The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders will try again to hire an attorney or a law firm to represent the county in an anticipated action against the state that will challenge the legality of a directive that was issued by the attorney general.
During a meeting on Nov. 26, the freeholders declined to make appointments from a previous request for proposals from legal firms. At the same time, they authorized the re-issuance of a request for proposals for professional services.
In explaining why a second request for proposals was being issued, Michael Fitzgerald, the county counsel, said, “I was uncomfortable with the level of experience and expertise” of the respondents to the initial request for proposals.
Fitzgerald previously said the legal action the county may file against the state is “outside the course of normal business” and that is why outside counsel is being sought.
According to the freeholders, the Monmouth County jail, which is operated by the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, has been participating in a federal program referred to as 287(g).
A memorandum of understanding between the sheriff’s office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “delegates nominated, trained, certified and authorized personnel from the sheriff’s office to perform certain immigration enforcement functions,” according to the resolution.
Through a directive issued on Sept. 27, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal prohibited state, county and local law officers from entering into, modifying or extending a 287(g) agreement with ICE.
In early October, the freeholders issued a request for proposals, seeking an attorney and/or a law firm to represent the county in an action against the state to challenge the legality of Grewal’s directive.
On Oct. 22, two proposals were received from potential vendors seeking to perform the legal services. The number of responses was fewer than what was expected, according to a resolution.
Officials said not all of the requested information was provided by those who responded and “without the required information, a recommendation of award cannot be completed and would make it impossible to determine which firm would provide the appropriate representation of the county and, most importantly, the taxpayers of Monmouth County, in such a significant legal action.”
For that reason, the freeholders said they had “good cause to decline to award a contract
and to reissue a new request for proposals … for these legal services in an effort to save taxpayer money and provide the appropriate representation to the county in the …
The freeholders have gone on record saying they and the county sheriff believe Grewal’s directive “is in direct conflict with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution” and that the county’s participation in the 287(g) program “has made the streets of Monmouth County safer for our residents and has permitted ICE to detain and prosecute individuals who are charged with serious crimes and pose a significant threat to our community.”
According to merriam-webster.com, the Supremacy Clause is “a clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution that declares the constitution, laws and treaties of the federal government to be the supreme law of the land to which judges in every state are bound regardless of state law to the contrary.”
The freeholders have said they may want to challenge the state on the implementation of the directive which now prohibits the county’s participation in the 287(g) program.