Residents in Fair Lawn's Radburn community are celebrating after the state ordered the association to hold elections for open board seats.
In January, Radburn United (a self-government advocacy group within the community) filed a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
A letter issued Monday by DCA Director Edward M. Smith orders the planned community to open four trustee seats for election, and invalidates 165 votes that illegally adopted bylaws had given to a developer.
"We are profoundly grateful to the DCA,” said Alba Lucia Morales Jiménez, one of the residents running for a trustee seat in Radburn’s upcoming election.
“Perhaps now we can move forward with a level playing field for all candidates.”
The letter states that bylaw amendments that had been approved in May 2017 are invalid and never went into effect, while extensions given by Radburn’s president to the terms of two sitting trustees are also invalidated.
This means that those trustee terms actually ended on December 31. The letter requires those seats and two others be made available for election in accordance with a new homeowners’ rights statute passed unanimously by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Chris Christie last July.
The DCA letter also invalidated those provisions which attempted to give developers of new homes on an associated property 165 votes in the next trustee election, about 23 percent of the total number of potential ballots.
Senator Robert Gordon sponsored the legislation.
"I’m very pleased that in response to my request to the Commissioner’s office, the Department of Community Affairs has advised the Board that their actions of last May cannot stand," he said.
"Now it’s time for the Board to do the right thing and let the people of Radburn select their leaders."
According to the Radburn United complaint, the May bylaws amendments were prepared in secret and then implemented without any notice or input from the general community, and were even concealed until the last possible minute from the majority of the Radburn Association’s board of trustees.
Those amendments set up an election system intended to forestall for as long as possible the benefits of self-government mandated by the new statute. Radburn United's complaint to DCA also lists a large number of additional ways in which the Radburn bylaws are in violation of current state law.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.