'Doctrine of Necessity' Enough for Honeywell Vote, Twp. Attorney Says

Two residents filed a complaint this month, threatening ordinance allowing Fortune-100 company to develop its 147-acre tract.

A "Doctrine of neccessity" was apparent when reinstating two recused Township Committee members for the long-awaited Honeywell vote in October, Morris Township's attorney said Wednesday.

This, however, did not stop two vocal opponents, Robert Burke and Lee Goldberg, from filing a complaint this month challenging the township's 4-1 vote allowing Honeywell International site-specific rezoning on their 147-acre Columbia Road campus.

The approval, following about two years of meetings concerning the issue, paves the way for the Fortune-100 company to build 235 townhouses and expand office and lab space.  

Only Jeff Grayzel, the committee's lone Democrat, voted against the approval. Grayzel, along with fellow Committeeman Bruce Sisler had been barred from voting on the ordiance due to conflicts of interest. Grayzel's wife has a pension through Honeywell and 401K plan with some Honeywell stock, while Sisler is the Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Anthony Bucco Jr., an advocate for keeping Honeywell in the Township.

However, Municipal Land Use Law states that a "supermajority" of the governing body (in Morris Township's case, four of the five committee members) must vote when at least 20 percent of property owners within 200 feet of the property to be voted on file a complaint. Since that happened, Mills said the "Doctrine of neccessity" came into play when deciding to bring Grayzel and Sisler back into the fold for the vote.

"They (Honeywell International) are a Fortune-100 company, they are the largest single taxpayer in Morris Township," Mills said. "They were—and, I believe still are—being actively courted by surrounding towns who would love to have them. I think it was urgent."

Mills said without the supermajority vote needed in the Honeywell matter, the vote would have automatically gone down.

"The 'Doctrine of neccessity' assumes from the beginning there are conflicts," he said. "That's why they call it the 'Doctrine of neccessity.' If an important action needs to be taken, then the better view is, not withstanding those conflicts, bring them back in and let the important public work proceed."

However, the complaint's main argument, Burke said, is not that Sisler—re-elected to the committee earlier this month—presented a conflict of interest. 

"The reason is because he exerted undue influence on the process by making in response to Lee's vocal criticism of Sisler and of the Honeywell ordinance," Burke said.

Sisler has claimed he called Goldberg late one early August night because he received an email from the resident at 11:25 p.m., criticizing his work on the township committee in 2010. Sisler later apologized for the call and said the matter had been referred to the Township's Ethics Committee.

"We don't think there's any way possible for Sisler's vote to stand because he made those phone calls to threaten, intimidate and harass," Burke told Patch. "Moreover, the calls were never the subject of discussion before the Township Committee. As such, the committee's invocation of the 'Doctrine of necessity' couldn't have addressed that improper influence even if it had the legal capacity to do so.

"Simply put, you can't approve something that hasn't been disclosed and considered," he added.

FunkyMotown December 04, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Rob- The arguments you make are well supported and appear more reasonable than the arguments being made against you and your character. More importantly, no one seems to be introducing any new ideas in opposition to yours. On the Patch comment board, most opposing ideas seem to fault you for the manner and/or method in which you convey your ideas. While they may have valid points, regarding the possibility that you could have MORE success in garnering support if you change your methods/tone, there is little opposition to your fundamental argument (regarding despicable behavior of politicians). And you clearly know this, since you have attempted time after time to "refocus" the patch commenters on the issue at hand. It seems that everyone would rather attack you on your character. I understand that the pending lawsuit relates to "proper character", but I don't think it is reasonable to comparing a resident's behavior in an online (or physical) forum, to an elected officials private behavior to a resident. All this being said, thank you to all parties for a truly riveting discussion.
Rob Burke December 04, 2012 at 06:12 PM
@Funky (but chic!): I was just informed that the Morris Township Ethics Board will convene Wednesday the 12th to consider ethics complaints pending against Sisler. Here's part of the craziness of this whole thing. Ethics Chairman Peter D. Manahan, Esq. owns Honeywell stock. He has repeatedly refused to disclose how much Honeywell stock he owns. He said in the newspaper that his Honeywell stock ownership would cause him to recuse himself if he were a Committeeman hearing the Honeywell Ordinance. But he steadfastly denies (and Town Attorney Mills readily backs him up) that his Honeywell stock ownership is irrelevant to whether he can hear ethics charges against Sisler that directly relate to Honeywell and even have direct bearing on the Ordinance and the pending lawsuit. Somehow, Manahan thinks the ethics laws don't apply to the Ethics Committee!!! Uh, yeah, ok.
Kenny J. December 04, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I agree with you FunkyMotown. In fact, the vitriol directed toward Mr. Burke is so baseless while being incessant, yet without any real substance makes me suspicious that this is an "astroturfing" campaign. Astroturfing has been deemed illegal in many states, and if Mr. Burke follows though and determines the identities of those posting in here - well, let's wait for it. Heads will roll! Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing
FunkyMotown December 04, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Unfortunately, I am not knowledgable enough in the municipal government process; what can the Ethics Board directly influence, relating to the Honeywell Ordinance? Could an objective Ethics Board consider the Sisler ethics complaint and determine him as behaving unethically? Would this determination disallow Sisler's Honeywell vote? What would result from the Board determining that Sisler has behaved ethically? It is more than reasonable that a Honeywell-conflicted Ethics Board, should be prevented from hearing any Honeywell-related ethics complaints. I am curious as to what an independent and objective Ethics Board could directly achieve, relating to the Honeywell proceeding. Thanks for the information/thoughts!
Rob Burke December 04, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Two points: 1. In the face of ethics charges relating to the Honeywell Ordinance, the Ethics Chairman has a conflict if he owns Honeywell stock. There's certainly an appearance of impropriety -- but here there's more than that. There's an actual conflict -- if the Ethics Committee were to absolve Sisler, that would help the Township defend the Honeywell Ordinance, which in turn makes Honeywell more valuable. That would also make Manahan richer. 2. Surely we can convene an ethics board that has ZERO relationship with Honeywell. Query why we haven't done so. You should also know that the same Peter D Manahan with an undisclosed amount of Honeywell stock weighed on whether Grayzel was conflicted because of his wife's 401k that holds some Honeywell stock. Manahan apparently concluded Grayzel had a conflict -- and never sought to convene the ethics board. As to your question: The ethics committee can determine whether Sisler violated the Township Code of Ethics. They can fine Sisler for violations. I don't believe they can do much else -- though they have subpoena power and can exercise it in the context of a hearing in which they call witnesses. If they are so inclined...
FunkyMotown December 04, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Very interesting and unbelievable... I am curious as to the substance of the Ethics Board review of the pending Sisler complaint. Rob- do you expect the review to further examine Sisler's employer's connection to Honeywell? Along with the late night phone aggression? These two items do seem to indicate that Sisler's interests in the Honeywell proceedings are conflicted, to the point where he can not form independent and objective opinions. The main indications, in my opinion, is that any reasonable person: a) would be conflicted, regarding the Honeywell proceedings, if the nature of their employment directly or indirectly pressured them into supporting Honeywell, and b) would not lash out, via a late night phone call to a concerned resident, regarding criticism of the Honeywell proceedings, unless they were conflicted. I guess the main expectation is that the ethics committee will not uncover much conflict, because the committee, itself, has conflicts?
Rob Burke December 04, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I suspect the Ethics Board will decline to take jurisdiction, claiming somehow that the pending ethics complaints are supplanted by the lawsuit -- which is not the case. They are independent of each other. That would end the ethics complaints. I believe the ethics process is already irrevocably tainted BECAUSE its been chaired by Chairman Manahan, who owns so much Honeywell stock that neither he, nor Mills, will tell us just exactly how much he owns. That refusal certainly suggests its more than a couple of hundred shares. I bet its well into the tens of thousands of dollars worth. This process commenced in August. Since then, Manahan has been the Chair and has owned a whole bunch of Honeywell stock. Emails I OPRA'd from/to Manahan in connection with his Honeywell stock ownership are equally disconcerting. No one on the ethics board bothered to ask Manahan how much stock in Honeywell he owned!!! And one board member even commented (without knowing how much Honeywell stock Manahan owns) that this stock ownership wouldn't give rise to a conflict. Astounding. There is but one Township Ethics Code and one Local Government Ethics law -- they apply equally to the Ethics Board, the Town Committee, the Planning Board, etc.
John Erskine December 04, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Rob- why do you not have a problem with Funky Motown's anonymity and yet call out others for this? Seems very hyprocital to me.
FunkyMotown December 04, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Because I am funky, duh! No, but truthfully, Rob may, in fact, have a problem with my anonymity! You assume that he is okay with that. I don't know Rob, but I would guess he prefers I was not anonymous. He appears to be a virtuous man.
Rob Burke December 05, 2012 at 12:31 AM
John: I an earlier post in this never ending thread I did state that (1) I always sign my name to what I post & (2) anonymity devalues what someone posts. I do agree with you that regardless of the position someone takes, they should sign their names. I've called out folks who agree with me before and urged them to sign their names on another patch site. Ad guess what? Some of them did. Others continued to say they were afraid and chose not to. And given SIsler's retaliatory midnight bizarrofest, I could see why people might be scared. Having sad that, I'm wondering whether you live in the Township. Do you? I actually don't think it matters all that much, just curious. As far as I'm concerned, you're entitled to your opinion regardless of where you reside. I didn't find your name listed as having a Township address, but that doesn't mean much either. But now that you've engaged me on this issue and I've answered you, may I ask you a simple question? What's your position on Sisler's midnight threatening phone calls?
John Erskine December 05, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I do not live in the township, but a bordering town so I am affected by Honeywell. I do not know all the facts and circumstances other than what I've read on your posts, but I am of the opinion that he should never have called your friend especially at that time of night. I have not listened to the tape nor do I intend to, but it showed poor judgment on his part. In my opinion, there is a big difference between sending an e-mail and making a phone call.
Rob Burke December 05, 2012 at 03:00 PM
John, thanks for your reply. I wonder where to draw the line. If Sisler's vote is allowed to stand despite his midnight threats, what else may he do without losing his ability to participate in the hearing as a Committeeman? Can he brandish a knife at a resident's front door at 1 am? Can he break tail lights on a resident's car with a tire iron? Can he burn me in effigy in front of Town Hall, to humiliate me and tarnish my reputation? Where would it end? Its one hell of a slippery slope.
John Erskine December 05, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I think you might be reaching celebrity status on here, so one might be able to burn you in effigy. lol
Rob Burke December 05, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Funny! I heard a notice of motion was delivered today indicating that Honeywell is intervening in the lawsuits, and seeking to consolidate them, fyi. Its really a shame things went this way. Had Sisler stepped aside, there could have been a dialog -- even Rosenbush was interested in some changes to the Ordinance. Modest compromises to garner Grayzel's vote would have been easily achieved. No one would have been happy -- the sign of a good compromise. And there wouldn't be any litigation -- another sign of a good compromise. I put this in the category of overplaying one's hand. One thing I hope for is that more and more young people -- early 20s -- get involved in their local governments. Mayors, councilpeople, etc. Its time to break up the good ol' boy logjam that only costs us time, money, quality of life.
ryancnj December 05, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Are you kidding me Kenny? The "vitriol directed towards Mr. Burke" all started when he threatened Martatown with a subpoena because Marta had expressed their opinion of disagreement to his on a public forum. Rob is very polite and engaging when someone agrees with his opinion, yet becomes hostile when someone expresses an opposing opinion. "By the way, Marta, I will be issuing a subpoena to patch to determine your identity. I've already sent them a litigation hold letter, instructing them to preserve the evidence they have that will lead o your identity. You know, the email address you used to open your account, IP addresses, etc."
Rob Burke December 05, 2012 at 04:30 PM
O mysterious screen name -- thou doth protesteth, but not about your despicable elected official. Silly...
ryancnj December 05, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Rob I agree with your points!
Michael December 06, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Rob Everyone has a right to their own opinion... Including you... There is no reason though to harass anyone for having their own opinion. Believe it or not, not everyone agrees with you. Not looking at the politics, please respect other people's opinions as they should respect yours and have a healthy debate. People can also have a debate without having to give their full name as long as their actions do not turn criminal. User "Martatown" has done nothing criminal, so good luck with that subpoena. Calm down Rob and come back to earth. You can disagree with the Honeywell situation in our town, as many of us do have concerns about the whole thing, you can disagree with our politicians, as many of us do, but there is no reason to make this personal and there is no reason to go off on rants against someones screen name. With that said, If you want to go on crazy rants, you can still do that cause that is considered free speech...
Rob Burke December 06, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Well. "Michael," that was an entertaining reinvention. But thank you for agreeing that I have a right to my opinion. I don't agree with you that ANYONE believes differently than I do regarding Sisler's Midnight Threatening Phone Calls. I challenge anyone who endorses those despicable calls to come on this board and say so, and sign your name. I guarantee you that no one will. No one has accused "Martatown" of doing anything criminal. Who knows? Maybe YOU are Martatown, or Honeywell, or Sisler -- or even all of the above. But I do know this: Martatown's identity would be highly relevant if Martatown is affiliated with the Township or Honeywell, for example. I'm sure you would even agree with that, even you say otherwise on this board. And I intend to find out. And incidentally, I'm neither "going crazy" nor "ranting." I'm publishing facts over and over.
Lee Goldberg December 08, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Geez...this is really quite the long thread. If anyone is still following along I thought this article might be of interest. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/us/how-local-taxpayers-bankroll-corporations.html?emc=eta1
Martatown December 09, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Interesting story Lee. I guess corporations have caught on that you need to stick a hand out for you share of the entitlement pie. Unfortunately, working stiffs like us who pay everything get nothing in return. Try to ask FEMA for relief from hurricane Sandy...first question is do you have insurance? So if you are a responsible citizen/tax payer with insurance you get nothing! Take a look at Greece if you want to see where we are heading as a country.
Rob Burke December 10, 2012 at 11:21 AM
The comments were left in the Edison forum on NJ.com, the online home of The Star-Ledger. The prosecutor’s office issued a subpoena to obtain the commenters’ internet protocol addresses, unique identifiers that can be traced to a particular computer or network. Investigators then contacted internet service providers to learn the names of those whose IP addresses were used. One name sent shock waves through the department: Michael Palko. Palko, 58, a captain who earns $180,000 per year, allegedly used the screen name "urajoke" to make some of the comments, including one that carried the subject line "Weapons sharpened." On June 21, after a lengthy investigation, he was slapped with seven administrative charges, among them insubordination and disloyalty. He remains on the job pending a disciplinary hearing. In an interview, Palko said he was framed. "I adamantly deny anything to do with any kind of posting," he said. "This is a character job they’re doing
Martatown December 10, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Yes Rob, I see that. There's a difference between a threat and a comment...even if it opposes your views. Not even a close story. and I already told you that your views were not that wrong...just turn it down some. You lose so much crdability. Lee is the one that should be upset and he doesn't post like that.
Rob Burke December 10, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Morning "Marta"! Glad you now agree that Sisler's unwelcome midnight phone calls were abhorrent and despicable. Now that we have some common ground, perhaps you would tell us what you think of this little fact: Ethics Chair Peter Manahan owns a TON of Honeywell stock -- so much that he won't even answer the question how much. Yet he sits as Ethics Board Chair, weighing in on conflicts of interest of both Grayzel and Sisler. Now to me, this is a problem. First, the Town Ethics Code and State law both prohibit an official like Ethics Chairman from participating in a matter that they have a direct or indirect financial or personal interest or involvement. Appearances of impropriety are also prohibited. The Ethics Board decision has ramifications on the litigation challenge of the Honeywell Ordinance -- the success or failure of such challenge has a direct impact on Manahan's net worth. Your thoughts? (I hope this post meets with your politeness standards...)
Martatown December 10, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Yes, very polite Rob...been watching the self-help anger management DVDs I sent you? Despicable?? Not really to me compared to what goes on in politics in this country. Bad idea, dumb idea, wrong....yes. Any ethics committee that weighs in on matters concerning the people that appointed them is absurd. It's like the old board of directors gag. Ok Rob, I've been feeding you material for a long time. If it wasn't for me, you'd be talking to yourself here and that does nothing to help your cause. Can you at least admit to me that a large part, or at least a little of this, has to do with your proximity to Honeywell and that your group had little effect in squashing the project? It can't all be about an inappropriate phone call. I wouldn't want it in my backyard either!
Motown Resident December 10, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Morristownship politicians have run ruck-saw for the last 25 years, it's about time someone held them accountable.
Rob Burke December 10, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Hate to disappoint you but I don't really care about the Honeywell redevelopment except to the extent it negatively affects my taxes. Since there has been no genuine, honest evaluation of the tax impact of the redevelopment, I remain very concerned it will make my taxes skyrocket. And yes, my participation in this lawsuit is focused entirely on the good ol boy shenanigans of Sisler, Mancuso, Caffrey, Rosenbush, Mills & Manahan.
Rob Burke December 10, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Time will tell, but at least they have to answer for a few things now.
Rob Burke December 10, 2012 at 02:40 PM
THIS JUST IN!!! In response to my formal complaint that Manahan has a conflict of interest because of his Honeywell stock ownership, MANAHAN RECUSED HIMSLEF AND THEREBY HAS AVOIDED PUBLIC SCRUTINY OF HIS BEHAVIOR TO DATE!
Rob Burke December 13, 2012 at 06:54 PM


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