The Township of West Milford operates under the Faulkner Act, New Jersey’s Optional Municipal Charter Law, Mayor-Council-Administrator Plan. This plan was added to the Faulkner Act following the recommendation of the County and Municipal Government Study Commission in its 1979 report, Forms of Municipal Government in New Jersey. The Legislature accepted the recommendation of the commission, and added the Mayor-Council-Administrator plan to the Faulkner Act as a form of municipal government in 1981.
The voters of the Township adopted the Mayor-Council-Administrator Plan at a Special Election held on December 10, 2002. The Mayor-Council-Administrator plan provides that an elected Mayor and Council shall govern a municipality with an appointed Municipal Administrator. The Council consists of the Mayor and six Council people, elected at large, in the partisan general election in November. The Mayor serves a four-year term. The six Council members serve staggered three-year terms with two council seats up for election each year.
The Mayor holds executive power under the Mayor-Council-Administrator plan. The Mayor presides over meetings of the Township Council but does not vote except to break a tie. When the Township Council passes an ordinance, the Mayor has ten days upon receiving it to exercise one of three options:
- sign the ordinance into law;
- veto all or any part of it by delivering it to the Township Clerk with a written statement of his objections for return to the Township Council; or
- let the ordinance become law automatically by neither signing nor vetoing it within the ten days of receiving it.
If the Mayor vetoes an ordinance, the Township Council can override it by a 2/3rd majority vote. With six Council persons the four vote simple majority needed to pass an ordinance is also the 2/3rd extra-majority needed to override the Mayor’s veto.
The Mayor appoints, with the advice and consent of the Township Council, the Township Administrator, The Township Clerk, the Township Attorney, the Tax Assessor, the Tax Collector, the Treasurer and such other officers as may be provided by ordinance.
A municipality operating under the Mayor-Council-Administrator plan may create up to six municipal departments by ordinance. Each department is headed by a director who is appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of the Township Council. Each department head serves during the term of the Mayor who appointed him, and until the appointment and qualification of his successor. The Mayor may remove department heads upon written notice to the Township Council. The Township Council may remove department heads for cause after a hearing.
The Council’s responsibilities include enacting ordinances and resolutions, establishing policies, preparing the annual budget with the assistance of the Township Administrator and the Treasurer, and levying taxes. Additionally, the Council makes appointments to both the policy and decision-making boards and various advisory committees in accordance with general law and Township ordinances and resolutions. The Mayor also makes certain appointments to boards and commissions.
The Township Administrator in the Mayor-Council-Administrator plan supervises the administration of each of the departments established by ordinance. The Township Administrator may investigate the organization and operation of any municipal department, prescribe standards and rules of administrative practice and procedure, and consult with the department heads. The Township Administrator also directs the business affairs for the Township, and has, as provided by ordinance, such powers and performs such duties which are not required by the Mayor-Council-Administrator plan or by general law to be exercise by the Mayor, Township Council or other officer, board or body. The Township Administrator serves during the term of the Mayor appointing him, however the Township Council may remove the Administrator by a 2/3rd majority vote.
The Mayor, with the advice and consent of the Township Council, appoints the Township Clerk. As the Secretary to the Township Council, the Clerk prepares Council meeting agendas, routine ordinances and resolutions and the minutes of the Council Meeting. The Clerk is the local election officer and secretary to the municipal corporation. The Township Clerk is also the custodian of all Township records.
The Mayor, with the advice and consent of the Township Council, appoints the Township Attorney for a one-year term. The Township Attorney is the representative in Township-related legal proceedings, prepares complex ordinances and resolutions, as well as deeds and contracts for council consideration, and provides legal counsel.
The Mayor, with the advice and consent of the Township Council, appoints the Township Auditor for a one-year term. The Auditor must be a registered municipal accountant. The Auditor prepares an annual audit of Township financial records and renders other financial services.
The Municipal Judge is a three-year appointment of the Council. An appointee must be a member of the New Jersey State Bar. Jurisdiction includes traffic violations, municipal ordinance violations, and minor criminal matters. More severe criminal infractions are sent to Superior Court in Paterson after a probable cause hearing.
Members of the public are welcome to address the Council at all Council meetings. Each Regular, Workshop, and Special meeting agenda will allow for public participation. Persons who wish to do so may address the Council during that portion of the meeting to speak about any topic. Each person will be limited to five minutes. Regular and Workshop meetings are scheduled by the Township Council by Resolution at the Reorganization meeting in January.
INITIATIVE, REFERENDUM AND RECALL
West Milford citizens, under the provisions of the Optional Municipal Charger Law, have the rights of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall. These powers allow the voters to design their own ordinance (Initiative), require by election the approval or rejection of any council ordinance with certain exceptions (Referendum), and remove from office the Mayor and/or any council member who has served for a minimum of one year for just cause (Recall). Petitions with signatures of 25 percent of the registered voters of the township are necessary for the execution of the right of Recall. Petitions with signatures of 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the last election for the State assembly are necessary for the execution of the rights of Initiative and Referendum.