WEST ORANGE, NJ - Despite some emotional commentary from town council members and administration, a lengthy meeting ultimately proved fruitful as several resolutions and ordinances moved forward.
In what appeared to be the 'hot topic' of the evening, a second reading ordinance "Amending and Supplementing Chapter III, Section 3-5, of the Revised General Ordinances of the Township of West Orange Entitled 'Rules of Council,' 'Agenda' and Section 3-8, "Order of Business" were again dissected by Councilman Joe Krakoviak, who did not support the ordinance, claiming that it was detrimental to the citizens of the township as well as the council.
Technically, the ordinance placed "General Matters Pending" at the end of the meeting, in an effort described by Council President Sue McCartney, to "allow discussion with the town council and involved community members" regarding specific issues.
Of particular note was the tabling of Resolution 180-13 "Authorizing Competitive Contracting for Emergency Medical Services" in West Orange. The West Orange First Aid Squad, which recently began third-party billing for their services, placed the town in a position to have to choose between putting the contract out for bid via competitive contracting v. bid contracting. Competitive contracting would allow the town to select WOFAS over other organizations/agencies due to their local experience and other factors. A bid would require the town to select the lowest bidder. On these grounds, the council voted to postpone the vote until further discussions could be made, underscoring McCartney's point about moving the general matters pending towards the end of the meeting where discussions could provide needed information for council members to make informed decisions.
Another reason to move General Matters pending was that, according to McCartney, it was not in the officially legislated town council handbook to begin with. It had originally been utilized by town council members to make note of upcoming events or reports from commissions/groups. Recently, it had become a sounding board for council members to discuss non-agenda items.
It appeared that the change caused confusion and misunderstanding among council members, particularly Councilman Krakoviak, who felt it affected freedom of speech for council and community members. His opposition was apparent as fellow members attempted to discuss the matter while he commented, and he repeatedly said "Let me finish... just let me finish what I am saying. Stop interrupting me."
In the end, Councilman Victor Cirilo suggested that any time limits imposed on council persons for comment and response be eliminated, and town attorney Ken Kayser offered his advice. The following is the final changes on Second reading voted on by all Council members:
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING AND SUPPLEMENTING CHAPTER III, SECTION 3-5, OF THE REVISED GENERAL ORDINANCES OF THE TOWNSHIP OF WEST ORANGE ENTITLED “RULES OF COUNCIL”, “AGENDA”, AND SECTION 3-8, “ORDER OF BUSINESS”
BE IT ORDAINED BY THE TOWNSHIP COUNCIL OF THE TOWNSHIP OF WEST ORANGE, in the County of Essex, State of New Jersey, that Chapter III, Section 3-5, of the Revised General Ordinances of the Township of West Orange, entitled “Rules of Council”, “Agenda”, shall be amended and supplemented to memorialize certain rules and procedures regarding the creation and distribution of the Council Agenda, and publication of supporting materials, and Section 3-8, entitled “Order of Business”, shall be amended and supplemented to make minor changes to the order of business at regular Council meetings, all as follows:
Section 1. The Revised General Ordinances of the Township of West Orange are amended and supplemented to read as follows:
CHAPTER III RULES OF COUNCIL
An agenda for each regular meeting of the Township Council shall be prepared by the Clerk under the supervision of the President of the Council. All Ordinances, Resolutions and any supporting written material for consideration at the next Council Meeting shall be delivered to and received at the Clerk's Office by 3:00 p.m., on the Wednesday next preceding the meeting, earlier if possible and, if later, shall require permission of the Council President before placement on the agenda. The agenda headings shall be written in plain English and each Resolution and Ordinance, unless clearly self-explanatory, shall include a brief description of its purpose also written in plain English by the department submitting it. The agenda shall be completed not later than 3 p.m. on the Thursday preceding each regular meeting of the Council, except for emergency matters which may be added to the agenda at any time before the meeting with permission of the President of the Council. The Clerk shall expeditiously deliver a copy of the Agenda, all Ordinances and Resolutions and all submitted supporting materials, to each Council member, to the Mayor, Business Administrator, and to the Law Department. The Clerk shall expeditiously cause the agenda, Ordinances, and Resolutions to be posted on the Township's website no later than the following Friday at noon in order that such materials are readily available to the general public. In the event of an intervening holiday, the deadlines set forth here shall be adjusted to provide the same amount of time for preparation and notice of the agenda. In the event of additions, deletions, or changes of any kind to the agenda, or any item on it, such changes shall be expeditiously posted to the Township's website with a notation indicating the change by 4:30 p.m., on the Monday preceding the Council meeting. The agenda and any changes to it shall also be physically posted on the Clerk's Bulletin Board in the public hallway at Town Hall. A conforming agenda shall be published to the Township's website on the day after each Council meeting to indicate those items which were not acted upon due to removal or postponement by the Council at its meeting. (1972 Code § 3-5; Ord. No. 2349-12).
3-8 Order of Business.
The order of business at a regular meeting of the Council shall be as follows:
Council Liaison Announcements - an opportunity for council members to announce upcoming events and/or to express appreciation to local clubs/organizations/volunteers, etc.
Pledge of Allegiance;
Public Comment - Each member of the public wishing to speak shall do so through the Council President after stating their name and address for the record and shall be limited to 5 minutes. Each Council Member, including the Council President, may respond.
Consent Agenda 1- Approval of Minutes of Previous Meeting
2- Report of Township Officers
3- Reading of Petitions and Communications and Bids
Ordinances on Second and Final Reading;
Ordinances on First Reading;
ABC Hearing, if any;
Pending Matters/New Matters/Council Discussion - Each Council Member, including the Council President, shall have the opportunity to raise and discuss any pending matter, new matter, or issue for Council discussion.
Section 2. The remainder of Chapter III remains unchanged.
Section 3. If any part of this Ordinance is determined to be invalid, such part shall be severed and its invalidity shall not affect the remaining parts of this Chapter.
Section 4. Any and all parts of ordinances which are inconsistent with any of the terms and provisions of this Ordinance shall be and the same are hereby repealed as to and to the extent of such inconsistency.
Section 5. This Ordinance shall take effect upon final passage and publication as required by law.
Council President McCartney told The Alternative Press of West Orange, "The legal issue involving the WO First Aid Squad's third party billing contract at last night's Council meeting helped prove my Open Public Meetings argument that the Council needs to hear Township Matters Pending - as the Council-at-Large assembly-and in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act prior to our deliberation and vote."
Councilman Joe Krakoviak said "I’m pleased that the people of West Orange will continue to be able to hear from their council members without time limits. I thank all those residents who made their voices heard on this issue, and I thank my council colleagues for listening to them. Our lengthy discussion of this issue over two council meetings shows the power of free and civil debate. The council’s action will certainly contribute to giving residents improved transparency and accountability in their government."
No other council members responded to requests for comments.
In other news, Chief Financial Officer John Gross presented amendments to the municipal budget. There will be an increase in municipal taxes for the first time in three years, and the average homeowner can expect an increase of $61 per year. The vote was 4-1 on the amendment, with Councilman Krakoviak voting no.
Krakoviak also voted no to contract with Richard Trenk and Ken Kayser as township attorneys for 2013-2014; and on the Prescription Drug program brokered by Fairview Insurance for township employees.
Township Administrator Jack Sayers also questioned Krakoviak's comments regarding WOFAS when Krakoviak mentioned WOFAS received inspections after the decision to go to competitive bidding. Sayers was decidedly upset when he asked Mr. Krakoviak if he was insinuating whether the town had anything to do with the inspections, which he said they did not. The councilman replied that he was just sharing information. The council voted unanimously to postpone the vote until the next meeting.
The next town council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 1.