To the editor:
I’ve been enjoying your articles about the flagrant failures of open, transparent government in Hunterdon County. Your survey of recent efforts by county and municipal elected officials to preserve their illegal back-room dealings reveals just who is running the joint – people who don’t respect the public or the law.
Freeholder Director Matt Holt is still waiting for an IT expert to prove to him that a freeholder meeting audio recording couldn’t be edited and posted online to make fun of Holt and his ne’er-do-well open-government scaredy cats. I’ve already edited Holt’s audio recordings and published them on my website after I OPRA’d them.
Is Holt going to arrest me and every other journalist who excerpts what he says? Lotsa luck. Holt is running for re-election. For this one arrogant position on recordings he deserves to be deleted. For his patent ignorance about technology his political career deserves to be relegated to archival storage in the cloud.
Raritan Township’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lehrer, blows his committee’s cover when he says: “…closed-door ‘executive session’ meetings “are the only time that I know ... where the governing body is free to let their hair down and say what they want to say… It’s the only time they have the ability to speak freely, and not hold their tongue…They can say what they want.”
No, they cannot. The Open Public Meetings Act specifically limits closed session discussion to specific classes of issues, and only topics that were disclosed in the public announcement about the closed session. For example, they cannot discuss what they had for lunch unless it’s listed in the resolution to go to closed session. Lehrer’s loosey-goosey legal advice is what gets committees like his into trouble. Lehrer is tacitly encouraging his committee to violate the law, when his statements should serve to enforce the OPMA, not to flout it.
Then we have the excuses. Raritan Township “Mayor Michael Mangin blamed a former municipal clerk for ‘not doing his job’ and keeping meeting minutes current. ‘My opinion is that this committee is transparent,’ he said.”
Really, Mayor? You think your employee is where the buck stops? You, Sir, are the mayor. You, Sir, are irresponsible and guilty of failing to ensure your town is following the law. We don’t elect clerks. We elect mayors. You deserve the DELETE key like Holt does. There is no excuse for patently stupid excuses.
And let us not forget Raritan Township Committeeman Louis Carl Reiner, whose beliefs get him into trouble regularly: “ ‘My opinion is that this committee is transparent,’ he said.
“I appreciate your new-found interest in transparency. I believe we are fully in compliance’ with state open government rules.”
Mangin said his committee is transparent and Reiner said it’s in compliance. That was right after TAPInto reported that Committeeman Craig O’Brien revealed that “currently, those minutes are often not released ‘for months, if not years.’” That’s not compliance. That’s a violation of the OPMA. The only thing worse than elected officials and their lawyers who flagrantly hide the business of government from the public is when they lie about it – on the record.
I’d ask if they’re idiots, but that would just give them another illegal topic for their closed sessions. Kudos to Raritan Committeeman Craig O’Brien for trying to keep his government honest. Kudos to TAPInto for reporting what public officials refuse to: our public business.
Now you know who doesn’t deserve to be re-elected, starting with the man at the top of Hunterdon government, Freeholder Director (and Director of Censorship & Ridiculous Excuses) Matt Holt.
Nick Corcodilos, ExMayor
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