BARNEGAT, NJ – Those who sign up for local Nixle alerts got the news on Tuesday. Barnegat Township’s next monthly meeting is scheduled for September 1 at 10:00 am. The public cannot attend in person – even though authorities once suggested otherwise.
Township Administrator Martin Lisella shared his thoughts that the governing body would resume in-person meetings back in July. He advocated for September as the targeted month, with an added caveat. Lisella said it all depended on the guidelines set in place by Governor Phil Murphy as far as space limitations.
September is here and the township officials say they expected news from the state that would allow them to open the doors. Nothing changed.
“The Governor has not enhanced his order on in-door gatherings,” shared Barnegat Mayor John Novak. “We were told that he intended to increase the numbers as far as allowable capacity – and that didn’t happen.”
Novak said Murphy’s decision was as “on and off again” as his promises to open in-door dining. The Barnegat mayor submitted that the current space restrictions would mean that only six members of the public could attend the meeting in person.
Barnegat residents who wish to watch the September meeting live can watch it from a computer or smartphone here. It is also available to Comcast customers on Channel 22.
Questions or comments about agenda items must be submitted by 8:00 am on the date of the meeting and emailed to Clerk@barnegat.net by 8 am on September 1. The clerk has requested the subject line in the comments are marked: "Public Comment September 1, 2020." Names and addresses are also required for the record.
The fact that the format only allows one-way live participation has been the focus of many letters read by the clerk. It is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by Charles Cunliffe, who says he was deprived of his rights to make public comments. Cunliffe, a Democratic candidate for one of two open committee seats, claims the local governing body is in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
“I am disappointed that the township committee is still not providing a better virtual option,” said Cunliffe.
Government entities have all taken on different styles in allowing public participation. The Barnegat Board of Education not only allows in-person attendance – but also broadcasts in a simultaneously controlled Zoom environment.
The Lacey Township Planning Board took a creative approach with their last meeting. Faced with too many people for an in-door gathering – they moved their meeting to a local park.
Barnegat Township Attorney Christopher Dasti asserts that the township’s meeting protocol meets legal requirements. It’s now up to a court of law to make that determination.
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