The Sunshine Law

9f2e8842bce79ce63bc9_guestcolumns.jpg
9f2e8842bce79ce63bc9_guestcolumns.jpg

 

Our state has a strict law, “The Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA),” commonly referred to as the Sunshine Law. Why? Because transparency is the enemy of corruption. The law states that the business of the people can only be conducted in public for all to see. Any elected official that seeks to skirt this law in any manner, shape or form is violating the public trust. 

The issue that has troubled our resident in Summit recently is the manner in which five members of Council are attempting to govern. On very rare occasions, Ordinances or Resolutions have been proposed by Councilpersons during the course of Council meetings. But it happened three times* recently and on one occasion four Council members read from prepared statements in favor of the just-introduced Resolution. It is simply not possible to have a prepared statement without prior knowledge of what is to be introduced. It was clear to me, the Mayor and Councilman Murphy that there must have been violations of the Sunshine Law. These three Ordinances/Resolutions had been developed by circumventing the principle of the law and at least in one case, the committee structure set up by the governing body. Moreover, the failure to post these three items on the agenda denied the public the right to review and comment because they had no prior knowledge that the items would be discussed. That is the purpose of the agenda, which is posted in many public places and on the City website prior to each meeting.

Sign Up for E-News

In an effort to determine how the five Council members seemingly had prior knowledge of the paid parking ordinance, a resident made an OPRA request (Open Public Records Act) for any communications regarding the paid parking issue. He received 440 pages of communications, none of which included Mayor Glatt, Councilman Murphy or myself. One included four Council members, which is a blatant violation of the Open Public Meetings Act because this communication included a majority of the governing body outside the public venue.

Two emails are particularly troublesome. In one, Councilwoman Portuondo attempted to set up a meeting to discuss the ordinance outside of the established committee structure. At one point she declared, “I have the five votes.” How could she possibly know she had five votes unless she had discussed this with the four others outside the public venue? Then, an email from Councilman Getzendanner to Councilpersons Dickson, Bomgaars, and Madden explains, “I’m willing to relent …” and he goes on to list the conditions under which he will support the parking ordinance that, again, has been discussed outside the committee structure, in violation of the OPMA and outside the public venue. These are just two examples of clear violations of the law.

There is no question that the intent, and in my opinion the letter, of the Sunshine Law has been violated. At the October 18 Council meeting when this resident reported his findings, rather than receiving answers to his specific questions about these findings, the citizens of Summit had to endure poor attempts to rationalize and obfuscate the facts.  My view is simple, you cannot have any discussions, even one on one to avoid “a quorum,” if the intent of those discussions is to conduct the public’s business outside the public domain.  Transparency is the only way to preserve the public trust.

Our city solicitor will, once again, spend his time investigating these allegations to determine the proper course of action. Is this the way you want the business of running our great city to be done?  As your Mayor, I promise to always promote transparency and allow our citizens the right to full disclosure and discussion. 

* A Resolution to censure me (later rescinded) for exposing this Council’s violation of the Sunshine Law; a Resolution asking Councilman Getzendanner to resign for numerous attempts to commit fraud; and an Ordinance to change to a paid parking system at our DeForest lots funded by an  $800,000 city bond.  

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Chatham

Upcoming Events

Fri, August 10, 6:00 PM

Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, Madison

Downtown Concert Series: Mama D & The Vexations

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_8ab0795d7266f1cbd501_9f7a7a4ff4becf97e74c_regwalk_skyrw_9.30.18_email-1

Sun, September 30, 8:00 AM

College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown

Walk to Fight Alzheimer's

Giving Back Health & Wellness

A Week at the Library of The Chathams Monday, July 9 – Sunday, July 15, 2018

Please note that the library will be closed on Sundays now through Labor Day weekend

PROGRAMS AND EVENTS

Our summer program is in full swing.  This week we are starting some of our most popular children’s programs, Chess for Kids and sewing classes with Miss Polly.  Children will also enjoy a visit from a special guest, Queen Maria Isabella from Medieval Times.  Teens ...

Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk: Fundraiser on Sept. 22nd at Chatham Cougar Field

July 21, 2018

To the Editor:

Hello, Friends,

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) “Out of the Darkness” annual walk is being held on Saturday, September 22nd at 5:15 p.m. at Chatham’s Cougar Field, next to 312 Shunpike Road in Chatham, NJ  07928.  Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. 

You know of my lifetime support of efforts to combat ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 18

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll find out how accessing care at Atlantic Health System is now easier, more affordable and closer to home than ever, learn which item from the produce aisle could be the newest weapon against cancer, see what Atlantic Health System, the New York Times and Instagram all have in common and much more.

 

 

Chatham's Meghan LeMon Awarded Degree from Miami University in Ohio

July 21, 2018

OXFORD, OH -- Meghan LeMon of Chatham was among more than 3,900 students from Miami University who received degrees during spring commencement exercises Saturday, May 19, 2018, at Millett Hall.

LeMon graduated MAGNA with a BA degree, majoring in Speech Path & Audiology.

Considered one of eight original "Public Ivies" in the country, Miami University is located in Oxford, Ohio.

Summer Storm Checklist

New Jersey gets its share of severe weather – and those closest to the coast are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and high winds. Here are some things you can do to help improve the safety of your family and home before a storm hits:

·       Be informed. Find out where the nearest shelter is, and map out different routes you can take ...