By SUE MORGAN
With none of the intra-party divisiveness seen last month in Wall Township over a similar vote, Sea Bright officials approved Monmouth County Republican Chairman and former Sheriff Joseph Oxley (left) as borough attorney Tuesday.
On a snow-driven night that kept all but a few town residents away, the new GOP majority also gave Oxley law partner Matthew Giacobbe a unanimous thumbs-up as labor attorney.
Mayor Maria Fernandes, a Democrat who had blasted the Oxley appointment as “pay-to-play at its worst,” was absent, recovering from surgery. The council’s lone Democrat, Dina Long, was also absent.
Oxley and Giacobbe are partners in the Lyndhurst-based firm of Scaranci Hollenbeck, which also has offices in Freehold, where Oxley works.
Prior to this week’s appointments, the work of both borough attorney and labor attorney was handled by Scott Arnette, a Shrewsbury-based barrister whose return to the job he had held for 18 years was shot down at the council’s January 3 reorganization meeting by by the council’s five GOP members.
Fernandes and Long saw the move as a political plum for Oxley.
But the GOP decided to keep Arnette under contract in the job of special litigation counsel at a rate of $125 per hour.
Council President Jack Keeler said the majority believes Arnette will be able to successfully litigate the ongoing lawsuit filed against the borough and several private beach clubs by the state Department of Environmental Protection over public access through private property to Sea Bright’s beaches.
“We decided it would be better for the town if he stayed,” Keeler said of Arnette after the meeting. “He has a very good background with the beach access case.”
A longtime borough resident who served as a Democratic councilman
prior to his appointment in the early 1990s as municipal attorney, Arnette was
also not present.
Afterward, Oxley told redbankgreen that he will aim for a “smooth transition” and for keeping the borough out of litigation to hold down legal costs and taxes.
Through a different law firm, Oxley preceded Arnette as Sea Bright’s
municipal attorney and public defender in the late
Kathleen Sheedy was reappointed as municipal prosecutor. John Lane, another Freehold attorney who has close ties to the county GOP, won approval as alternate municipal prosecutor. He was municipal prosecutor from 2004 to 2007, during the term of former GOP mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams