91 N.J.L.J. 97
February 15, 1968
City Redevelopment Agency Attorney
Tax Sale Foreclosure Attorney
City Sewer Authority Attorney
The inquirer poses three questions:
1. Attorney A is engaged by a Redevelopment Agency appointed
by a municipality under the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:55C-1 et seq.
For this, he receives an annual retainer payable in installments.
He also closes titles for the agency when it acquires properties.
He also is a member of the public library board of the city, but
the latter factor has not entered into the decision we have made.
The statute, which permits the creation of redevelopment agencies by municipalities, provides in section 6 that it shall be conducted by five commissioners appointed by the governing body of the municipality and, in section 7, that the commissioners comprising the agency shall have the right to employ their own counsel or to call upon the chief law officer of the municipality for its legal services.
Thus, it is clear that the governing body of the municipality controls the redevelopment agency, in the sense that it appoints its members. And, since the redevelopment agency is an adjunct of the municipality, its attorney, obviously, must be considered a part of the municipal government. Section 11 of the statute provides that the municipality shall appropriate funds for the operation of the agency, although any bonds issued by it are not, under section 13, the obligation of the municipality.
The inquiry posed is whether Attorney A, under such circumstances, may appear before the municipal counsel or board of adjustment on behalf of a private client. We conclude that he may not. See our Opinions 18, 19 and 20, 86 N.J.L.J. 734 (1963). Attorney A appeared before the municipal council with respect to the adoption of a proposed ordinance affecting a client. The presiding officer objected to his appearance on the ground that there was a conflict of interest. Attorney A denied that there was such a conflict but then took the position that he had a right to address the municipal council as a private citizen and to be heard on the question. The presiding officer thereupon permitted him to be heard. Attorney A, of course, had the right to appear before the municipal council as a private citizen on any matter, but his palpable subterfuge in purporting to address the council as a private citizen, in order to present the cause of his client after the presiding officer had called his attention to the conflict of interest, was improper. It is obvious that he did not appear before the council initially as a private citizen but only shifted to that position when his standing to appear as an advocate on behalf of a client was questioned.
2. Attorney B is engaged by the same municipality to foreclose tax sale certificates, for which he is paid a fee on a case basis. He performs no other services for the city, and the inquiry raised is whether he may appear before any body or agency of the city on behalf of private clients. We dealt with the matter of an attorney foreclosing tax sale certificates in our Opinion 65, 87 N.J.L.J.810 (1964), and said that such employment precluded his representing private clients before the municipal governing body or any of its agencies. This prohibition applies to Attorney B while he is representing the municipality in foreclosure proceedings or if he is regularly or recurrently so retained.
3. Attorney C is a member of the city sewer authority, which is appointed by the municipal council. It is not stated whether he receives remuneration, but that is unimportant. We held in Opinions 52, 87 N.J.L.J. 610 (1964), and 64, 87 N.J.L.J. 801 (1964), that attorneys for municipal parking authorities and members of these authorities could not appear before municipal bodies. We think the same rule applies to members of the city sewer authority, and for
the same reason stated in those opinions. Attorney C, therefore, may not appear before the municipal council or any of its agencies while he is a member of the city sewer authority.