Letters to the Editor

Mayor's Response to 'Sunshine Law' and Transparency


Editor's Note: The following letter from Mayor Bob Woodruff was submitted to TAPinto Berkeley Heights, as well as posted to the Township website and the  Berkeley Heights Township, Union County, NJ Facebook Page. The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

To the Editor,

Recently inaccurate and at times scurrilous information has been promulgated by various individuals regards what is commonly referred to as the “Sunshine Law”.  False representations have been made as to specific lawful actions taken by the Berkeley Heights governing body.

Sign Up for E-News

The Township of Berkeley Heights is one of the most transparent and public friendly municipalities in the State.  Not only is the Township in full compliance with all laws, but goes above and beyond the minimum legal requirements in order to ascertain the public’s input and discussion on all matters of the Township.  There is a small group of individuals who are spreading misinformation regarding the Township’s transparency and claim the Township’s public bodies are conducting secret meetings in violation of the law.  This is simply not true.  The following outlines the legal requirements for public meetings and explains how the Township meets, and in fact, exceeds the minimum obligations, allowing for more public access and input than most other municipalities.

Generally, public meetings of governmental bodies are subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, also known as the “Sunshine Law”, which became effective on January 19, 1976, and is codified at N.J.S.A. 10:4-6, et seq. (“OPMA” or the “Act”).  OPMA was adopted to keep with the strong tradition of this State and the nation favoring public involvement in almost every aspect of government.  The Act applies to “public bodies” which are defined as “a commission, authority, board, council, committee or any other group or two or more persons organized under the laws of this State, and collectively empowered as a voting body to perform a public governmental function affecting the rights, duties, obligations, privileges, benefits, or other legal relations of any person, or collectively authorized to spend public funds. N.J.S.A. 10:4-8.

In Berkeley Heights there are six (6) public bodies that are covered by the Act.  These public bodies include (1) the Township Council, (2) the Planning Board, (3) the Zoning Board of Adjustment, (4) the Environmental Commission, (5) the Recreation Commission, and (6) the Board of Health.  Additionally, the Township has ad hoc committees created by the Township Council which were established to provide information and advice on the maintenance and future development of certain Township parks and the downtown.  These ad hoc committees include the Communications Committee, the Downtown Beautification Committee, the Memorial Park Renewal Committee, and the Peppertown Park Renewal Committee.  These ad hoc committees are merely advisory bodies with no power or authority to act on behalf of the Township or spend public funds, thus are not subject to the Act.

For the 6 public bodies which the Act applies, there are specific requirements of OPMA that apply to the meetings held by these bodies.  OPMA requires public notice of meetings; public participation at meetings, subject to limited allowable closed session discussions; and the taking and distribution of minutes of meetings.  The Township Council complies with OPMA, and, in fact, exceeds all minimum requirements.

With regard to public notice, the Act requires that the public body must provide “adequate notice” of all public meetings.  “Adequate notice” means that the public body must provide either 48-hours written notice of the time, date, location and agenda (to the extent known) of any public meeting; or annual notice, within 7 days of the annual reorganization meeting, of the schedule of all regular meetings of the public body to be held during the succeeding year.  If such annual notice is provided, then the public body is not required to provide the 48-hours written notice for each regular meeting held, including the posting of the agenda.  The Township exceeds what is required by providing both the annual notice and the 48-hours written notice of each Council meeting, including the agenda for each meeting.  The Township further provides notice of its public meetings on its website, which is in addition to the “adequate notice” requirements.

The Township Council not only allows for the minimum public comment period, but rather provides 2 public comment periods during each meeting: one at the beginning of the meeting to address anything on the agenda prior to action by the Council, and one at the end where the public can discuss anything of concern in the Township.  In addition, on all major issues or presentations, the Township Council holds special public meetings or discusses same in conference session thereat allowing the public an additional opportunity to raise questions, concerns or comments relating to the matter.  The Township Council expends every opportunity to allow for public input.

Finally, OPMA requires the public body to keep reasonably comprehensive minutes of all its meetings.  “Reasonably comprehensive” means that the minutes must show what took place at the meeting and what final action was taken; and does not mean a verbatim transcript of the meeting.  Specifically, the Act provides that the minutes are to include the time and place of the meeting, the members present, the subjects discussed, the actions taken, the votes of each member and any other information required by law to be recorded by minutes.  The Act further requires that these minutes shall be promptly available to the public, except when subject to a closed session exception.  The Township Council provides reasonably comprehensive minutes in compliance with the Act.  These minutes are adopted and available to the public in a timely manner.  It is important to note that while the Township’s ad hoc committees are not required to keep minutes of their respective meetings as the Act does not apply to them; nevertheless, many of these committees do keep minutes of their meetings and make same available to the public.

Moreover, OPMA does not require that any public meeting be audio or video recorded.  Yet, the Township Council does create an audio recording of all of its public meetings, which recordings are available to the public.  Furthermore, the Township Council recently began live streaming its meetings over the Internet to the public.

There is no question that the Township Council is in full compliance with all of the requirements of OPMA.  In fact, the Township Council goes above and beyond OPMA’s requirements by providing 48-hour notice with agendas of all meetings; by the audio recording of all public meetings; and, more recently, by video streaming all public meetings over the Internet.  Further, the Township Council schedules special public meetings and discusses important matters in conference session thereby allowing the public additional input and discussion on same.

While there are small groups within the Township who are distributing misinformation and inaccurate accounts about the Township and the conduct of its public meetings to fulfill their own agendas, the facts irrefutably demonstrate that Berkeley Heights is more transparent and provides more public input than most municipalities in the State.

Your governing body takes its responsibilities to provide for transparency most seriously.  Personal attacks by those who have opted to disrespect the efforts of our volunteers is unfortunate.  Those who populate these committees – Peppertown Park, Memorial Park Renewal, Downtown Beautification and Communications do not determine policy, expend Township funds nor speak on behalf of the Township.  They simply want Berkeley Heights to be a better place to live.  Common decency suggests we respect their privacy

Thank you.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Berkeley Heights’ Women of the Week (WoW) Series features Beth Ferris Sale

March 18, 2018

In honor of the women who are driving change, blazing trails and nurturing society, the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council is pleased to announce an exciting initiative called, Women of the Week (WoW) Series. In the spirit of community, we wanted to honor the women right here in Berkeley Heights who are impacting the world in their own way for the remaining weeks of Women’s History ...

OLP Presents 'Screenagers' a Documentary on Growning Up in the Digital Age

March 18, 2018

Our Lady of Peace Church and Academy in New Providence will be hosting a special screening of the movie "Screenagers" regarding a very important topic for families and youth – “Growing up in the Digital Age.” The movie delves into the important and current topic of children and teenagers and their use of social media and digital devices. The movie is appropriate for ...

Transform Your Relationship with Food


You will receive on-going support, personalized information, realistic and individualized goals that allow for lasting lifestyle changes, amazing recipes, motivation, sample grocery lists, meal planning assistance, advice on avoiding fad diets, objective feedback and tools to avoid lifestyle diseases.

• Healthy eating Healthy ...

Watchung Hills Coin Club's 36th Annual Coin Show is April 8

The annual Watchung Hills Coin Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 8, at the Elks Lodge #1068, 375 Union Ave. (Rt. 28), Bridgewater.

This is the only show sponsored by a local coin club in Central New Jersey. It offers free admission and parking. Young Numismatists are welcome.

The show is the ideal one-stop shopping venue for sellers, as well as buyers. For those wishing ...

NPHS Student's Response to After School Walk-out Plan at NPHS

March 14, 2018

A group of students file into a science classroom amid a nervous din of chatter, the air is electric with excitement and nervousness. This small group of approximately 30 students are a studious bunch, largely members of the sophomore class with squeaky clean administrative histories. They are currently preparing to defy authority and stand up for what they believe in, even though they had been ...

New Providence's Allen W. Roberts School Gets Security Walk Through by Police Department after Bomb Threat

March 12, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Police Department sent a letter to parents and guardians of students at Allen W. Roberts Elementary School after a non-specific bomb threat was reported on Monday afternoon.

It's the second threat  reported at a New Providence school in March. The first threat was reported on March 5th at New Providence High School.

Emergency ...

Avon Loses Its Last ‘Grand’ Hotel to the Claw of an Excavator

March 17, 2018

AVON-BY-THE-SEA, NJ — In less than two days, an Avon-by-the-Sea landmark that stood for 130 years was reduced to a huge pile of rubble. The Norwood Inn no longer stands on the corner of Norwood and Second Avenues — the last of the stately hotels that once graced the streets of Avon.

As onlookers gathered around the demolition site on March 15 and March 16, an excavator clawed its ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, March 19, 7:00 PM

Cranford Community Center, Cranford

Agents of Change: Women in NJ History


Tue, March 20, 7:30 PM

Mountain Park School, Berkeley Heights

Boy Scout Open House - Troop 368

Education Giving Back

Wed, March 21, 7:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

increase your networking and interviewing iq

Business & Finance Other

Thu, March 22, 7:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

The Long march home: An American Soldier's Life ...

Education Other


Fri, March 23, 9:30 AM

Dunkin Donuts, Berkeley Heights

Let’s Meet Up to Clean Up! BH Walks, a New ...


JCP&L Representative Describes Utility’s Actions During Storm Quinn, Answers Residents' Questions

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The format of this week’s  Berkeley Heights 'Here and Now' was turned on its head this week. Mayor Bob Woodruff reviewed what happened in the township following Storm Quinn and its predecessor Storm Riley, complete with statistics. He then asked a representative of JCP&L questions about the utility’s response, and how it was ...

Berkeley Heights, Here and Now: Redevelopment Updates

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Mayor's Round Table has been rebranded to "Berkeley Heights, Here and Now." This new format will continue to provide updates from Mayor Bob Woodruff, municipal offices and the Communications Committee want to hear from citizens, businesses and community organizations.

Included in this episode, Mayor Bob Woodruff addresses the status of the ...

You Want a Check for How Much!

 My first admissions gig was working for a small liberal arts college with a pretty hefty price tag.  Picture me at a college fair: name tag in place, pile of brochures ready to go.  An eager family would walk up and we’d start a conversation.  One of the first questions I’d get from parents was about cost and the moment that $50,000-plus figure left my mouth I ...

Now That The Dust Has Settled…Smart Tax Moves In 2018

Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions are capped.  Unfortunately all these changes mean you’ll need more time and energy to ...