WW mayor, council duel over attorney

Newly elected slate wants to install its own choice

By: Greg Forester
   WEST WINDSOR — Fresh off their May election victory, the new majority of the West Windsor Township Council plans to force a change in township attorneys despite the wishes of Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh.
   Council members Charlie Morgan and Will Anklowitz, plus newcomer George Borek, will vote down the yearly professional services agreement — through which Township Attorney Michael Herbert’s fees are paid — in a move that circumvents Mayor Hsueh’s statutory ability to appoint the township attorney.
   "The attorney for townships like West Windsor is in a tough spot, because the law is ambiguous, and the council goes one way and the mayor goes another," said Mr. Morgan. "The current attorney tends to go along with the mayor’s wishes," he said of Mr. Herbert.
   Mayor Hsueh said he plans to keep Mr. Herbert as the township attorney, despite the plans of the majority of the Township Council.
   "Regardless of what they do, there are state statutes that govern the appointment of the township attorney," said Mayor Hsueh. "Mr. Morgan says that I have to accept this, but I don’t see why we can’t work together."
   Litigation has also been hinted at, should the Township Council choose to vote down the professional services agreement which establishes attorney’s fees and effectively veto the mayor’s appointment of Mr. Herbert.
   Mr. Morgan said the litigation would take too long to resolve anyway.
   "The mayor’s term would be up by the time any litigation had happened," Mr. Morgan said.
   The council majority has already met with the Trenton firm of Gluck and Walrath, and warned Mayor Hsueh he will fail to receive consent if he appoints any other firm, according to e-mails sent by Mr. Morgan and provided to The Packet by Mayor Hsueh.
   Gluck and Walrath would provide two attorneys for the use of West Windsor, with one working with Township Council and the other with the mayor, according to Mr. Morgan.
   "With an attorney with both entities, we’ll get the level-headed treatment we want," Mr. Morgan said. "We would receive two attorneys for the price of one."
   Township Council President Linda Geevers said in an e-mail it appeared decisions were being made behind closed doors and that the planned actions seemed "political."
   She added, "I don’t believe a ‘we’ve got the votes attitude’ posture serves our residents well," in an e-mail provided by the mayor’s office. "This is an important decision and we need to work with the mayor as he appoints the attorney with our advice and consent."
   Ms. Geevers said she would like to interview anyone who the Township Council would consider.
   "You can choose to interview attorneys if you want, but it would be foolish to go through the exercise because it will be a waste of your time and the time of anyone who you would invite to the interviews," said Mr. Morgan in an e-mail response.
   Mayor Hsueh said he believes it is important to keep Mr. Herbert as the township attorney because of his current involvement in litigation that could deeply affect the township’s financial situation.
   "People need to understand the implications, which could be hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Mayor Hsueh. "The removal of Mr. Herbert would be very disruptive, and could hurt the community and affect the governing of West Windsor."
   Mr. Herbert has been serving as the township attorney since 1997 and was appointed by Carole Carson, the previous mayor of West Windsor.
   "He was appointed before me, and he has done a great job for West Windsor," Mayor Hsueh said.
   The professional services agreement will be up for vote on July 1, which also happens to be the day that Mr. Borek joins the Township Council, giving Mr. Morgan and Mr. Anklowitz the third vote to complete a majority of council.