Residents want to vote on the ordinance that gives Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford a 15 percent pay raise.

Michael Ein

ATLANTIC CITY — Residents succeeded this afternoon in their scramble to get enough signatures to challenge an ordinance that makes the mayor City Hall's top earner.

The group collected 257 signatures today and Wednesday after the first list was 230 short of the number set by state law, said Jesse Kurtz, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Atlantic City Council in 2011 and mayor in 2009.

That means if all signatures check out, voters will decide whether the mayor’s salary should always be at least 1 percent higher than any other city employee outside the local police and fire departments. City Council set that formula with an ordinance passed April 25. But shortly after that, a group of residents including Kurtz started a petition drive because they disagree with the law and its first implication — a 15 percent pay boost for Mayor Lorenzo Langford next year — in light of the 9 percent tax increase facing noncasino property owners in the resort.

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Kurtz and Harold Mosee, a Democrat and former City Councilman, initially submitted the petition Tuesday afternoon. Their group estimated they had more than the 1,000 signatures, or 5 percent of the municipality’s 20,000-person voter registration – the formula set by New Jersey law.

Thinking today was their deadline, they kept collecting signatures until the business day was nearly over.

State guidelines give petitioners a 20-day filing window from the effective date of the ordinance — in this case, May 11. Kurtz’s group was not sure whether to count business or calendar days. Shawn Cristafulli, spokesman for the state Division of Elections, deferred to the municipal clerk, who already had declined Wednesday to comment on her interpretation.

Matthew Weng, attorney for the New Jersey League of Municipalities, could not provide a definite answer, but said the statute likely means calendar days.

"I can't guarantee you a court would (agree), but usually ... a court would look at this and say, ‘If (legislators) wanted this to be 20 business days, they would have written 20 business days — and they didn't,’" Weng said.

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