Fulop files his side of the ballot initiative argument

Last week, Jersey City Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis filed an 11th hour challenge to Councilman Steve Fulop’s signatures to put

Last week, Jersey City Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis filed an 11th hour challenge to Councilman Steve Fulop’s signatures to put one of his two reform initiatives on the ballot.

Today, Fulop shot back with by presenting his side of the legal argument to Municipal Clerk Robert Byrne, written by attorney and Brian M. Nelson. He also submitted an extra 600 signatures.

Fulop, who’s considering a mayoral bid next May, has spent the greater part of the last year collecting signatures for two initiatives for November’s general election: one bars contractors that do business with the city from donating to public officials. The other, which was challenged by Matsikoudis, would bar city council members from accepting more than one taxpayer-funded salary (Six of the nine council members hold more than one public job, while Councilman Steve Lipski runs a charter school).

Fulop had collected close to 3,000 signatures for the second initiative but submitted about 1,800 so as not to trigger a special election. Matsikoudis argued that a state law requires not signatures from a number of people equivalent to 10% of the people who voted in November’s general election, but 10% of all registered voters in Jersey City – meaning that he would need about 12,000 signatures.

Nelson challenged Matsikoudis’s assertion on three counts: that the law Matsikoudis cites refers specifically to fixing salaries, not barring double dipping; that most prescedent cases cited by Matsikoudis don’t address the requirement of 10% of all registered voters; and that the state supreme court has ruled repeatedly that municipal ordinances are not exempt from becoming referenda.

“Mayor Healy’s lawyer is trying to change the rules of the game in the ninth inning but we aren’t going to let it happen,” said Fulop in a statement. “We expect the city clerk to certify the petitions so Jersey City voters can have their say about double dipping politicians….. It’s clear that the mayor isn’t interested in putting an end to the practice of double dipping – he wants to fight this initiative every step of the way. Besides being a councilman, I’m a United States Marine and I look forward to a good fight.”

Whatever Byrne decides, both sides acknowledge that the case will likely wind up in court. Fulop files his side of the ballot initiative argument