Optional Municipal Charter Law, 1950


New Jersey's Optional Municipal Charter Law (NJSA 40:369A-1 et seq.) popularly known as the Faulkner Act, became law on June 8, 1950, Chapter 210 of the Laws of 1950. By January 1, 1992, one hundred and twenty four of New Jersey's 567 municipalities had adopted a form of government under one of the Faulkner Act's four optional as plans: mayor-council, council-manager, small municipality and mayor-council administrator. According to the 1990 United States Census, these 124 Faulkner Act communities have a combined population of 3, 717,940. This represents 48.10% of New Jersey's population.

The Mayor’s Role 

A municipality operating under the mayor-council plan shall have a department of administration headed by a business administrator and other departments, not less than two, no more than nine, as council may create by ordinance. All the administrative functions, powers and duties, other than those of the municipal clerk and the tax assessor, must be allocated and assigned among and within such departments. The clerk and the tax assessor are subject to the same general administrative procedures and requirements as the other departments in areas such as budgeting, purchasing, personnel practices, and data processing services, but beyond those areas, in the general practice and conduct of their duties, they do not answer to the mayor.

Each department of the municipal government is headed by a director who is appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of council. Each department head serves during the term of the mayor who appointed him/her and until the appointment and qualification of his successor. The mayor can remove any department head at any time. However, prior to removal, the mayor must file written notice to council of his/her intention. The removal becomes effective on the 20th day after the filing of the notice unless the council, within that time frame, passes a resolution by a 2/3 majority, disapproving the removal.

Department heads appoint subordinate officers and employees and may, with the approval of the mayor, remove these officers and employees. The only limitation on this power of removal is general law.

The appointment to boards, authorities or commissions vest in the mayor with the advice and consent of council unless the general law clearly requires a different procedure or appointment by resolution, in which case the appointment is made by council.

The department of administration functions much like a “chief of staff” under the mayor. The business administrator’s five enumerated duties under the direction of the mayor are to:

  • Assist in the preparation of the budget;

  • Administer a centralized purchasing system;

  • Be responsible for the development and administration of a sound personnel systems;

  • Perform other duties as council may prescribe;

(If provided by ordinance) the administrator, subject to the direction of the mayor, shall supervise the administration of each department established by ordinance; shall have the power to investigate the organization and operation of any and all departments; to prescribe standards and rules of all departments including practice and procedure. This shall extend only to matter of budgeting, personnel and purchasing.

Beyond assisting the mayor in the preparation of the budget and administering the purchasing and personnel systems, the mayor and council define the role of the business administrator and the scope of his/her authority.

The Council’s Role

The legislative power is exercised by the council by ordinance except for measures that do not require action by the mayor which may be passed by resolution. Council resolutions in this form of government do not need the mayor's signature nor are they subject to veto. The following actions may be exercised by resolution:

  • The override of a veto of the mayor;

  • The exercise of advice and consent of actions of the mayor;

  • The conduct of a legislative inquiry or investigation;

  • The expression of disapproval of the removal by the mayor of officers or employees;

  • The removal of any municipal officer for cause;

  • The adoption of rules for the council;

  • The establishment of times and places for council meetings; 

  • The establishment of the council as a committee of the whole and the delegation of any number of its members as an ad hoc committee;

  • The declaration of emergencies respecting the passage of ordinances;

  • The election, appointment, setting of salaries and removal of officers and employees of the council, subject to any pertinent contractual obligations and within the general limits of the municipal budget;

  • Designation of official newspaper;

  • Approval of contracts presented by the mayor;

  • Action specified as resolutions in the "Local Budget Law" (NJSA 40A4 1 et seq.) and the "Local Fiscal Affairs Law" (NJSA 40A:5-1 et seq.);

  • The expression of council policies or opinions which require no formal action by the Mayor.

In addition, the council has the power to:

  • Require any municipal officer to prepare and submit sworn statements regarding his/her official duties in the performance thereof and otherwise to investigate the conduct of any department, office or agency;

  • Remove by at least 2/3's votes any municipal officer other than the mayor or member of council for cause, upon notice and opportunity to be heard;

  • Appoint the clerk;

  • Reduce any item in the mayor's budget by a vote of the majority, but an increase in any item or items requires an affirmative vote of 2/3's of the members.

As of January 1, 1994, there are 65 municipalities operating under the mayor-council plan.