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N.J. High Court to Consider Conflict Over Mayor-Police Job

Associated Press

November 24, 2010

WILDWOOD – The New Jersey Supreme Court is expected to consider whether someone can simultaneously serve as a police officer and mayor in the same municipality.

Wildwood Mayor Gary DeMarzo contends he should be allowed to do both as long as he’s on unpaid leave from the force, but an appeals court ruled otherwise, forcing him to choose between jobs.

DeMarzo was elected to the Wildwood City Commission in May 2007 while he was working as a police officer. He became mayor in 2009.

Former Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. and former Commissioner Bill Davenport challenged DeMarzo’s job status, claiming multiple conflicts of interest.

DeMarzo told the Press of Atlantic City that he was happy the high court would hear the case.

He said restrictions that would prevent municipal employees from holding elected office while on a leave of absence “preclude a segment of the population from getting involved” in their government.

“I know it’s a bigger issue than Gary DeMarzo,” he said.

Attorney Matthew Priore, who represented Wildwood in its initial case against DeMarzo, has said that if DeMarzo had remained a city employee, despite the leave of absence, “he would have control over [his superiors’] jobs, their duties, and their compensation and simultaneously be under their command on a daily basis.”

New Jersey law does not prohibit dual office-holding by an employee and commissioner in the same town, but no law expressly permits it. Wildwood argued that the two offices should be deemed incompatible.

“I don’t think that you can honestly do both,” Troiano said. “I think, for the good of all governments, no employee that is on the books should be a commissioner or council person.”

No date has been set for the Supreme Court to hear arguments in the case.

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