Commission Form of Government

Back in the late 1800's, many large cities in our country reported corruption within the local government level.  Over time, reform groups organized and began to experiment with new forms of city government in hopes of ending the corruption. In 1900, after a natural disaster left Galveston, Texas to completely rebuild, citizens formed a commission form of government to insure that corruption would not hinder their efforts.

The Commission form of government was extremely successful at reviving Galveston.  As word spread of Galveston's experience under the commission form of government, the city received hundreds of inquiries on how to follow in its footsteps.

On April 25, 1911, New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson signed the Walsh Act, permitting municipalities to adopt a non-partisan form of government. (Non-partisan: free from party affiliation).  The commission form of government became an optional form for all of New Jersey's municipalities. Nutley adopted the commission form of government in May 1912.  At that time, the salary for Commissioners was set at $1,600 per year, with the Mayor receiving $2,000.  The paramount philosophy of the law was to promote efficient government upon the premise that it would be better induced by holding members of the commission to an individual responsibility rather than party responsibility.  Presently, Nutley is one of 32 municipalities utilizing this form of government.

Under the Walsh Act, the Board is composed of 3 or 5 members depending on the size of the municipality.  Nutley's population warrants a five member board and each commissioner serves as a department head for one of the following departments: Department of Public Affairs; Department of Public Safety; Department of Public Works; Department of Parks and Public Property; or Department of Revenue and Finance, with each having complete control over the executive, administrative, judicial and legislative powers over their independent.  In three-member commissions, the Department of Public Affairs and Public Safety are combined as are the Department of Public Works and Parks and Public Property.

The Commissioners function as the legislative authority of the municipality. They are elected at-large in nonpartisan elections to serve concurrent four-year terms. The mayor is selected from among the Commissioners (often the one who received the most votes), makes most of the key appointments and has a vague, often undefined, supervisory authority.

The salary for Commissioners today is $2,250 per year, with the Mayor receiving $2,700.

Types of New Jersey Municipal Government

All 565 municipalities in New Jersey, regardless of their form of government, can be classified as belonging to one of five types of municipal government: 1) Borough 2) Township 3) City 4) Town 5) Village.

Forms

All 565 New Jersey municipalities, regardless of type, can be classified under one of the 12 forms of government:

1) Borough (220) 7) Council-Manager Act of 1923 (7)
2) Township (144) 8) OMCL Mayor-Council Plan (66)
3) City (15) 9) OMCL Council-Manager Plan (40)
4) Town (8) 10) OMCL Small Municipality Plan (19)
5) Village (0) 11) OMCL Mayor-Council-Administrator Plan (2)
6) Commission (33) 12) Special Charters (12)

For additional information about the Commission Form of Government please visit the New Jersey League of Municipalities  website.