Councilman Charles Morgan is vowing to continue litigation against Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh despite the dismissal of his lawsuit by the state Superior Court.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Douglas H. Hurd dismissed the lawsuit on February 18 in a less-than-two page ruling. The judge stated that the court considered briefs and oral arguments from both attorneys and granted Hsueh’s cross motion for summary judgment and denied Morgan’s motion for summary judgment.
However, Morgan subsequently filed two new motions with the court — one to reconsider and another to amend his original complaint, as well as a 14-page brief.
“I’ve cited to the judge Supreme Court decisions that very clearly say the judge should not have done what he did,” said Morgan, who is expecting the judge to grant his motions. “If he doesn’t, I’ll go to the Appellate Division and seek reversal.”
Morgan has also sent a settlement offer to the mayor’s attorney. “If the mayor accepts my offer, I will withdraw the motion,” he said.
In his settlement offer, sent to Steven Secare, of the Secare, Ryan, & Hensel law firm in Toms River, Morgan proposes an amendment to the township code that would state that a council member “may at any time require a written report on any aspect of the government or the township by making a written request to the mayor, who shall provide such report within a reasonable period of time. The mayor shall affix his signature to such report. The mayor may provide an E-mail response to a written request for a report submitted by E-mail.”
Morgan said it was “outrageous that a mayor would ignore members of council and that the mayor would refuse to provide a report that New Jersey statute and West Windsor ordinance say a member of council could request.”
“That’s an ambiguity the court needs to resolve,” he said. “Another question is, ‘Can the mayor delegate that to his staff and avoid accountability for the report?’ He might certainly delegate preparation of the report to the staff, but he ought to be the author of the report so he can be held responsible.”
Morgan said the mayor “talks a lot about working together, but he doesn’t walk the talk. His attitude is, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’”
The dismissal came several days before the council was scheduled to vote on paying attorney fees for the mayor’s defense. To date, the township has spent $15,628 in defense attorneys fees for the mayor since Morgan brought the lawsuit in January, 2010. The first $10,000 was authorized previously, and the remaining $5,628 that has accrued since was approved on February 22.
The approval was made after the council spoke with Secare in closed session.
Morgan filed the civil suit in Mercer County Superior Court claiming that the mayor failed to provide a report with information about the 2010 municipal budget that the councilman believes he is entitled to under the township’s Faulkner Act form of government.
“It’s a big relief for me and big relief for the staff working in the administration, and I’m hoping that after going through all of this, Mr. Morgan will not continue to file these kinds of frivolous lawsuits,” said Hsueh. “It’s really a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
This is not the only legal action Morgan has taken against Hsueh over the past two years. A week before the May, 2009, election, in which Morgan ran against Hsueh for the mayoral seat, Morgan filed a complaint with the county prosecutor’s office, alleging that the mayor and Councilwoman Linda Geevers “illegally used Township administrative staff, and hence the public money, in furtherance of their political campaign.” The suit also named Township Attorney Michael Herbert. The prosecutor’s office cleared the mayor and Geevers, as well as Herbert.