Ordinance Revamping Committee Structure Passes Unanimously After Testy Discussion

Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Credits: Barbara Rybolt

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The ordinance amending and updating terms of various township committees was the only ordinance out of the five up for adoption, that drew significant public comment at Tuesday's Berkeley Heights Township Council Meeting. 

The ordinance brings each of four previously established committees into compliance with rules governing the operation of the township's government under the Faulkner Act. The act, passed in 1981, allows New Jersey municipalities to adopt a mayor–council–administrator form of government.   

"Voters elect a mayor and six council members at large for staggered terms with partisan elections. The mayor serves a four-year term; council members serve three-year terms. An organization meeting is held on January 1. Up to six administrative departments may be created by ordinance. In this 'weak mayor' form[1] of government, the mayor votes only to break ties, and the township administrator supervises the departments.[2]," according to Wikipedia.

Sign Up for E-News

Currently only three communities in the state have chosen to operate under this form of government. 

When originally adopted, chapters 2.93, 2.94, 2.95 and 2.97 of Title 2, "Administrations and Personnel" of the Code of the Township of Berkeley Heights included language which does not apply to the mayor-council-administrator form of government Berkeley Heights adopted in 2007, in particular related to meetings by various sub committees, including: Communications Committee; Downtown Beautification Committee (DBC); Memorial Park Renewal Committee and the Peppertown Park Renewal Committee. 

The ordinance presented for a public hearing and final adoption on Tuesday, Feb. 7, amended the original ordinance so it is in compliance with the Faulkner Act, which does not allow for sub-committees of the council. 

Council President Marc Faecher said of the four committees in Title 2, "These are ad hoc committees ... not subject to OPRA (Open Public Record Act) or OPMA - (Open Public Meeting Act)." The committees "cannot affect policy, cannot spend money ... don't have to (keep) minutes or file annual reports, " he said.  The changes being made in the original section of the ordinance  include a compromise because the committees have to keep minutes.

The committees are not required to set regularly scheduled public meetings, or hold these meetings in a particular place and, because they are not public meetings, do not have to allow their meetings to be live-streamed or recorded or put on social media sites.

When the ordinance was introduced, a number of residents questioned why the changes were being made.

Mayor Robert Woodruff reminded residents if they had previously spoken on the issue their comments are already on the record and, "If you are simply going to reiterate what you said before, there's nothing wrong with saying "I continue with my position as previously stated."

Resident Tom Maciejewski disputed the idea that the committees were advisory committees. "The DBC, in particular, does not act just as an advisory committee ... There's a lot of actions it takes, especially with the planning and zoning board that I think makes it fall under OPMA." "I think this new ordinance is going in place just to hide what is going on in the community." 

He agreed with a suggestion by Stephen Yellin that an audio recording of meetings would resolve concerns of volunteers who did not want to have videos of the meetings on YouTube or other social media platforms.

Zoning Board member Bruce Mustacchi said, "All we (on the Zoning Board) have gotten from the DBC is just recommendations." When a purely advisory committee, such as the Peppertown Park Renewal Committee, makes a recommendation to the Township Council, "It's all on you" to decide. "There's nothing secret ... it's a group of citizens who come together to help the township."


Resident Todd Scorzafavia said, There "should be nothing secretive" happening and warned, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." 

Dr. Thomas Foregger said, "I think the DBC is ... more than advisory. They do incur expenses. They do influence and advise" on the downtown appearance and other issues.

Township Attorney Joseph Sordillo said the DBC "did not meet with the planner, the planner asked to meet" with the committee, which is a "distinct difference."

Mayor Robert Woodruff confirmed, "Our planner asked to speak to them. What is of moment is us authorizing the planner to do it."

Foregger asked how the meeting was authorized.

Sordillo said, "He is the Township Planner" and "our administrator authorized him to meet with the committee."  Something the administrator was authorized to do by the Township Council "when he was appointed," Sordillo said.

Gay Hollowell, a member of the Memorial Park Renewal Committee and Peppertown Park Renewal Committee, reminded everyone "each committee has a liaison from the council," and that council member "gives committee reports" at the meetings, "if there is anything to report. The liaison can give a year end report," also. In the case of the Memorial Park Renewal Committee, which took two years to renew the park, "Look across the street and see a beautiful park. That's the annual report," she said.

Scorzafavia, who will be a member of the Timber Drive Committee which was created during the first part of Tuesday night's meeting, said, "I'm very disappointed," because after hearing him and others speak of "safety first," in regards to the proposal to build a YMCA facility on Locust Drive, "you approved, without input from the Timber Drive group, lease negotiations ... I'm extremely disappointed with what I've seen tonight."

Woodruff told him the comments were to be on this particular ordinance, while he was talking about another issue.

Scorzafavia said, "Thank you for shutting me down."

Woodruff responded, "You can speak to the agenda or..."

Scorzafavia replied, "I'll come right back."

Sordillo interjected that this is "the public hearing on an ordinance" and called Scorzafavia's behavior "extremely improper."

Scorzafavia, talking to Sordillo, said, "You had an attitude ... You've been looking at your cell phone all night ... I have a personal responsibility as a community member..."

Woodruff asked, "What does this have to do with the ordinance? ... It has nothing to do with the ordinance."

At this point, people were talking over one another.  Scorzafavia, back by his seat in the front row, loudly said, "They don't want to hear it," to no one in particular.

Faecher attempted to address that concern by telling Scorzafavia the lease negotiations were just negotiations and not final. The end results will include input from the Timber Drive committee and information from traffic studies. The final lease "must comply with all aspects of traffic," he said.  

The hearing was then closed to comments, but Scorzafavia interjected, "I'm here for the safety of my child."

Things got so loud someone yelled "We are having a meeting."

A visibly frustrated Mayor asked Police Chief John DiPasquale, "Will you address this, Chief."

The chief quickly walked from his seat on the other side of the room and down to Scorzafavia and escorted him out of the council chambers.

Scorzafavia said, "As I said, I'm very disappointed," as he walked out with the chief.

Councilman Craig Pastore, who normally does not explain his vote had a prepared statement he read before voting.

"I’ve been volunteering in town for many years, and I know the reasons why people offer their time. Every volunteer I have met is in it for the right reasons.
"They have pride in this town and want nothing but a quality community to raise their families. Even with their busy schedules they continue to give up their time to make this one of the best places to live. Without volunteers, BH is just a shell. It takes the drive, intelligence and creativity of many different individuals that makes our town unique and desirable for everyone.
"I have to say, I have been made aware of gossip and rumor occurring on social media about some of these volunteers, and it is very disheartening. This is one of the reasons why I am voting for this ordinance. Everyone makes their own choices, however when you are part of posting negative and judgmental views about others in our community, you have made a decision to be part of the problem and not the solution.
"This is to protect those volunteers from having others post their pictures and comments when they cannot defend themselves. It is easy to feel power behind a keyboard, but it’s important to realize that there are real people on the other side of that keyboard, just trying to do the right thing for all of you.
"My suggestion is to put away your keyboard, roll up your sleeves, and get involved."

Other council members spoke before the final vote, which was unanimously in favor of the ordinance. 

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 ...

Faith Lutheran Church in New Providence Schedules Holy Week Services

March 21, 2018


Faith Lutheran Church in New Providence invites area residents to each of its liturgical services during Holy Week.

On Passion or Palm Sunday, March 25, two Eucharistic liturgies will be conducted, one at 8:30 a.m. and the other at 11 a.m. The title of the sermon at both liturgies will be “Servant of All.”  The music of each liturgy will be provided by the Sanctuary ...

91 Young Musicians Work Together To Raise Nearly $14,000 for the New Jersey Youth Symphony

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ —91 young musicians in the New Jersey Youth Symphony’s Youth Orchestra (YO) ensemble have raised nearly $14,000 to date for the organization’s annual Playathon, a student-led fundraiser established by the New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) in 1985. The Playathon is the largest free concert of its kind and this Sunday over 450 students from 12 NJYS ensembles ...

UC Tech Student Volunteers Put Fun and Games to Work for Special Needs Learners

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Earlier this month, a group of 51 students in grades 9 to 11 from the Teacher Education Academy at UC TECH staged an indoor carnival for special needs learners. More than 140 participants from the community attended the event and enjoyed plinko, corn hole, dance revolution, hula hoop activities, a DJ, prizes and more.

UC TECH is part of the Union County ...

Soprano Anita Lyons Featured Soloist at Summit Symphony Concert March 25

The music of Grieg, Schumann ad Strauss will form the centerpiece of the next Summit Symphony Orchestra concert of the 2017-18 season, a performance which will take place March 25, beginning at 2 p.m., in the Summit High School Auditorium. Admission to all Summit Symphony concerts is free, with donations gratefully accepted. 

American Soprano Anita Lyons will ...

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 ...

Driver Escapes Icy Waters After Car Goes Off Road Near Clark and Cranford Borders

March 21, 2018

CLARK, NJ –A car went off the road and into the river on the northbound Garden State Parkway between the Clark and Cranford exits during Wednesday night’s snowstorm.

According to Clark’s Chief of Police, Pedro Matos the car’s driver managed to escape the water.  Divers went in to the river and determined the car to be empty.  The sole occupant was ...

Upcoming Events

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 ...


Fri, March 23, 8:00 PM

Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood

Strollers Present John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt"

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Burent Middle School , Union

Union County Wide - March for Our Lives

Government Law & Justice

Sat, March 24, 11:00 AM

Home For Good Dog Rescue, Berkeley Heights

Dog Adoption Event


Sat, March 24, 2:00 PM

New Providence United Methodist Church, New Providence

New Providence United Methodist Church Easter Egg ...

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back Religions And Spirituality

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 ...

Dear Susan: Beauty Tips from a Beauty Expert, Spring Edition

SUSAN BARBAGLIA, owner of Skin Deep Salon and Spa in New Providence, offers a wealth of knowledge and expertise as a leader in the beauty industry. With over thirty years experience in skin care, Susan can answer your most challenging beauty questions. Email your ...

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 ...