There is no conflict for the director of the Parking Authority to also serve as director of the Redevelopment Agency — and be compensated for both — according to a legal opinion issued by the city attorney last month.
“Based upon our research it is our opinion that there is no conflict in having the same individual serve as both director of Parking Authority and the Redevelopment Agency, and receipt of compensation for either or both positions while held simultaneously does not create a conflict,” City Attorney Brian Hak of Weiner Lesniak wrote in a May 19 letter to Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Leonard Bier. The correspondence was included in the agenda for the June 3 Redevelopment Agency meeting.
In May, two commissioners resigned from the Parking Authority and Redevelopment Agency after an open government activist contacted the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) about a conflict in their appointments to the Redevelopment Agency last fall, since both already served on the Parking Authority.
“You have requested a legal opinion from this office regarding whether or not it is a ‘conflict’ for an individual to hold the dual positions of Parking Authority director and Redevelopment Agency director simultaneously, and whether receipt of compensation for both positions constitutes a conflict,” Hak wrote.
“An executive director would have a conflict of interest if he/she owns or acquires an interest in a redevelopment project or in any property that is, or is planned to be, included in a redevelopment project, and if he/she had either a director or indirect interest in any contract or proposed contract for materials or services to be provided in connection with a redevelopment project.”
“The clear intent of the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL) with regard to ‘conflicts of interest’ is to prevent an officer’s independent judgment from being influenced by the fact that he may experience a financial gain or loss — or other ‘material’ gain or loss – as a result of an action taken by him in the official position or by the agency.”
Bier was appointed executive director of the Redevelopment Agency in November with a salary of $70,000 on a contract basis. He serves in a similar capacity for the Parking Authority. He also serves as a development and parking consultant for the Newark Parking Authority and Miami Parking Authority, and is executive director of the New Jersey Parking Institute, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was general counsel to the New Brunswick Parking Authority from 1985 to 2011.