Question arises as to when proposal could go on ballot

Group of Manalapan residents is seeking change of government


Staff Writer

A movement that would ask residents to change Manalapan’s form of government may not get placed on the election ballot as quickly as its supporters had hoped.

According to Township Clerk Rose Ann Weeden, a change of government question cannot be placed before residents for a vote in either the school board/school budget election in April or the June municipal primary.

Weeden said the change of government question can only be placed on the ballot in the next general election, which would be in November, or in a special election to be held specifically for the purpose of asking voters if they want to switch from the Township Committee form of government to a different form of government being proposed by a group of residents.

Weeden said a special election could be an expensive enterprise and could cost as much as $20,000 for the poll workers who would have to be hired on election day.

Manalapan Republican Township Committeeman Joseph Locricchio is a member of the group that began to circulate a petition that asks residents if they would support placing a change of government question on the ballot.

Locricchio said he disputes Weeden’s interpretation of the state statutes governing municipal elections as well as her initial assessment of the cost involved to stage a special election.

He said the provisionary language in the state statute governing the issue specifically cites the next “…regular municipal election,” which he interprets to mean the ballot initiative could be put either on the April 18 school election ballot or the June municipal primary ballot.

However, Weeden said Locricchio, who is not an attorney, is incorrect in his interpretation of the statute and that the term “regular municipal election” applies to municipalities that regularly hold nonpartisan municipal government elections in May.

If the change of government question being proposed by Locricchio, Republican Township Commit-teeman Andrew Lucas and three other residents was approved by voters, it would mean that the terms of all five Township Committee members would end, regardless of how long those people have left on their committee term at the time the change of government becomes effective.

The sitting members of the governing body would be able to run for a seat in the new government, which is described as a directly elected mayor and council. Under the present form of government, Manalapan residents do not directly elect a mayor. Residents elect committee members and each year the committee members elect one person to serve as mayor for the year.

“I’m willing to cut my own term short because I agree with the people that this is too important to play politics with,” Locricchio said.

According to Weeden, a change of government would also mean that all of Manalapan’s ordinances would have to be recodified. She said the change could affect the employment of township personnel and would mean that people would have to be reappointed to various committees and boards.

Under the form of government being proposed, residents would elect a mayor to serve a four-year term. Five council members would be elected to serve four-year terms (after an initial election of staggered terms of two and four years).

The mayor would in effect be the chief executive officer of the municipality. The mayor would put forward the names of individuals for appointment, but the council would vote on the appointment, according to Locricchio.

Municipal elections would still be held in November and would still involve political parties and primary elections, he said.

Those supporting the change of government initiative must collect about 5,000 signatures of registered voters in Manalapan to place the question on the ballot. That number represents 20 percent of the town’s registered voters.

Locricchio said the petition committee is close to securing the needed number of signatures.

Locricchio, who has lived in Manalapan for almost seven years, said he and the others involved are working for a change of government because they believe the present five-member Township Committee form of government Manalapan has now is not adequately serving the population.