Mediation used for planning board dispute

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    The long running saga of legal action taken against the township council, planning board and Board of Education (BOE) will take further steps towards conclusions this week and in the middle of next month. While the council and the BOE have a court date due, both on July 13, the planning board and litigant Martin O'Shea have attempted to strike an agreement through mediation. O'Shea has taken separate actions against the town government organizations primarily for what he alleges are violations by all three of the Open Public Records Act and/or the Open Public Meetings Act. O'Shea spoke confidently that the mediation will provide a successful resolution but stopped short of declaring the matter concluded. O'Shea said, "I believe that we are going to get it done but it's premature to say it's settled." Mediation started on March 21 in a telephone conference, followed by a face-to-face meeting with all parties in law offices in Hackensack on April 18. The attorney for the BOE also attended this gathering but, according to O'Shea, opted out of the process after the first meeting. A further telephone conference followed by a final meeting held on May 16, all mediated by former judge Arthur Minuskin, led both parties to feel assured an agreement could be reached. Councilman and planning board member Joseph Elcavage said earlier this week "The [planning] board has authorized the execution of consent order which will resolve all the issues respecting the planning board and its attorney Bryant Gonzalez." There is a tight deadline for agreeing the settlement as a court hearing before Judge Humphreys on the case between the Planning Board and O'Shea was due yesterday, Thursday June 9. Attorney Ronald Cucchiaro, who represented the planning board in mediation would make no comment on the current position of the settlement or on its likelihood to be resolved any time soon. Cucchiaro would only say "I am prevented from saying anything due to a confidentiality agreement drawn up for all parties." The ongoing matter of litigations between O'Shea and the three government entities has been the focus of much acrimony in the township council. Elcavage has described the legal actions taken by O'Shea as "frivolous" and "unnecessarily costly to taxpayers" The total cost of the litigations carried out so far is in excess of $80,000. Arguments among council members on the validity of the O'Shea litigations, as well as other highly charged issues, have been frequently on view in council meetings. Most notable was between former township attorney William DeMarco and Councilman Robert Nolan that led to allegations of assault against DeMarco on Nolan. O'Shea said, "I think government should obey the law and open government is important to all of us."