MADISON, NJ - In local politics, it is important for committee leaders to understand the policies and ethics they have to follow. On Saturday, Feb. 2, the Borough of Madison held its first Committee Leadership Meeting to help local officials gain more insight into the rules and regulations of local government.
Mayor Bob Conley and Borough Attorney Matthew Giacobbe were the main speakers, and members of the planning board, zoning board, board of health, environmental commission, open space committee, Sustainable Madison and the Borough Council all attended the presentation.
Giacobbe discussed the Open Public Record Act, which requires that all government records are subject to a public access unless exempt, including preliminary notes, drafts, documents and email among staff members about business.
Giacobbe said email among committee leaders pertaining to business is illegal and is government record.
“You want to be very careful what you’re writing in email,” he said. “You don’t want to be the headline in the paper.”
Ethics is also a major issue, he said. Anyone in an official position with the borough cannot accept any type of gift from anyone no matter what it is or who it is from. Furthermore, instead of walking away from someone’s attempted bribe, Giacobbe said an individual should tell them no and then report them to him or Conley.
“When people do inappropriate things, you don’t know if they’re wearing a wire,” Giacobbe said.
Conley talked about how to run an effective meeting. He said the public has the right to know what is on the agenda and they are there to reduce time and keep an orderly process. He said meetings should not go too long, need to have decisions, a purpose, a goal, be structured, let everyone have a voice, start and end on time, have a working agenda with a target, have time for unfinished business, stay on task and don’t discuss unrelated topics.
“Nothing productive in Madison ever happens after 10 p.m.,” Conley said.
The leaders also broke out into groups and spoke about their goals for their committees. Overall, the residents were pleased with the presentation. Betsy Uhlman, the chair of Sustainable Madison, and Jim Kemp, who chairs the patriotic celebrations committee thought the information about email was very interesting.
“It’s something nobody thinks about and that’s a big deal,” Kemp said.