A group seeking to expand the size of West Cape May’s governing body — but reduce their salaries — has turned in petitions to bring the questions to voters in November.
John Rowley, a spokesman for the group, said petitions with more than 100 signatures were turned in Thursday.
Municipal Clerk Elaine Wallace will be in charge of checking the signatures and certifying or rejecting them. Rowley said Borough Attorney Frank Corrado would also review the two separate petitions.
“It’s usually an uphill battle to get petitions like these past the administration’s legal gatekeeper. We’ll have to wait and see what develops,” Rowley said.
Corrado said he has not seen the petitions yet, but the last time there was a petition drive in the borough, over a liquor-license issue, there were problems.
“Last time, I did bounce it for technical defects,” Corrado said.
One petition seeks to ask voters to increase the Borough Commission from three to five members. Rowley said the commissioners seem to agree on everything and the petitioners want more diversity. He said they need 81 signatures certified to get the question on the ballot, so they have a 20 percent margin of error.
A second question asks to limit the salary to $5,000 per year if there are five commissioners and $6,000 if there are three. Rowley said 49 signatures are required for this to get on the ballot, so the group has more than double the required number. The salary range now for the three commissioners ranges from more than $11,000 for two of them and more than $16,000 for the third.
Rowley said challenges to term limits have been turned down by the courts, but doing some research he found it was relatively easy to reduce the salaries of elected officials.
“I don’t think voters in the state know they have a right to come forward and challenge an elected official’s pay. I ran across it last fall, and I thought why not try to do it,” Rowley said.
Corrado said that if the questions make it on to the ballot, it would take a simple majority vote to pass them. He said they are binding.
“If it passes the next election, there would be five rather that three (seats). The same is true of the salary ordinance,” Corrado said.
Corrado noted towns governed by the Walsh Act, as the borough is, originally could only have three commissioners. Only towns with 12,000 residents could go to five. The borough has about 1,000 residents. Corrado said the law was changed in 1981.
The five petitioners include Rowley, James Labrusciano, Sharyn Mead, Christopher Shriver and Barbara Wilde.
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