Before it agrees to end its affordable housing litigation against a town, the Fair Share Housing Center‘s lawyers demand cash payments — ranging up to $100,000. The question arises as to whether these payments are a kind of “extortion” extracted from towns.
Questionable purpose of payments
Taxpayers in these towns are usually unaware they are paying off FSHC’s lawyers. Although these pay-offs are written into the signed agreements (which are public documents), it seems town officials like to keep the payments quiet.
What raises red flags is that the stated purpose for these payments varies across the agreements. It would seem the purpose would be consistent if the payments were legitimate and above board.
A limited sampling of just 56 towns reveals payments of $854,250 to Fair Share Housing Center, in exchange for FSHC signing the deals. There are 565 municipalities in New Jersey. With your help, we’d like to include them all.
[List updated June 26, 2019. Updated figures in text appear in red.]
|MUNI||COUNTY||PAYMENT||Purpose of payment|
|1||Allendale||Bergen||$4,000||reasonable attorney's fees|
|2||Atlantic Highlands||Monmouth||$5,000||[none specified]|
|4||Berkeley Heights||Union||$15,000||[no purpose specified]|
|5||Bernards Township||Somerset||$15,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|7||Chatham||Morris||$15,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|10||Delran Township||Burlington||$25,000||attorney's fees|
|11||East Rutherford||Bergen||$7,500||attorneys fees and costs|
|12||Emerson||Bergen||$7,500||attorneys fee and costs|
|13||Far Hills||Somerset||$15,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|14||Franklin Lakes||Bergen||$25,000||[no purpose specified]|
|15||Franklin Township||Somerset||$5,000||[none specified]|
|17||Green Brook||Somerset||$3,750||attorneys fee and costs|
|19||Haddonfield||Camden||$10,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|20||Haworth||Bergen||$7,500||attorneys fees and costs|
|21||Haworth||Bergen||$7,500||attorneys fees and costs|
|22||High Bridge||Hunterdon||$3,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|23||Hillsdale||Bergen||$4,500||ongoing legal expenses|
|24||Holmdel||Monmouth||$15,000||[no purpose specified]|
|25||Hopewell Township||Mercer||$50,000||[none specified]|
|26||Howell Township||Monmouth||$15,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|27||Lambertville||Hunterdon||$5,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|28||Lawrence Township||Mercer||$25,000||[none specified]|
|29||Long Hill Township||Morris||$5,000||attorneys fee and costs|
|30||Mahwah||Bergen||$20,000||[no purpose specified]|
|32||Marlboro||Monmouth||$75,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|33||Mine Hill||Morris||$5,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|34||Montvale||Bergen||$25,000||payment of fees and costs|
|35||Montville Township||Morris||$45,000||attorney fees and costs|
|36||Moorestown||Burlington||$40,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|37||Morris Township||Morris||$15,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|38||Morristown||Morris||$4,000||attorney fees and costs|
|39||Mountain Lakes||Morris||$3,000||attorney fees and costs|
|40||North Caldwell||Essex||$7,500||[none specified]|
|41||Ocean City||Cape May||$15,000||attorneys fees|
|42||Oradell||Bergen||$5,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|43||Ramsey||Bergen||$7,500||attorneys fees and costs|
|45||Raritan Township||Hunterdon||$15,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|46||Red Bank||Monmouth||$7,500||attorneys fees and costs|
|47||Ridgewood||Bergen||$10,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|48||Scoth Plains||Union||$15,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|49||Teaneck||Bergen||$5,000||attorneys fee and costs|
|51||Warren Township||Somerset||$50,000||attorneys fee and costs|
|53||West Windsor||Mercer||$100,000||attorneys fees and costs|
|55||Westwood||Bergen||$5,000||attorney fees and costs|
|56||Woodcliff Lake||Bergen||$7,500||attorneys fees and costs|
|TOTAL PAYMENTS||$854,250||Cash into FSHC war chest|
The 56 towns above agreed to pay FSHC an aggregate $854,250 to settle. This list is incomplete. There are 565 municipalities in New Jersey. Not all towns have settled with FSHC — but there are many more than listed above, so we don’t yet know how much in total FSHC’s lawyers have pulled down in such payments.
Who decides what the pay-off is — and its purpose?
The purpose of these payments is described in each agreement, but it varies without explanation.
Some towns agreed to reimburse FSHC for its “attorneys fees and costs.” Other towns, like Clinton Township in Hunterdon County, agreed to make a “donation” of taxpayer money to FSHC. Many payments were agreed to by municipal officials without stating any purpose.
Why does one town pay FSHC’s “attorneys fees and costs” of $50,000, while another town makes a “donation” of $30,000 — but pays no attorneys fees at all? Why do some towns pay nothing? Are their officials just better negotiators?
Add your town to the list
If your town has settled with FSHC but is not listed, and you would like it added, you can obtain a copy of the “Fair Share Housing Center settlement agreement” from your municipal clerk. The document is public and cannot be legally withheld from you. You may need to submit an OPRA request to obtain it. Your town’s website may have the OPRA form available online. The settlement agreement must be delivered to you within 7 business days.
Please e-mail a link (preferred) to your town’s settlement agreement to firstname.lastname@example.org or e-mail a copy of the complete agreement. Or send both.
The pay-off is usually listed after the other main terms of the agreement are recited, usually in a paragraph numbered in the 20s. Here’s one example of what the clause agreeing to pay looks like, in West Windsor’s settlement agreement:
How much did your elected officials quietly pay FSHC’s lawyers to make a deal?
Thanks to all who have submitted settlement agreements for inclusion.