NJ Residents Accuse Mayor of Power Grab

DOVER, N.J. (CN) – The town of Dover in northwestern New Jersey has endured a bitter fight between Mayor James Dodd and several aldermen over the last few years, with both sides slinging allegations of double-dealing, conflicts of interest, and racist and sexist slurs. 

Now, however, the fight heads to state court, where one former alderman claims the mayor has usurped powers meant for the town’s legislators in a “dictatorial” power grab.

A lawsuit filed Friday in Morris County Superior Court by former alderman Dominic Timpani and seven other residents claims a new town ordinance was passed in violation of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act and guts the legislative powers of town aldermen while granting the mayor greater leverage during board meetings. 

The ordinance “expands the powers of the mayor and usurps the ability of members of the board of aldermen to fulfill their legislative function” and “permits the mayor to preside over meetings in a dictatorial fashion,” according to the lawsuit brought by lead attorney Scott Carlson with Carlson Siedsma Warner.

Dover ordinance #15-2018, adopted last November, requires a two-thirds majority vote to remove a municipal administrator and eliminates the authority of the board of aldermen to remove an administrator.

In addition, the mayor can unilaterally decide which items to include on the board’s agenda, and aldermen are prohibited from bringing resolutions or items to the floor without mayoral approval, the lawsuit claims. 

The complaint, which seeks to annul the ordinance, also claims the town failed to publish annual notices for two of its November 2018 meetings in local newspapers, making the ordinance illegal. 

After the ordinance passed last fall, a Facebook group called Dover First decried the new law: “Where is the separation of power? Where is the division between the executive and the legislative branches of government?”

Four aldermen on the town’s board align with the Dover First group, which ousted a number of Mayor Dodd’s allies during the primaries last year.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Carlson, did not return a phone call or email seeking comment Monday.

Dodd, whose term expires at the end of this year, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. 

Dodd made headlines last year after Timpani – a plaintiff in Friday’s lawsuit – filed complaints with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs claiming the mayor had failed to disclose conflicts of interest about votes on roadway improvement. 

Dodd also helped create a website to lambaste several political foes, including Timpani. The site claims Timpani “has a long history of making false claims against Mayor Dodd,” including that he called African-American Alderwoman Carolyn Blackman a “nigger.” Timpani made the accusation during a board meeting before being escorted out by police, according to a New Jersey Globe report.

However, Dodd has also been called out for using inappropriate language recently. A video posted to Youtube appears to show Dodd yelling “pussy” and “fucking cunt” while Blackman and fellow Alderman Fernando Barrios were canvassing for votes last November. 

Dodd responded in a Facebook post that he had been incensed over reports Barrios had been harassing female volunteers of an opponent’s campaign and stealing campaign literature from residents’ mailboxes. 

“While I apologize and regret using inappropriate language during the encounter, I do not apologize for defending and standing up for the residents of the Fourth Ward,” Dodd wrote in the post. “Despite my opponents’ contention, my words were never directed to Ms. Blackman and were solely directed to Mr. Barrios.”

Dover is home to about 18,000 people.

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