129 N.J.L.J. 1060
December 9, 1991
Conflict of Interest: Associate
of Attorney for Municipal Affordable
Housing Agency Serving as Councilman
in the Same Municipality
The inquirer states that he serves as attorney for a Municipal
Affordable Housing Agency (Agency) and has held that position for almost three years. The purpose of the Agency is "to assure that housing units designated for occupancy by low and moderate income households remain affordable to, and occupied by, low and moderate income households."
The Agency, which was established by ordinance of the municipality, is comprised of five members, one of whom is an elected member of the municipal council, and two alternates. The municipal council appoints the members of the agency and designates one member to serve as chairperson. Counsel is appointed by the Agency and is paid from its own funds in an amount set by the Agency.
The inquirer says that an associate was employed by his office two years ago on a part-time basis. The associate, as of this year, was elected a member of the municipal council, but is not the designated member of the council who serves as a member of the Agency.
It requires no great omniscience to see that in a municipality where housing may be scarce, political pressures by councilpersons are apt to be asserted upon members of the Agency and its counsel in favor of their constituents who desire this type of housing. The municipal council appoints the Agency and the latter appoints the inquirer as its counsel, and both are therefore subject to possible political pressures.
The inquirer cites Opinion 177, 93 N.J.L.J. 241 (1970) and Opinion 192, 94 N.J.L.J. 44 (1971) but states that they are distinguishable from his situation. Reference to these opinions makes it apparent that they are applicable. While the situations are different, the conclusions there are apposite to this inquiry.
As long as the inquirer's associate serves on the council and is part of inquirer's law firm, there is an appearance of impropriety which prohibits him from serving as counsel for the Agency.