Eruv

Back to square one, now with state monitoring

This Thursday, the Mahwah council is set to discuss one of the first steps required by the agreement with the AG.

During the eruv controversy last year, Mahwah adopted an ordinance (#1816) making it forbidden “to run or string any public service utility” near a park (as well as dozens of other actions including “abetting” the playing of ball games).

While this ordinance was not the subject of a civil rights lawsuit, it contained provisions that might have been construed to target an eruv or selectively target (((people using parks))), as we mentioned last year when it was adopted.

Confirming the problematic nature of the ordinance, exactly one year ago, Chief Batelli informed Eruv Litigation that, despite the vague language of the law, “officers would not interfere or take any action against anyone who was simply tossing a ball back or forth with someone.”

As part of the AG settlement, Mahwah must clarify this ordinance to remove the possibility of it being applied to an eruv. Instead, general development codes would apply, which have never prohibited the attachment of PVC pipes to utility poles in Mahwah.

A year later, and we are back to the same spot where we began.

If only Mr. Hermansen and the Council heeded the warnings we provided.

1816_changes pursuant to AG Settlement

Mahwah Settlement with AG

Below is the settlement between Mahwah and the NJ Office of the Attorney General. This closes the lawsuit brought last year by previous Attorney General Christopher Porrino over what he saw as a civil rights violation and attempt to ban Orthodox Jews from the township’s public parks.

Mahwah agrees to:

  • Not violate NJ’s Law Against Discrimination in any future decisions
  • Notify the AG before introducing any new laws affecting access to township parks.
  • Notify the AG before introducing any new laws affecting posting on utility poles.
  • Modify township code to make it clear that devices on utility poles other than signs are unregulated
  • Make a public statement against discrimination and harassment of others in township parks
  • Keep records of complaints related to existing ordinances governing township park use and present a quarterly report on their enforcement to the AG.
  • Allow lechis to be installed on utility poles in the township and investigate any damage to them as a criminal offense.
  • Make a suspended payment of $350k to the AG for legal fees and penalties. The payment will be cancelled after four years if no evidence of further discrimination is found, at which point notifications and quarterly reports will no longer be required.

 

17cv11988_25-1

Breaking: Challenge To Mayoral Recall Filed (document embedded below)

As the Bergen Record posted yesterday: Mahwah mayor files 12-page challenge to recall petitions.

We have obtained the letter and posted it in full below.

“The recall petition has been reviewed by the best election law firm in the state of New Jersey,” Laforet said in a statement. “They have concluded as a matter of law that the recall effort fraudulently solicited signatures and collected petitions. The Recall Petition needs to be dismissed.”

This is a developing story and as more information is received, we will post it.

Stay tuned.

Breakdown of argument in the Mayor’s objection:

  1. Recall Petitions must be signed by all people collecting signatures and this was allegedly not done here.
  2. If a statement is made in support of the recall, the subject gets to include a statement in response.  Since no statement was included, no response was permitted either. However, the Mayor has provided a document (attached as Exhibit A) that allegedly accompanied the recall petitions.
  3. 25% of the registered voter total must sign recall petitions.  This threshold was allegedly not met after “reviewing the Recall Election Officials own notes, as well as the elimination of duplicate signatures, unregistered individuals, those who are otherwise unqualified, false indorsements where someone appears to have signed on behalf of a purported voter, and those not registered to vote as of the date of their indorsement, the number of qualified signatures drops below the aforementioned threshold.”
  4. The Mayor alleges that Township officials, including the clerk have failed to remain neutral in the process of the recall by their “failure to maintain copies of government records, and in allowing the Recall Committee to modify the Recall Petition following its filing.”
  5. The Mayor alleges that political opponents “are driving the Recall Petition efforts behind the scenes in an attempt to defy the will of the voters of Mahwah who twice elected Mayor Laforet”. That petitions were misrepresented as “polls” or that signatures were needed to get his name on the ballot, in addition to other improprieties.
2018-07-25_Objection to Petition to Recall Mayor Laforet

Why hasn’t the NJAG case concluded against Mahwah?

On October 26, 2017 the NJ Attorney General filed a Civil Rights suit against the Township of Mahwah and the Township Council members.  The suit alleged discriminatory animus infused in ordinances related to a parks ban (since repealed) and a proposed ordinance which would have implicated an eruv (the Township has since promised never to enact such a ban in the future).

The case was transferred to Federal Court in November and is still pending.

Why?  The eruv action has settled.  Why hasn’t this action?

On December 4th, Robert Moss sought to intervene in the action to protect Green Acres funding on behalf of the public.  Today, the AG and other plaintiffs opposed the intervention.

“Plaintiffs oppose the application on the grounds that it fails to make a sufficient showing under Rule 24, Moss’s intervention will unnecessarily complicate and delay resolution of this matter, Plaintiffs’ position. adequately represents the interest of citizens who seek preservation of open space in New Jersey, and the motion is premature as Defendants have yet to file their response to Plaintiffs’ Complaint and the true issues in controversy have not yet emerged.”

What are the “true issues in controversy”?

Stay tuned… perhaps this case isn’t wrapping up after all.

[SHOCKING VIDEO] Mahwah Resident unleashes accusations of corruption by Township attorneys at Council meeting.

Mahwah Resident Jessica LoPiccolo openly accused Township attorneys of corruption for their ties to Lakewood, NJ

Last night, the Mahwah Township Council allowed several questions regarding the settlement agreement signed between the Township and the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association to end the ongoing Civil Rights litigation.

Resident Jessica LoPiccolo stated to the council that there could be a “conflict of interest” and a “breach of confidential information” based on the fact Mahwah’s attorneys represented Lakewood, NJ in unrelated tax appeals.  She stated that she “also had legal representation look at this and attorneys and all of them also saw a conflict of interest here.”

[ed note — representing another town in an unrelated action is not a conflict of interest in any way.  These are serious accusations and were proffered without a shred of evidence]

The episode was reminiscent of Mahwah councilman (now resigned) Steven Sbarra claiming that a Holocaust survivor addressing the council was a paid actor and imploring those in attendance to “follow the money, folks“.

This was too much for even Township attorney Brian Chewcaskie to take. Chewcaskie responded:

“What does the town of Lakewood have to do with anything?  Besides the fact that it has a Jewish community. Is that your point?”

Council President Robert Hermansen doubles down on the Jewish Conspiracy Theories

At the end of Ms. LoPiccolo’s comments, Council President Robert Hermansen connects the dots from (((Tracy Zur))) to the (((Simon Wiesenthal Center))) to (((Michael Cohen))) and then to Mahwah Mayor (((Bill Laforet))).

Hermansen stated:

“I found out about something also afterwards.  I found out about Chairwoman Zur and how she was involved with the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation too. And it just was miraculous that all of a sudden that we ended up with one thing having one thing to happen and before you know it we had someone who was representing them who was on the same board as she was, here, which just so happened to be someone else’s best friend who is sitting on our dais.  There was a lot of miraculous things starting to occur that I find out afterwards. Piecing things together, that’s all.”

Tracy has always been an active member of her community by serving as a Board Member of both the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey as a Women’s Philanthropy and Executive Board Member, as well as being an active member of the PTA. In addition, Tracy sits of the Board of Trustees at the Gerrard Berman Day School, and has volunteered for Alternatives to Domestic Violence and Meals on Wheels. She also serves as an NLC and Simon Wisenthal Center mentor and serves on the Board of both Emerge NJ and Women for Progress.

  • The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Mision states:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context. The Center confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.

Is it any stretch of the imagination that an organization whose mission is combating hate in a contemporary context, sent a representative to speak at a Town, whose council has been described as “entertain[ing] – and act[ing] under the influence of – public comments rife with hate and bias”, by the State of New Jersey?

The action against Mahwah and the Town Council has not yet been resolved.  I wonder what the reason could possibly be?  Perhaps Hermansen isn’t the only person that can connect some dots.

The AG Lawsuit against Mahwah and its council can be found here.


I reached out to the firm of Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri Jacobs, LLC, Mr. Olear and Council President Hermansen.
Mr. Hermansen responded via text “please go away”. I have not yet heard back from the law firm or Mr. Olear, but will update the post if they wish to comment.

Mahwah’s problems are just warming up

[UPDATE][Settlement] MONTVALE SETTLES ERUV DISPUTE (eruv stays)

UPDATE: On Feb. 15th, Judge Vazquez entered a retention order and closed the case.  Normally, after a case is over, a new action may be necessary to enforce the terms of the agreement.  This order lets the court retain jurisdiction so that if there is a need to enforce the settlement, a letter can be filed asking the case to be re-opened.

UPDATE 2: Information and paragraph numbers in the settlement were added for ease of reading.


In settlement papers filed with the court today, Montvale has given up on their six month campaign aimed at prohibiting an eruv in the Borough.

The agreement contains an Exhibit A showing the agreed upon path of the Eruv through the Borough.

In a vote yesterday, the Montvale Council agreed to settle claims brought by the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association against the Municipality for threatening to prohibit an eruv erected in a section of the Borough.

Within 30 days, the Borough will pay the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP $10,000 to cover some legal costs, pursuant to paragraph 20 of the agreement.

The Eruv Association will attempt to use black narrow strips or black or brown color for the pvc piping on the poles (called lechis) unless required to use another color by the Utility companies.

Montvale will have 45 days to get necessary permissions to use the path identified in the accompanying map.  If they cannot get the required permission from private property owners, the BREA may use the map included in the original complaint:

Aside from the $10,000 payment, each party will bear their own litigation costs which may have been hundreds of thousands of dollars had this gone further.

Pursuant to the agreement:

  • Montvale will secure all consents necessary to allow the eruv to be constructed, and checked on a weekly bases in public areas (paragraph 9).
  • Montvale will grant any applications for new posts if necessary to effectuate the plans in the map (paragraph 9).
  • Montvale will make sure the BREA has consent to enter private properties to check on the Eruv at least three times per year, although inspections will be conducted from roadways and publicly accessible areas whenever possible. (paragraph 10).
  • If any approvals are required after the initial eruv goes up, Montvale will promptly grant the approvals (paragraph 11)
  • If Montvale and the Eruv Association can’t get a valid eruv up in 45 days based on the map provided in exh. A, the Eruv Association can put up the eruv according to the plan outlined in the original complaint (paragraph 12).
  • If Montvale ever moves to underground electric cabling, they agree to work in good faith to reestablish the eruv (paragraph 13).
  • No public funds will go towards the Eruv (paragraph 16).
  • The Borough will cooperate with BREA in any challenges brought against Montvale challenging the enforceability of the agreement and BREA shall handle the legal defense (paragraph 18)
  • Plaintiffs will not initiate any new litigation against Montvale for at least 2 years as long as they abide by the agreement (paragraph 19).
  • Plaintiffs agree not to file any further charges with any local, state or federal agency against the Township and/or any of its employees, agents or administrators arising from dealings that have occurred up to and through the date of execution by all Parties to this Agreement (paragraph 19).
  • Montvale will provide $10,000 for attorneys fees to the plaintiff’s law firm, Weil, Goshal & Manges LLP (paragraph 20).
  • Montvale recognizes the decision in Tenafly, that “the erection of the eruv is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion under the First Amendment.” (paragraph 21)
  • Montvale will not contest or challenge O&R or Verizon’s authority to enter into contracts with BREA (paragraph 22)
  • Montvale will not adopt any ordinance or resolution prohibiting an Eruv (paragraph 24)
  • If the Township violates the agreement, the plaintiffs may seek an expedited and immediate injunctive relief through an order from the court (paragraph 26).

THE CONSTITUTION WINS;  THE ERUV BENEFITS

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Everyday Racism: 84 years ago and today

As Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  For the past 7 months in NJ, we have seen a lot of good people saying nothing — as hatred and animosity towards the (((others))) came to the fore.

When a Mahwah Council-member (he has since resigned) mocked a Holocaust survivor and pointed to the “money-trail”, the good people were silent.

Racism isn’t new and hating people because they are different will never go out of style.  But between the violent outbursts we learn about in civil rights battles, there was always an everyday racism.  It’s the story of average, everyday people.  People that didn’t seem to be expressing active hatred.  People that seemed to just want to continue going about their daily lives the way they always had been.

It’s the everyday attitude that lets hatred proliferate when it ceases to be the muffled noise, and moves to the streets.

Eighty-four years ago, silence by good and decent people in Europe let evil triumph, as people took to the streets to advocate the destruction of the Jewish eruv and threw stones through windows of the Jewish community president’s home.

I have seen similar comments of those who threaten to tear it down today.  Not in Europe, but here in New Jersey.

Perhaps, those that don’t learn from history ARE doomed to repeat it.  What lessons are you learning?


Jewish Rite Nearly Starts Rumania Riot

Police Force Brought Out When Gentiles Protest Community Action

(Jewish Telepgraphic Agency)

BUCHAREST, Feb. 13. — The combined efforts of all the members of the police force of Dej. Transylvania were required today to quiet disturbances which arose when the Christian population of the town protested against the execution of a Sabbath duty by the Jewish community of Dej.

When the members of the Jewish community appeared in the streets carrying wire to be used in partitioning toff a part of the town for the purpose of establishing an “eyrev” for the Sabbath, the Christian population began a demonstration, inisting that the “eyrev” symbolizes Jewish possession of the township.  The demonstrators marched through the streets of the Jewish quarters, breaking windows and damaging the house of the Jewish community president.

Although the police of the town, which is predominantly Jewish succeeded in establishing order, excitement still continues in the atmosphere.

(According to Jewish custom, which prohibits the carrying of articles on the Sabbath, except in one’s own home, an “eyrev” — or wire surrounding a district where things may be carried — can be fixed to poles surrounding the district.)

Source [JTA]:

Jewish Daily Bulletin 1934-02-14

[UPDATE] Hermansen & Chewcaskie: How Chronic Liars Deceive You

UPDATE: After claiming the Town Hall meeting will be postponed and that they claim a meeting with the AG will happen in the next two weeks, a stipulation was filed extending the time to respond to the complaint through March 6th.

While I wouldn’t want to make any predictions, it seems that a settlement with the AG would have been an easy thing to accomplish if that’s the direction the State wanted to take.  Perhaps the State, having seen how people are treated at open public meetings in Mahwah, wants to vindicate the rights of the public?  Perhaps something else will be added to the complaint?

What will happen between now and March 6th?  We don’t exactly know.  But we will be keeping an eye on the court docket.

If you haven’t been told about this development by the officials in Mahwah, ask them why?  If you want to keep aware of new developments, follow our Facebook Group: Facebook.com/groups/EruvLitigationInfo/


This past Tuesday, the Mahwah Council abruptly cancelled a scheduled Town Council meeting to discuss the settlement agreement entered into with the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association by the Town.

Last night, the Mahwah council met at their regular scheduled meeting.  They indicated the reason for the cancellation and it doesn’t make any sense.  At the 16:50 mark of the video below, the Council President Robert Hermansen asked the Township’s attorney Brian Chewcaskie to make a statement about the Town Hall meeting.

Chewcaskie said that Town Hall meeting was cancelled base on the advice of the attorneys handling the eruv litigation and the AG litigation.  He said:

the reason it was cancelled, although there was a settlement agreement entered into… there still are continuing actions being taken.  In fact, we have a scheduled meeting with the rabbi and the attorneys to discuss various alternatives they have agreed to accommodate Mahwah and do so. That meeting is scheduled the week of Feb. 20th. In addition, we have requested a meeting with the attorney general’s office.  We do not have a scheduled meeting yet and we expect that that would occur in the next two weeks. Based upon that, it was determined that it would be prudent not to have the Town Hall meeting until after those two meetings are conducted and we would expect that within the next three weeks that there would be a Town Hall meeting for any questions relating to the status of those litigation.  The matter has been resolved.”

This begs the question: didn’t that situation exist before the Town Hall meeting was schedule?

Since the ink was drying on the settlement agreement, Hermansen has been speaking about how they will be meeting to possibly move and relocate the eruv.  Now, he wants to claim that the Town Hall meeting needs to be postponed because they will be having that meeting?

Then Mr. Chewcaskie spoke about the stories people are reading from the internet:

“There’s also a series of what I would call misinformation and rumors — what’s going on, what’s being reported in the media regarding surrounding communities. The Montvale case has been resolved, it has been marked as settled and a formal resolution will be adopted on Tuesday by Montvale.”

I don’t know where he’s looking, but it’s clearly not “marked as settled” on the Court docket. The last entry sets the date to respond to the complaint:

Facts, how do they work?

Back to Mr. Chewcaskie:

“As I’ve indicated to the council, I have no problem addressing any questions relating to the settlement agreement itself, but with regard to any strategy going forward, we will not discuss that until we have some finality, which we expect we will have in a few weeks.”

So, why did the Town Hall meeting need to be cancelled?  I’m very confused.

What does the agreement say about moving the eruv out of Mahwah?

On the day the agreement was signed, Robert Hermansen took to social media to state that “the agreement permits us to have a dialogue for the relocation of the ERUV subject to the agreement of both parties”. (see image)

Does the agreement permit such a dialogue? 

Well, it doesn’t actually speak to it at all.  If that statement is accurate, so is this one:
The agreement permits Mahwah to put Hermansen in stocks and let the community light his pants on fire, subject to the agreement of both parties.

As lawyer and Mahwah resident, Jonathan Marcus wrote in his post entitled “A Lawyer’s Perspective“:

“Council President Hermansen issued a public statement on social media where he stated that one of the primary reasons the Council agreed to the settlement was that “the agreement permits us to have a dialogue for the relocation of the ERUV subject to the agreement of both parties.” This statement is simply untrue and is unsupported by the agreement itself. In fact, one could argue that the agreement states the opposite.”

and

“While Councilman Hermansen might wish to spin this language into saying that it permits the town to have a dialogue with the BREA about relocating the ERUV, the legal reality is that it does NOT. In fact, nowhere in the settlement agreement is the word “relocation” even used. The legal reality is that the only “dialogue” that has to take place results in the event the BREA (at its sole discretion) wants to modify or expand the existing eruv within Mahwah. Even then, the only dialogue required to take place relates to what route WITHIN MAHWAH such expansion or modification will take. The settlement agreement makes it unambiguously clear that the eruv is here to stay in Mahwah (and in fact, may be expanded within Mahwah) unless the BREA itself decides to remove it from Mahwah.”

It’s an excellent post, it goes through the relevant facts and cites to the settlement agreement.  It’s worth your time to read.

Having been called out, Hermansen addressed the issue before the opening of public input at the meeting:

Hermansen: “I just wanna discuss one other thing, because there is a couple of posts that are being flit around Facebook that is just blatant lies, and one of them is being sponsored, one of these lies is being sponsored by our own Mayor, by Team Laforet. So I wanna address that, have you address that about the potential of movement or potentially moving an eruv and some of things are being discussed. Because, some of the things that are being said is that there is no language in there … we can’t do this .. we can’t do that .. we’re not allow to do this … and the mayor was sitting in the same settlement negotiations, and the same meetings that we were, and somehow I don’t understand why he is sponsoring something that is just an absolute blatant lie. So I’d like for you to address that please.”

Chewcaskie: “I’m not familiar with any Facebook posts, however, the agreement provides that the parties will cooperate with any modification, location, expansion, relocation, which is what the meeting [on the week of the 20th] is for.”

Hermansen: “Thank you. Therefore, I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of everything, of it, but I can just tell you that the township council is still trying to work with the parties, with everybody, to find something that is a best interest for both parties on both sides, so that we can do the right thing for the community, for everyone, to hopefully move on so that we can get back to the business of what’s the most important things in this town and start to function on things and start to worry about our taxes and the sewer issues that we have and the things that are going on on Chapel Road and things that are happening in other areas of this town that we need to focus on as opposed to things that have been consuming this town for a very long time.

And personally, for myself, I’ve said this before, we’re a better town than this. We’re a better town than what’s been going on, we’re a better town that what people have been talking about, we’re a better town than people have been discussing in the press and we’re a better place than … we have not been represented to be by some of the people who are sitting up here on this dais, who are not protecting this town the right way. And, I think that the right thing to do now is to move forward, find the right thing. This is where we’re at, we allow the attorneys to do what they’re supposed to do, and we move on from here.”

Having been called out, the council that scheduled a Town Hall meeting to discuss the dialogue, claims the continuing dialogue prevents them from having a Town Hall meeting.  The language they use changes to describe the settlement and those calling them out are branded as liars.

And that, is how the chronic liar of Mahwah deceives the people.

Robert Hermansen: Fool them once, shame on you. Fool them twice?

In July, Robert Hermansen made up rules that didn’t actually exist in an ordinance.  Today, he’s making up provisions that don’t exist in the settlement agreement.

There’s a meeting on Tuesday — it’s time for him to be honest with residents.

On January 31st, the Mahwah Council voted to settle the lawsuit over whether an eruv can stay in the Township.  The eruv stays.

The terms of the settlement agreement are public and they can be read here: Settlement Agreement between BREA and Mahwah.
(If you’d like a break-down of the major highlights, you can see that here: MAHWAH SETTLES ERUV DISPUTE (eruv stays))

Legal agreements and contracts have terms and the terms are made by lawyers to avoid issues of ambiguity.  But that doesn’t stop politicians from trying to obfuscate and confuse the people they represent.

Enter, Mahwah Council President Robert Hermansen on facebook:

In his post, Mr. Hermansen seems to claim that relocation of the eruv is part of the agreement signed by the Township:

Where does the agreement say that?

Let’s be clear about what the agreement does and doesn’t do.

  1. It lays out all the terms:

    This Agreement sets forth the terms and conditions under which the Parties mutually agree to resolve any and all claims as between them set forth in the Complaint, including all claims against each Parties’ officials, agents, representatives, and employees. For the avoidance of doubt, this Agreement shall also resolve all claims or potential claims as between the Parties related to acts or omissions by the Parties (including through their officials, agents, representatives, and employees) with respect to the lechis and/or Eruv that occurred up until and through the date of execution of this Agreement, including any and all claims for reimbursement of costs for Litigation expenses, attorneys’ fees and Litigation costs up to and through the date of this Agreement (which might have required payment by Defendant to Plaintiffs of approximately $311,000.00). (paragraph 2(a)) (emphasis added)

  2. It speaks to payment from Mahwah: The $10,000 payment (or additional amount negotiated in the next 20 days) relates to legal fees and costs only.

    [T]he Township shall pay to Plaintiffs’ attorneys, within twenty (20) days of the execution of this Agreement, the sum of $10,000.00, or an amount mutually agreed upon, representing compensation for a portion of Plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs incurred in the Litigation. Such additional amount, if any, shall be agreed upon by the Parties within the 20-day period. If no agreement is reached by the Parties within the 20-day period for any additional amount, the $10,000.00 shall constitute the full and final compensation for legal fees and costs. (paragraph 2(a)) (emphasis added)

  3. It lays out what the parties understand the agreement to mean.

    UNDERSTANDING OF THE PARTIES. In full and final satisfaction and accord of the Settled Claims above, and in consideration for the Release as more fully set forth in Paragraph 4, below, the Parties agree as follows:
    – “Subject to Paragraph 3(c) below, the Township consents to the existence, restoration, maintenance, repair and upkeep of the lechis comprising the Eruv.”
    (paragraph 3(a))
    – “nothing in this Agreement shall preclude Plaintiffs, their agents, successors and/or assigns from future expansion(s) and/or modification of the Eruv within and/or outside of the Township1
    (paragraph 3(a))
    – “The Township of Mahwah will take no action impairing Plaintiffs’ ability to restore, repair, keep or otherwise maintain the Eruv” (paragraph 3(b))
    – “At the Township’s request, BREA agrees at its sole cost, within twelve (12) months from the date hereof, to recolor and/or replace each existing lechi to match the applicable utility pole as closely as practicable1…. With respect to any work done to color and/or replace existing or future lechis, the Township shall provide a police escort for the duration of such work at BREA’s cost.”
    (paragraph 3(c))

  4. The agreement really does lay out all the terms.

    “This Agreement sets forth the complete understanding and entire Agreement between the Parties and supersedes any and all prior agreements or understandings between the Parties.”
    (paragraph (8))

So I wondered what Mr. Hermansen means when he says that “the agreement permits us to have a dialogue for the relocation of the ERUV subject to the agreement of the parties.”

Where does it say that?  The word “relocation” doesn’t appear in the document.  Did he make it up?

Then I saw this comment by newly appointed Mahwah Council-representative Michelle Crowe Paz:

In response to a question from a resident, council-woman Paz says that the $10,000 from Mahwah to BREA is for “painting/relocating”:

That’s not in the agreement either.  The agreement lays out the reasons for the payment: “compensation for a portion of Plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs incurred in the Litigation.”

Painting the poles is not a cost that was “incurred in the litigation”, therefore it doesn’t qualify.

$10,000 goes to the lawyers at Weil (parag. 2(a)).  BREA pays for painting the poles (parag. 3(c))

The settlement makes clear that the painting of the poles, if requested, is done solely at the expense of the BREA (see paragraph 3(c)).

Had this been a random comment mistakenly uttered on the internet by people that aren’t lawyers, I might have let it go.  But I wrote to Ms. Paz privately before she put in the last two comments and at the very least, she should have asked the multitude of legal talent the Township has hired before making people think the money is for something it’s not.  I also wrote to Mr. Hermansen and he directed me to call the attorneys.

But let’s focus on Mr. Hermansen for a moment.  This episode is eerily similar to what happened with the parks ordinance.  As you may recall, ordinance 1806 was very simple.  It took the words “non-residents” out of the code, limiting park usage to NJ residents only.  That was it, as far as the ‘letter of the law’ was concerned.

Mr. Hermansen replied that an exception would be made outside of what was written in the law. I wrote about this here, in August.

  

The chief of police called out the issue in a letter2 and the Attorney General of the State used that email in his complaint against Mahwah citing:

A Mahwah resident who is not of the Orthodox Jewish faith sent an email to Council President Hermansen expressing concern that her mother who lives in New York would not be able to take her grandchildren to the Mahwah parks. The Council President replied to this resident she had nothing to worry about and that Ordinance 1806 was not intended to cover her situation.  (see paragraph 31)

And now Mr. Hermansen is at it again.  There is NO LANGUAGE that is IN THE AGREEMENT that speaks about a dialogue to move the eruv.  It may be a conversation worth having, it might lead nowhere.  I don’t have a dog in that fight and I would welcome anything that reflects a mutual agreement between the parties here.

But the idea that Mr. Hermansen feels so free to casually disregard what laws and agreements actually say, when it suits him, makes him a very poor choice for representing the best interests of anyone.  Beware Mahwah residents, you have been warned.


  1. Some conditions apply, see agreement for full list of requirements.
  2. Citing the change by Council President Hermansen, Chief Batelli wrote in this letter to the Town’s business administrator, Mr. Wiest:

“The proposed signage contains verbiage which is different from the Ordinance. The ordinance reads parks and playgrounds are open to New Jersey residents and does not list any exceptions.  The signage includes exceptions that “guest of a resident are permitted” and “employees of local businesses are permitted”

 

 

[UPDATE][Settlement] MAHWAH SETTLES ERUV DISPUTE (eruv stays)

UPDATE: On Feb. 15th, Judge Vazquez entered a retention order and closed the case.  Normally, after a case is over, a new action may be necessary to enforce the terms of the agreement.  This order lets the court retain jurisdiction so that if there is a need to enforce the settlement, a letter can be filed asking the case to be re-opened.


In settlement papers filed with the court today, Mahwah has given up on their six month campaign aimed at “keeping the poles clean” and upholding their “way of life”.

In a vote of 5-2, the Mahwah Council agreed to settle claims brought by the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association against the Township for threatening to issue summonses over an eruv erected in a section of the municipality.

Pursuant to the agreement, the Township will put $10,000 in an account to cover some legal costs*.

The Eruv Association will change the color of the pvc piping in the poles (called lechis) over the next 12 months.

The parties will also have 20 days to agree to a sum above and beyond the $10,000.  Sources tell Eruv Litigation that this was the change requested by Council President Robert Hermansen.  It is not immediately clear why an additional amount would be provided.

Each party will bear their own litigation costs which may have been at least $311,000 as of today pursuant to the agreement Mahwah signed.

Pursuant to the agreement:

  • Plaintiffs agree not to file any further charges with any local, state or federal agency against the Township and/or any of its employees, agents or administrators arising from dealings that have occurred up to and through the date of execution by all Parties to this Agreement.
  • The Township consents to the existence, restoration, maintenance, repair and upkeep of the lechis comprising the Eruv.
  • Nothing in the agreement prohibits the eruv from a future expansion and / or modification within and / or outside the Township (the plaintiffs will however confer with the town if any expansion is planned).
  • The Township of Mahwah won’t stop the Plaintiffs from restoring, repairing, keeping or maintaining the eruv.  Nor will they seek to enforce or adopt any ordinance or resolution prohibiting or impeding future lechis on poles.
  • Mahwah can request for the BREA to change the color and / or replace the lechis to better match the poles, within the next 12 months (unless the utility says they can only be a certain color).
  • No public funds will go towards the Eruv.
  • If the Township violates the agreement, the plaintiffs may seek an expedited and immediate injunctive relief through an order from the court.
  • Plaintiffs will not initiate any new litigation against Mahwah for at least 2 years as long as they abide by the agreement.
  • Neither party shall be considered a “prevailing party” and there is no admission of liability.

THE CONSTITUTION WINS;  THE ERUV BENEFITS

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* please note that a previous version of this post mistakenly indicated the purpose for the $10,000. The agreement says: “the $10,000.00 shall constitute the full and final compensation for legal fees and costs.”