The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority accepted a bid from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey last fall, but rejected it for legal reasons later on. The Port Authority has since sued the city.
Now, at a Feb. 20 City Council meeting, the Bayonne City Council decided that the best way to defeat the lawsuit against the city is to sue the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority.
The council is suing to force the BLRA to rescind its Sept. 20 vote that sold 92 acres of the Military Ocean Terminal to the Port Authority.
The BLRA, however, already voted to rescind the Sept. 20 vote last Nov. 1, which is why the Port Authority is suing the city of Bayonne.
The Port Authority claims it has a valid contract for the sale of land based on the Sept. 20 vote. Their lawsuit alleges that the BLRA committed a "breach of contract" and that its competitors had interfered with the contract. The city, in filing a motion to have the case dismissed, said actions at the Sept. 20 meeting were voided because the BLRA failed to properly advertise the special meeting.
State Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri refused the BLRA's request to throw out that lawsuit on Feb. 14, saying that he found no case law to support the BLRA's move to void the deal.
Olivieri also said that he found it strange that no one had filed suit to force the BLRA to change the vote within the 45-day period allowed under state law.
"The City Council was so against the Port Authority deal that it voted to dissolve the BLRA," said Jay Coffey, director of the city's Department of Law. "You don't get objections much stronger than that."
Olivieri said he did not have enough information to decide and suggested the city provide him with more reasoning behind why the BLRA acted to reverse the decision.
"The judge's decision to deny our motion was rooted in his belief that additional facts had to be adduced before he could render a decision," Coffey said. "To grant such a motion, a judge has to be satisfied that there are no open or contended factual issues. Judge Olivieri felt that the record before him was, at this point, factually insufficient for the purpose of granting a motion to dismiss such as ours. Motions to dismiss are not granted lightly by the courts, and the courts are careful to give every favorable inference to the party against whom the motion is made. We are confident that, once additional facts are brought to light for the court's consideration, the BLRA will prevail on such a motion in the future. In the interim, all parties will be working diligently to resolve this situation in a manner that benefits the citizens of the city of Bayonne."
BLRA Executive Director Joseph Nichols added, "While the BLRA had hoped for our motion to dismiss to be granted, the judge's decision does not hand victory to any of the parties involved. Instead, [the decision] calls for further consideration of the facts involved and provides the parties an opportunity to look at alternative resolutions before being forced to proceed with costly litigation and/or lengthy appeals."
Nichols pointed out that Olivieri claimed that the Open Public Meeting Act was aimed at protecting the interests of the public.
"Obviously, the BLRA shares that goal and remains committed to achieving the best possible result for the people of the city of Bayonne," Nichols said. "The BLRA will continue to pursue that goal, believing that in the final analysis, the facts, the law and the public interest will be found to support our position."
The City Council voted to sue the BLRA to provide proof to the court that there was serious opposition within the city to the Port Authority deal.
Chris Patella, the attorney for the City Council, advised against the action. But the council voted to make the move anyway.
Council President Vincent Lo Re and Councilman John Halecky, who were members of the BLRA until last December, abstained.