PARSIPPANY — Keeping a campaign promise to Parsippany residents, Mayor Michael Soriano presented his choice for Township Attorney to the members of the Township Council for a vote during the reorganization meeting on Monday, January 1. (Click here to see related video).
The vote 3-2 to accept the Mayor’s appointment of James L. Lott, Jr. as Township Attorney to replace the former Township Attorney appointed by previous Mayor James Barberio.
Councilwoman Loretta Gragnani and Councilman Michael dePierro voted against the appointment, while Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr., and newly elected Councilwomen Emily Peterson and Janice McCarthy voted for the appointment.
Upon approval of the resolution, the audience starting clapping, bursted in joy and cheering that the Township of Parsippany-Troy has new legal counsel, and that former Township Attorney John Inglesino is gone.
James L. Lott, Jr. is a partner at Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP. in the Firm’s Government Affairs Group. His practice encompasses all aspects of land development regulation as well as redevelopment, municipal and transportation law. Jim has significant experience in handling complex and controversial development projects and has appeared before more than 75 municipal, county and regional land use and transportation agencies.
Jim has litigated development approval rights in the Superior Court of New Jersey and represented clients in contested administrative agency actions and permitting matters before the New Jersey Departments of Transportation, Community Affairs, Environmental Protection, and Agriculture, the Board of Public Utilities, as well as before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Transportation Safety Board. Jim has considerable experience and expertise in land development and transportation matters arising under Municipal Land Use Law, Local Redevelopment and Housing Law as well as the State Highway Access Management Act.
Jim has also counseled public and private clients in matters involving compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act, Open Public Records Act, HUD and NJDCA affordable housing and community development programs, and the Local Government Ethics Law; the drafting and enactment of local government legislation; public contracting procedures; the sale and lease of public property under the Local Lands and Buildings Law as well as provided advice in connection with local finance, taxation and budgetary matters.
Jim is special condemnation counsel to New Jersey Transit in the ARC-THE Tunnel project. He also served as legal counsel to the Township of West Caldwell Zoning Board of Adjustment and previously served as an alternate member to the board.
Prior to joining the firm, he served as a Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator in the New York/New Jersey Regional Office of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, he served at the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs as the Commissioner’s Executive Assistant for housing, development and urban policy initiatives.
Jim is a member of the New Jersey State and American Bar Associations and is on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Alliance for Action, an economic development and smart growth public infrastructure support group. Thomson Reuters has included Jim on New Jersey’s “Super Lawyers” list in the area of municipal law in 2008, 2009, and 2012 – 2015. Best Lawyers in America®, a peer review of U.S. lawyers, has included Jim on its Best Lawyers list in the field of Land Use and Zoning Law since 2015.
In a last minute attempt to keep Inglesino as a holdover, Councilman Louis Valori issued a Resolution to stop Carifi from voting on appointment of new Township Attorney at the council meeting of Tuesday, December 19. That resolution was passed 3-2, with Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr., and former Council Vice President Robert Peluso abstaining.
Piro, Zinna, Cifelli, Paris and Genitempo, a firm hired by Inglesino, issued a ten page opinion letter disqualifying Paul Carifi from voting. The opinion letter was delivered to the Council at the special meeting of December 27. In the letter it stated “Under the circumstances in this situation, an impermissible conflict of interest will exist if Councilman Carifi votes on the appointment of a nominated Township Attorney or Special Counsel who will be responsible of Township ordinances for monitoring and assisting with the pending Carifi Litigation”
At the special reorganization meeting, Paul Carifi, Jr., read pages from an opinion letter submitted by his Counsel, Trenk-DiPasquale Della Fera Sodono. The opinion stated “The Piro Zinna Opinion Letter fails to accurately analyze the issues before the Township Council and Council Carifi’s role and responsibilities. Specifically, the Piro Zina Opinion Letter relies predominantly upon the general and stale common law theories and fails to account for the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL) statutory language. The majority of the cited cases pre-date the passage of the LGEL and do not account for the framework established by LGEL. “Upon review of the facts and governing law, I find that no conflict of interest or other legal prohibition under law exists to preclude Councilman Carifi from voting on the appointment of the Township Attorney” said Richard D. Trenk in his seventeen-page opinion letter.
Township Attorney John Inglesino was appointed by Mayor James Barberio. During the eight years as Township Attorney, many of the years Inglesino was a “hold over” because not all Council members, including Council President Louis Valori, voted for reappointment of Inglesino.
In April 2014, Councilman Louis Valori voted to pass a resolution to investigate Township Attorney John Inglesino. The resolution authorized the hiring of an attorney to aid in the Council’s investigation of Barberio and the prosecution of township attorney John Inglesino over their refusal to turn over unredacted bills from his law firm as well as to investigate the unilateral hiring of computer expert Aurora Information and Security Risk. Aurora had previously invoiced the township upwards of $1 million. The hiring of all township contractors require Council approval for amounts over $17,500.
Valori alleged in 2013 that Barberio, Inglesino and former council president Brian Stanton offered to give him a $50,000 township job if he’d stay out of the township’s GOP primary. Valori ran in 2013 for and won a council seat on the same ticket as Carifi, who unsuccessfully challenged Barberio for the mayoral seat in the primary.