appointed officials have received benefits for 50-some years and some current officials are nearing the 20-year service mark that endows lifetime health benefit status, the issue should be addressed in a more deliberate fashion.
With a primary coming up next summer, Carver recommended the issue be discussed more thoroughly and, if deemed appropriate, considered for the June 2013 ballot.
He did not rule on whether the amendments to the petitioners' ordinances made by the Saddle Brook council to grandfather themselves in for benefits was permissible, as the township has argued. That issue, which resident petitioners have argued differs substantially from the intention of the original resident-proposed ordinances, will be discussed at a future hearing.
Council candidate Omar Rodriguez, who has been a leading proponent of ending health benefits for part-time officials, said he was "very disappointed" by the judge's decision.
"I believe that there shouldn’t be one more day where we keep paying for those elected officials health care benefits," he said. "I don’t think that that is right.”
Rodriguez said that, even if elected in November, he would continue to fight to end health benefits for part-time elected and appointed officials.
"I will, one way or another, put those two questions on the ballot, because this is not about elected officials losing benefits, it's about giving the residents the right to exercise the choice when they go to vote," he said. "I will drive another petition if the judge does not rule in our favor in order for those questions to be on the June ballot."