FLEMINGTON, NJ – Borough Council approved this evening the same ordinance it approved at its Feb. 22 meeting, voting to “de-designate” the board that manages its Business Improvement District, and creating a new one to replace it.
Doubts were raised about the validity of the Feb. 22 vote after resident Betsy Driver filed a complaint with the county Prosecutor’s Office. The complaint alleged that some Council members violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act – also known as the “Sunshine Law” – when it met on Feb. 21 without notifying the public in advance.
Council members insist the Feb. 21 meeting was legal because it was a caucus of Republican members of the Council. But the cloud cast over the vote prompted Mayor Phil Greiner to veto the ordinance and call for a new meeting “to remove any cloud or question” that might exist over the original action.
In voting again tonight, Council President Brian Swingle recalled his comment on Feb. 22 when he said his vote reflected “no confidence” in the BID Board. Tonight, he said, he was raising his observation to “no trust.”
Robert Shore, a member of the board that runs the BID, told Council tonight that it had failed to comply with the state’s Open Public Meetings Act. He cautioned Council that, “There is a possibility that this meeting could be challenged ... it would be a good idea to table” tonight’s agenda. “There’s a pattern here,” he said. He said he didn’t think Council provided proper 48 hour advance notice of tonight’s meeting.
In an interview, Shore said he had “no trust” in the Council.
Shore also challenged an alleged Dec. 18 Borough Council meeting held without public notice at the BID’s Main Street office also violated state rules. Councilwoman Michelle Oberst told him that “no decision was made there,” but her remarks were interrupted by borough attorney Barry Goodman.
After the vote on the ordinance, Council met behind closed doors to discuss Open Public Meeting Act rules with Goodman.
The ordinance approved tonight will be subject to a public hearing at the March 14 meeting of Borough Council.