Montclair Township operates under the Optional Municipal Charter Law (OMCL) popularly known as the Faulkner Act. This law is commonly called the Faulkner Act in honor of the late Bayard H. Faulkner, former Mayor of Montclair and Chair of the State Commission on Municipal Government.
The Commission was charged with the duty of “inquiring into the structures of local government and suggesting ways laws might be changed to provide the fullest opportunity for local self-government consistent with the interest of the State as a whole.”
The OMCL provides for several forms of government. In 1980 the Township voted to adopt the “council-manager” plan. In the council-manager plan there is only one directly elected power center: the council. The manager, while chief executive and administrative officer of the municipality, is appointed by the council and can be suspended and removed by a majority vote of the council. The manager’s function is to carry out the will of the council.
The council members in the council-manager plan serve a four-year term. In Montclair, council members serve concurrent terms and all terms expire at the same time (except for vacancies). The power and function of the council in the council-manager plan is short and to the point: All powers of the municipality and the determination of all matters of policy shall be vested in the municipal council, except as otherwise provided by this act, or by general law. The council-manager plan is a legislative supremacy, and thus the setting of policy is the responsibility of the council alone.
The mayor in the Council-Manager Plan is a member of the council. As stated earlier, there are two options for electing the mayor under the council-manager plan: by the council or by the voters. In Montclair the mayor is elected by the voters and serves a four-year term.
But regardless of how the mayor is chosen under the council-manager plan, his/her duties are exactly the same: he/she presides over the council and, as a member, has a voice and vote in its proceedings. Aside from the power to appoint the trustees of the public library, and the members of the board of education in council-manager communities which have appointed boards, the mayor in the council-manager plan has no executive powers; he is simply the primus inter pares, the first among equals on the council.
The Manager in the Council-Manager Plan
The manager serves an indefinite term, and can be suspended and removed by a majority vote of the council, provided that the correct procedures are followed. The manager has the following functions:
I. Executive functions of the manager:
A. He is the chief executive and administrative official of the municipality
B. Appoints and removes all department heads and all other officers and employees
1. Except for the:
- municipal clerk
- tax assessor
- township attorney
The council makes these appointments
2. The council has the option to appoint the:
- municipal attorney
- planning board
- zoning board of adjustment
C. Investigate any officer or department of the municipality
II. Policy-making functions of the manager
A. Attend all meetings of the council with the right to take part in discussion, but without the right to vote
B. Recommend necessary or expedient measures to the council
III. Contractual functions of the manager
A. Negotiates contracts for the municipality, subject to council approval
B. Sees that all contract and franchise terms are kept and performed
IV. Fiscal functions of the manager
A. Prepares the municipal budget
B. Advises the council as to the financial condition of the municipality
V. Ministerial functions of the manager
A. Makes an annual report to the Council