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Ridgewood Planning Board Appoints New Attorney

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September 14, 2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ,  Ridgewood’s planning board has appointed Chris Martin, of Morrison Mahoney, as the new planning board attorney during the Sept. 6 meeting. Martin replaces Gail Price, who worked for the Village of Ridgewood for many years . Price had been criticized by residents for a perceived all to cozy relationship with Valley Hospital and was challenged when her husband Richard Brooks ran for council.

According to the Morrison Mahoney website , “Chris is the Liaison Partner for the Parsippany Office and has tried numerous cases to verdict involving products, professional and commercial liability matters. Chris has argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court pertaining to construction matters and before the Appellate Division on insurance coverage issues. He has had numerous trials as a Prosecutor and has also worked in the Office of the Attorney General for the State of New Jersey.”

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Nonprofit Hospitals’ Business Relationships Can Present Conflicts

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While not necessarily improper, administrators and board members might be forced to choose between what’s best for the hospital and what’s best for their private interests.

By
ANDREA FULLER and

MELANIE EVANS
Aug. 21, 2016 12:31 p.m. ET

Nonprofit hospitals have extensive business ties that can pose conflicts of interests for their administrators and board members, a Wall Street Journal analysis of newly released Internal Revenue Service data shows.

While having relationships with companies doing business with a nonprofit hospital isn’t necessarily improper—as long as the deals are disclosed and at market rate—administrators and board members sometimes may be forced to choose between what’s best for the hospital and what’s best for their private interests.

“Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate,” said James Orlikoff,a Chicago-based hospital governance consultant. “You run the real risk of violating the public trust.”

http://www.wsj.com/articles/nonprofit-hospitals-business-relationships-can-present-conflicts-1471797105?mod=e2tw

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RIDGEWOOD PLANNING BOARD PUBLIC MEETING AGENDA

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PLANNING BOARD PUBLIC MEETING AGENDA

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Senior Lounge – 7:30 P.M.

(all timeframes and the order of agenda items below are approximate and subject to change)

  1. 7:30 p.m. – Call to Order, Statement of Compliance, Flag Salute, Roll Call – In accordance with the provisions of Section 10:4-8d of the Open Public Meetings Act, the date, location, and time of the commencement of this meeting is reflected in a meeting notice, a copy of which schedule has been filed with the Village Manager and the Village Clerk, The Ridgewood News and The Record newspapers, and posted on the bulletin board in the entry lobby of the Village municipal offices at 131 North Maple Avenue, and on the Village website, all in accordance with the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act.Roll call: Knudsen, Voigt, Altano, Joel, Reilly, Patire, Thurston, Scheibner, Torielli, McWilliams
  2. 7:35 p.m. – 7:40 p.m. – Public Comments on Topics not Pending Before the Board
  3. 7:40 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. – Committee/Commission/Professional Updates for Non Agenda Topics, Correspondence Received by the Board
  4. 7:45 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Executive Session
  5. 9:30 p.m. – 9:45 p.m. – Appointment of Legal Counsel
  6. AdjournmentIn accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, all meetings of the Ridgewood Planning Board (i.e., official public meetings, work sessions, pre-meeting assemblies and special meetings) are public meetings, which are always open to members of the general public.Members: Susan Knudsen, Jeff Voigt, Joel Torielli, Melanie McWilliams, David Scheibner, Richard Joel, Kevin Reilly, David Thurston, Isabella Altano, Debbie Patire

    Professional Staff: Blais L. Brancheau, Planner; Gail L. Price, Esq., Board Attorney; Christopher J. Rutishauser, Village Engineer; Michael Cafarelli, Board Secretary

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Village Council Meeting Tonight : The implications of Monday’s ruling serves to underscore the unwise, biased and, unacceptable for Ridgewood, process undertaken by the prior Planning Board and Council.

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THE RIDGEWOOD VILLAGE COUNCIL’S

PUBLIC WORKSHOP MEETING

JULY 13, 2016 at 7:30pm 

July 12,2016

Dear Mayor, Council and Mr. Rogers:

Below are two articles, from today’s WSJ and Bergen Record, on Monday’simportant NJ Appeals Court ruling on Affordable Housing (AH) that will: (1) substantially lower the overall number of AH units required by municipalities under AH laws, and (2) may cause further delay in defining the actual obligations of municipalities under AH laws.  In the Record article, even Kevin Walsh, the Fair Share Housing advocate (whose threatening of “hearsay” letter was wrongly permitted to be read into the Planning Board’s record by attorney, Gail Price – as if it represented a legal determination – scaring some Board Members and improperly influencing votes) indicated the forthcoming delays from this ruling, saying: “it requires further studies.”

http://www.northjersey.com/news/affordable-housing-ruling-brings-sigh-of-relief-in-suburban-towns-in-n-j-1.1628750

http://www.wsj.com/articles/appeals-court-rules-against-retroactive-affordable-housing-requirements-1468257075

In short, this ruling and these articles support what I, and other members of CBR, tried to convey to the Planning Board and Village Council during the past couple of years of overstated AH ‘threats’ proffered by Mrs. Price:  that the Affordable Housing/COAH matter is, despite her puzzling advice, very unsettled and will continue to lack real clarity, potentially for years to come.  It’s been that way since the 80s.  No Legislature wants to fully effect the laws because they recognize their often impossible demands on NJ’s municipalities.  However, conversely, no legislature, or legislator (other than Christie), has effectively sought to rework them or strike them down due to the obvious political implications.

These laws are just too flawed, resulting in the tumult and dysfunction of the past several decades.  Fact is:  there are no clearly defined AH numbers for Ridgewood right now.  And there’s a chance there may never be.  Given this, our representatives need to govern planning based on “what is right for Ridgewood now and in the future” and not “what minimizes builder’s remedy lawsuits.”

I firmly believe Mrs. Price wrongly influenced the Planning Board decision on the Multifamily Ordinances by alleging that a “Yes” vote was needed on the Master Plan changes, enabling development at the excessive levels sought by developers, to avoid potential developer lawsuits based on recent AH court rulings.  As many anticipated, these rulings have now been lessened, and to some degree, called into question.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Price  never properly educated the Board on how dysfunctional the AH/COAH laws and politics have been (and very well will be), and that until such time as an unlikely final verdict is delivered, they should be wary reacting too quickly to threats from developers.

The implications of Monday’s ruling serves to underscore the unwise, biased and, unacceptable for Ridgewood, process undertaken by the prior Planning Board and Council.  While we can and should promote fitting and proper development (and proper “development process”) in Ridgewood, which does add affordable units to our housing base, we should never have done this in the manner – fraught with bias and influence – that occurred over the past four years.

Beyond this, I believe there are certainly other ways Ridgewood can more properly and proactively plan to meet future AF/COAH requirements.  These ways may be more creative and better for both Ridgewood and those truly needing AH than those put forth by the developers.  I look forward to discussing my thoughts on them with you.  I have been in the multifamily business for two decades, have managed many properties with affordable and moderately priced units, and am happy to share my experience.

Lastly, it is important to note that if members of the prior Planning Board and Village Council voted out of fear of lawsuits, they already got one:  and sadly it’s from their own Residents, the very people they were elected or selected to properly represent.  It’s a suit that alleges decisions based upon conflict of interest, outside influence, and improper representation and, most importantly, seeks to correct the serious mistakes in planning, representation and judgement made by the prior Council and Planning Board.

While the AH/COAH laws truly lack clarity, what is clear is that Ridgewood’s Residents demand proper planning and process.  There is a much better route than the one taken by the prior Planning Board and Council.

Best Regards,

Dave Slomin, Resident

Follow up _________________________________________________________________

July 13,2016

Dear Mayor, Council and Village Attorney Rogers,

My July 12th email provoked feedback from a good number of fellow Residents and representatives various Ridgewood citizen groups, including responses to my letter and the linked articles with concern that pro-development attorneys may contend the appellate decision does not “change anything.”  As the agenda indicates tonight’s Council meeting will address litigation in closed session, I wanted to make sure my comments were placed in the proper context, asMonday’s ruling does impact things here in Ridgewood.

My point is that the ruling exemplifies the significant dysfunction and lack of clarity that continues to exist (as it has for several decades) in the Affordable Housing definitions and determinations at the State level.   This highlights the Planning Board attorney’s failure to properly advise the Board on how to address these issues.   Mrs. Price, as a professional land use attorney, was well aware of this dysfunction and should never have counseled our Planning Board as she did.  By proceeding as if the now reversed lower court decision was new “scripture,” and by either misunderstanding and/or  misapplying other standards, the Planning Board attorney wrongly influenced the public debate and Board members’ votes.  Necessarily, therefore, the Village Council proceeded under a flawed process and construct.

I do understand that whether State rulings ultimately determine that Ridgewood owes 50, or 100, or 500, or 1,000, or 100,000,000 affordable units, we are well short of that number and need to provide some additional AH units.  From that singular perspective the ruling has a more limited impact. However, that is not the issue at hand.  Rather, the issue is the defective and conflicted process in our municipal governance effecting the passage of recent pro-development ordinances.  As such, what the appellate court’s decision signifies to me – as a multifamily real estate professional, with several decades of experience – is that the law has been and will be in a state of flux for some time to come.  That no one can predict with certainty what will happen should definitely have been strongly conveyed to the Planning Board and Village Council prior to their votes.  It was not. That is why the willingness of the prior majorities on the Council and Planning Board to side with those speculating with our downtown  is so particularly egregious.  Rather than react and surrender to an imagined obligations, or cave to the potential of developer lawsuits, Ridgewood should have performed correct and proper master planning with proper construct and counsel.  There were so many things wrong and biased in their failed excuse for “planning.”  You have the opportunity to begin the process of correcting this and protect Ridgewood from reckless overbuilding now and in the future.

Thus, I urge the newly constituted Council to address all pending litigation in view of the voters’  mandate.  And you do have a clear cut mandate.  Mayor Knudsen and Deputy Mayor Sedon both won their council seats in a landslide two years ago.  And in the recent election, not only did Councilmembers Voigt, Hache and Walsh win in another landslide, but they routed the candidates heavily promoted by Aronsohn, Pucciarelli and Hauck to promote furtherance of development at the excessive scale and density recently passed.  Then, subsequent to these elections, Residents next defeated the oversized garage by a vote of 2 to 1.  These were not just victories.  They were repudiations.  They represent the voices and the clarity with which Ridgewood Residents speak and vote once we know the truth.  Residents have spoken.  You know very well what your constituents want.  The recent votes leave no questions whatsoever.  Your actions need to reflect the mandate we gave you.

Now is the perfect opportunity for the Village to move forward in acknowledgement of the serious issues raised by litigation in the housing and  hospital lawsuits. With these suits, along with the garage referendum matter, you need to rectify Ridgewood’s core problems.  Let’s show progress by first openly acknowledging that serious mistakes were made by the prior Council and Board Members.   We all know it… our votes showed it.  A perfect starting point for that is to recognize the legitimacy of the issues raised by our fellow citizens’ lawsuits, and settle those lawsuits as strong representatives of your constituents and not as officials fearful of outside interests.  Then, let’s redirect the Village’s resources to focus on the developers with either settlement talks or continuing litigation, whatever is required to do what is truly right for Ridgewood.  If you do what’s right, you will have our endless support.  If any shortcuts are taken, Ridgewood’s divisions will sadly remain.  And it’s time to end our divisions.

Lastly, please note I am including Mayor Knudsen in this email, as I entered her email incorrectly in my email of 7/12.

I look forward to your response.

Best Regards,

Dave Slomin

Concerned Resident

 

 

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N.J. judge: Ridgewood has 90 days to clear way for Valley Hospital expansion

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BY STEVE JANOSKI
STAFF WRITER |
THE RECORD

RIDGEWOOD — A state judge ruled Thursday that the Village Council has 90 days to adopt an ordinance putting into effect master plan changes that clear the way for a vast expansion by The Valley Hospital, or else the hospital may “move to enforce” her decision through a court-appointed special master.

The ruling, issued by state Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia, said the council ordinance must be consistent with April Planning Board approvals allowing the hospital to nearly double in size, from 565,000 square feet to 961,000.

http://www.northjersey.com/news/n-j-judge-ridgewood-has-90-days-to-clear-way-for-valley-hospital-expansion-1.1624628

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Shakespearean tragedy in Ridgewood

Valleywood_theridgewoodblog
May 26,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, The CRR vs. PB and Valley complaint reads like a Shakespearean tragedy (or comedy), brought about by Valley’s scorched earth tactics and Gail Price’s hubris.  How so?
First, during those “Whispering Woods” hearings, Valley attack dog/super lawyer Jon Drill sends an oh-so polished legal brief to the Board demanding Wendy Dockray be recused for being on Jeff Voigt’s campaign team.  What a smarty pants Jon must have thought he was.  But OOPS, wait a minute Jon, guess you didn’t know that Valley’s second favorite attorney, Ms Gail Price, is married to candidate Richard Brooks? (Hurrah for women who retain their maiden names.)  You didn’t see that one coming, did ya?  And as a good attorney like Jon knows, the ethics rules that govern lay people (like Dockray) go QUADRUPLE for attorneys. It’s called the “appearance of impropriety” standard, meaning CRR doesn’t need to prove there will be a new “Price-Brooks” wing at Valley; there just needs to be the potential for some stank.  But to make it ACTUALLY stanky, when confronted with the conflict allegation in public, Gail still refused to step down as PB attorney and went straight to Facebook and threatened anyone in Ridgewood with “libel” for mentioning that she and Rich are married.
Gail hurdled “impropriety” and went straight to the “F–k you all, I know what’s best for Ridgewood” standard.  That’s why I’m betting we say bye-bye to that mediated settlement, and perhaps to Gail as well. And as for Drill, though he can’t unhoist himself from that petard, I’m thinking Queen Audrey will give him a reprieve because she didn’t know Price and Brooks were married either.
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Ridgewood Planning Board Attorney and Planning Board Member get hit With Conflict of Interest allegations

Valleywood_theridgewoodblog
May 23,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, the Ridgewood blog has conducted an investigation of series of conflict of interest changes surrounding the “Whispering Woods ” hearings .Initially Valley’s attorney Jonathan Drill challenged planning board member Wendy Dockray for being part of the “campaign team” of then Village Council Candidate Jeff Voigt.

In a letter to Planning Board Chairmen Charles Nalbantian Drill asked that Wendy Dockray recuse herself or the planning board should disqualify her.

Drill referenced a letter posted on the Ridgewood blog in which Jeff Voigt expressed both skepticism and opposition to the Valley Settlement.  Drill used Jeff’s own words against him by quoting him saying a board member should recuse if “even a whiff of a conflict of interest” .
Kevin Mattessich ,Wendy Dockray’s attorney fired back using Mr.Drill’s arguments against him ,challenging Planning Board attorney Gail Price and her husband Richard Brooks who was at the time running for Village Council , Mattessich went further saying not only Price but Price’s law firm should recuse and board should retain independent council. Observers speculate if applied consistently the entire “Valley Expansion” process  can be viewed as tainted and undermined .
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Reader takes issue with Ridgewood Planning Board Attorney’s Comments

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Mrs. Price is not correct that there are two blocs. There is one bloc running, and there are also three independent candidates. Three candidates have intentionally aligned themselves together, that is Brooks Willett and Weitz. They made it very clear that they are together, and even ran a full-page ad in the Ridgewood News to this effect. The other three candidates are not a bloc. They are independent of each other. The fact is that many MANY people support the three of them, Walsh, Hache, and Voigt. That does not change the fact that the three of them are running independently.

Next, the Attorney for the Planning Board is paid by taxpayer dollars and as such that person works for the Village. You can depict it any which way you want, but the fact remains that the Planning Board Attorney is paid for by us. So there is nothing inaccurate or twisted in stating that one of the candidates, Richard Brooks, is married to the Planning Board Attorney and as such this looks like a conflict. Granted most of the Planning Board business does not come to the Village Council for consideration or action……but some things do. And there are two representatives from the Village Council who serve on the Planning Board. There would be a potential for husband and wife to be together in this. I’m sorry, if it looks like a conflict and it smells like a conflict then it must be a conflict.

Next, the comment about “tradespersons” possibly making more than $125 an hour…..this is wrong on so many levels. Now correct me if I’m wrong here, but it sure sounds like Mrs. Price thinks she is superior to “tradespersons” and therefore her measly $125 an hour should be increased because maybe a plumber or carpenter makes more. Kiss my A*** Mrs. Price Brooks. You don’t like your hourly wage? Then don’t take it. We can get another PB attorney, and we would be lucky to be rid of such a disgruntled one. You think lowly tradespersons should not make as much as you? I’m betting they do a much better job than you do!

HACHE VOIGT WALSH are the three to elect. Save us from four more years of this systematic destruction of Ridgewood.

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Reader asks will Brooks ever be able to vote on any subject whatsoever that has been addressed by the Ridgewood Planning Board?

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A question about Brooks – – since his wife is the planning board attorney who steered the Valley expansion through the Planning Board, will he ever be able to vote on a Valley related matter one way or the other? Won’t there always be a conflict of interest presented by the concern that he is merely voting to prop up and validate her advice to the Board during their deliberations?

For that matter, will Brooks ever be able to vote on any subject whatsoever that has been addressed by the Planning Board? Isn’t he going to have to sit on the sideline during the next couple of years? Even if she and her firm were to resign now from the planning board, the big decisions of the past few years are going to be fine tuned and acted on by the council over the next couple of years.

In that case, electing Brooks would equate to electing an empty chair.

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Readers point even more conflicts of interest at Ridgewood Village Hall

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Readers point even more conflicts of interest in Village Hall .”Wait , so planning board approved the high density housing they were advised by Gail Price. Then when council conducted the studies – they were conducted through Village Manager’s office. Village Manager’s assistant, who was coordinating all those studies and providing data to the external firms is spouse of a counsel at Gail Price’s office.

NJ Law states that a conflict of interest need not be financial in nature but merely a perception of partiality to the issue in question.

Gail Price is the planning board attorney and has her own law firm. Her husband wants to be Ridgewood Councilman. Well lets see who else is connected. Richard M. Fricke works for Gail Price’s firm and his wife Janet is the assistant to our Village Manager .

Finally, the dots are connected! Janet Fricke is connected to the Library cabal. She is a political appointee, not civil service.”