122 N.J.L.J. 1246
November 10, 1988
Conflict of Interest - Partner
of Counsel to Municipal Planning
Board as Counsel to Municipal Utilities
Authority Within the Same Township
The law partner of the inquirer represents a municipal planning board. The inquirer asks whether he is able to accept a position as counsel to the municipal utilities authority within the same township.
This Committee has consistently dealt with similar or nearly identical inquiries by reaffirming the basic test that an attorney, or law partner or associate of an attorney, "cannot serve as an attorney for any board or agency of the same municipality if there is or may be a conflict of interest in a particular situation." Opinion 67, 88 N.J.L.J. 81 (1965). (Emphasis supplied).
The inquirer suggests that because the regulation of some of the utility authority's activities in the solid waste area may be preempted by state regulation, there is no municipal planning board power over the municipal utilities authority and, therefore, no possible conflict.
The Committee observes that utilities authorities are empowered to engage in a variety of activities which are not preempted by state statute and are properly a matter of municipal oversight and regulation. Furthermore, even as to the preempted activities, the provision of "information" to the municipal planning board and the receipt of "recommendations" which the utilities authority may subsequently accept or reject still constitute a significant degree of interaction between agencies discharging two quite distinct sets of public responsibilities, and thus the traditional principles protecting the public interest would still appear to apply.