To the Editor:
I am writing to you to express my concern regarding the lack of transparency by the Barnegat Township Committee and their use of the Consent Agenda.
As a former municipal elected official, I am familiar with the use of the Consent Agenda. It is in fact an expeditious way to move items of official government action. Having said that, it is my opinion and common practice, that the Consent Agenda should be employed for regularly recurring items or appointments which are considered to be routine and do not require explanation/discussion by the Committee or questions by the public.
Acceptable items might be meeting minutes, Committee/Department reports, correspondence which requires no action, regular civic observances, minor annual contracts, etc.
Items/actions which could be controversial or could require public comment or question should not be included within the Consent Agenda.
A recent example of inappropriate Consent Agenda use is the request for bids on the sale of a public building, the historic Barnegat Firehouse #1, recently known as the OEM Building. The Consent Agenda item was described as: Block 250, Lot 23 - 686 East Bay Avenue. How would the general public know that this was the historic Firehouse #1?
It is reasonable to assume that the public might have these questions:
Why is it being sold?
Was there an official appraisal of the property?
How was the original bid amount determined…why was it significantly reduced?
Could there be an alternate plan or use of the building?
Should a fund drive be established to save & preserve the historic building?
None of these questions could be asked or answered, because the action was incompletely described and buried within the Consent Agenda, leaving the public unaware, uniformed, & unable to make public comment or question.
The Barnegat Township Committee should review their use of the Consent Agenda and refrain from including significant action items like this within the Consent Agenda.